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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

nuclear-armed states are criminal states

Derailing a deal


7 October 2007

NUCLEAR-armed states are criminal states. They have a legal obligation,
confirmed by the World Court, to live up to Article 6 of the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls on them to carry out good-faith
negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. None of the nuclear
states has lived up to it.

The United States is a leading violator, especially the Bush
administration, which even has stated that it isn't subject to Article 6.

On July 27, Washington entered into an agreement with India that guts the
central part of the NPT, though there remains substantial opposition in
both countries. India, like Israel and Pakistan (but unlike Iran), is not
an NPT signatory, and has developed nuclear weapons outside the treaty.
With this new agreement, the Bush administration effectively endorses and
facilitates this outlaw behaviour. The agreement violates US law, and
bypasses the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the 45 nations that have established
strict rules to lessen the danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association,
observes that the agreement doesn't bar further Indian nuclear testing
and, "incredibly, ... commits Washington to help New Delhi secure fuel
supplies from other countries even if India resumes testing." It also
permits India to "free up its limited domestic supplies for bomb
production." All these steps are in direct violation of international
nonproliferation agreements.

The Indo-US agreement is likely to prompt others to break the rules as
well. Pakistan is reported to be building a plutonium production reactor
for nuclear weapons, apparently beginning a more advanced phase of weapons
design. Israel, the regional nuclear superpower, has been lobbying
Congress for privileges similar to India's, and has approached the Nuclear
Suppliers Group with requests for exemption from its rules. Now France,
Russia and Australia have moved to pursue nuclear deals with India, as
China has with Pakistan ? hardly a surprise, once the global superpower
has opened the door.

The Indo-US deal mixes military and commercial motives. Nuclear weapons
specialist Gary Milhollin noted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's
testimony to Congress that the agreement was "crafted with the private
sector firmly in mind," particularly aircraft and reactors and, Milhollin
stresses, military aircraft. By undermining the barriers against nuclear
war, he adds, the agreement not only increases regional tensions but also
"may hasten the day when a nuclear explosion destroys an American city."
Washington's message is that "export controls are less important to the
United States than money" ? that is, profits for US corporations ?
whatever the potential threat. Kimball points out that the United States
is granting India "terms of nuclear trade more favourable than those for
states that have assumed all the obligations and responsibilities" of the
NPT. In most of the world, few can fail to see the cynicism. Washington
rewards allies and clients that ignore the NPT rules entirely, while
threatening war against Iran, which is not known to have violated the NPT,
despite extreme provocation: The United States has occupied two of Iran's
neighbours and openly sought to overthrow the Iranian regime since it
broke free of US control in 1979.

Over the past few years, India and Pakistan have made strides towards
easing the tensions between the two countries. People-to-people contacts
have increased and the governments are in discussion over the many
outstanding issues that divide the two states. Those promising
developments may well be reversed by the Indo-US nuclear deal. One of the
means to build confidence throughout the region was the creation of a
natural gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan into India. The "peace
pipeline" would have tied the region together and opened the possibilities
for further peaceful integration.

The pipeline, and the hope it offers, might become a casualty of the
Indo-US agreement, which Washington sees as a measure to isolate its
Iranian enemy by offering India nuclear power in exchange for Iranian gas
? though in fact India would gain only a fraction of what Iran could

The Indo-US deal continues the pattern of Washington's taking every
measure to isolate Iran. In 2006, the US Congress passed the Hyde Act,
which specifically demanded that the US government "secure India's full
and active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate,
and if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire
weapons of mass destruction."

It is noteworthy that the great majority of Americans ? and Iranians ?
favour converting the entire region to a nuclear-weapons free zone,
including Iran and Israel. One may also recall that UN Security Council
Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, to which Washington regularly appealed
when seeking justification for its invasion of Iraq, calls for
"establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass
destruction and all missiles for their delivery."

Clearly, ways to mitigate current crises aren't lacking.

This Indo-US agreement richly deserves to be derailed. The threat of
nuclear war is extremely serious, and growing, and part of the reason is
that the nuclear states ? led by the United States ? simply refuse to live
up to their obligations or are significantly violating them, this latest
effort being another step toward disaster.


Oil Laws: Colonizing Iraq's Economic Prize

by Media Lens / October 13th, 2007

An Equitable Sharing of Resources?

We are led to believe that Western societies are free and open. In
many respects this is true: freedom of speech and the right to protest
still exist, albeit within ever-tighter constraints. At root, however,
much of what we see and hear in the corporate media has been shaped by
money, power and greed. What passes for vibrant public debate is often
a sham.

Some media professionals are aware of this, but they keep their heads
down and stick to the narrow job requirements demanded of them. But
many journalists cannot, or will not, grasp the notion that there are
serious limits to news reporting and debate; limits that are set by
powerful interests in society. The very possibility is viewed as an
affront to journalistic pride and hard-bitten common sense.

A few journalists, however, are very well aware of the boundaries.
They consciously seek to exploit occasional gaps in the corporate news
blanket smothering reality, and to point the public to facts and
perspectives that discomfit the powerful.

The issue of Iraq's oil illustrates the standard problem: incessant
repetition of a state-approved script, with tiny instances of solidly
critical reporting. Discussion of any possible relationship between
the invasion of Iraq and the US-UK thirst for oil - both as a
hydrocarbon resource and as a strategic tool for dominance - is close
to taboo. If raised, the topic is swiftly dismissed as 'conspiracy'

It was only last month that news media reported the bombshell dropped
by Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve:

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what
everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." (Bob Woodward,
"Greenspan Is Critical Of Bush in Memoir," Washington Post, September
15, 2007)

After that remarkable line from his new book was made public,
Greenspan rapidly backtracked. He "clarified" that he was talking
about "security" and that oil was "not [...] the administration's
motive." (Bob Woodward, "Greenspan: Ouster Of Hussein Crucial For Oil
Security," Washington Post, September 17, 2007). The media's attention
has since moved away from such dangerous ground. Instead, safe
territory on Iraqi oil is defined by terms such as 'investment',
'stability', 'reconciliation' and 'equitable sharing of resources.'

The basis for such discourse was established before the invasion in
2003, when we were relentlessly told that Saddam's weapons of mass
destruction had to be rooted out and 'stability' brought to the
region. The doctrine of reconciliation and democracy was reaffirmed
when George Bush gave a speech in January 2007 in which he set out
'benchmarks' to measure Iraq's 'progress'. Bush proclaimed a noble aim
for the Iraqi government, with US support:

"To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq
will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis."

Bush also pledged that: "military and civilian experts [will] help
local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the
moderates and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And
Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction
coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic
assistance being spent in Iraq." ("'The Most Urgent Priority for
Success in Iraq Is Security,' Bush Says," New York Times, January 11,

Thus, the approved framework of oil revenue 'sharing', underpinning
Washington's 'reconciliation' among Iraqis, was decreed by the US
president. And indeed this is the line followed in the bulk of
corporate news reporting. Consider the following typical examples.

A Financial Times editorial hails a "national reconciliation package"
to include "a law governing the country's oil and gas industry" and
"directed at [...] discord between Iraq 's ethnic and confessional
groups." (Leader, "The irreconcilable. As deadlines pass, time is
running out for a political solution in Iraq," Financial Times, June
7, 2007)

The Times notes the guiding "principle that all oil revenues should be
divided between the Iraqi regions". (Carl Mortished, "Western oil
major's bid marks breakthrough for troubled Iraqi industry," The
Times, August 23, 2007)

Ian Black, Middle East editor of the Guardian, writes of a raft of
measures designed to tackle Iraqi debt relief. These include "a
revenue-sharing oil law", drafted with the help of that well-known
benefactor, the World Bank. (Black, "Rice breaks the ice with Syria ,
but not Iran," The Guardian, May 4, 2007)

The 'anti-war' Independent writes of "redistributing the cash [oil
revenues] to the regions - which the new oil law states must be done
in proportion to regions' populations." (Saeed Shah, "Foreign
companies in scramble for 10 new Kurdish oil contracts," The
Independent, March 23, 2007)

Steve Negus, Iraq correspondent of the Financial Times, even makes the
classic journalistic mistake of taking government "hopes" at face

"The US hopes the oil law will reassure Sunnis that they will still
receive a solid share of national oil export revenues under a new
political order dominated by the Shia majority." (Negus, "Iraqis try
to curb pressure on US to quit," Financial Times, September 10, 2007)

To date, no oil law has been approved by the Iraqi parliament despite
extraordinary pressure from the US and UK governments. Sticking to the
approved line, the FT's Andrew Ward writes of "oil revenues . . .
being distributed equitably to the provinces, in spite of the failure
to pass a national oil law". (Ward, "Little political progress, White
House admits," Financial Times, September 15, 2007)

The Reality On - And Under - The Ground

Contradicting the thrust of the above mainstream version of events,
PLATFORM, a London-based human rights group monitoring the oil
industry, argues that the oil law "has been wrongly described as
providing a mechanism for sharing revenue among Iraq's sectarian
groups; in fact, this law does not deal with that issue, which will be
the subject of a separate law, not yet drafted." (PLATFORM, "The Iraqi
oil sector, privatization and the UK's role," Submission to the Iraq
Commission, 14 June 2007 - our emphasis)

PLATFORM activist Eva Jasiewicz told us:

"The mainstream media, with few exceptions, has uncritically
reproduced White House and Foreign Office propaganda over Iraqi oil
policy. The reporting has not been lazy; it has actively colluded in
the repeated circulation of US-UK lies over revenue sharing, oil for
peace and reconciliation as the goals of the law." (E-mail to Media
Lens, October 9, 2007)

Jasiewicz continued:

"The story of the corporate colonization of Iraq's oil, and potential
dismemberment of the country under a brutal military occupation, has
been disappeared from the news agenda. Reporters ignoring the
political and economic realities at stake in Iraq are guilty of
deception and of promoting the neoliberal agenda of economic takeover
of Iraq."

The Federation of Oil Unions, the largest trade union in the Iraqi oil
sector with over 26,000 members, also starkly challenges the media
message of "reconciliation":

"Depending on how it is applied, the current draft of the law could
increase poverty, undermine state institutions and worsen the conflict
in Iraq." (PLATFORM, op. cit.)

In reality, Orwellian-named 'production sharing agreements' are being
prepared which would hand over the lead role in the development of oil
resources to corporations under highly-profitable contracts of up to
30 years. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with considerable
opposition in Iraq. In response, the 'production sharing' terminology
has been dropped from later drafts of the law. But as Kamil Mahdi, an
economist at the University of Essex warns, "the content remains the
same." (Mahdi, "No law for oil," Red Pepper, August 2007)

Such lucrative contracts are being sought by US-allied sectarian and
political blocks within Iraq, all maneuvering to gain control of Iraqi
politics and state institutions. Mahdi warns that the likely outcome
is that "the majority of Iraq's oil resources are to be
surreptitiously privatized and handed over to multinationals under the
guise of decentralization and benefit-sharing." The draft law
stipulates a "bizarre resource management arrangement" that will have
Iraq's regions scrambling over each other in a desperate race to award
oil contracts to corporations. Any actual benefits will be reserved
for "corrupt local elites and the multinationals themselves."

Mahdi adds:

"The weak, sectarian and fractious Maliki government has proved to be
just what the US needs at this time: one that is willing to acquiesce
in US military offensives and to pursue the handover of oil to the
multinationals, while at the same time applying the harsh economic
policies dictated by the IMF, particularly over the domestic price of
fuel." (Ibid.)

The UK government has played a key role by boosting the lobbying
efforts of oil multinationals. Six of these oil companies collectively
appointed lobbyists, the International Tax & Investment Centre (ITIC),
to push for Iraqi resources to be opened up to long-term oil
production contracts. ITIC was even advised by UK Foreign Office and
Treasury officials on how best to influence Iraqi decision-makers.

Moreover, the main ITIC lobbying document, "Petroleum and Iraq's
Future," was sent to the Iraqi finance minister in late 2004 by the
British ambassador to Iraq. ITIC says that the ambassador 'formally'
submitted it to the Iraqi minister, implying UK endorsement of its
contents. A diplomat from the British embassy played a key role in
organizing a meeting of ITIC and its six corporate sponsors with Iraqi
ministers and officials in January 2005.

Since the first draft of the oil law was completed in July 2006,
British officials in both Whitehall and Baghdad have actively worked
on the law. It was first seen by British officials at that time, fully
eight months before it was seen by members of the Iraqi parliament in
March 2007. (See PLATFORM, op. cit.)

This scandal has barely caused a ripple across the corporate media.

Progress Is Needed Soon!

A rare exception hinting at the truth about Iraqi oil was an
Associated Press report in March 2007, which described "close
associates" of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressing "fears the
Americans will torpedo his government if parliament does not pass a
law to fairly [sic] divvy up the country's oil wealth among Iraqis."
American officials also made it clear to the "hardline" Iraqi prime
minister "that they want an Iraqi government in place by year's end
acceptable to the country's Sunni Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi
Arabia, Jordan and Egypt." The message from the Americans was stark
and left al-Maliki "convinced he would not survive in power without
U.S. support." (Steven R. Hurst, "Iraqi Leader Fears Ouster Over Oil
Money," Associated Press, March 14, 2007)

Then, in June 2007, a news story appeared at the top of the front page
of the New York Times:

"U.S. Warns Iraq That Progress Is Needed Soon".

Admiral William J. Fallon, the leading American military commander for
the Middle East, warned al-Maliki "in a closed-door conversation" of
the pressing need for the Iraqi government "to make tangible political
progress . . . to counter the growing tide of opposition to the war in
Congress." A major milestone of this "progress" is "to complete a law
on the division of oil proceeds." Clearly frustrated by Iraqi
intransigence, Fallon warned al-Maliki: "You have the power. You
should take the initiative." (Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. Warns Iraq That
Progress Is Needed Soon," New York Times, June 12, 2007)

Michael Gordon, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, had
been invited to sit in on this "closed-door conversation". Gordon
stated candidly that, "it was only at the end of the meeting that
American officials agreed that it could be on the record." In other
words, as columnist David Broder noted, the NYT's Pentagon
correspondent was invited by the US commander to sit in on "what would
normally be a private meeting." The signal to the Iraqi Prime Minister
was obvious: not only will you be pressured by the Americans to "make
progress", but the pressure will be boosted by publicizing it globally
via the front page of the NYT.

Broder added:

"From an administration known for its secrecy, this deviation means
only one thing: So desperate is the need to push Maliki into action
that even the [New York] Times becomes a lever." (Broder, "Failure on
Two Fronts," Washington Post, June 17, 2007)

This bullying behaviour is, of course, standard for Washington and
well documented (see, for example, Noam Chomsky, Failed States, Hamish
Hamilton, London, 2006).

"I Trust This Meets With Your Approval": An Exchange With The BBC

On September 6, a piece by BBC business reporter Robert Plummer,
'Little progress on halting Iraq's decay', appeared on the BBC news
online website.

Plummer amplified the standard US doctrine:

"Now the US wants Iraq to pass an oil law as a means of promoting
reconciliation among different religious and ethnic groups."

We e-mailed him:

"What evidence do you have that the US administration desires the oil
law 'as a means of promoting reconciliation'? Surely you would agree
that is rather different from reporting that the US claims that is
their aim?"

We pointed out to Plummer that PLATFORM argues that the "law has been
wrongly described as providing a mechanism for sharing revenue among
Iraq's sectarian groups; in fact, this law does not deal with that
issue, which will be the subject of a separate law, not yet
drafted." (PLATFORM, op. cit.)

We also reminded him that there is considerable concern that the
proposed oil law would benefit western (and other) corporations at the
expense of the Iraqis themselves. We asked him why he had
marginalized, indeed ignored, such valid perspectives. Within minutes,
we received the following reply:

"When someone has written a piece about one subject, it seems a bit
perverse to write asking why it wasn't about an entirely different
subject. I didn't set out to write about the rights and wrongs of the
Iraqi oil law - I wrote about reconstruction and why it's costing so
much money.

"I didn't 'marginalise' or 'ignore' anyone's arguments. I simply
mentioned the oil law in passing, in a necessarily brief fashion,
because it was peripheral to my theme.

"The 'oil law' in my piece was shorthand for the whole mass of oil-
related legislation that is in prospect in Iraq . I'm well aware that
there are in fact four proposed interlocking bills, only one of which
has been drafted. I just thought that only a lawyer would be
interested in that level of detail.

"I'm sorry I didn't write the piece you clearly wanted to read -
perhaps we can do that at a later date." (E-mail from Robert Plummer,
September 7, 2007)

It is apparently a matter of "detail", that "only a lawyer would be
interested in," that legal measures for oil revenue 'sharing' have yet
to be drafted. Regular readers will be familiar with this standard
plea by professional journalists that there is 'insufficient space.'

In our reply, we pressed the point that Plummer had still not

"What evidence do you have that the US administration desires the oil
law 'as a means of promoting reconciliation'? You haven't answered
that point in your reply. I provided you with the reference to
PLATFORM because there is substantial evidence that the oil
legislation is about conquest, not reconciliation." (E-mail to Robert
Plummer, September 7, 2007)

We received a final response:

"Never let it be said that we ignore the views of our readers. I have
now amended the sentence in question to read: 'Now the US wants Iraq
to pass an oil law, as what it says is a means of promoting
reconciliation among different religious and ethnic groups.' I trust
that meets with your approval." (E-mail from Robert Plummer, September
7, 2007)

We replied:

"Many thanks for doing that. It's a small but important difference.

"After the disaster that has befallen Iraq - and with Iran now in the
crosshairs - it's surely vital for all of us to regard any professed
government aims and pronouncements with skepticism, and to shine a
light on the underlying motivations that drive state policy." (E-mail
to Robert Plummer, September 7, 2007)

A similar challenge from Media Lens to Andrew Ward, the Financial
Times's White House correspondent, on his reporting of the Iraqi oil
law, elicited this curious response:

"Newspaper deadlines do not, unfortunately, allow for the cross-
checking of every statement given by the White House. But I will keep
your email as reference for the next time I write about the issue." (E-
mail, September 21, 2007)

This reads like a straightforward admission that the FT generally
takes at face value any statement issued by the White House, despite
all the deceptions of the war against Iraq.

Concluding Remarks - Not About Oil, Of Course!

The real agenda behind Iraq's oil - the striving by powerful states,
particularly the US, for strategic control of the resource-rich Middle
East - has been all but ignored by the corporate media. When the truth
is glimpsed, it is waved away as very much a secondary aim trailing
behind the noble commitment to 'democracy'. As one Cambridge academic
noted in the Financial Times:

"The war in Iraq is not, of course, about oil. Coalition troops are
there to advance democracy and to protect the innocent. But the
consequences for the world's energy markets of an unresolved conflict
in a country that holds the world's third largest accumulation of oil
reserves cannot be ignored." (Nick Butler, director of the Cambridge
Centre for Energy Studies at the Judge Business School, "Iraq needs an
'oil for peace' deal," Financial Times, September 12, 2007)

What is routinely missing from the corporate news media is historical
context shedding light on Washington's real, rather than stated,
motivations. Of central and long-standing relevance is the 1945 US
State Department description of Saudi Arabian energy resources as "a
stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material
prizes in world history." Undiscovered oil fields in Iraq could well
boost that country's reserves to 300 billion barrels, even more than
in Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, the whole of the Gulf region has long been considered
"probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of
foreign investment." (Cited in Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival,
Hamish Hamilton, London, 2003, p.150)

Based on copiously documented historical evidence, Noam Chomsky writes
of US power:

"The basic missions of global management have endured from the early
postwar period, among them: containing other centers of global power
within the 'overall framework of order' managed by the United States;
maintaining control of the world's energy supplies; barring
unacceptable forms of independent nationalism; and overcoming 'crises
of democracy' within domestic enemy territory." (Ibid, p.16)

But these truths, necessary for any public understanding of world
affairs, are deemed too 'radioactive' to be carried by the corporate

The US Congress gets a chance to weigh in on this deal after the
International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group vet it.
Perhaps Congress, reflecting a citizenry fed up with nuclear gamesmanship,
can reject the agreement. A better way to go forward is to pursue the need
for global nuclear disarmament, recognising that the very survival of the
species is at stake.

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