can’t see the forest

‘Endgame’ in Iraq? And what game would that be, exactly?

Posted in economy, energy, foreign policy, iraq, Iraq War, middle east, News, U.S. News, USA, World News by Curtis on 12/15/08

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robert-gates2

U.S. Defense Secy. Robert Gates

BBC News reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, slated to keep his post after Obama takes office in January, has told U.S. troops on an airbase in Iraq that their mission is in its ‘endgame’:

Mr Gates said the US military presence would undergo a “significant change of mission” next June when troops are due to withdraw from Iraq’s urban areas.

Under a recently agreed deal between the two countries, US troops will completely withdraw from Iraq by 2011.

However, the US general leading US troops in Iraq has said he expects some soldiers to stay in cities beyond June.

The Iraqi parliament voted in favour of the new security deal with the Americans last month. Iraq’s government has hailed the agreement as the prelude to the return of full sovereignty to the country.

Not that this is the first time we’ve heard such talk, of course. But this time, Pentagon officials may actually be speaking from their icy black hearts.

Commanders on the ground in Iraq expect to restore native control to all 18 Iraqi provinces by June, under the terms of a new security deal with the government of Prime Minister Maliki. U.S. voters will expect incoming president Barack Obama to deliver on his promises of a deliberate but expeditious withdrawal from Iraq.

But it isn’t all campaign politics; the simple truth is that, while automakers badger the U.S. Congress for a handout of a few billion dollars, the staggering financial costs of the occupation of Iraq—in the hundreds of billions per annum—continue to create debt and leave federal and industrial resources ever more tightly stretched. The presence of 150,000 troops in Iraq is edging towards the logistically untenable, and recent developments have created an environment in which withdrawal on Washington’s terms is becoming more opportune.

In October, the Iraqi government officially opened its oil reserves—the third-largest proven reserves in the world—to dozens of foreign investors, under the terms of an ownership contract which was never made public. Crude oil prices have recently plummeted in the wake of decreased demand, but with the hands of international oil companies on the spickets in the petroleum paradise of southern Iraq, OPEC is now largely unable to effectively counter in many markets. Critics of the U.S. administration have long maintained that gaining the ability to exert this kind of pressure on oil markets, from the Middle East to Venezuela, has always been a primary goal of the occupation of Iraq.

Talili AirbaseAnother important prerequisite for withdrawal which is now a fait accompli is the establishment of a series of ‘megabases’ throughout Iraq, including some of the largest such facilities anywhere on the globe. TomDispatch reports:

By now, billions have evidently gone into single massive mega-bases like the U.S. air base at Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It’s a “16-square-mile fortress,” housing perhaps 40,000 U.S. troops, contractors, special ops types, and Defense Department employees. As the Washington Post’s Tom Ricks, who visited Balad back in 2006, pointed out — in a rare piece on one of our mega-bases — it’s essentially “a small American town smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq.” Back then, air traffic at the base was already being compared to Chicago’s O’Hare International or London’s Heathrow — and keep in mind that Balad has been steadily upgraded ever since to support an “air surge” that, unlike the President’s 2007 “surge” of 30,000 ground troops, has yet to end. . .

. . .Think of this as the greatest American story of these years never told — or more accurately, since there have been a few reports on a couple of these mega-bases — never shown. After all, what an epic of construction this has been, as the Pentagon built a series of fortified American towns, each some 15 to 20 miles around, with many of the amenities of home, including big name fast-food franchises, PXes, and the like, in a hostile land in the midst of war and occupation. In terms of troops, the President may only have put his “surge” strategy into play in January 2007, but his Pentagon has been “surging” on base construction since April 2003.

Aside from providing a bottomless boon to salivating contractors, these airbases ensure that, even with the vast majority of manpower extracted from the region, the U.S. can continue to project its power into the Middle East to protect its diplomatic and economic interests. This sends a strong message to the re-emerging Russian Federation as well as to regional powers such as Iran.

So while it may be true that the official U.S. mission in Iraq is coming to a close, in the sense of realpolitik, the ‘game’ may be just beginning.

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One Response

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  1. 99 said, on 12/15/08 at 7:30 pm

    It is my profound wish that once the psychopaths are out — 20 January 2009 — the Iraqi people will stand up and boot us out completely. Especially after we’ve pulled back to our vaunted bases, I hope they bring about the fastest and most ignominious bug-out in US history.

    I hope every remaining American there gets daily pelted with thousands of Iraqi shoes.

    Hail Muntazer al-Zaidi, hero of us all.


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