Saturday, October 15, 2005

Let the farce begin 

Today, October 15th, is the day when Iraqis are voting to either accept or reject a new Constitution. Quite frankly its not much of a vote. There is no outside independent monitoring of the vote. Whereas in the voting earlier this year they at least sent “observers” to Jordon it appears this time they are dispensing even with that.

The actual way a winner is determined in this vote has been changed twice in the last two weeks. The constitution hasn’t even been distributed to most people so voters are being asked to vote on something they have neither seen nor read. Further, in a desperate bid to ensure victory for the Constitution, the Iraqi puppet legislature in effect told Sunnis, who are those most inclined to oppose the Constitution, that this Constitution isn’t final and will somehow be revised later on!

But of course, just in case all of that isn’t enough there are good old fashioned efforts at vote suppression in Sunni areas:

Hours before a crucial referendum on a new constitution, voters in western Iraq, where many are expected to say "No," were asking themselves a troubling question: where are the polling stations?

"There are no voting centers in cities like Haditha, Hit, Rawa, Qaim, Ana, Baghdadi and the villages around them," Mahmoud Salman al-Ani, a human rights activist in Ramadi, said on Friday, listing locations across western Anbar province.

"There aren't actually any voting centers or even voting sheets in these cities ... Nobody knows how and where to vote if they decide to," he said of the predominantly Sunni Arab region.

Anbar, Iraq's largest province, runs from Baghdad to border Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and is also the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency. Much of the population is expected to vote against the U.S.-backed constitution on Saturday.

U.S. troops have run a series of operations across the province in the past three weeks, trying to hunt down guerrillas and prepare the generally lawless region for the vote.


"The Americans intended to isolate the cities in western Iraq to prevent the huge Sunni population from voting," said Thair al-Hadeethi, a human rights activist from Haditha.

In Ramadi, a group of residents said they had walked around their neighborhood looking for a voting center and not found one. Parts of Ramadi are essentially in rebel hands.


"This is a Crusaders' constitution," said Yassir al-Dulaimi, 40, an engineer from Ramadi. "Those who wrote it are people making a living and working for the favor of the occupier and for their own benefit, not for the favor of the country."

Clerics in mosques in Ramadi and Haditha urged people to reject the draft charter, and residents talked about leaflets circulated in the streets calling on voters to vote "No."

"The constitution is illegal," said Mohammed Hussein, 45, the owner of household appliances shop. "If the Americans want to make it legal then they should first release all the detainees held at U.S. prisons and stop killing innocents."

Despite all this the U.S. propoganda machine will most likely be in full gear over the next couple of days showing people with purple ink on their fingers and assuring everyone that the Iraqi Constitution swept to victory in fair and clean elections. And nothing to the contrary will be heard.

Meanwhile, in more significant news out of Iraq the U.S. still can’t get Iraqi oil production up and running. In fact it is actually falling and is now below pre-war levels when sanctions prevented the Iraqi’s from getting access to replacement parts and new technology:

Iraq's oil production has fallen below prewar levels to its lowest point in a decade, depriving the country's fledgling government of badly needed income and preventing the United States from achieving one of its main reconstruction goals.

Iraq's oil wells — beset by equipment problems and saboteurs — are producing about 1.9 million barrels a day in net production, lower than the 2.6 million it was producing just before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES).

Of the oil produced, about 500,000 barrels are consumed daily by Iraqis, while 1.4 million barrels are exported, CGES says.

Despite the challenges, Iraq has benefited from rising oil prices, which have soared to more than $60 a barrel. Iraq's oil revenue jumped from $5 billion in 2003 — when the price of oil was about half of today's — to $17 billion in 2004, according to the U.S. State Department.

Still, the production trend is troubling. The average daily production last year was 2.07 million barrels, according to CGES. This year through August, Iraq has produced an average of 1.864 million barrels, it said.

"There's a lot of pessimism about oil production in Iraq," says Michelle Billig, a political risk analyst in the oil sector for PIRA Energy Group. "They're producing less this year than last year. And the outlook for next year doesn't look so great."

Production continues to slide despite a massive U.S.-funded effort to stabilize and boost output, repair critical parts of Iraq's oil infrastructure and develop a long-term plan for the Iraqi oil industry.

The U.S. has spent $420 million fixing the oil network and allocated $1.7 billion to the sector.

Given that they have access to all the money and technology they could possibly need you have to wonder what the problem is. What exactly is Halliburton doing with all the money if they aren’t getting Iraq’s oil production up and running?

Regardless, if Iraq produces less oil then that is just that much more money Venezuela will get for its oil. As the saying goes, there isn’t a bad from which good doesn’t come.


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