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Context of 'February 2001 and After: Bush Administration Begins Planning for Regime Change in Iraq'

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“Within weeks” of taking office, the Bush administration begins planning for a post-Saddam Iraqi government. The State Department convenes a series of secret discussions attended by prominent Iraqi expatriates, many with ties to US industries, to plan for a post-Saddam Iraq. The meetings are held in the home of Falah Aljibury, an adviser to OPEC, Goldman Sachs, and Amerada Hess’s oil trading arm. He also served as Ronald Reagan’s backchannel to Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. According to Aljibury, the discussion group, led by Pamela Quanrud, an NSC economics expert, quickly evolves into an “oil group.” The plan they develop is said to represent the views of the oil industry and the State Department. According to the plan, Saddam Hussein would be replaced by some former Baathist general, while the rest of the government would continue to function as before. One of the candidates that is considered to head post-Saddam Iraq is Gen. Nizar Khazrahi (see Between February 2001 and February 2003), who is under house arrest in Denmark awaiting trial for war crimes. “The petroleum industry, the chemical industry, the banking industry—they’d hoped that Iraq would go for a revolution like in the past and government was shut down for two or three days,” Aljibury will later tell reporter Greg Palast. “You have martial law… and say Iraq is being liberated and everybody stay where they are… Everything as is.” [BBC Newsnight, 3/17/2005; Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 74-76]

Entity Tags: Falah Aljibury, Pamela Quanrud, Bush administration (43), Nizar Khazrahi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In a paper titled, “The Road to Economic Prosperity for a Post-Saddam Iraq,” which is a part of the study, “A Future of a Post-Saddam Iraq: A Blueprint for American Involvement,” authors Ariel Cohen and Gerald P. O’Driscoll argue for the implementation of neoliberal reforms including the privatization of Iraq’s major industries. The document says that poverty in Iraq is a result of Saddam Hussein’s mismanagement, namely Saddam’s decision to nationalize certain industries; Iraq’s war with Iran; the invasion of Kuwait; and Saddam’s refusal to comply with the requirements for the suspension of UN sanctions. The paper’s proposal for jumpstarting Iraq’s economy focuses on privatization of Iraq’s industries and several other neoliberal reforms. To complement this, the authors recommend using the “media and the educational system to explain the benefits of privatization and the changes to come in order to ensure broad public support.” The costs of reconstruction, they suggest, could be paid for with funds generated from the sale of Iraq’s oil. “Iraq’s vast oil reserves are more than ample to provide the funds needed to rebuild and boost economic growth,” the report says. [Observer, 11/3/2002; Cohen and O'Driscoll, 3/5/2003] But in order to generate this amount, Cohen and Driscoll write, the post-Saddam government would probably have to reconsider its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). “Following the demise of Saddam Hussein, it is unlikely that the Saudi kingdom would transfer a fraction of its production quota under the [OPEC] regime to Iraq to compensate for those lost profits and facilitate its rebuilding,” the authors note. “Iraq will need to ensure cash flow for reconstruction regardless of OPEC supply limitations. Combined with the potential privatization of the oil industry, such measures could provide incentive for Iraq to leave the OPEC cartel down the road, which would have long term, positive implications for global oil supply.… An Iraq outside of OPEC would find available from its oil trade an ample cash flow for the country’s rehabilitation.” [Cohen and O'Driscoll, 3/5/2003] Cohen will later admit in an interview after the invasion of Iraq that his interest in Iraq withdrawing from OPEC was to destabilize Saudi Arabia (see Early 2005).

Entity Tags: Gerald P. O’Driscoll, Saddam Hussein, Ariel Cohen

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Elliott Abrams drafts a proposal, in which he argues that the United States should take de facto control of Iraqi oil fields. The proposal is not well-received by moderates in the Bush administration who question the legality of the proposal, and who argue “that only a puppet Iraqi government would acquiesce to US supervision of the oil fields and that one so slavish to US interests risks becoming untenable with Iraqis,” reports Insight Magazine. Such a move would also lend credence to suspicions that the invasion is motivated by oil interests, the critics add. [Insight, 12/28/2002] A similar recommendation was made in a paper published by the Heritage Foundation in late September (see September 25, 2002).

Entity Tags: Heritage Foundation, Elliott Abrams

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Bush administration completes a 100-page blueprint for post-Saddam Iraq. The document replaces the State Department- and Big Oil- sanctioned plan (see February 2001 and After) with one favored by neoconservatives calling for the privatization of Iraq’s oil reserves and supporting industries as a means to undermine the OPEC cartel and destabilize Saudi Arabia (see Early 2005). It new plan bears strong resemblance to the recommendations that were put forth in a September 2002 Heritage Foundation paper by Ariel Cohen and Gerald P. O’Driscoll (see September 25, 2002). It is also heavily influenced by corporate lobbyists, including Grover Norquist, the outspoken advocate for a flat-tax system. The plan advocates changing Iraq’s tax and copyright law, as well as implementing a variety of other neoliberal reforms. [Cohen and O'Driscoll, 3/5/2003; BBC Newsnight, 3/17/2005; Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 74-76]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Gerald P. O’Driscoll

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

State Department officials Ariel Cohen and Gerald P. O’Driscoll update their September 2002 paper titled, “The Road to Economic Prosperity for a Post-Saddam Iraq,” (see September 25, 2002) expanding the section which addresses plans for post-Saddam Iraq’s oil industry. The update is apparently a reaction to the State Department’s opposition to the neoconservatives’ proposal to sell off Iraq’s oil fields. They say that despite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s remarks that the “oil of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people… [and] will not be exploited for the United States’ own purpose…” the US should still provide “guidance to the future government of Iraq on establishing sound economic and trade policies to stimulate growth and recovery.” [Cohen and O'Driscoll, 3/5/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Colin Powell, Gerald P. O’Driscoll, Ariel Cohen

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Ariel Cohen, who co-authored a September 2002 paper (see September 25, 2002) recommending the privatization of Iraq’s oil industry, explains to reporter Greg Palast how his privatization plan would have ended OPEC’s control over oil prices. He says that if Iraq’s fields had been sold off, competing companies would have quickly increased the production of their individual patches, resulting in over production which would have flooded world oil markets, thrown OPEC into panic, and destabilized the Saudi monarchy. [BBC Newsnight, 3/17/2005; Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 75]

Entity Tags: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Ariel Cohen, Greg Palast

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

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