Saturday, August 11, 2007

Australia Prepares To Withdraw Troops From Iraq

Howard Tries To Blackmail Maliki Government

Pass Contentious Oil Law Now So Australian Energy Giants Can Feast On Iraq's Oil-Rich Future

Facing political obliteration at the November federal elections, prime minister John Howard is preparing the Australian public, and the media, for an announcement, within weeks, that Australia will withdraw most of its combat troops from Iraq in the first half of 2008. After the election.

John Howard spoke with US president George W. Bush during the week and apparently got the okay to begin talking up an Australian troop withdrawal.

The conditions for Australian troops to stay on in Iraq are impossible for the Maliki government to achieve and Howard knows it :

"...prompt, concrete measures are needed not only to secure Iraq's future, but also to ensure regional stability and continued constructive international engagement".

The opening sentences in the story published in today's issue of 'The Australian' are remarkable for displaying the utter disrespect and contempt with which Howard now views the democratically elected government of Iraq. The threatening nature of Howard's letter to Maliki is clear :

John Howard has demanded the Iraqi Government make faster progress towards resolving the country's political differences...
In the letter, Mr Howard urges Mr Maliki to move decisively on political reconciliation within Iraq, and outlines a number of measures he should take.

Naturally fast-tracking the vastly unpopular new Oil Law is one of the chief "measures" Howard demands Maliki get sorted. Now. Or face troop withdrawals. It's almost blackmail.

If the Maliki government actually cared.

Iraqi government ministers who don't laugh out loud at this will just be insulted.

Prime Minister Maliki and senior ministers of his government said earlier this year that Australian troops were not essential to Iraq's security, and they could be withdrawn at any time.

While the Oil Law is meant to see a greater sharing of the pre-war level oil revenues amongst the majority Shia, the Kurds and Sunnis, it will also allow great swathes of Iraq's oil infrastructure to be handed over to foreign-owned oil corporations, including Australian oil giants, whose investment is needed to repair all those pipelines and refineries handily targeted by insurgents, or outside agents, and degraded by almost a decade of crippling sanctions.

Sanctions that were backed heartily by the Howard government, while simultaneously turning many blind eyes to the shockingly corrupt bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars handed over to Saddam Hussein by the Australian Wheat Board from the late 1990s up until just before the invasion and occupation of Iraq began.

Howard's letter "demands" Maliki get his political shit together. The "demands" are mostly for the benefit of his Australian audience. Which is why the supposedly "Top Secret" letter from Howard to Maliki was leaked to The Australian's Greg Sheridan.

From Sheridan's story :

The top-secret letter was transmitted electronically to the Australian embassy in Baghdad and hand-delivered to Mr Maliki's office by the Australian ambassador to Iraq, Mark Innes Brown. The hard copy was later sent in a secure diplomatic bag.

So how did Greg Sheridan get his hands on it? Did he crack the electronic encryption of a diplomatic cable? Or did he run a pen scanner over the letter before it was tossed into the embassy mail bag?

Sheridan recently shed his last claims to credibility when he wrote lengthy, swirly tributes in his newspaper for disgraced NeoCon warpigs Paul Wolfowitz and 'Scooter' Libby. Naturally, he forgot to mention the extent of Wolfowitz and Libby's lies and propaganda in the pre-Iraq war hard sell period.

Sheridan is still good, however, for launching election-positive propaganda campaigns on behalf of his good friends John Howard and Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Of course,
Howard will likely choose to announce his new "cut and run" policy before the election, with the proviso that "events on the ground" in Iraq would determine the actual date for the troop withdrawals to begin. This would allow Howard to say before the election that he is withdrawing combat forces from Iraq, quelling another massive voter negative, and then change his mind and keep the troops in Iraq, by claiming security needs demand the troops to remain, if he somehow manages to win the election.

The proviso in Howard's own words :

"Our military commitment (is based) not on a timetable but on security conditions and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces."

But it's not all grim. Howard tried for some outright humour in the Maliki letter. Minus the irony :

Mr Howard warns that if the Iraqis fail to make progress, the public support for Australia's military deployment to Iraq may not be sustainable.

Some 70% of Australians opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and more than one million Australians marched against the war in hundreds of events around the nation. More than 500,000 people filled Sydney's centre during a march in February, 2003, and in some small Australian towns, more than two-thirds of the entire population turned out for anti-war rallies.

Howard responded to the unity of the Australian public's demands for a non-violent approach to the problems in iraq, and the involvement of thousands of World War 2, Korea and Vietnam war veterans in the marches, by claiming they all were giving "aid and comfort" to Saddam Hussein.

The same dictator who, as we noted above, was being propped up at the time by the delivery of duffel bags from Australians stuffed with millions of dollars in cash, that Howard somehow didn't bother to notice, even though diplomatic and military phone lines ran hot for years with the news that the Howard government was allowing Saddam Hussein to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes. Dozens of memos and letters warning him of the AWB bribery corruption crossed Howard's desk. He claims he saw not one such letter or memo.

There are other factors figuring into Howard's decision to withdraw Australian troops. They are needed back home to deal with local problems, primarily.

East Timor, where the Fretilin party won the majority of votes, but was stripped of its parliamentary power by a UN-backed presidential appointment, looks set to spend 2008 struggling with a low-level insurgency. Australia has to provide security in order to gets its big fat slice of East Timor's oil and gas reserves, despite the fact that the East Timorese people are some of the poorest in the world. If Australia doesn't provide security, no billions in oil and gas revenue will come our way.

Also, by mid-2008, the NeoCon propaganda campaign to rally support for attacks on Iran will have reached its climax, with strikes on Iran's nuclear energy infrastructure looking more likely by the week. If Australian troops are in Iraq when US-Israel strikes on Iran commence, they will become key targets of Shia militias and terrorists.

By admitting that he fears Australian will vote him out of office over the Iraq War, Howard has acknowledged that he really does use the Australian military like political pawns, and is prepared to "cut and run" and "abandon Iraq to terrorists" - to quote foreign minister Alexander Downer.

In recent months, Howard has been forced to limit his media-heavy tours of Australian military facilities due to growing disapproval and dissent amongst both senior and junior ranks. The rumour runs in a number of military family heavy communities that some army bases have refused, outright, to provide meet-and-greet walls of green for Howard during the election campaign. If he wants to visit, fine, but no media in tow.

Some 1500 Australian soldiers are now in Iraq, including 500 combat troops.

Opposition leader Kevin Rudd has already committed to withdrawing Australia's combat troops, and states the Labor position clearly on a recently launched website :

...we want a phased withdrawal of our combat troops from southern Iraq, in consultation with our allies and the Iraqi government. This would be part of a broader diplomatic effort to urge opposing Iraqi factions to resolve their political differences and end the civil war.

In conjunction with Howard's plans to announce "phased" troop withdrawals from Iraq, expect to see the spread of a new soft propaganda campaign from Howard, his ministers and his media supplicants on why Iraq has gone to hell :

"It's all Iran's fault."

Naturally, this will echo the current BushCo. and NeoCon anti-Iran propaganda campaigns. President Bush's office has probably already e-mailed the list of talking points to Howard and Downer. Who will, of course, then pass them onto handy journalists like Greg Sheridan at The Australian.

John Howard Finally Admits Iraq Was A War For Oil

Alexander Downer Hit Up Washington And Baghdad For BHP Iraq Oil Riches Only Weeks After Iraq War Began

Dec. 2006 : Stunning Drop In Australians' Support For Iraq War - Half Demand Troop Fast Troop Withdrawal

January 2007 : War Weary Nation Ready To Drive Howard From Office Over Iraq