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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #20 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Japan stakes its claim to Iraqi oil (ppg)
   2. Anti-occupation hit tunes in Iraq (k hanly)


Message: 1
From: "ppg" <>
To: <>
Subject: Japan stakes its claim to Iraqi oil
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2004 09:31:32 -0500

Japan stakes its claim to Iraqi oil and gas
By Joe Lopez
26 January 2004

Japanese companies are involved in talks with senior officials of the Iraqi
Oil Ministry to secure contracts over oil and gas fields in Iraq. The
negotiations expose the Koizumi government's claim that it is only sending
troops and financial aid to assist the US occupation to address the
humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. From the beginning, Tokyo has seen
support for the US invasion as a means of re-establishing Japan's commercial
and political presence in the oil-rich country.

According to a January 5 report by the Dow Jones Newswire, a Japanese
consortium headed by Mitsubishi Corporation is seeking the rights to develop
the one-billion-barrel Al Gharaf oilfield in southern Iraq.

Interest in the field dates back to the late 1980s, when Iraq was one of
Japan's main suppliers of energy and Japan one of Iraq's largest trading
partners. The 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent UN economic sanctions put an
end to both the Al Gharaf deal, as well as Japan's trading relations with
Iraq. The US-led occupation is now providing Japanese companies with
opportunities to revive their influence.

Mitsubishi signed a contract last year for crude oil purchases from Iraq's
State Oil Marketing Organisation, which is under US control. The Japanese
company has begun importing up to 40,000 barrels of Basra Light Crude a day.

Alongside the potential contract for the southern oilfield, Japanese firms
are also involved in discussions with US company KBR-the engineering and
construction subsidiary of Halliburton-to develop the major Akkra gas fields
in western Iraq.

The Financial Times reported on December 18 that a Japanese consortium,
including Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Marabena, Itochu, Tomen, Chiyoda, JGC and
Toyo, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqi provisional
government last July.

The newspaper noted: "A successful bid may encourage other Japanese
companies to compete for contracts in Iraq and ease their concern that the
prime deals are handed to US companies. It would be one of the first
indications of Japanese companies seeing the commercial rewards of their
government's backing for the war."

The Japanese government, in addition to its commitment to deploy troops,
agreed last year with the Bush administration to provide up to $US5 billion
in reconstruction and humanitarian aid to Iraq over four years. In December,
Koizumi also made a pledge to James Baker, Bush's special envoy on Iraqi
debt, to write off up to $7 billion owed to Japan by Iraq, with Japanese
taxpayers footing the bill.

Japan had previously stated that it would not write off the debt on the
grounds that Iraq would be in a position to repay it from future oil export
revenues. The aid money and debt cancellation, however, has bolstered
corporate Japan's position at the bargaining table as contracts over Iraq's
resources are parceled out.

Some of the financing for the Al Gharaf and Akkra deals is even expected to
come from the Japanese government's aid. An Iraqi oil ministry official told
Dow Jones Newswire: "The Japanese government will pay for such investment,
so why not encourage them to do so."

Koizumi's government has taken considerable political risks by backing the
US in Iraq. In Japan, there is significant opposition to his decision to
deploy nearly 1,000 Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to the
southern Iraqi city of Samawah. By February, Japan will have the eighth
largest military presence amongst the 38 countries which have committed
forces to the occupation (See: "Koizumi sends Japanese troops to Iraq").

A recent opinion poll conducted by Kyodo News indicated that more than 51
percent of people surveyed were against sending SDF troops to Iraq. It also
revealed that 82 percent of people polled do not believe that Koizumi has
given sufficient explanation for the troop deployment.

On January 17 Asia Times Online published comments from residents living in
Asahikawa, the second largest city on the island of Hokkaido and a major SDF
base. Up to 150 soldiers from Asahikawa will be sent to Iraq. One local
resident, Izumi Karasawa, summed up a widespread sentiment in Japan when he
asked: "Why are we sending troops to Iraq? Under the constitution,
dispatching Japanese troops to a war zone is illegal. I feel angry about
Koizumi violating the constitution."

Koizumi has pushed ahead due to the strategic importance of the Middle East
to Japanese capitalism. Japan currently imports over 83 percent of its oil
from the Middle East, relying at present on the United Arab Emirates, Saudi
Arabia and Iran for the bulk of its oil. Some analysts have predicted that
Japanese dependence on Middle Eastern oil could soon reach 100 percent if it
does not get access to new supplies in Russia or Central Asia.

Definite conclusions were drawn by sections of the Japanese ruling elite
following the 1990-91 Gulf War. Japan did not play a military role in the
first Iraq conflict due to constitutional and political constraints. The
Japanese constitution, drawn up by the US after World War II, prohibits the
use of armed force except in a strictly defensive role. While it was
pressured by the US into handing over $13 billion to pay for the US war,
Japan lost access to Iraqi oil and its influence in the Middle East was

As a result, Japanese governments throughout the 1990s have conducted a
consistent campaign to undermine public support for the pacifist
constitution and legitimise the use of the military abroad in pursuit of its
geo-political and economic interests.

Koizumi has gone further than any of his predecessors in implementing this
political agenda. Since September 2001, his cabinet has used the so-called
"war on terror" to justify deploying Japanese forces in support of the US
invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Koizumi has also exploited accusations
that North Korea could threaten Japan with weapons of mass destruction to
lend both military and diplomatic assistance to the Bush administration's
hard line against Pyongyang.

In the short term, Koizumi's government sees its backing for Bush's foreign
policy as a means of strengthening Japan's access to energy resources in the
Middle East and gaining lucrative business contracts. More fundamentally, it
has been used to reassert Japan's position as a military power.

The interests of the US and Japan do not always coincide, however, and
Koizumi's assertion of Japan's independent economic interests in the Middle
East could become a source of conflict with the Bush administration.

This potential conflict is evident in Japan's proposal to press ahead with
the development of a lucrative oil project in Iran-a country that the Bush
administration has branded as part of an "axis of evil". Negotiations are
continuing between Tokyo and Teheran over a $2 billion agreement to develop
the Azadegan oil fields, said to hold one of the largest reserves of
untapped oil in the world.

Japan has been Iran's preference to develop Azadegan. For its part, the Bush
administration has been pressuring Tokyo to abandon the deal on the grounds
that Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programs have to be discouraged.
Washington's real objection to Japan's involvement in Iran is that it cuts
across the US ambition of dominating the oil and energy resources of the
entire Middle East and Central Asia-a fact Tokyo is well aware of.

Last July, an editorial in the Asahi Shimbun highlighted the resentment in
Japanese ruling circles over the issue. "Japan does need to reassess whether
being involved in developing the Azadegan oil field is wise in the context
of its oil and energy strategy. The overriding concern in this issue,
however, is that Japan should make its own decisions about where and to what
extent it should be engaged in developing an oil field," the newspaper

Whether an open dispute between Japan and the US emerges over Iran remains
to be seen. But in the long term Japanese capitalism cannot allow its access
to its oil and gas lifelines to be dictated by its greatest economic rival.


Message: 2
From: "k hanly" <>
To: "newsclippings" <>
Subject: Anti-occupation hit tunes in Iraq
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2004 12:11:32 -0600

FALLUJAH, Iraq - America's next big battle may be waged in the cassette and
CD players of Iraqis.
    Americans have flooded the nation's airwaves with harmless Western and
Arab pop tunes, but many are drawn more to the catchy rhythms of crooners
such as Sabah al-Jenabi.
    "America has come and occupied Baghdad," he sings in one popular number.
"The army and people have weapons and ammunition. Let's go fight and call
out the name of God."
    U.S.-led coalition authorities have barred the media from promoting any
kind of violence, but there is a hot market in the bazaars of central Iraq
for cassettes by singers calling for insurrection.
    "The men of Fallujah are men of hard tasks," Mr. al-Jenabi sings in a
dialect decipherable only to people in the Sunni Muslim heartland cities of
Fallujah and Ramadi. "They paralyzed America with rocket-propelled grenades.
May God protect them from [U.S.] airplanes."
    Though the lyrics are contemporary, the music is based on a kind of
centuries-old religious music called praising, which is influenced by an
ancient form of Islamic mysticism called Sufism.
    Such songs have appeal even for Iraqis who generally support the U.S.
presence in their country, such as driver Ahmad Hossein, who plays Mr.
al-Jenabi's songs in his car.
    "I like the music and the lyrics," said Mr. Hossein, a member of the
Shi'ite majority that was oppressed under dictator Saddam Hussein. "I don't
know why. I don't agree with what it's saying. It just makes me feel good."
    Dan Senor, a spokesman for the coalition, told reporters recently that
"any sort of public expression used in an institutionalized sense that would
incite violence against the coalition or Iraqis" is banned.
    Yet, CD shops and cassette stalls do brisk business selling albums by
Mr. al-Jenabi and other promoters of jihad, or holy war, for about 2,000
Iraqi dinars - less than $1.25 - apiece.
    At Sabah Recordings, a popular cassette shop in a Fallujah alleyway,
owner Maher al-Ajrari initially denied that he sold Mr. al-Jenabi's music.
But after an hour of conversation, he admitted that the resistance tapes are
best sellers.
    Mr. Ajrari even carries multimedia "video" versions of the CDs, in which
the anti-U.S. tunes are accompanied by footage of American troops killing
and maiming Iraqis.
    Mr. Ajrari said he has no anti-U.S. agenda. "We sell these just for
business and for commercial profit."
    The music succeeds by tapping into the rage of the nation's Sunni
minority, who lost their privileged position because of the war and feel
abused by Americans.
    But even some of the Sunni praisers think it is too soon to be calling
for war.
    Seyed Abdullah Hassani is a Sufi praiser who sings and plays the daf, a
big hand-held drum. His family has been praising for 30 generations, and he
ticks off the names of his forefathers from memory.
    Followers come to his book-filled office and ask him to sing a few words
about Allah, a deceased relative or a newborn child in return for a small
    Mr. Hassani said many of those using music to promote jihad are
pretenders with no real spiritual credentials.
    A real jihad has to be called for by a high-level cleric, not some
artist trying to make a quick profit, he said. "The act of jihad cannot be
until we have permission from God and our source of emulation."
    Mr. Hassani said that under Saddam, the praisers - who belong to
secretive religious orders - were regarded with suspicion, often imprisoned
or harassed by security forces.
    "The Americans have come as liberators, and for that we should be
grateful," he said.
    During the early 1920s, when Iraqi clerics called for jihad against
British occupiers, praisers took the lead in coming up with creative
resistance songs.
    Mr. Hassani told the tale of his grandfather, who began inspiring
guerrilla warriors with his religiously sanctioned praises against the
    "Within a couple of years," Mr. Hassani said, "the British fled Iraq."

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