by Gerry Foley / August 2005 issue of Socialist Action
As the strains and costs of the U.S. occupation of Iraq mount, Washington and its military commanders have begun promising that they are going to start bringing some of the troops home. In fact, nearly half of the U.S. contingent is National Guard troops, who are not prepared to play a regular army role. Recruitment for the “all-volunteer,” “lean and mean” military is disastrously down. Public opinion polls are showing a majority of Americans against continuing the occupation and an even larger majority who think
that the cost of the war and occupation was not worth it.
But at the same time, the experts have been reporting that the Iraqi security forces are far from being able to defend the rule of the U.S. client government in Baghdad. The truth of these reports is reconfirmed daily by the operations carried out by resistance fighters.
However damaging the long-term political effects of suicide bombings and the assassination of diplomats and Iraqi government officials may be, it can scarcely be doubted that these actions are sufficient now to demonstrate that the Iraqi security forces are not in control of the country.
Furthermore, the number of suicide attacks reveals that there is a flood of desperate rage in the Arab and Muslim world against the imperialist domination of the region. An article in the June 30 New York Times
reported that since 2003 there have been 500 suicide attacks in Iraq; that is, 500 fighters have blown themselves up to strike back against imperialist
The article estimated that 90 percent of the suicide bombers were volunteers coming from outside Iraq. However, it went on to quote Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert with the Congressional Research Committee, which advises Congress, as follows, ”I still think 80 percent of the insurgency, the day to day activity, is Iraqi—the roadside bombings, mortars, direct weapons
fire, rifle fire, automatic weapons fire.”
It is a paradox that at the same time as Bush administration officials and military commanders have been floating balloons about withdrawing American troops, nearly all the reports from Iraq have pointed out that the security situation is not definitely not getting any better and is probably getting worse.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the political, economic, and military costs of the U.S. adventure in Iraq are becoming unsustainable, and that at least hairline cracks are beginning to show in the U.S. administration, as it finds itself facing a disastrous defeat. The major card left in the hands of the U.S., however, is the sectarian and national divisions in Iraq. And they are playing it for all it is worth. Thus, in its June 23 issue, the Christian Science Monitor, a notoriously faithful mouthpiece of the U.S. State Department, carried a feature article claiming that Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad were welcoming U.S. army patrols in their neighborhoods to protect them from each other.
However, the Christian Science Monitor of July 18 carried an article that made it clear that leading Shiite politicians do not trust either the Iraqi
government security forces or the U.S. army to defend them from sectarian attacks:
“Shiite parliamentarian Khudayr al-Khuzai called on the government Sunday to ‘bring back popular militias’ to protect vulnerable Shiite communities. ‘The plans of the interior and defense ministries to impose security in Iraq have failed to stop the terrorists,’ he told the National Assembly.”
Al-Khuzai’s statement followed a suicide bombing in front of a Shiite mosque in Musayibb, a town south of Baghdad, that killed nearly a hundred people. The bomber dove under a fuel tanker and then exploded his suicide belt.
This call by a Shiite leader is very bad news for the U.S. rulers and occupation authorities, because such militias will be difficult to control, and in the past the Shiite armed groups have been linked to Iran.
In general, it appears that the U.S. government is getting more and more nervous about a growing closeness between the Shiite majority government in Baghdad and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The New York Times noted July 31: “Donald M. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, delivered a blunt message to Iraqi leaders during a visit here last week: the Iraqis would have
to be more aggressive in opposing the ‘harmful’ meddling of Iran in this country’s affairs before the Americans could consider regional stability assured and the way clear for the United States forces to go home.
“It was an argument with a paradox at its heart. … Regaining a semblance of stability here is a goal of both the Iraqi government and the Americans. But the country’s elected leadership apparently believes that Iraq’s long-term welfare will depend on building a strong relationship with Iran as well as on
maintaining ties to the United States. … That is clearly not the kind of stability Mr. Rumsfeld has in mind.”
Although the moderate Shiite clergy are the major tactical allies the U.S. has in Iraq, they have a history and an agenda of their own that makes the U.S.
rulers distrust them. Many of them, including the present premier, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, spent long years in exile in Iran during the Saddam Hussein regime, and their organizations received support from the Iranian government and Islamic Revolution groups.
The New York Times article noted that Iran sheltered Shiite exiles and re-fugees, while the United States stood by and watched Saddam slaughter 150,000 Shiites when they rose up following the Iraqi dictator’s defeat in the first Gulf War. The U.S. authorities are worried about the sort of system the Shiite clergy and politicians want to impose on Iraq.
The Times continued: “There is no evidence that Iran is directly influencing the writing of the Iraqi constitution; still, a shadow of theocracy can be seen
in the religious language that the Shiite leaders have championed in recent drafts. One calls for Islam to be ‘the main source’ of legislation, and includes a measure that appears to substantially change a 1959 civil law that guarantees some protection for women’s rights. It also bestows special status on top Shiite ayatollahs.
“Sunni politicians have sharply denounced some of the language, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the new American ambassador, said last week that the Americans would closely monitor the writing of the constitution. That
warning, with Mr. Rumsfeld’s strong urgings, indicates an awareness of the possibility that the current course of Iraq’s most powerful elected leaders could end up producing a Shiite religious state, perhaps serving as a proxy for Iran.”
At this writing, the main political pressure of the U.S. government on its Iraqi clients is to push them to adopt a constitution quickly that will give more
political credibility to the regime imposed by the occupation.
But the problem of the influence of the Shiite clergy is only one of the obstacles that is delaying adoption of the new basic law. There are also the demands of the Kurdish nationalists, Washington’s other major tactical ally, for effective self-rule and control of more territory and oil income.
In all, the armed resistance is far from the only difficulty facing the U.S. occupation. Even the forces that dominate the Baghdad government, which the occupation forces are defending, are tending to slip out of U.S. control.
Both the unrelenting armed resistance and the political slipperiness of the U.S. political allies in fact reflect a deeper problem. The overwhelming
majority of the Iraqi population is hostile to the U.S. occupation, and that has to be expressed in many ways. Facing this dilemma, it is unlikely that the
U.S. imperialists can achieve a stable client regime in Iraq.
And given the enormous stakes they have placed on this endeavor, they face a historic defeat that will weaken their entire system, including in the United States itself.
This growing crisis of the imperialist assault on Iraq gives a new importance to the antiwar demonstrations planned for San Francisco, Los Angeles, and
Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. In them, the masses of Americans who do not see the solution to their problems in wars and in the domination and
exploitation of other peoples can make their weight decisively felt.