Cheerleaders of War

Post-Saddam Iraq will be "a gold mine" of opportunity for U.S. and foreign contractors, says an exile leader

While State Department planners focus on postwar governance, the question of what to do with Iraq's huge oil and gas fields is being studied at the White House -- apparently without input from Iraqi exiles. According to recent news reports, a committee headed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is planning for the United States to seize direct control of the oil fields. This objective, and an overall agenda for postwar Iraq, is promoted in a report released Jan. 14 by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq.

According to the report, "U.S./coalition military units will need to pivot quickly from combat to peacekeeping operations in order to prevent post-conflict Iraq from descending into anarchy." Iraqi institutions must be "purged" of Ba'ath Party leaders, while the reformed Iraqi army polices the populace to maintain order.

Saying it favors a "unified, federal Iraq," the CFR/Baker Institute report urges that U.S. or allied soldiers be deployed to Kurdish areas in northern parts of Iraq and Shi'a areas in the south to preserve "internal cohesion" -- an apparent call to use troops to squelch any separatist rebellions in those regions. The United States also is expected to funnel $100 billion in public and private investments -- secured by future Iraqi oil revenues -- into reconstructing the country.

Aware of the threatened invasion's unpopularity among many people in the Middle East and around the world, the report cautions that "short-term necessities will seem to contradict long-term goals. For example, the strong American presence that will be needed to establish and maintain law and order immediately after the conflict will appear at odds with the long-term goal of a sovereign Iraq. Similarly, protecting Iraq's oil fields from sabotage will likely confirm the worst fears that America is pursuing war in order to steal local resources." Attached to the report is a long addendum, "Oil and Iraq: Opportunities and Challenges," that details obstacles to privatizing the Iraqi energy sector.

Although U.S. officials consistently deny that oil is a major factor in the Bush administration's proposed war to "liberate" Iraq, the fate of the impoverished nation's oil fields is of paramount concern to American business. Petroleum Economist, a trade magazine, noted in an article last month about Iraq's oil infrastructure that, "If Saddam goes, the speed at which Iraq could rehabilitate its energy sector and proceed with essential exploration and production will, to a large extent, depend on the composition of a new government."

Participation in a new government by Iraqi opposition groups is needed to lend an aura of self-determination to the planned occupation. For however long America occupies Iraq it will need teams of public relations specialists to put the most democratic spin possible on military rule. And that's where people like Kanno come in.

"If we go to war," he says, "I will be a mouthpiece for Iraqis outside the country. I have a head start because I already have a weekly television talk show."

Since 1996, the Ceres-based Assyrians have been broadcasting television signals into the Middle East via AssyriaVision (KBSV-TV, Channel 23). They produce anti-Hussein political and cultural programs in two well-equipped television and radio studios just off the huge bingo room at the cultural center. The programs are transmitted into Iraq and Iran via satellite and Webcast. Kanno says the U.S. Air Force helps out by dropping fliers that tell Iraqis how to tune in to AssyriaVision. Kanno says his nonprofit cultural center does not receive U.S. government money for producing these programs; it finances them out of bingo profits.

Much more than Zakariya, who has seen the horrors of war up close, Kanno seems to relish his role as a favored player in the coming invasion. Smiling broadly, he pooh-poohs the fears of other Iraqi exiles about the U.S. Justice Department's plan to detain Iraqis living here who are deemed supporters of Hussein.

"The FBI should look at everyone with Middle Eastern ties," he says. "Look at how inefficient our government was before 9/11. Sometimes you have to give up your civil liberties in the name of safety."

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