By Gerry Foley / May 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
Communalist tensions have continued to increase in Iraq, as the U.S. won its objective of forcing the replacement of the former premier, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The ousted premier’s designated successor, Jawad al-Maliki, is also a leader of the Dawa Shiite party, historically linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran, but supposedly is considered by the U.S., the Kurdish nationalists, and the Sunni parties to be more competent personally than his predecessor.
However, most of the commentary in the Western press about the leadership contest focused on the fact that al-Jaafari’s election was the result of support from the parliamentary representatives of the radical Islamist anti-imperialist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The question therefore arises whether the dumping of al-Jaafari was intended to restrict the influence of al-Sadr, who is a major force in the Shiite political spectrum and has mounted two armed uprisings against the U.S.-led occupation.
A May 3 article in the Los Angeles Times cited U.S. worries about al-Sadr striving to gain control of more ministries in the Baghdad government. His supporters currently hold the portfolios for health and transportation. U.S. authorities also accuse the al-Sadr ministers of nepotism and corruption.
The Shiite religious parties are the decisive tactical allies of the U.S. The imperialists continue to be worried by their previous ties with Iran but they have no alternative. They are trying to pressure the Shiites by manipulating the Sunnis and Kurds.
The U.S. authorities blame the continuing wave of apparently sectarian murders on the Shiite militias and their infiltration of the Iraqi security forces built up under the aegis of the occupation. Of course, the suicide bombings of Shiite crowds, apparently organized by al Qaeda in Iraq, are an incitement to sectarian retaliation, although the major Shiite leaders, including the top cleric, Ali al-Sistani, and Muqtada al-Sadr say that they oppose any such actions.
On April 13, the Mexico City daily La Jornada published a article based on reports in the British Independent and from the Reuters and AFP wire services that the Iraqi minister of the interior, Bayan Jabr, claimed that private security guards trained in the U.S. were linked to the killings.
Jabr said that the U.S. has trained 150,000 private security guards. These highly paid and uncontrolled forces have been a major irritant in Iraq. They are more hated by the Iraqi population than the occupation forces and hated even by the regular soldiers.
The proliferation of these private guards is a result of the U.S. administration’s opening up the country for plunder by big American corporations, as well as the general right-wing drive to privatize the functions of the state. Private security forces, such as Blackwater, played a nefarious role also in the New Orleans catastrophe.
The U.S. authorities claim to oppose the sectarian divisions in Iraq and attribute the conflict to the instigation of al Qaeda. (The Los Angeles Times of May 5 reported a claim by the U.S. military in Iraq that it had found in a raid a memo by al Qaeda leaders calling for concentrating attacks on Shiites and driving them out of mixed areas).
But it is obvious that the deepening divisions offer the U.S. possibilities for maintaining its dominance of Iraq through manipulating the different communities. In fact, one U.S. senator, Joseph Biden of Delaware, has just proposed dividing the country into three separate autonomous communities. The responsible U.S. officials have condemned this plan but it obviously reflects thinking in U.S. government circles.
The Washington Post of April 25 reported that Shiite militias were moving into the disputed city of Kirkuk to combat Kurdish attacks to take over a city that was forcibly Arabized by Saddam Hussein but that they consider their capital:
“The Mahdi Army, led by firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has sent at least two companies, each with about 120 fighters, according to Thomas Wise, political counselor for the U.S. Embassy’s Kirkuk regional office, which has been tracking militia activity. The Badr Organization, the armed wing of Iraq’s largest Shiite political party, has also boosted its presence and opened several offices across the region, military officers here said.”
Al-Sadr has spoken vociferously against communal divisions and for unity against the occupiers, but his militia continues to be accused of sectarian outrages. This is one of the obscure areas of Iraqi politics.
The British Independent of May 5 reported that the Shiite militias, both the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army, have been accused of murders of gay men. Even the supposedly moderate al-Sistani has called for the “execution” of gay men. Obviously, the sanctioning of such murders, most likely based on suspicion, since Muslim law requires proofs difficult to obtain, will contribute to a general atmosphere of fear and division.
As the pall of communal and religious terror thickens, the need is increasing for a leadership that can find an effective program for uniting the resistance to the U.S. occupation and manipulation.
It is paradoxical but fundamentally logical that the U.S.-led occupation has been fostering the growth of reactionary Islamism. The U.S. authorities keep claiming that al Qaeda is becoming more and more isolated. That may be true, in particular because of its suicidal policy of slaughter of Shiite crowds. But it is obvious that it has maintained substantial support because of its military effectiveness against the U.S. forces and their allies.
That face, and the public opinion polls showing that 88 percent of Sunnis and more than 40 percent of Shiites support attacks on the U.S. forces, show that Iraqis massively want to resist the occupation. However, they need effective organization. It seems reasonable to expect that this objective need will eventually lead to a subjective result—that is, the emergence of a new political leadership that can unify the resistance.