10 December 2003

US leaves India out of Iraq spoils

10 December 2003
The Times of India

US leaves India out of Iraq spoils


NEW DELHI: Citing “essential security interests”, the Pentagon has banned Indian companies from bidding for a primary share of the $18.6 billion worth of Iraq reconstruction contracts being awarded through the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority in that country.

Other countries blocked from bidding are France, Germany, Russia and Canada , all of whom opposed the US war against Iraq, have refused to send troops to enforce the US occupation there and have been calling for the UN to play a more prominent role in restoring Iraqi sovereignty.

The decision “regarding the limitation of competition”' for the projects was taken by US Deputy Secretary of State for Defence Paul Wolfowitz on December 5. Apart from US, British and Iraqi companies, firms from 60 other nations, described by the Pentagon as “coalition partners” and “force contributing nations”, have been deemed “eligible to compete for contracts funded with US appropriated funds for Iraq reconstruction”.

Though troop-contributing nations like Spain, Poland, Korea and Japan are on the list, so are Saudi Arabia and the tiny Pacific nations of Micronesia and Tonga which have not sent troops.

Wolfowitz's directive baldly states that “it is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the US to limit competition for the prime contracts... to companies from the US, Iraq, coalition partners and force contributing nations”'.

The phrase “coalition partners” is not defined but India, which has sought to take a “middle path” by muting its opposition to the US war in Iraq, soft-pedalling the troops question and building links with the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council, has clearly not made the grade.

Wolfowitz's directive also makes it clear that the US is holding out participation in reconstruction as bait in order to get more countries to contribute troops.

Using the phrase “international cooperation in Iraq ” as a euphemism for troops, Wolfowitz says: “Every effort must be made to expand international cooperation in Iraq. Since May 2003, coalition forces other than those from the US have increased from 14,000 to 23,700. US force levels, accordingly, have decreased by approximately 12,000. Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq. At the same time, firms from India and other blacklisted nations may still be awarded subcontracts in Iraq.

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