Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

US soldier

(Photo: U.S. Army/Flickr/cc)

How the US Runs Iraq

The murder of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani shone a strobe light on 'independent' Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.

Eric Margolis

 by Eric Margolis

What ever happened to Iraq? Is it not an independent country with a democratic government thanks to the 2003 U.S. invasion? So says Washington.

The murder of senior Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani suddenly shone a strobe light on 'independent' Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.

Welcome to the new Imperialism 101.

Iraq's population is estimated around 39 million. The pre-war Iraq of 2003 was broken into three parts by the U.S.-British invasion: the Shia majority; Kurds in the north; and Sunnis, with scatterings of other ethnicities. Iraq remains fragmented into hostile groups.

Its Shia are confusingly allied to the U.S. and Iran. The killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani by the Americans has thrown this alliance of convenience into confusion. Iraqi Kurds are close to the CIA and Israel's Mossad intelligence. The Sunnis are left adrift, without any foreign patrons except for other feeble Arab states.

The U.S. maintains a modest garrison of 5,000 infantry in Iraq and 3-5 air bases, as well as the gigantic fortified U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone which contains one of the world's largest CIA bases. Angry mobs demonstrating in front of the embassy triggered off the chain of events that led to Trump's murder of Gen. Soleimani. That an impeached president should be murdering foreign figures is a question that Congress must ask.

Before he was murdered, Osama bin Laden called this monster Baghdad embassy and its twin in Kabul, 'crusader fortresses.' That is indeed their role, and to serve as the nerve center for all Mideast operations by the U.S. Iraq enjoys some of the world's largest oil reserves. Where the profit from Iraq's mammoth oil exports go remains a closely guarded secret.

Combined with Saudi Arabia—also controlled by the U.S.—Iraq gives Washington control of the bulk of Mideast oil. The U.S. no longer relies on oil from the Mideast, being self-sufficient—at least for now. But dominating the Mideast gives the U.S. huge influence over China, Japan, India, and Europe, all of whom import oil from there. This is the main pillar of U.S. world power and the supremacy of the dollar.

Returning to Iraq, Washington has imposed an air exclusivity zone there. Real control of flat, largely barren Iraq comes from the air. U.S. war planes based there and in Qatar can blast anything that moves in Mesopotamia. Imperial Britain ruled Iraq the same way, using the RAF to smash all opposition to the British-installed puppet ruler in Baghdad. In the 1920's Churchill even authorized the RAF to use poison gas against rebellious Iraqi Kurds (as well as Afghan Pashtun tribes).

U.S.-ruled Iraq is not allowed to have a real air force, only a handful of light aircraft. The same ban applies to Afghanistan. Iraq's so-called army, a mob of unruly militias of the type the Ottomans used to call 'bashi-bazouks,' is of little military value though partly equipped by U.S. weapons. They are increasingly being attacked by U.S. warplanes.

The U.S. really runs Iraq from three large air bases that were the target of the recent bloodless Iranian missile attacks. Iraq's current U.S.-approved prime minister Abdul-Mahdi and its feeble parliament have voted for the ouster of all U.S. forces from Iraq. Good luck to them. Washington will likely ignore Iraq's supposedly 'democratic' government and continue to act as the sultan of Iraq.

Iraq has become the central military base and inexhaustible oil reservoir for the U.S. that was envisaged by the Bush administration and its neocons. That is a major step in the total U.S. domination of the Mideast and its energy resources.

Israel has achieved its long sought goal of removing Iraq from the confrontation over Palestine. With Egypt under a U.S.-imposed dictator, that leaves only demolished Syria to stand up to Israel. The Saudis are gleefully stabbing their 'brother' Arabs in the back, as they always have done.

Never in the past half-century have we seen the Arab states so pathetically feeble. Never have we seen Israel so strongly guiding U.S. Mideast policy, including the murder of Gen. Soleimani.


© 2021 Eric Margolis
Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is "American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World."

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Facebook 'Appallingly Failed' to Detect Election Misinformation in Brazil, Says Democracy Watchdog

"The disinformation that Facebook allows on its platform feeds into the 'stop the steal' narrative in Brazil—a growing tactic intended to set the stage for contesting the election."

Julia Conley ·


'Scary Stuff': GOP Election Deniers Surge to Victory in 2024 Battlegrounds

"This is how our democracy could crumble, quickly and quietly," warned one observer.

Jake Johnson ·


On Social Security's 87th Birthday, Progressives Warn GOP Wants to 'Take a Chainsaw to It'

"We need to pass Social Security 2100 to protect and expand this vital service," said the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jake Johnson ·


House Democrats Request 'Damage Assessment' Following Recovery of Classified Docs

"Former President Trump's conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Kenny Stancil ·


Violent Threats Against FBI Soar as Trump Lies About Mar-a-Lago Search

Menacing messages posted online "include a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters" and "general calls for 'civil war' and 'armed rebellion,'" officials warned.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo