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The Oil Workers' Strike Threatens Maliki Government

Iraq Occupation Coming to a Head Over Oil

by KEVIN ZEESE

The situation in Iraq is coming to a head. Oil workers have been on strike for three days and are being threatened by the Iraqi government and surrounded by the Iraqi military. The Parliament passed a resolution urging an end to the U.S. occupation and has refused to act on the oil law the U.S. is demanding. Both the Democrats in Congress and the Bush Administration have united around the passage of the oil law as the top benchmark for the Iraqi government.

If these trends continue it will become evident to the world what this war was about all along–oil. Even the U.S. media will have to publish an honest analysis of the Iraq oil law and why Iraqis are resisting it.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the U.S. occupation came this week when the Iraq Parliament passed a law opposing the continuation of the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. The law requires the parliament’s approval of any future extensions of the mandate, which have previously been made by Iraq’s prime minister. Law makers say they plan on blocking the extension of the coalition’s mandate when it comes up for renewal six months from now. The last time the UN mandate was extended Prime Minister Maliki acted without consultation with the parliament and they reacted angrily. Now, they are acting before the mandate can be extended to make their voices heard.

The parliament has not acted on the oil law submitted to them on February 26th despite aggressive U.S. pressure. The Democratic leadership in Congress joined with President Bush to make passage of the law the top benchmark to show success of the government. Both Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Gates have made recent trips to the region to urge passage of the law. But, the parliament is resisting–even threatening to take a vacation rather than pass the oil law.

In Congress, Dennis Kucinich has tried to raise the issue of the unfairness of the oil law in a Democratic caucus meeting. Rep. David Obey erupted in anger and name calling at Kucinich’s suggestion that the benchmark requiring passage of the oil law was part of the theft of Iraq’s primary resource. Kucinich did not respond to Obey’s angry name calling but instead made an hour long speech describing the Iraq oil law and how it would result in U.S. oil companies controlling their market and reaping most of the profits from Iraqi oil.

Iraq oil workers seeing this U.S. pressure have taken their own action. Members of the union have been on strike since Monday 4th June. Among the union’s demands is consultation on the proposed oil law, which the union opposes. On Tuesday, al-Maliki warned that he would meet threats to oil production "with an iron fist."

Maliki issued arrest warrants for leaders of the union on a charge of "sabotaging the economy." The warrant specifically names Hassan Juma’a Awad, the leader of the 26,000-strong Federation of Oil Unions, and three other leaders of the Federation.

If Maliki follows through on his "iron fist" promise and uses the military against the oil workers it will be evident to all Iraqi’s that he puts the demands of U.S. occupation forces ahead of the needs of the oil workers. It will also become obvious that he is willing to turn over Iraq’s oil to western oil companies rather than meet the needs of the Iraqi people. His already fragile government will lose support and may fall presenting the occupation forces with new political problems. The dividing line between the government and the people, with the government on the side of the occupation will also become evident and violence will likely escalate against the U.S. and Iraqi army and police. The oil law may unite the resistance and focus their energy on the occupation.

U.S. Labor Against the War has been hosting a tour for two Iraqi oil worker leaders. Their visit has been pretty much ignored by the U.S. media but has been reported by David Swanson on AfterDowningStreet.org. Swanson reports a visit to Capitol Hill where one congressman seemed unable to listen to her views. Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS), said what many members of Congress believed–violence would escalate if the U.S. left Iraq and the civil war between Sunni and Shia’a has been going on since before the U.S. occupation. Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union President Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein tried to explain that the civil war began after the occupation and that violence would be reduced if the U.S. withdrew from Iraq. But Moore seemed unable to grasp this. There was very little media in attendance, Swanson reports that a reporter from Telesur (the only large camera in the room) asked why Hashmeya believes the U.S. is still in Iraq. She cited oil and other resources, and the creation of large military bases. "I don’t mean that the American people want these things, I mean the administration. We consider the American people friends."

The recent comments by representatives of the Bush administration that the U.S. presence in Iraq will be much like the U.S. presence in South Korea–which has lasted 50 years–is relevant to the oil law because U.S. oil companies are seeking 30 year contracts in Iraq. Thus, having a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq will help to assure enforcement of those contracts.

The "coming out" of oil as the central goal of the invasion and occupation of Iraq is going to make the occupation more difficult. And, coming at a time when Bush is escalating the number of troops to approximately 200,000 it is going to assure more violence, and more death. The chant, mocked at the beginning of the invasion by many, "no war for oil" is now becoming to be seen for what it is–the truth. And it will be a truth seen by the entire world.

For more information:

U.S. Labor Against the War, includes more information on the Iraq oil workers tour from June 4 to June 29 in many U.S. cities.

Better than Calling Congress, (David Swanson’s report on Iraq oil worker visit to Congress).

Iraqi Troops Face Off Against Striking Oil Workers, UPI.

As the U.S. Discusses Staying in Iraq for 50+ Years, the Bush Administration and Congressional Democrats Push for Iraq to Open its Oil Fields to Foreign Oil Companies, Interview with Antonia Juhasz,

It’s All About the Oil, Kucinich on the Floor of Congress,