Crossposted with PressTV

Donald Trump, in his inimitable way, continues to reveal to the world the brutal imperialist truths of “democracy with American characteristics”.

When the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel US troops as a result of Washington’s inhuman slaying of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani, US President Donald Trump made it very clear: Iraq belongs to the United States, completely.

“We will charge (Iraq) sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” Trump added the sanctions would be imposed on Iraq, “if there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate.”

In my mind, this is perhaps the 2nd-most important news out of Iraq this year: the public acknowledgment that the US is never leaving Iraq, will never countenance Iraqi dissent and would rather destroy Iraq than recognise its sovereignty.

This was a naked declaration from Trump to Iraq that, “We are your imperial masters.”

Iraq cannot even dare to do anything which Washington might consider “inappropriate” – the values of Washington decide what is “inappropriate” in Iraq, not Iraqi values.

Iraqis, I’m sorry to say, should realise that they have become the 51st US state. (Well, the 52nd, after Puerto Rico.) The Iraqi people have zero sovereignty, its votes are worthless nonsense, and Iraq cannot go against the will of the US federal government any more than Wyoming, Rhode Island or Nebraska can.

My claim here is not an overreaction, and especially when we consider the question, what exactly did Iraq do “wrong” in order to “deserve” sanctions?

Iraq is not Iran – they do not keep defending a popular revolution which successfully mixed Islam and democracy, something the West claims is impossible. Iraq is not North Korea, who refuse to let US troops and corporations based in Seoul move up to the China-Russia border. Iraq is not China, who has a government overseen by a party which refuses to let Western high finance control its major industries (however, I note that Iran is even more vigilant in this regard than China, which earns Iran even more Western animosity).

Baghdad has worked with Washington for nearly two decades.

Yes, we can say that this work was done at the barrel of a US cannon, but Iraq has complied with US demands. Iraqis have created links, contacts, contracts and all sorts of entanglements with Americans and American businesses.

And yet Trump made it clear that without the presence of US troops, all that means nothing.

It is now crystal clear that there is zero goodwill from Washington after all these years, zero trust, zero desire to see Iraq stand on its own two feet. Every American smile to an Iraqi inside the Green Zone has been false; every warm word a cold lie.

It’s an amazing declaration by Trump – all the years of talk about “humanitarian intervention” and about the US desire to bring “freedom to Iraq” has been declared a sham. This was guessed at by countless billions of non-Western people, but the threat of sanctions which make the Iran sanctions look “tame”… my God, hasn’t Iraq complied enough at least to avoid that?!

In many ways, this is all a part of the “beauty” of Trump.

Trump came to office in large part because he says things which Main Street knows but which no mainstream politician would even dare to suggest. Trump is such a terror to the Pentagon, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and the Beltway – which concocted an impeachment plan before Trump was even inaugurated – because Trump cannot be trusted to lie properly, and that makes him a risk to US domination.

We cannot imagine Barack Obama bragging about the sanctions he would levy on Iraq if they voted out US troops – he was a smooth-faced liar. Obama would have talked instead about reconciliation with the past, peace and not justice, patience… and then “temporarily surge” more soldiers to Iraq.

Hillary Clinton had none of Obama’s charm – she would have reacted by boringly referring to the legal obligations of Iraq, the feasibility of processes, what the definition here of “vote” is, etc. And then should would have decided on a reaction even more brutal than one Obama or Trump could conceive.

Any “normal president” would have responded to the Iraqi vote in a way which would have calmed the situation; in a way which would have reassured Westerners that, despite their nagging consciences, they were actually doing moral and humane things in Iraq; in a way which the Western media could use as a weapon against dissenters of Western capitalism-imperialism and to further their insistence of TINA (There Is No Alternative).

And this is what so many hate Trump for, yet many others value: if the US had a “normal president,” many would have complacently and mistakenly continued to believe there is genuine goodwill from Washington towards the Iraqi people. Instead Trump speaks from his gut and makes it clear: “Ha!”

It’s a big, fat “Ha!” indeed.

Trump is hated by the US 1% because he egotistically and instinctively wants to take the credit and power inherently contained by this “Ha!”, but by doing so, he threatens to upset the whole enterprise of US domination; he threatens to provoke resentment which could turn revolutionary.

The Iraqi people need to understand this sadistic laughing, this murderous contempt, this arrogant gloating.

The world is often fooled by brand repackaging like Obama, (phony, alleged) technocrats like Hillary Clinton and professional foolers like Bill Clinton – nobody is fooled by Trump. Trump’s egotism make it impossible to be fooled.

To Trump, the Iraqi people do not even have the power of children to mildly rebel, but he is not the only president to hold such an imperial view.

As usual, this was an overreaction by Trump: while I certainly hope it comes to pass (although the US State Department has just officially rejected any troop withdrawal), I will believe there are no US soldiers in Iraq – no “advisors”, “technicians” or “contractors” – when I finally see it. But Trump is undoubtedly on edge over an empty, superficial, Biden corruption-covering, essentially anti-democratic impeachment process. Incredibly, incredibly lamentably, Trump assassinated Soleimani merely to provide a distraction, and he’s not about to have some puny nobodies like Iraqis make him look weak domestically now.

Iraqis only exist to serve the US – this is what Trump’s threats to terribly sanction Iraq mean.

The pity of it is that Iraqis already know all about inhuman Western sanctions: I used to ask Iraqi friends how their family was doing amid the sanctions (1990-2003) and they said, “Please, stop asking – it just gets worse and worse.” You know they were inhuman and starvation-inducing by the very name of the “concession” plan the West finally granted – the “oil-for-food program”.

Ugh. Iraqis should hope for only Iran-level sanctions, compared to that.

Indeed, it is not a pleasant past, present or future for Iraq.

Their vote to expel US soldiers and reclaim sovereignty was along sectarian lines, just as Washington would have hoped for (or the French in Lebanon, to give another parallel of “Western democratic culture”). It was unanimous, but missing about 150 public servants – Kurdish and Sunni lawmakers didn’t vote.

Will Iraq’s non-Shia politicians also absent themselves when a vote comes up to denounce Trump’s new sanctions? I really don’t see what Shia theology has to do with voting against foreign occupation – do Iraqis think the US will tolerate Iraqi soldiers and bases in the US? Do they think Washington is kidding? The Washington Post reported the new sanctions are already being drafted.

Do Iraq’s non-Shia politicians still think that Washington is their friend and partner? Do non-Shia Iraqis really view their fellow Shia as more dangerous and disagreeable than the current reality – permanent colonisation by the US? Or are these politicians too close to the US (to use a polite phrase) and not close enough to the lower classes, their crushed reality and and their legitimate demands?

We will not get another Trump era anytime soon – we should appreciate the way he shatters one illusion after another, laying bare the realities which so many Westerners have laboured so hard to cover up for so very, very long.

Original article


US Plans Permanent Occupation of Iraq

The US plans permanent occupation of numerous nations worldwide, including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and other countries it attacked preemptively.

It’s up to officials of these countries and mass public opposition to end US occupation through the power of resistance.

Pentagon bases are platforms for endless wars, including against host and neighboring countries.

So-called status of forces (SOFA) agreements establish the framework under which US forces operate abroad — serving its own interests at the expense of occupied nations and their people.

Chalmers Johnson explained SOFAs as follows, saying:

“America’s foreign military enclaves, though structurally, legally, and conceptually different from colonies, are themselves something like micro-colonies in that they are completely beyond the jurisdiction of the occupied nation,” adding:

“The US virtually always negotiates a ‘status of forces agreement’ (SOFA) with the ostensibly independent ‘host’ nation.”

They’re a modern day version of 19th century China’s “extraterritoriality” agreements.

They grant US occupying forces charged with crimes the “right” to be tried by his (or her) own government under his (or her) own national laws.

It assures exoneration most always or slap on the wrist punishment back home, even for serious crimes like rape and murder, demanding harsh punishment in the host country according to its laws.

US offenders are usually whisked out of countries where they committed crimes.

Most SOFAs are secret, their total number in over 160 occupied countries not disclosed.

They “usurp, distort, or subvert whatever institutions of democratic (or other form of) government may exist with the host society,” Johnson explained.

The presence of US occupying forces abroad assures trouble, including murder, rape, theft, drunken driving, and other crimes.

Local populations also endure unacceptable noise, pollution, environmental destruction, appropriated public land, and US personnel mindless of local laws, customs, and rights of ordinary people.

Locals lose control over their lives and welfare. They have no say and virtually no chance for redress against offenses harming them.

Most US bases abroad are planned for permanent occupation, not abandonment.

Large and medium-sized ones have extensive infrastructure, command and control centers, accommodations for families in combat-free areas, hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, and virtually everything else found back home.

Analyst Nick Turse estimates around 800 US bases abroad —  in 164 countries worldwide, according to the Pentagon.

David Vine, author of “Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World” believes hundreds more Pentagon bases exist off-the-books globally.

“Undocumented bases are immune to oversight by the public and often even Congress,” Vine explained, adding:

“Bases are a physical manifestation of US foreign and military policy, so off-the-books bases mean the military and executive branch are deciding such policy without public debate, frequently spending hundreds of millions or billions of dollars (ER: of taxpayer money) and potentially getting the US involved in wars and conflicts about which most of the country knows nothing.”

“US bases abroad cost upwards of $50 billion per year to build and maintain, which is money that could be used to address pressing needs at home in education, health care, housing, and infrastructure.”

According to Turse, about 95% of foreign military bases are US ones.

It’s undisclosed how many are in Iraq, Turse saying the number is less than “500-plus” in the aftermath of Bush/Cheney’s aggression, adding:

It’s hard getting “accurate manpower numbers for the military personnel in America’s war zones, let alone the number of bases in each of them.”

The Pentagon keeps this information secret even though satellite imagery can pinpoint their location, size, and estimate their troop size.

What’s revealed about US bases worldwide leaves information on hundreds of off-the-books ones undisclosed.

According to Iraqi Al Sumaria television, PM Mahdi asked Pompeo to send US delegates to Baghdad, wanting the process of withdrawing Pentagon troops from the country begun.

AMN News reported that US forces and weapons continue entering Iraqi territory without government permission. Mahdi and Iraqi MPs want US and allied foreign forces expelled.

Iran’s IRGC “warn(ed) US allies providing bases for (its forces) that any country serving as the origin of bellicose and aggressive attacks in any form against the Islamic Republic of Iran will be targeted” in retaliation.

Iraqi Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais Khazali vowed to retaliate against the US for assassinating deputy PMU head Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (pictured), the resistance aiming to expel US forces from the country.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus defied reality, calling the US “a force for good in the Middle East,” adding:

US forces in Iraq are “to continue the fight against ISIS” — the US created and supports she failed to explain.

On Thursday, PM Mahdi told Pompeo by phone to begin the process of disengaging.

According to the Pentagon, the US has around 60,000 troops in the Middle East, including in Iraq — the likely lowball figure at least double this number with private military contractors included, plus many thousands of US forces in Central Asia and North Africa.

Speaking for Pompeo, Ortagus said “any (US) delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership (sic) — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East (sic),” adding:

On Friday, “a NATO delegation is at the State Department to discuss increasing NATO’s role in Iraq” — despite its ruling authorities, lawmakers, and vast majority of its people wanting the hostile US presence in the country ended.

They demand one thing, the Trump regime another, wanting Iraq to pay for unwelcome/unacceptable US occupation, US war secretary Esper saying:

“Our policy has not changed. We are not leaving Iraq.”

Trump said now “isn’t the right point” to leave, threatening tough sanctions on Iraq if unwanted US troops are forced out.

On Friday, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for unity in the country against foreign occupation, meaning the US and NATO allies, adding:

“(S)erious attacks and repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty that occurred in recent days with the apparent weakness of the concerned authorities in protecting the country and its people…are part of the repercussions of the current crisis.”

Fatah Alliance head/Badr Organization secretary general Hadi al-Ameri also called for expelling US forces from Iraq.

So did prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. For now US troops remain, for how long an unanswered question.

As long as they’re unwanted and asked to leave, their presence is a hostile occupying force in violation of international law.

Original article

Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”


How the US Runs Iraq


What ever happened to Iraq? Is it not an independent country with a democratic government thanks to the 2003 US invasion? So says Washington.

The murder of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani suddenly shone a strobe light on ‘independent’ Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.

Welcome to the new Imperialism 101.

Iraq’s population is estimated around 39 million. The pre-war Iraq of 2003 was broken into three parts by the US-British invasion: the Shia majority; Kurds in the north; and Sunnis, with scatterings of other ethnicities. Iraq remains fragmented into hostile groups.

Its Shia are confusingly allied to the US and Iran. The killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani by the Americans has thrown this alliance of convenience into confusion. Iraqi Kurds are close to the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence. The Sunnis are left adrift, without any foreign patrons except for other feeble Arab states.

The US maintains a modest garrison of 5,000 infantry in Iraq and 3-5 air bases, as well as the gigantic fortified US Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone which contains one of the world’s largest CIA bases. Angry mobs demonstrating in front of the embassy triggered off the chain of events that led to Trump’s murder of Gen. Soleimani. That an impeached president should be murdering foreign figures is a question that Congress must ask.

Before he was murdered, Osama bin Laden called this monster Baghdad embassy and its twin in Kabul ‘crusader fortresses.’ That is indeed their role, and to serve as the nerve center for all Mideast operations by the US. Iraq enjoys some of the world’s largest oil reserves. Where the profit from Iraq’s mammoth oil exports go remains a closely guarded secret.

Combined with Saudi Arabia – also controlled by the US – Iraq gives Washington control of the bulk of Mideast oil. The US no longer relies on oil from the Mideast, being self-sufficient – at least for now. But dominating the Mideast gives the US huge influence over China, Japan, India, and Europe, all of whom import oil from there. This is the main pillar of US world power and the supremacy of the dollar.

Returning to Iraq, Washington has imposed an air exclusivity zone there. Real control of flat, largely barren Iraq comes from the air. US war planes based there and in Qatar can blast anything that moves in Mesopotamia. Imperial Britain ruled Iraq the same way, using the RAF to smash all opposition to the British-installed puppet ruler in Baghdad. In the 1920’s, Churchill even authorized the RAF to use poison gas against rebellious Iraqi Kurds (as well as Afghan Pashtun tribes).

US-ruled Iraq is not allowed to have a real air force, only a handful of light aircraft. The same ban applies to Afghanistan. Iraq’s so-called army, a mob of unruly militias of the type the Ottomans used to call ‘bashi-bazouks,’ is of little military value though partly equipped by US weapons. They are increasingly being attacked by US warplanes.

The US really runs Iraq from three large air bases that were the target of the recent bloodless Iranian missile attacks. Iraq’s current US-approved prime minister Abdul-Mahdi and its feeble parliament have voted for the ouster of all US forces from Iraq. Good luck to them. Washington will likely ignore Iraq’s supposedly ‘democratic’ government and continue to act as the sultan of Iraq.

Iraq has become the central military base and inexhaustible oil reservoir for the US that was envisaged by the Bush administration and its neocons. That is a major step in the total US domination of the Mideast and its energy resources.

Israel has achieved its long sought goal of removing Iraq from the confrontation over Palestine. With Egypt under a US-imposed dictator, that leaves only demolished Syria to stand up to Israel. The Saudis are gleefully stabbing their ‘brother’ Arabs in the back, as they always have done.

Never in the past half-century have we seen the Arab states so pathetically feeble. Never have we seen Israel so strongly guiding US Mideast policy, including the murder of Gen. Soleimani.


Original article