The occupation of Iraq has developed into a deepening crisis for US imperialism and President Bush. The present headache concerns the new Iraqi government due to take office from 30 June – an attempted fig leaf to cover Bush’s responsibility for the catastrophic developments.
Reporters and commentators in the British ‘Financial Times’ have described the present mood in the White House saying the US government has "lost control”, is "without a military solution”, "has no alternative” and "lacks direction”. The mood is described as gloom, desperation and without hope.
The crisis has deepened during April and May because of the dual uprising – in Falluja and from Muqtada al-Sadr in the South – as well as from the exposures of the torture in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Chalabi as scapegoat
Most recently the White House has scape-goated their previous favourite, Ahmed Chalabi, for misleading Powell and Bush over the issue of weapons of mass destruction – the formal reason for the war. The New York Times and other US papers have publicly apologised for their lies before the war. The banker, Chalabi, has, over the last few years received hundreds of millions of dollars from the US and has for a long time been the Pentagon’s candidate for new leader in Iraq. Being deceived by this man will in no way save the face of the administration and the military.
Another reason for attacking Chalabi is that the US has now re-employed loyal Saddam soldiers, earlier purged on Chalabi’s insistence. The "de-Baathification” – when 400,000 soldiers and 120,000 state officials from Saddam’s Baath party were purged last year – is now considered to have been a mistake by US strategists. In Falluja, a deal with former Saddam generals was the only way to avoid a full-blown war and establish some kind of state apparatus. This retreat marked a significant defeat for US imperialism’s Middle East project.
United Nations solution?
Last week, the governments of US and Britain presented a draft resolution to the United Nations on the question of Iraq post 30 June. It immediately led to conflicts within the UN, with criticism from the French and Chinese governments. It also created a sharp split between the US authority in Iraq and the Governing Council in Iraq, established by the US a year ago. Formally, it is the UN representative Lakhtar Brahimi, in alliance with the US, who is supposed to name the new government. But last Friday, the Governing Council suddenly elected Iyad Alawi, a Shia Muslim surgeon with a British background, to be the new Prime Minister – the most powerful position in the new government. A couple of hours later, Brahimi accepted the nomination. That led to the next battle: for the position of president. The US ruler in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, wants Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim who was in exile from 1968 to 2003 while the governing council advocates the businessman and Sunni Muslim sheik, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, who has criticised the US occupation. That all the above-mentioned are members of the Governing Council shows that earlier talk of a "technocratic government” has been dropped. Additionally, Kurdish leaders are already protesting that their loyalty to Bush has not given them one of the two top positions.
Under US control
The new government will anyway be under US control. The occupation army will change its name to "multinational force”, still with 150,000 soldiers and under US leadership. This force will have the right to "take all necessary measures” without consulting the government, and the latter has no right to ask the force to leave the country.
The US authority in Iraq will be replaced by the biggest embassy in the world, with 2,000 employees. Iraq’s oil money and aid is supposed to be under the government’s control, but with "international supervision” – i.e. a kind of veto for the US.
During the occupation, Bush and Bremer have presented innumerable plans for the future of Iraq, most of which have remained on paper and without any support in the country. Today, any change on 30 June is seen as the same occupation with a new face.
US imperialism wants to leave Iraq, but cannot do it, at least not in the short term. The strategic position of the country, the oil and the prestige of Bush push the White House to make further attempts to find a new loyal regime before leaving.
The risk still exists of fighting between the different Iraqi militias, including the Kurdish peshmergas, even though the Sunni Muslim fighters in Falluja and Muqtada al-Sadr’s mehdi army over the last month expressed support for each other’s fights against the occupation forces.
Socialists stand for the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq. Workers and poor people from different religious and ethnical background must fight together against the occupation, but also against imperialism and capitalism’s economic exploitation. The only real solution is to build independent workers’ organisations and a mass party with a socialist programme. Foreign debts should be written off and the oil money used for jobs and improved conditions. Militias and all civilian authorities should be under democratic control, through mass assemblies and elected committees. Only a socialist Iraq can stop the violence and give a real life to the people of Iraq.
Iraq occupation: the many crises
- Iraq has become a symbol of imperialism and colonialism in the 2000s. The most powerful military force of the world has failed to take control of Iraq. The 20,000 “private soldiers” in Iraq, employed by Western companies, underline the ‘privatisation’ process going on in relation to the military. The torture in Abu Ghraib and other prisons exposed the racism and ruthlessness of the colonisers. Hatred of US imperialism worldwide is on a higher level than ever.
- One of the war targets was control over oil. But oil prices have increased by 50 per cent and the world economy is more vulnerable than before the war, not least because of the costs of the war for the US.
- The Bush government is losing support. 54 per cent in the US now say it was wrong to go to war. The reintroduction of the draft now being discussed is potentially a very big issue for protests. The power struggle within the administration as well as within the ruling class as a whole has been sharpened. The neo-conservative ideas of "nation building” have lost support.
- The "rebuilding” of Iraq has gone into reverse. Access to electricity, roads, water, jobs etc. has worsened.
- New, heated debates will take place in the UN, underlining the inter-imperialist tensions and the conflicting interests. France, China and others are not willing to simply obey Bush.
- The limitations of US imperialism have been made clear. Nine out of ten active US army divisions are stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From the coming issue of Offensiv, the weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, cwi in Sweden