In part two of this two-part interview Pepe Escobar talks with Senior Editor Paul Jay about the current state of Iraqi leadership.


Story Transcript

VOICE-OVER: Senior editor Paul Jay discusses the reality of life on the ground in Iraq with Pepe Escobar, correspondent for the Real News and columnist for The Asia Times Online. Pepe is also the author of Globalistan and the soon to be published Red Zone Blues, a book based on his reportage covering Baghdad.

(CLIPS BEGIN)

VOICE OF ABC NEWS REPORTER: It is Iraq’s prime minister who Warner says needs to be shaken up. The senator said this redeployment would show them—.

VOICE: The Maliki government has let down the US forces and to an extent his own Iraqi forces.

VOICE: The Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to twelve months.

(CLIPS END)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Bush’s visit to Iraq takes place at a time when the Maliki government is under attack from every quarter. There’s a real question of whether it’s going to be able to continue or not. Its connections with Iran, he makes a statement in Syria where Maliki says we can find other friends. After Bush threatens him, he threatens back. What’s the fate of this government? And is anybody in control of this process?

PEPE ESCOBAR, TRNN ANALYST: Nobody’s in control of this process, and this government is finished. In fact, it has been finished for a few months now. First of all, we have to remember that the Americans always control who is the puppet tyrant at the Green Zone. He is not ruling over Iraq; he’s ruling relatively over the Green Zone. It’s much easier to give you an idea to get to Maliki’s palace inside the Green Zone than to the American embassy inside the Green Zone as well. We have to cross, like, five checkpoints to get to Maliki and probably more than ten to get to the American embassy. The thing is, the Green Zone does not rule Baghdad and does not rule Iraq. People in Iraq are completely oblivious of the central government. What we have in Iraq is regional warlords like we have in Afghanistan, controlling vast swathes of the country. So nobody’s in control. We can say that the Mahdi Army’s in control of Sadr City, which is practically half of the population of Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris. We can say that the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is in control of basically Najaf and parts of Kufa and the south. And in the south itself, we have three different Shiite factions fighting for power. In Basra, for instance, after the British departed, we have the Fadhila party, who controls the oil money, basically; we have the Madhi Army, which controls the police; and we have the Badr Organization that controls intelligence. So, as we can see, it’s fragmented all over the country. Nobody controls Baghdad, and the Americans control basically the road from the airport to the Green Zone, which was exactly what was happening six, eight months, or last year, for that matter.

JAY: So what comes after the Maliki government? If it’s finished, which everybody seems ready to kill it off, what’s next?

ESCOBAR: Well, for the Americans, what they really need is a puppet like a Hamid—they need a Hamid Karzai with Saddam Hussein’s mustache, basically. It’s very hard to find. There is one character that suits this profile. It’s Ayad Allawi, which was the first interim prime minister. No wonder Mr. Allawi’s paying $300,000 a year to a Washington PR firm to make his case to Washington lobbyists, as if Iraqi needed another Iraqi lobbyist in Washington. You know. The thing is, Allawi could make the oil law pass, which is the basic benchmark that interests the Bush administration. Basically, the oil law is the de-nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry, which was nationalized by Saddam Hussein in 1972. They want to revert all this. They want PSAs, production-sharing agreements, basically with Anglo-American big oil and with some French thrown in. Like, Total from France is very much interested if they can get a piece of the pie as well. I’m not so sure about the Chinese, because they might be excluded if the Americans were running the show in this case. But the oil law basically is a de-nationalization process. It’s vigorously opposed by the Iraqi oil unions, who threaten a mutiny if it’s passed.

JAY: These are the workers’ unions.

JAY: The workers’ unions. Exactly. It was conceived in Washington, was redacted with World Bank and IMF approval. It was shown to American senators and congressmen. And then it was shown to parliamentarians in Iraq. Those who actually read it were absolutely horrified. At least 50 percent of the parliamentarians are already against the law, even if they haven’t read it. So there’s no chance of this law being approved under a Maliki government. So from the point of view of the Bush administration, what they need is a pliable guy who passes the law. He could be Allawi, which is a former CIA asset, a former interim prime minister, recognized by the Iraqis themselves as Saddam without a mustache. This means he’s a very, very tough guy. And part of his plan in fact is to install a military curfew and a state of siege, practically, for at least two years to restore security. So we’ll have Iraq still even more configured as an enormous gulag, and Allawi in these conditions to pass the oil law.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

VOICE-OVER: Senior editor Paul Jay discusses the reality of life on the ground in Iraq with Pepe Escobar, correspondent for the Real News and columnist for The Asia Times Online. Pepe is also the author of Globalistan and the soon to be published Red Zone Blues, a book based on his reportage covering Baghdad. (CLIPS BEGIN) VOICE OF ABC NEWS REPORTER: It is Iraq’s prime minister who Warner says needs to be shaken up. The senator said this redeployment would show them—. VOICE: The Maliki government has let down the US forces and to an extent his own Iraqi forces. VOICE: The Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to twelve months. (CLIPS END) PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Bush’s visit to Iraq takes place at a time when the Maliki government is under attack from every quarter. There’s a real question of whether it’s going to be able to continue or not. Its connections with Iran, he makes a statement in Syria where Maliki says we can find other friends. After Bush threatens him, he threatens back. What’s the fate of this government? And is anybody in control of this process? PEPE ESCOBAR, TRNN ANALYST: Nobody’s in control of this process, and this government is finished. In fact, it has been finished for a few months now. First of all, we have to remember that the Americans always control who is the puppet tyrant at the Green Zone. He is not ruling over Iraq; he’s ruling relatively over the Green Zone. It’s much easier to give you an idea to get to Maliki’s palace inside the Green Zone than to the American embassy inside the Green Zone as well. We have to cross, like, five checkpoints to get to Maliki and probably more than ten to get to the American embassy. The thing is, the Green Zone does not rule Baghdad and does not rule Iraq. People in Iraq are completely oblivious of the central government. What we have in Iraq is regional warlords like we have in Afghanistan, controlling vast swathes of the country. So nobody’s in control. We can say that the Mahdi Army’s in control of Sadr City, which is practically half of the population of Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris. We can say that the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is in control of basically Najaf and parts of Kufa and the south. And in the south itself, we have three different Shiite factions fighting for power. In Basra, for instance, after the British departed, we have the Fadhila party, who controls the oil money, basically; we have the Madhi Army, which controls the police; and we have the Badr Organization that controls intelligence. So, as we can see, it’s fragmented all over the country. Nobody controls Baghdad, and the Americans control basically the road from the airport to the Green Zone, which was exactly what was happening six, eight months, or last year, for that matter. JAY: So what comes after the Maliki government? If it’s finished, which everybody seems ready to kill it off, what’s next? ESCOBAR: Well, for the Americans, what they really need is a puppet like a Hamid—they need a Hamid Karzai with Saddam Hussein’s mustache, basically. It’s very hard to find. There is one character that suits this profile. It’s Ayad Allawi, which was the first interim prime minister. No wonder Mr. Allawi’s paying $300,000 a year to a Washington PR firm to make his case to Washington lobbyists, as if Iraqi needed another Iraqi lobbyist in Washington. You know. The thing is, Allawi could make the oil law pass, which is the basic benchmark that interests the Bush administration. Basically, the oil law is the de-nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry, which was nationalized by Saddam Hussein in 1972. They want to revert all this. They want PSAs, production-sharing agreements, basically with Anglo-American big oil and with some French thrown in. Like, Total from France is very much interested if they can get a piece of the pie as well. I’m not so sure about the Chinese, because they might be excluded if the Americans were running the show in this case. But the oil law basically is a de-nationalization process. It’s vigorously opposed by the Iraqi oil unions, who threaten a mutiny if it’s passed. JAY: These are the workers’ unions. JAY: The workers’ unions. Exactly. It was conceived in Washington, was redacted with World Bank and IMF approval. It was shown to American senators and congressmen. And then it was shown to parliamentarians in Iraq. Those who actually read it were absolutely horrified. At least 50 percent of the parliamentarians are already against the law, even if they haven’t read it. So there’s no chance of this law being approved under a Maliki government. So from the point of view of the Bush administration, what they need is a pliable guy who passes the law. He could be Allawi, which is a former CIA asset, a former interim prime minister, recognized by the Iraqis themselves as Saddam without a mustache. This means he’s a very, very tough guy. And part of his plan in fact is to install a military curfew and a state of siege, practically, for at least two years to restore security. So we’ll have Iraq still even more configured as an enormous gulag, and Allawi in these conditions to pass the oil law. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.