the Disillusioned kid: As in Heathrow, so in the New Iraq?
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Friday, September 09, 2005

As in Heathrow, so in the New Iraq?

According to the BBC Baghdad Airport was closed today after "the British company providing security suspended operations because of a dispute over payment with Iraq's Ministry of Transport." The Times (via) has more information:
The London-based Global Strategies Group has looked after security at the airport, Iraq's main link to the outside world, since June 2004, but the $4.5 million-a-month contract it agreed with the now defunct US Coalition Provision Authority has lapsed.

Global closed the airport this morning after lengthy negotiations on the contract failed to produce any payments. Its move infuriated the Government, which said it was sending in troops to take over the airport and get flights moving again.
Esmat Ahmer "the acting Transport Minister" (no idea why he's only "acting") claims that his forces have entered the airport and "are taking some technical measures now and will soon resume the flights, maybe in the next few hours... It is a matter of sovereignty for us" (emphasis added). Global spokesman Giles Morgan, however, insisted that Iraqi troops hadn't entered the airport and in any case wouldn't be qualified to do the job his company had been doing, screening passengers and baggage. This is where things get really interesting:
He said that the US military, which also uses the airport and works closely with Global, had put extra troops on the first checkpoint on the main road to the airport to head the Iraqis off.

"There was a statement by the Ministry of Transportation earlier that Iraqi troops were going in, but it is my understanding that the Americans put troops on Checkpoint One and insisted that the Iraqis are not going in," Mr Morgan said. He said the Iraqi order to enter the airport had been quickly countermanded.
This account seems to concur with a report in the Columbia Daily Tribune (via Google News) which describes Iraqi forces being "confronted [by] U.S. soldiers at a key checkpoint along the airport road," and quotes Amer as saying, "We ordered the forces to pull back after American forces were deployed at the first checkpoint on the road. We did not want to create a confrontation."

So let's recap: in an issue considered to be "a matter of sovereignty" by the Iraqis, the US decided to side with Global Securities against their ostensible "allies", in the process, preventing Iraqi forces from defending their own aiport. The incident says much about the reality of the US's relationship with the New Iraqi Government (such as it is).

Lenin suggests that the Baghdad airport pay dispute merits comparison to the recent strike at Heathrow Airport by workers sacked by Gate Gourmet. As should be clear from the foregoing, such comparions are baseless. The Heathrow struggle was an inspiring example of working class solidarity in the face of a flagrant attack by Gate Gourmet's management. By contrast the Baghdad pay dispute is merely the latest step in the corporate invasion of Iraq.

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