BLACKMAIL?… When I read Patrick Cockburn’s article yesterday about the “secret” agreement for the US military to remain in Iraq indefinitely I thought he was a little bit behind the story. The only place where the discovery that the US wanted permanent basing rights and air superiority and immunity from prosecution for their personnel was HERE, where we’ve all been dazzled by the election. The Iraqis have been fighting this agreement and making direct signals of moving away from it, calling for a national referendum on any agreement and demanding national sovereignty within it.

Now, the follow-up article shows what may be the Cheney Administration’s strategy to get the Iraqis to sign it:

The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq’s money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.


US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal, details of which were reported for the first time in this newspaper yesterday.

This is the very point that Bush used to hold up the defense bill with that pocket veto last winter. He claimed that the claims against the Iraqi government would bankrupt a young country on the road to democracy. Now we know why he vetoed that provision – he wanted to make sure he could use those lawsuits as a bargaining chip instead of having the money get paid out to the plaintiffs.

Iraq’s foreign reserves are currently protected by a presidential order giving them immunity from judicial attachment but the US side in the talks has suggested that if the UN mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by the new agreement, then Iraq’s funds would lose this immunity. The cost to Iraq of this happening would be the immediate loss of $20bn. The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq’s independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new “strategic alliance” with the United States.

Read this entire article. This is blackmail, plain and simple. Bush and Cheney are demanding a permanent agreement that would basically turn Iraq into a client state of the US and corporate interests.

This is a hardball move. And a President Obama would not be able to extricate himself from such an agreement so easily. The neocons in the White House are laying the groundwork for a permanent presence, and using the tactics of an economic hitman to do it.


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