*US civil administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer said Sunday that he may distribute profit dividends from the Iraqi petroleum industry directly to Iraqi citizens, along the model used by Alaska ( – Roula Khalaf, Financial Times). It is really good news that he is thinking along these lines, since one feared that the rightwing Bush administration would be unlikely to set up an Iraq where resources were shared. But note that Bremer brought up this possibility as a way of offsetting the pain and discontent likely to be caused by a program of determined privatization of Iraq’s extensive public sector. He also may be overestimating how much money Iraq has to play with in the short term, given the instability and the blowing up of a pipeline yesterday. Too extreme a privatization in Iraq might well produce the kind of robber baron capitalism we’ve seen in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. In any case, the Alaska model would be a potentially revolutionary one for the Middle East, and that bit of Bremer’s policy would much add to his stature and local popularity if implemented.
*Bremer also announced that a recruitment drive for soldiers for the new Iraqi army will begin within two weeks. He said that he will establish an appointed government council of 30 Iraqis in July, as well. While at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Bremer was pressed to allow Arab League member nation troops to help reestablish order in Iraq, and to accelerate the timetable for Iraqi elections. He seems highly unlikely to do either. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged at the same venue that the US would leave Iraq as soon as an Iraqi government was formed. The problem with this pledge is that it is vague. Will the US maintain military bases in Iraq after it “leaves”? Will the US embassy continue to pull strings behind the scenes? The British “left” Iraq in 1932, but continued to intervene forcefully in its affairs until the revolution in 1958. Indeed, continued imperial hegemony was one reason the revolution succeeded. The US must be careful not to set up a similar dynamic.
*Major General Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry, announced that his troops had intercepted Iranian attempts to infiltrate Iraq, according to az-Zaman. He also spoke about US army efforts to stop Arab volunteers from coming into Iraq from Syria to fight the US and conduct sabotage operations.
*Iranian students demonstrated Sunday evening in front of the parliament building against the arrest of dozens of the leaders of the student protests that began June 10. Meanwhile, some hard line clerics have called for the execution of those arrested. (The hard liners see the students as US mercenaries).