LAST WEEK, Bush and Blair were celebrating their ’victory’ over Iraq. But within a matter of hours it became clear that piecing Iraq back together again could prove much more difficult than the war itself.
The rapid fall of the Saddam regime has left a vacuum that has been filled by looting and chaos. Many Iraqi people, while relieved to be rid of Saddam Hussein, blame the US and Britain for the turmoil that the war has unleashed.
The Iraqi people should be free to decide their own future. Instead, they face occupation by US and British troops and at best, a stooge regime imposed by US imperialism. Both will provoke anger and resentment.
When the British army first went into Northern Ireland in 1969 and the Israeli Defence Force entered south Lebanon in 1982, they were both initially welcomed by many sections of the local population. But, rapidly they came into bitter conflict with the very communities that first greeted them.
Already, the US’s attempts to rely on elements of Saddam’s old state apparatus to maintain law and order is meeting with opposition in Basra and Baghdad. In Shia areas, the mosques have organised to fill the power vacuum.
A meeting organised by the US in Nassiriya to discuss the future of Iraq has been boycotted by two of the main Shia opposition parties because of involvement of the US, who they view as an occupying force. A massive crowd of 20,000 people demonstrated outside the meeting chanting: "Yes to freedom, Yes to Islam, No to America, No to Saddam".
The Pentagon is frantically pushing its protégé Chalabi to be the figurehead of a future pro-US government. But there is deep suspicion and resentment by Iraqis who have suffered under Saddam, towards him and other exiles who have not been in Iraq for decades.
The events of the last week, with the death of a Shia cleric at the hands of a rival Shia group, tension between Kurds and Arabs in the north and between Shias and Sunnis in the south, are a foretaste of what the future could hold. Iraq could become a second Yugoslavia, with ethnic, religious and tribal fault lines erupting to cause the break-up of the country.
In the north, in and around Kirkuk, the return of some of the 250,000 Kurds that were forced from their homes as part of Saddam’s ’arabisation’ programme, could lead to conflict with Turkey.
Even if the US succeeds in imposing a government on Iraq, it will be there to represent the economic and political interests of US imperialism. The major contracts for reconstruction are being handed over to US firms, while the multinational oil companies hover ready to profit from the Iraqi oil industry.
Years of repression and economic disintegration have left Iraqi workers and poor people without organisations that can fight to defend their own interests. Building those organisations will be a vital task over the next period, with the support and solidarity of workers internationally.
After Iraq – is Syria next?
"YOU’RE NEXT" was the message that Bush’s adviser Richard Perle said he wanted to send from the war in Iraq to any country that opposed US imperialism’s interests internationally.
Before the war had even ended, the US administration was accusing Syria of ’hostile acts’. Syria has also been attacked for giving refuge to leading figures from Saddam Hussein’s regime, supporting terrorism and having chemical weapons. According to The Guardian (15 April), US defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered a review of contingency plans for a war in Syria after the fall of Baghdad.
So will the Syrian people be next in line after Iraq to suffer the consequences of the US’s overwhelming military might?
There’s no doubt that the US administration feels emboldened by what it considers a relatively easy victory in Iraq. The neo-conservatives have made no secret of their desire to ’reshape’ the entire Middle East.
However, at this stage they will probably resort to economic sanctions rather than war to put pressure on the Syrian regime to ’change its behaviour’.
Any attempt to attack Syria militarily now would have even less international support than the war with Iraq. And, as the previous article shows, they still have the chaotic aftermath of the war in Iraq to contend with.
Within 18 months, Bush will be facing re-election as president and is under pressure to turn his attention to domestic matters such as the state of the economy. Less than half of people in the US say they approve of Bush’s management of the economy, despite his high standing in the polls over the war with Iraq.
He will remember how George Bush senior basked in the glory of winning the first Gulf War only to lose the 1992 presidential election because of the economic recession.
Much of the pressure that is being placed on Syria is linked to the situation in Israel/Palestine. In order to try and win over Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the US ’roadmap to peace’, Bush has promised to stop Syria’s backing for Hizbollah, an Islamist guerrilla organisation based on Israel’s border in the Lebanon.
However, Bush’s plan, even if Sharon were to endorse it, would not meet the Palestinian’s aspirations for a genuine state. Like the oppression of the Palestinians, the war and US occupation of Iraq will further fuel the anger and hostility of the Arab masses internationally.
Military victory for US and British imperialism in Iraq will not bring prosperity and stability for the Iraqi people, and it has made the world an even more unstable place. On the basis of continuing turmoil and conflict, which are inherent in the capitalist system, future wars are inevitable.
The only conclusion to be drawn from the US occupation of Iraq and its aftermath, is that system change is the only way to rid the world of the permanent threat of war.
Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI, England and Wales