Courtesy of Socialist Worker
By Eric Ruder, reporting from London
December 11, 2005
Sami Ramadani on the latest “milestone” election in Iraq
“The elections won’t change things”
SAMI RAMADANI was for many years an exile from his native Iraq as a political refugee from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Today, he is an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion and occupation. At an international antiwar conference in London in December, Ramadani spoke with Socialist Worker’s ERIC RUDER about whether the upcoming elections in Iraq would be a “turning point,” as the Bush administration claimed.
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WE HAVE had so many turning points that we’re getting dizzy. I think actually that the December elections are not going to change things in Iraq. The occupation will go on, and we’ll have yet another government that is devised under U.S. control and influence in Iraq.
But at another level, it will have an important impact in terms of the legality of the occupation of Iraq. I think one of the plans behind holding this election so speedily is to legitimize the occupation, so the new government will be deemed to be a sovereign government with a permanent constitution, and this so-called new government will invite the occupation forces to stay in Iraq.
At one level, they would like to get the United Nations off their backs and legitimize the occupation. At another, if this does happen, then all contracts signed by the new government will have the force of international law behind them–and this has very significant consequences for control of Iraqi oil, because they are preparing so-called production sharing agreements that will pass control over Iraq’s oil reserves to the transnational oil corporations.
These “production sharing agreements” are privatization under another name. Effective control will pass to the oil companies. They hope that once these agreements are speedily signed come January or February of next year, then even if they can’t exploit Iraqi oil now, these agreements can be brought into effect at a later stage, once Iraq is stabilized and when they have a government in Baghdad pliant enough, and have enough American bases in the country to back such a government.
Much of this is already in the public domain and has been exposed in the past few months.
In terms of who will participate and who will not, I think overwhelmingly this election is going to prove to be–like the previous one in January–a non-event in terms of the daily lives of Iraqis. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating day by day, and this election is not going to change things, unfortunately.
The forces that are standing in the election are not even mentioning the word “oil,” which is quite significant in many ways. And the constitution they adopted actually opens the door for the control of Iraq’s oil by the oil companies.
The new constitution contains an article which is preceded by saying Iraq’s oil belongs to the Iraqi people. Then there is a more detailed article that follows, which says that Iraq’s current oilfields will continue to be administered by the Iraqi government. The word “current” is the crucial one, because only 10 percent of Iraq’s oil is in currently exploited oilfields. About 90 percent of Iraq’s oil is still underground and hasn’t been tapped yet.
So the constitution has surreptitiously opened the door for the privatization of most of Iraq’s oil, and put it at the mercy of so-called production sharing agreements.
Most of the forces running in the election are saying they want to end the occupation–some very strongly, some mildly. But I don’t think that most of them are serious about this, because if you remember, the bloc that got most of the votes last time around had at the top of its agenda the withdrawal of the occupation forces, but they didn’t do anything about it. This was Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Coalition List.
As far as kicking out the occupation forces, I don’t think they are strong enough or serious enough to do so. But even if they are genuine about the slogan, they end up sitting in the Green Zone, where the occupation tanks are protecting them. So immediately, they are in a compromised situation where their daily safety and existence depend on the tanks and helicopters of the occupation forces.
Even if they last a week, two weeks, a month, two months, opposing the presence of the occupation, their daily life and existence grows ever more dependent on the presence of the occupation, and this is a fix that they cannot escape from.
You cannot join in this political process and become completely anti-occupation because of the facts on the ground–because the occupation forces are the only effective forces that can provide any state-type protection for elected representatives, even if these elected representatives are anti-occupation themselves. It’s a very big contradiction they fall into the moment they get elected.
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