Constitution passed but nightmare remains

In the eyes of the occupying forces in Iraq and world leaders, the new Iraqi constitution was meant to be an important step in the direction of a “sovereign and free” Iraq. British and US imperialism, in particular, were also hoping to present it as a stepping stone towards a way out of a war whose unpopularity is central to the crisis facing the Bush administration. None of this is materialising. The situation on the ground is becoming more dangerous by the day and the divisions between the different ethnic and religious groupings in the country have never been sharper.

Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, declared the constitution passed long before any official results were published. This indicates just how desperate the ruling elites are to deliver any alleged progress in the nightmare scenario situation unfolding before their eyes in Iraq.

October has been the most violent in Iraq, so far this year. Many of the ingredients are there for a possible descent into civil war and the break-up of the country. This has become so self evident, that imperialist euphoria around the question of the constitution, and its alleged steps towards a “free and democratic Iraq”, had to be toned down. The US Administration previously burnt its fingers by trumpeting previous “success stories”, such as the so-called end of the war, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the elections in January, this year.

The constitution referendum

The referendum results published in the press said 78.59% were in favour of the constitution and 21.41% against. To prevent the constitution from being passed, 3 out of 18 provinces needed a two third majority against. Two Sunni dominated provinces, Anbar and Salaheddin, voted against the constitution by a large majority. In Ninive, another Sunni province, 55% voted against, but as this is short of a two thirds majority, the constitution was declared passed. Only another 38,000 votes against would have killed off the constitution. Initial reports spoke of 78% in favour in Ninive. This figure was later dropped without explanation. Some newspapers suggest the figure was dropped because it made voting irregularities look too obvious.

Divide and rule

In essence, the constitution as envisaged by imperialism, and its cronies in Iraq, is regarded as a means of fostering divisions between the country’s different ethnic and religious groupings. This, imperialism thinks, will make it easier to control the country, both militarily and economically. Under the disguise of federalist structures, the constitution allows the creation of provinces, which amongst other things, will control oil and gas fields. This is in the interest of some of the local leaders and profiteers, as well as of US and British imperialism which hope to be able to make deals with the Shia elite and the Kurdish elite, in particular. The corrupt Kurdish politicians and leaders of the main parties, the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party), are some of the few the occupying forces can rely on. A province made up of the oil rich area of Mosul and Kirkuk, under the reliable control of the PUK and KDP, plays into the hands of imperialism.

Although not to the same degree, this would also apply to a Shia province which would control the Rumayla oil fields. The Sunnis would not have control over any oil or gas fields. This is one of the main reasons most of the Sunni parties, with the exception of the Iraqi Islamic Party, campaigned for a No vote or called for a boycott. None of the political parties or organisations in the different parts of Iraq, be it Sunni, Shia or Kurdish, represent the interests of the working class and poor peasants. They are engaged in a power struggle over the resources and the wealth of the country and how to divide them up.

An end to occupation

The Iraqi people working class and poor are losing out again. And while there may be some hopes and illusions on the part of the Shia and Kurdish population that the new constitution and elections can improve their situation, those will be very short lived. Under capitalism, even if there was a shift towards formal domestic control over the oil and gas reserves, the revenues would still flow into the pockets of foreign, multinational companies and Iraq’s regional politicians, clerics and war profiteers.

In the main, the constitution is a piece of paper without any real meaning for the majority of the Iraqi population who live daily with violent mayhem, poverty, joblessness and on the brink of civil war. Some of the workers, youth, peasants and poor may hope that with the constitution and the control over the oil fields there may be an improvement in living standards, given how appalling social conditions are today. Some 71 per cent of people do not get clean water, 70 per cent say their sewerage system does not work, 47 per cent are short of electricity and 40 percent of Southern Iraqis are unemployed. While those figures are very telling, they do not give a full picture of the scale of suffering, and fears and traumatic experiences that have become part of daily life for many men, women and children in a disintegrating society.

Listening to people interviewed on the radio and in the press, it becomes clear that a substantial number of people, including Shias and Kurds, who voted in favour of the constitution, did so not because they support the content of the constitution but because they hope this brings them closer to a withdrawal of the occupying forces.

The dilemma for imperialism

Opposition against the war is growing in the US, in Britain, and around the world. The so-called “Coalition of the willing” of imperialist forces and lesser powers that have occupied Iraq, is evaporating in front of Bush’s eyes. The US and Britain would like to find a way out of the nightmare. Up to 500,000 people marched against the war in Washington, on 24 September. Hurricane Katrina, and Bush’s shameful abandoning of the poor in New Orleans, has opened the eyes of many working class people in the US. They question why there is so much money spent on an unjust war in Iraq and no money available to keep levees intact in New Orleans, which could have reduced the scale of the disaster on the Gulf Coast. More questions will be asked in relation to Bush’s plans to slaughter the remnants of social security in the US. This will put Bush under increasing pressure.

But there is also an increased direct questioning of the war. The outcome of the Iraq constitution referendum was overshadowed by the news that the death toll of US soldiers has reached 2,000. This, along with reports of US soldiers increasingly questioning the military occupation, can trigger an upsurge of the anti-war movement in the US. The crisis within senior ranks of the Bush Administration, in relation to the leak of a CIA agent’s identity, as a an act of revenge for her husband’s questioning of the factual evidence for going to war, will add to the general disapproval of and disgust with the Bush Administration.

All of this is happening at the same time as reports leak about the low morale of the British troops and the shortfall of meeting army recruitment targets. The Sunday Times, on 30 October, commented, “A £3m television advertising campaign has flopped, bringing in fewer than 600 recruits […] The Territorial army [TA] is suffering a manning crisis with more than 6,000 soldiers quitting in the past year because of the war in Iraq.”

This does not come as a surprise. Rank and file soldiers on the ground in Iraq witness the increasing hostility towards the occupation. They see that no progress is being made whatsoever in either the security or living standards of Iraqi people. A survey carried out across Iraq, in August, reported that 82 per cent of Iraqis say they are “strongly opposed” to the coalition troops. Less than 1 per cent said the troops are responsible for an improvement in security. 45 per cent even think attacks on occupying troops are justified. So much for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people!

Dissatisfaction with the situation, and hatred towards the imperialist occupation forces, is ever mounting in Iraq. Despite the wish for an exit strategy on the part of imperialism, the situation on the ground limits this option. At this stage, it is estimated that troops will have to stay for another 5-10 years.

Is there a solution in sight?

Under occupation and with a possible slide towards the break up of the country, the future looks grim for the Iraqi working class and the poor masses. Imperialism has nothing on offer for them and there will be no peace or security with the occupation in place. At the same time, the present religious and local leaders, and their organisations, will use the Iraqi people as pawns in their power struggle for influence over resources in the region.

Iraq is a rich country and it has enough resources to rebuild the country and to feed its people. But for the masses to benefit from that wealth, they need to have control over it and make sure that it is not used to fill the pockets of multinational companies or local cronies in the Iraqi parliament. Iraqi people need independent trade unions and political parties, which organise workers regardless their ethnic and religious origin. Multi-ethnic defence committees should be formed and elected to fight the occupation. In order to bring about real change, the Iraqi working class and poor masses need to break with capitalism and imperialism and to strive for a socialist Iraq, as part of a voluntary federation of socialist states of the Middle East.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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