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    Middle East
     Jan 12, 2007
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Surging toward the holy oil grail
By Pepe Escobar

Sunni Arab resistance. Sunnis would increase their voice in the government - supposing they were convinced there would be no more militia-conducted ethnic cleansing. The scenario completely "forgets" the SCIRI's Badr Organization, whose militias, much more organized and well trained than the Mehdi Army, are operating right from inside the Interior Ministry.

Nothing of the White House's laundry list, of course, is going to

happen. What could happen, though, is indiscriminate US-conducted civilian killings, thus generating another martyr, Muqtada, even more powerful for legions of Shi'ites than Saddam has become for Sunni Ba'athists.

The basic fact remains that Bush's escalation is designed to smash Muqtada's Mehdi Army. That can only mean, in practice, a mini-genocide of vast masses of unruly, extremely dispossessed Shi'ites: the coming battle of Sadr City, which the Pentagon has been itching to launch since the spring of 2004. The Pentagon is actually declaring war on no fewer than 2.2 million (poor) people. A sinister symmetry still applies: the Pentagon will attack dispossessed Shi'ite masses - just as the Israeli Defense Forces attacked dispossessed Shi'ite masses in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

There's more. Bush's escalation, according to his own speech, will ensure there will actually be two major battles on two different fronts: the battle of Sadr City, against Shi'ites, and the Great Battle of Baghdad, as the Sunni Arab muqawama (resistance) has been dubbing it. A tangential taste of this second front was provided this week by the day-long fight in Haifa Street between coalition and Iraqi forces against militants.

Muhammad al-Askari, the military adviser to Maliki, justified the bombing of Haifa Street as crucial to the killing of "50 terrorists". Anyone familiar with the Sunni Arab resistance knows they would never be dumb enough to concentrate 50 top fighters in a single Baghdad street in full view of US firepower. The battle of Haifa Street actually fits into Maliki's preferred developing pattern: systematic ethnic cleansing of Sunni areas by the heavily militia-infiltrated, and US-trained, Iraqi army.

Bush's escalation is also certain to incinerate the stars of counterinsurgency ace Lieutenant-General David Petraeus, currently spun as the new military messiah who will "save" Iraq for the US. After all, he is the co-author of the new US Army counterinsurgency field manual. But according to Petraeus' own doctrine, the Pentagon would need at least 120,000 combat troops to have a shot at winning the counterinsurgency game in Baghdad. The US currently has no more than 70,000 combat troops in the whole of Iraq. It controls not even a hectare of al-Anbar province - which is practically on the way to becoming an Islamic emirate. The US controls the Green Zone - and that's it. So in essence Bush's 21,500 extra men are doomed to total irrelevance - not to mention raising their odds of returning home in a body bag, courtesy of the upcoming resistance surge.

Grabbing those oil fields by the horn
Washington's successive divide-and-rule tactics - facilitating a possible genocide of Sunnis, contemplating a mass slaughter of Shi'ites, betting on a regional Sunni/Shi'ite war - never for a second lose sight of the riches of Iraqi. For Big Business, an Iraq eaten alive by Balkanization is the ideal environment for the triumph of Anglo-American petrocracy.

A new Iraqi oil law will most likely be voted on in Parliament in the next few weeks, before the arrival of Bush's 21,500 men, and it should be in effect in March. The law is Anglo-American Big Oil's holy grail: the draft has been carefully scrutinized by Washington, Big Oil and the International Monetary Fund, but not by Iraqi politicians. The profit-sharing agreements enshrined by the law are immensely profitable for Big Oil. And crucially, the law prevents any Iraqi government from nationalizing the oil industry - as the majority of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member states did. In essence, it's a game of "if you nationalize, we invade you - again". So the law fulfills the early-2003 neo-con boast of "we are the new OPEC".

Iraq's petrodollars will turn to mush - or rather, as with Saudi Arabia, be recycled back to US banks. Security company Blackwater will make a killing "protecting" Iraqi pipelines. Bechtel and Halliburton will get myriad fat contracts to rebuild everything the US has bombarded since 1991.

But what's the use of an oil law in a 100-cadavers-a-day hellhole? Enter the escalation as a way of providing "stability". Whichever way the coming surge goes - ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, the battle of Sadr City - what matters is not the piling up of Arab Muslim (or American) bodies, but how much less cumbersome is the path toward the holy oil grail. Big Business will make a deal with anyone that facilitates the passing of the oil law, be it Maliki's Da'wa Party, the SCIRI, or - in a wildest-dream version - the Sadrists or al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, Sunni and Shi'ite, want the US out, and as soon as possible. A rape of Iraq's oil wealth enshrined by a Parliament-approved oil law would certainly lead to national unrest. For the moment it's fair to assume the US is taking no chances in its backroom deals, as the SCIRI's support for the new law, via Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi, is practically assured. Da'wa must be in the process of being bribed to death.

But Muqtada is another story. He is close to some Sunni factions. They are getting closer. And crucially, they agree on being Iraqi nationalists who want the Americans out. There's a very strong possibility of the Sadrists joining the muqawama in the event the oil law is approved. Thus the preemptive, two-pronged Bush escalation on the war front - against both Muqtada and nationalist Sunnis.

The ever-expanding killing fields
Stenographers of the "clash of civilizations" may rejoice. But what really matters is what 1.5 billion people of the Muslim ummah are seeing. They see, on a given day, apart from made-in-USA bombs over Palestine, the US bombarding Arab Muslims in Iraq, Central Asian Muslims in Afghanistan, black Muslims in Somalia. Soon, perhaps, Persian Muslims will be included. Blowback is assured.

Referring to the hearings on Capitol Hill last month on the Lancet study compiling 655,000 civilian deaths provoked by the war on Iraq, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole wrote in his blog that the US government "has committed cliocide" - after the Greek muse Clio, who watched over the course of human history. Cliocide will of course continue.

In Iraq, there are only two stark, inevitable options for the White House: cliocide, as in mass slaughter (of Sunnis and Shi'ites alike); or defeat (which is all but assured). Bush has chosen the first option. The upcoming battle of Sadr City will signal the descent of Iraq into absolute, abysmal, irreversible chaos. Bush, in imperial-Rome mode, can then call the desolation victory, and retire. Provided, of course, the oil law is in the bag.

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