Archive article from The Socialist Issue 351
What We Think
Iraq's Sovereignty Sham
THE US presidential election campaign is governing US policy half a world away in Iraq.
US public opinion has shifted under the impact of revelations of large-scale torture, supported, whether implicitly or explicitly, by Rumsfeld and company.
This added to horror at the siege of Falluja, where up to a thousand people were slaughtered by US forces before those same forces were forced into an inglorious retreat.
Reeling from these events the director and deputy-director of the CIA have resigned, scapegoats for Bush's blunders. The Bush regime is moving might and main to try and create an illusion, in the US if not in Iraq, that the 30 June 'handover' is a real step towards peace and democracy for the people of Iraq.
To get agreement on a UN resolution, the US government has in words shifted ground and accepted the description of the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) as "fully sovereign and independent". This concession has a very limited meaning. Iraqi prime minister, Allawi, has already done what Colin Powell demanded two months ago. He has 'given some sovereignty back' to the US and specifically to 138,000 'coalition' troops who will continue to operate under US command.
The Iraqi Interim Government are an unelected cabal who have won their places in 'government' because they are willing to prostitute themselves to US imperialism. And, at least in some cases, because they claim to represent social forces that US imperialism needs to have 'inside the tent'. Allawi has another quality which is attractive to US imperialism, he has made it clear he considers himself a 'strong man' who would undoubtedly be prepared to use brutal force against the Iraqi people. He has already made plans to try and 're-Ba'athify' the new Iraqi army.
As members of an unelected 'government' which is acting as a fig leaf for the brutal imperialist occupation of Iraq, none of the Iraqi Interim Government will be able to maintain whatever social base they have. And many of them have virtually none. Five of the six leading posts in the government are held by people who have spent most of their lives abroad. The ministers of communications, electricity, and industry and minerals (oil) were all residents of the US until 2003. One still has a job in the US, from which he has taken an indefinite leave of absence to become an Iraqi government minister!
To bolster the illusion that stability is increasing in Iraq under the Iraqi Interim Government the US have had to retreat militarily yet again. They dropped their demand for the arrest of anti-US Shia leader Al Sadr and withdrew troops from the Shia holy city of Najaf. But immediately afterwards they revealed in one fell swoop how the US-led occupation will never bring genuine democracy to Iraq but will mean escalating conflict and violence.
No sooner had members of the Iraqi Interim Government agreed to 'disband' their militias (which seems to mean that the militias continue but are formally part of the new Iraqi army) then all those militias that had not 'disbanded' were banned, and their members banned from holding political office for three years. This means that even if Al Sadr's Mahdi army were to disband today it cannot contest elections in the next three years!
The US had already turned Al Sadr from a leader with relatively little support to an icon of the resistance to US occupation. This latest move can only increase his support and dramatically fuel the flames of what is now a generalised national insurgency of the Iraqi people.
WHILE THERE will be troughs and peaks in the resistance in Iraq, it is clear that it will continue while 'coalition' troops occupy Iraq. Even if at some point they don blue helmets it will not make them acceptable to the majority of Iraqis, particularly given UN responsibility for the sanctions regime.
The dreams of the neo-cons are in tatters. The Bush regime is desperate for an exit strategy from Iraq, but one which will maintain its strategic and economic interests in tact. But such a strategy does not exist. There are no reliable forces in Iraq on which the US can base itself.
In classic imperialist fashion it is attempting to lean on, and balance between, the self-appointed leaders of different ethnic and religious groups, but is incapable of meeting the aspirations of any of them. Nothing has been resolved on the constitution of a future Iraq. This is only increasing the possibility of a bloody civil war further down the road.
However, this is not the only possible future for Iraq. In the aftermath of the siege of Falluja Sunni and Shia forces united against the occupation. This shows the potential for a united movement of the Iraqi working class and poor. Unfortunately, the programme of Al Sadr is in reality opposed to such a united movement, but is instead for the establishment of a right-wing theocratic Islamic state.
Socialists must support the building of workers' organisations in Iraq that can unite across the religious and ethnic divides, and of democratic multi-ethnic defence forces. Capitalism offers no democratic way out of the nightmare in Iraq. That is why the movement against the occupation should fight for an Iraq-wide government of the workers and urban and rural poor that could break with imperialism and capitalism and introduce a democratic and socialist programme.