The U.S. occupation boss in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has again delayed the formation of what he now calls an “interim Iraqi authority.” He projected mid-July as a likely date – more than a month later than originally planned. The interim authority will have only a consultative role, Bremer said. Meanwhile, the top British official in Baghdad, John Sawers, said he did not expect elections to be held for at least a year – and the U.S. and UK would continue to run Iraq until then.

Ten thousand Shiite Muslims marched in Baghdad May 19 in the largest protest so far against the six-week-old U.S. occupation. They demanded that the United States hand over power to an independent elected government. The protesters denounced U.S. efforts to promote handpicked leaders such as Ahmed Chalabi, a recently returned exile and former banker convicted of embezzlement in Jordan.

“The way the U.S. government is administering its occupation shows little respect for the Iraqi people,” said Anas Shallal, a founder of Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, which opposed the U.S. war on Iraq. “The U.S. military is not protecting the Iraqi people, Iraqis are getting killed in carjackings and rapes at a rate that is unheard of there.”

But the real looting is happening “on a more official level,” Shallal charged. “The general feeling in Iraq is that any looting of any consequence is organized,” he told the World. “That’s not to ignore neighborhoods like Saddam City, where people were so frustrated for so many years – it’s understandable there would be some vandalism,” he said. “But the big looting is oil, oil contracts – robbing Iraqi resources.

“It’s apparent that the U.S. is there to usurp the resources of Iraq rather than liberate the Iraqi people. It’s time for the U.S. to adhere to its promises and allow the Iraqi people to govern themselves,” Shallal said.

The Bush administration is pressing for a May 22 vote by the United Nations Security Council on a resolution handing the U.S. and Britain control of Iraq and its oil revenues. Attempting to win support, the U.S. revised the wording several times. Earlier drafts authorized the U.S.-British occupation until “an internationally recognized, representative government” takes control. Some Security Council members saw this as having the UN legitimize the results of a war that most members opposed. The latest version does not explicitly authorize the occupation, saying the Council will review the situation within 12 months. The new version phases out the UN Oil-for-Food program over six months, instead of four. The vast majority of Iraqis depend on this food program for survival.

Facing widespread concern that the U.S. is trying to sideline the UN, the new draft provides for a UN “special representative” with “independent powers.” Previous versions referred to a UN “special coordinator.”

The latest draft also mentions a role for UN weapons inspectors but does not specify their responsibilities. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, warned the U.S. for the third time May 19 of the danger of radioactive contamination in Iraq because of looting at nuclear sites, and called on the Bush administration to allow his safety and emergency response teams to enter the country.

Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution for containing no explicit plans for protecting human rights or setting up an international tribunal for past abuses. The resolution also ignores the “silent threat” that landmines and unexploded cluster bombs pose to Iraq’s people. “These defects will make it much more difficult to establish peace and security in Iraq,” the group said.

The author can be reached at


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.