We collect our winnings in Iraq

What did we win in Iraq?   At vast cost in blood and money we’ve turned a weak secular state into a potentially strong Islamic ally of Iran.   Women and religious minorities have paid a high price for our victory.  Despite 5 years of pressure on the Iraq government, they refused to pass the exploitation-by-foreign-corporation-friendly oil law.   

Now we have the results of the Iraq oil auctions.  We didn’t even get lush oil contracts for American companies.

We might run an Empire, but have not learned to do so profitably.  Let’s run a preliminary score for the Iraq War.  The winners are…

  • The Arab Shiites of Iraq
  • The Kurds, not just of Iraq but in the entire around.
  • Iran (or rather its political regime)
  • China, forging close relationships with oil exporters Iraq and Iran

The losers:

  • Women in Iraq.
  • religious minorities in Iraq (e.g. Christians)
  • Sunni Arabs
  • America

22 thoughts on “We collect our winnings in Iraq”

  1. I’d add Israel to the winner’s list. No more $25,000 rewards to suicide bombers, no more rhetorical and financial help to Palestinian extremists, no more safe havens for Palestinian terrorists…

  2. kyfho23: No more counterbalance to Iran as a regional superpower, Islamic terrorists getting a 5 year advanced course in fighting western-style armies. I’d call it a wash for them.

  3. Really not at all surprising to me. I do not think for even one second that the USA is held in anything but very low esteem by the politicians in Iraq. Certainly we are despised by most intelligent and aware peoples in the region.

    We made a heluva mess there. It was a functioning society before even with all its issues etc. prior to our first Invasion.

    We are a blundering, silly, stupid Interloper. If you mess with people in life they will get even.

  4. What about JP Morgan? Were they winners or losers in the Iraq war?

    Trade bank of Iraq posts record profits: “Trade Bank of Iraq Posts Record Profits”, 29 April 2009. {snip} And who finances the Trade Bank of Iraq, messeurs? “J.P. Morgan selected to run new trade bank in Iraq“, NY Times, 30 August 2003 — Excerpt:

    “J. P. Morgan Chase has been selected to operate a bank the United States is creating in Iraq to manage billions of dollars to finance imports and exports. J. P. Morgan will lead a group that includes 13 banks representing 13 countries to run the bank for three years, said Peter McPherson, the top United States economic adviser in Iraq. Operating the bank, the Trade Bank of Iraq, will give banks access to the financial system of Iraq, which has huge oil reserves … The trade bank will serve as an intermediary for Iraqi government agencies’ purchases of equipment and supplies from companies based outside the country, Mr. McPherson told reporters in Washington in a conference call from Baghdad. As private enterprise becomes more important, Iraqi companies will also use the bank to support trade.”

    FM reply: You have presented no evidence that JP Morgan “finances the TB of Iraq”. Also, JPM no longer operates the bank — as explained on the Trade Bank of I’s website:

    JP Morgan was one of the first banks to begin dealing with TBI in 2003. Are you still dealing with the likes of JP Morgan and Standard Chartered?
    TBI was established in November 2003 and started operations in December 2003, so we were up and running within a month. The reason we had to do that was because the Oil for Food Programme, which the United Nations had been running since 1996, was going to be terminated. Another reason was because we had already established relations with JP Morgan and it was with their help that we were able to start quickly. Our relations with JP Morgan have always been extremely good and since then we have expanded our list of correspondent banks. However, JP Morgan is still our main correspondent bank. We now have a list of more than 65 correspondent banks.

  5. You might like to google the Iraqi Oil Workers Union . A number of websites come up ,which seem to point to some very unhappy chappies .
    As well as wishing foreigners out , and wanting power to negotiate wage increases to deal with the increasing cost of living ,the unions are also concerned about the actions of the IMF . Reducing food handouts and subsidies , and social safety networks , they fear , will hit hard on citizens already in crisis .( Hark back to what happened in Zimbabwe ! )

    Also , we have an Iraq Enquiry bumbling along in UK . Bliar has already said ,on a chat show , he’d have taken us in for Regime Change without WMD . Surely this labels the war illegal , under UN rules.
    In which case , we should pay Reparations , under UN rules .
    Now how many £$£$£$ damage did the * first day alone * of Shock Nawe do ????

  6. “Well, of course the winner was China. Who do you think holds America’s promissory note right now?”

    Do you really think that holding America’s promisory note is a good long-term strategy?
    FM reply: Yes, it is. Who wields more power in the world, creditors or debtors? We can pay, or trash our financial system — destroying our place in the world. China will still have its great industrial plant and educated population.

  7. Iraq was a virtual paradise before the US got involved. Children splashed in rainbow fountains, and women were free from all abuse. Now it is completely changed.

    Iran’s militant regime has won. No longer can the oppressed people of Iran rise up in revolt against the Iranian terrorist regime of mullahs. There is no longer any opposition to the islamic republic anywhere within a thousand miles of Tehran.
    FM reply: Are you attempting to say something? If so, it’s not clear to me.

  8. So much stupidity, you’d almost they’d actually plan it this way. Some even say the US has planned it more or less this way and that their objective was not actually to achieve something (“Freedom & Democracy” etc.), but to prevent something (possible rise of stronger enemies). This theory would support why the US totally destroyed most institutions in Iraq after they gained control.

    How could Saddam achieve unity and order with far less firepower, destruction and torture than the US? Was he really a lot smarter that the US? No, I don’t think (believe) the US is that dumb. The winners-losers list may look bad now (and it is) but from a long term US perspective (a few decades) it could have been worse without US intervention/aggression.

    Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project“, December 2004:

    “Radical Islam will have a significant global impact… rallying disparate ethnic and national groups and perhaps even creating an authority that transcends national boundaries.”

    What do you think is a bigger threat to the US Empire. A bunch of ragtag militants and an occasional bombing, or a unified Middle-Eastern state controlling much of the worlds important energy and trade routes and armed with much more dangerous weapons than boxcutters and ied’s like for example Pakistani Nukes?

    Of course this caliphate scenario is just conjecture, but for the US they might have opted, not to take any chances.
    FM reply: So you believe the US has suffered a potentially historical defeat in Iraq, replacing a secular State opposed to Iran with a Shiite ally of Iran? So the US government is not dumb, but an incompetent gambler. Thanks, I feel much better knowing that.

  9. FM reply: “Yes, it is. Who wields more power in the world, creditors or debtors? We can pay, or trash our financial system — destroying our place in the world. China will still have its great industrial plant and educated population.

    You’re basically right except for a few things. When you owe the bank a million dollars and can’t repay you’re in a lot of trouble. When you owe the bank a hundred million dollars and can’t repay, THEY are in a lot of trouble.

    You are right that failing to pay would trash our financial system and reduce our standing in the world. You are also right that China has great industrial capacity and an educated population. But at some point, probably far in the future, we will move from being unwilling to pay to being unable to pay. What happens to the Chinese at that time? They will probably lose several generations of sweat equity and their biggest customer in a single blow.

    Most of the rest of the world isn’t nearly as willing as the US to buy China’s merchandise (which is how our economies became so entangled in the first place). I’m sure the Chinese will do better than us when the moment of economic failure is upon us, but the experience will be far from pain-free for them as well.
    FM reply: That saying about a million dollars is gibberish even in business (reflecting that the client-agent conflict in banks has grown to become terminal), and a dozen times that in geopolitics.

    “Most of the rest of the world isn’t nearly as willing as the US to buy China’s merchandise”

    I doubt you can support that. China’s trade deficit with the EU has grown far faster in recent years than that with the US. China exports more to the EU (21% of GDP) than to the US (18%).

  10. Are the wars we have undertaken a good idea, Iraq and whatever is to follow? The answer for Americans is it depends on who you are – or more precisely what class are you a member of.
    * If you are a weapons manufacturer or lobbyist with nice Pentagon contracts you are a connected elite making a lot of money.
    * War is a good idea or you and your business whether the wars succeed or not.
    * If you are a global corporate executive or major stockholder of same, then to the degree that the wars are a success you will eventually gain access to more natural resources and cheap labor as perturbations are smoothed. Ultimately the wars are about increasing globalization’s reach and influence.
    * If you are working class, the class of the vast majority of military enlistees, then again to the degree that the objectives of the wars are met i.e. – tribal cultures are sucked into the global capitalist resource pool – then you lose. You lose because economic opportunity for your class in America, non college educated workers, declines in proportion to the rate of increase in cheap labor being brought on line via globalization. The wars are a very bad idea indeed for you and all members of your class because an already declining job and wage market is degraded further when these projects succeed.

    The implication is clear that working class youth who participate in wars of this type are engaging in serious self-destruction on at least two levels – physical and economic. The wars are about money – more for some and less for others as explained above. Two more winners and one big loser as I see it.
    FM reply: Thanks, that’s a more granular perspective than I gave. And valuable, indeed!

  11. Comment #8: “Iraq was a virtual paradise before the US got involved.” Bewildering.

    Anyway, FM, I guess you do not buy into the Den Beste theory of the war(s)?

    It seems to me that there are only 3 ways to deal with the terrorism problem: do nothing, and accept the losses; change the culture that breeds Islamic terrorists; or, genocide. We seem to be pursuing the least bad option, IMHO.
    FM reply: Den Beste’s “strategic overview” is one of the dumbest things I have read in quite a while. Those seconds of my life were wasted, gone forever. Your three options are only a tiny subset of actual options — an example of the “false dilemma” type of logical fallacy. It does not even make sense on its own terms, as the changes in Iraq culture worsen our geopolitical situation (from secular enemy of Iran into theocratic State allied to Iran) — and our activities in Afghanistan might be generating terrorism (this has been a long-standing concern of experts in the field, mentioned in at least one National Intel Estimate).

  12. Comment #9: “Iraq was a virtual paradise before the US got involved.” Bewildering.

    Looks like an irony or sarcasm that just missed.
    FM reply: Probably. But what was the point? Is Iraq better off on this path than if we had not invaded? Nobody can say. My guess (just a wild guess) is that after Saddam’s death (he was 66 in 2003) the regime would have evolved into modern, secular regime. Like Egypt. But without the massive deaths and destruction that followed our invasion.

  13. Fair enough… what are some alternative solutions to ultimately stop Islamic terrorism?

    Also, the results of our Iraq campaign must be judged independently from its goals. It’s fair to examine the results when considering future action, of course, but to state that they undermine the original justification is not. Life would be easy if we always knew the outcome in advance.

    As far as our actions in Afghanistan possibly generating terrorism, what did we do to possibly generate the terrorism before that? Can we do anything without possible negative ramifications?
    FM reply: This has been discussed endlessly during the past 8 years, by hundreds of experts. It’s been discussed in dozens of posts on this website. I’m on holiday hours, and not providing long answers. Look at the reference pages on the right-side menu bar.

    To get you started, here is a general brief discussion: Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?. Then follow the links given at the bottom for more information. Click here for posts about al Qaeda.

    “ultimately stop Islamic terrorism?”

    Few human ills can be “stopped.” Terrorism is like war, a regular part of society — but must be seen in context. Traffic accidents kill 40 thousand Americans every year. The trillions spent on our wars could have reduced that materially. More broadly, imagine how that money could have improved our national security if spent to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Or improve our economic competitiveness if used to improve our education system. Narrow thinking equals failure in these things.

  14. Certainly the Iraq war has largely been a failure for the US. However, with regard to oil, it is not clear that the US gov’t will now be very disappointed with the result. Yes, US oil majors have failed to secure significant contracts. But is this really the only or, even the most, important consideration?

    Pres. Bush’s chief economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, was one of the few to speak openly about the expected economic benefits of the Iraq war. Here’s what he had to say in 2002:

    “When there is a regime change in Iraq, you could add three million to five million barrels of production [each day] to world supply. The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
    – Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2002

    ‘As for the impact of a war with Iraq, “It depends how the war goes.” But he quickly adds that that “Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits that would come from a successful prosecution of the war. …The key issue is oil, and a regime change in Iraq would facilitate an increase in world oil,” which would drive down oil prices, giving the U.S. economy an added boost.’
    – Washington Times, September 19, 2002

    Lindsey was certainly wrong about Iraq quickly ramping up its production. But the Iraqi gov’t has declared recently that it wishes to see its oil production increase significantly, and this will certainly be well received by the US gov’t.

    Iraq was seen by the Bush administration as one of the most promising places in the world where oil production could increase significantly. There was, however, an obstacle: Saddam Hussein and his regime. Here are the relevant passages from the assessment on which the Bush-Cheney National Energy Policy of May 2001 was based:

    “Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade. However, such a policy will be quite costly as this trade-off will encourage Saddam Hussein to boast of his ‘victory’ against the United States, fuel his ambitions, and potentially strengthen his regime. … The resulting tight [oil] markets have increased U.S. and global vulnerability to disruption and provided adversaries undue potential influence over the price of oil. Iraq has become a key “swing” producer, posing a difficult situation for the U.S. government.”
    – Baker Institute Study No. 15 “Strategic Energy Policy – Challeges for the 21st Century”, April, 2001, prepared by the Council on Foreign Relations

    The answer given by Bush and Cheney to this dilemma (and others) was regime change.
    FM reply: Iraq was a secular opponent of Iran, posing a near-zero threat to the US. To prevent Iraq’s leader feeling good, we took measures that limited Iraq’s oil production — boosting the cost of oil. Now Iraq is a theocratic ally of Iran, so boosting it’s oil revenue is good. Victory!

    I hope you realize that this is mad.

  15. My point is that seeing Iraq increase its oil production to 11 mb/day (the figure mentioned in the FT article) is a lot more important to the US gov’t than whether Exxon manages to beat out Lukoil in the bidding for a lucrative concession.

    Perhaps this could this have happened with Saddam in power. But the US gov’t simply wasn’t willing to accept a rehabilitated Iraq with Saddam still in power. This a policy that goes back to Bush I, and continued right through the Clinton years. (In fact, Clinton himself stated that the sanctions on Iraq wouldn’t be lifted while Saddam was in power.)

    You can argue that the US exaggerated the threat presented by Saddam. It’s hard to disagree. However, his regime was seen, rightly or wrongly, as representing a major obstacle to US hegemony over Middle East. And, yes, the Iraq war went very badly, and Iran is now an even larger threat to the position of the US in the Middle East. Bush II’s crucial miscalculation was in assuming that it would be easy to overthrow Saddam and establish a pro-US regime in Baghdad.
    FM reply: On what basis do you say “Iraq increase its oil production to 11 mb/day … is a lot more important to the US gov’t than whether Exxon manages to beat out Lukoil”? If so, the Iraq War was a poor way to accomplish this goal. I suspect you’re guessing.

  16. The reason I state this is because the US gov’t is deeply concerned that Persian Gulf oil flow in sufficient quantities to keep the price down to tolerable levels. This is what is meant in practice by America maintaining ‘access’ to oil. Here is Lee Hamilton in 1997:

    “The United States has vital national interests in the Persian Gulf: to maintain unrestricted access to Gulf energy resources at tolerable prices, to prevent any power from gaining control over them, and to ensure the security of regional friends and allies.”

    Besides this, one has only to look at the statements given above by Lawrence Lindsey, or the hand wringing of the Council on Foreign Relation over the developing tightness of supply.

    Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Ken Pollock, who headed the Middle East desk in Clinton’s White House, wrote an article in Foreign Policy called ‘Securing the Gulf’. Here’s the start of the section entitled: ‘It’s the Oil, Stupid’

    “America’s primary interest in the Persian Gulf lies in ensuring the free and stable flow of oil from the region to the world at large. … U.S. interests do not center on whether gas is $2 or $3 at the pump, or whether Exxon gets contracts instead of Lukoil or Total. Nor do they depend on the amount of oil that the United States itself imports from the Persian Gulf or anywhere else. The reason the United States has a legitimate and critical interest in seeing that Persian Gulf oil continues to flow copiously and relatively cheaply is simply that the global economy built over the last 50 years rests on a foundation of inexpensive, plentiful oil, and if that foundation were removed, the global economy would collapse.”
    FM reply: That’s nice, and I doubt anyone disagrees. But this is of little relevance to your previous comments. I don’t see a coherent thread. What does any of this have to do with the Iraq War? The UN sanctions limited Iraq’s oil exports from 1990 to 2003. Our invasion and its aftereffects reduced Iraq’s oil production from 2003 until recently. How does any of that constitute a benefit to the US?

  17. Ha. I remember prior to the Iraq war the Govt neo-con’s boast that it would be a free war, because the Iraqi money would pay for it! Forgot who said it and too lazy right now to look up the quote (Krystal?) but it stuck in my mind about how abhorant the comment was.

    Plus, usual for a neo-con as none of them can count, 3 trillion dollars later (yes I have the book), we have to accept the fact that the average Iraqi would rather live in a hole in the ground and eat moss that give any money to a US corporation … the depth of hatred they have for the US is almost infinite now.

    Prediction: In (say) 20 years or so when Iraq has finally pulled itself out of the mire (and that is a long road, their agriculture is a mess for one example and an awesome, Oz level, drought issue), then, when they finally have a chance, they will really stick it to the US economically and/or militarily.

    One day ‘blowback’ from Iraq will dwarf anything AQ has done.

    Maybe sooner. I agree with the Bill Lind scenario that if the US or Israel attack Iran then all those 125,000+ soldiers in Iraq will, if they are lucky, become hostages. If they are unlucky then the 1st Afghanistan war the UK fought might be a better example.
    FM reply: Do you have any evidence that there is widespread hatred of the US? By the Kurds? Unlikely? Shiite Arabs? Possible. Sunnie Arabs? Again possible, but not certain.

    I think the Lind scenario you describe requires some actual evidence or expert analysis to be taken seriously. It sounds like a WAG without any real basis in fact or knowledge.

  18. Hatred of the US /Iran / wherever , is surely only at political or military level . Medics , veterinarians , artists , photographers , historians ,musicians ,engineers , mothers , etc , etc are all happy to engage in global friendship .

  19. Financial Times: "Spoils of Iraq war evade US and UK"

    Spoils of Iraq war evade US and UK“, Financial Times, 15 December 2011 — Excerpt:

    After almost nine years, $1tn spent and 4,487 American and 179 British lives lost, the US is withdrawing from Iraq, leaving the country’s vast economic spoils to nations that neither supported nor participated in the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

    Turkey, Iran, China, South Korea and Arab states have already invested billions in Iraq, far outpacing their US and UK counterparts in every non-oil sector from transport and telecoms to housing and construction.

    … To cash in on Iraq, companies have to navigate a maze of bureaucracy, violence and corruption. Still, the French, who vehemently opposed the war, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives, have not blinked at the challenges. As well as investing in telecoms and building two automobile factories, French building materials maker Lafarge now produces 60 per cent of the cement sold in Iraq.

    … Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, noted that even at two recent trade fairs in the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, where business is safer and easier to do, there was not a single US company.

    … Electricity shortages are still one of the biggest impediments to attracting private investment, with the national grid still supplying only a few hours a day. And the Iraqi government has not helped the situation improve. The electricity minister resigned in August on the request of the prime minister for not following correct procedures in signing contracts after irregularities worth $1.7bn were uncovered in deals with two foreign firms.

    So far, Turkish, Asian, French and Italian companies have dominated investment in this sector, bidding for government services contracts and building billion-dollar power plants.

    South Korea’s STX Heavy Industries won a $2.77bn contract to build 25 diesel power plants in May. In November, French engineering group Alstom won a $550m bid to build the al-Mansuriya gas-fired power plant in the Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad.

    These countries have also been capitalising on Iraq’s acute housing shortage. Officials estimate that between 2m and 3m houses need to be built to meet the demands of the growing population.

    A Turkish consortium, which includes Kazova and Kocolu Tarma, won an $11.3bn bid for Baghdad’s Sadr City area, which involves building 75,000 housing units to accommodate up to 600,000 people. Another investment required more patience: Turkish construction firm Nursoy negotiated for four years before wrapping up $600m deal to build 1,600 flats in central Baghdad.

    The size of these mandates dwarf the ones being picked up by British and American firms. Copperchase, a UK company based in Dorset, secured only a $160m contract to build 3,000 low-cost housing units for private sale in the province of al-Najaf.

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