In 1990 Iraq, then under the leadership of its President Saddam Hussein was in dispute with its neighbour Kuwait. The Iraqis accused Kuwait of drilling for oil in such a way as to deplete Iraq’s oil reserves. The Iraqis were incensed by what they perceived as theft of their resources and resolved to take action. Saddam Hussein however, first sought the American view as to his intended actions and was informed by the then United States ambassador to Iraq that the United States was neutral as to the dispute. Saddam Hussein saw that as a green light and invaded Kuwait.
The United States response was the antithesis of what Saddam Hussein had been led to believe. A massive military force was rapidly assembled and Iraq was quickly expelled from Kuwait. Then United States President George HW Bush did not then occupy Iraq. Instead, massive sanctions were applied. Those sanctions resulted in at least half a million Iraqi civilian deaths, including women and children.
The then United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when asked about these civilian casualties of the allied blockade of Iraq, infamously declared that the price was “worth it.”
The United States and its allies invaded Iraq a decade later on the manifestly false pretext that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” that posed a terminal threat to the West and all it stood for. Twenty years later the United States is still there, along with its allies from the initial criminal invasion and occupation.
This brief history is worth recalling when one evaluates the latest developments in Iraq. The current United States President, Donald Trump, has been issuing, as usual, mixed signals about United States intentions in the region. Some reports have suggested that Trump wants to withdraw United States troops from the country. Those reports should be greeted with a large dose of scepticism. There is virtually no historical precedent for the United States voluntarily withdrawing from any country that it has occupied. The classic illustration of a forced withdrawal was from Vietnam in 1975, but that was only after a multi decade war that killed millions of Vietnamese and left biological time bombs for the Vietnamese people that 45 years later is still inflicting misery and disability upon Vietnam and its people.
Scepticism about any American intentions to withdraw from Iraq (and indeed Syria – another illegal occupation under international law) has been reinforced by recent developments. The Iraqi government finally found its courage sufficiently for its parliament to unanimously pass a resolution that all foreign troops should withdraw from the country.
Under international law a sovereign State is entitled to make such a demand. The Australian government that claims its presence is to “train” Iraqi troops (the same pretext being used in Afghanistan) has declined to accept Iraq’s right to remove them. The fact that all Australian military personnel are in Iraq on diplomatic passports, a fact carefully ignored by the Australian media, says more about Iraq’s attitude to their presence than the professed goodwill of training troops. It would be idle to assume that Australia is in any case acting independently. On this, as in nearly all of its foreign policy, they simply do as the Americans wish.
The United States reaction to the Iraqi demand has also been instructive. According to multiple reports in the Iraqi media, ignored by their Western counterparts, the United States response to the Iraqi demand that US forces leave the country, has been very instructive. Firstly, it was simply ignored. Then Trump made a public speech saying how many billions of dollars the United States had invested in Iraq. If United States troops were to leave, then the US wanted monetary compensation for their “investment” in Iraq.
None of the Western media reporting this demand pointed out the relevant history of the United States engagement with Iraq, much less noting that if any compensation was payable it should be by the United States for their brutality and the illegality of their occupation.
The vulnerability of the Iraqis to the blatant blackmail is that they have billions of dollars held in the United States. As the recent experience with Venezuela shows, the United States has no compunction about confiscating the financial assets of countries with whom it is in dispute.
The latest threats to Iraq’s financial resources will hopefully speed the day when more countries see the blatant bullying and illegality of US actions and place their financial assets elsewhere.
Further revelations have now emerged about the US response to Iraq’s assertion of its sovereignty. One was that the United States is demanding that 50% of Iraq oil production is controlled by the United States, which will of course retain the income from that oil. Trump boasts that the United States is self-sufficient in oil, so the oil sales will presumably be to third countries, with no benefit to Iraq.
A second revelation was that the Iraqi government was going to sell its oil to China with that country also making investments in Iraq’s further development. The Western media have not given this development any publicity, and even less attention to Trump’s response as reported by the Iraqis. According to their Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Trump demanded that the Iraqis deal with the Chinese not proceed.
Furthermore, again according to the Iraqi account, a refusal by the Iraqis to abide by Trump’s wishes would result in the Iraqi Prime Minister being killed. It is not an overstatement to equate the reported US response to the infamous mafia tactic of “making a person an offer they can’t refuse”, i.e. “obey or we will kill you”.
It is little wonder that these reports from the Iraqi government are not being publicised in the Western media. That the so-called ‘leadership of the free world’ would behave like common criminal gangsters is no surprise. It is however, a reality that the Western media have sought to shelter from their readership.
Why any Western nation, including Australia, would wish to be associated with such gangsterism is inexplicable unless, (a) they approved of such actions; or (b) their leadership feared that any dissent on their part would make them the next target, in precisely the same way as Trump has reportedly threatened to murder the Iraqi Prime Minister. Neither option is edifying but it goes a long way to explaining the behaviour of many Western nations, despite their purported adherence to the “rule of law” and other thinly disguised excuses for intolerable behaviour.
At the time of writing a stalemate had essentially been reached. The Iraqi Prime Minister was still alive although United States armed, financed and supported provocateurs were mounting demonstrations against the Iraqi government.
The Iraqis to their credit have refused to buckle to United States demands and have maintained their contractual commitments with the Chinese. An interesting and potentially significant development in this context has been increased involvement by the Chinese in countries in the region.
If the United States was really a country committed to the rules based international order it would be packing its bags and complying with the wishes of the Iraqi sovereign government whose land they occupy and whose resources they are stealing.
As noted above, history would suggest however, that the United States has never voluntarily left any country, particularly one so rich in valuable resources as Iraq. This saga is far from completion.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.