Iraq: elections serve occupation

The Iraqi parliamentary elections at the beginning of March demonstrated how the imperialist occupation has ‘enshrined sectarianism’. The strategy of dividing opposition along sectarian lines and then tying factions into a ‘legitimate’ electoral process is a well-tried imperialist tactic for emasculating national liberation movements: most recently in the so-called power sharing process in the Irish Six Counties. In Iraq, the imperialists armed the Shia militias for their battle against Sunni insurgents, and then paid and armed the defeated Sunnis when they had to seek the protection of the occupying forces. The imperialists then attacked the main Shia anti-occupation force, Moqtada Al Sadr’s Mehdi Army, which was eventually persuaded to lay down its arms following secret talks between Iran and the US. All the groups stood in the election but parties and voting predominantly reflected the sectarian divisions. A Sunni in Arasat, quoted in The Independent, said ‘I want to vote for a secular party, but everything now is divided along religious lines.’ A Shia worker in Najaf said ‘Democracy in Iraq is chaotic. Everyone lies.’

Before the election, the Shia dominated government of Nouri Al Maliki banned 500, mainly Sunni, candidates from standing. This number was later reduced to 145, but several hundred former officers and provincial officials were refused the right to stand for election. Among those banned was Saleh Al Mutlaq, leader of the second largest Sunni group and part of the Iraqiya coalition led by Iyad Allawi. Since the devastated Iraqi economy relies mainly on state oil revenues and half the population has to rely on state food rations, the government parties, particularly Al Maliki’s State of Law coalition, were able to buy votes with government patronage.

No solutions for Iraqi people

The overall turnout for the election was 62%, well down on the 75% turnout in the 2005 election, despite the fact that nearly all Sunnis boycotted that election. By 18 March, with 80% of votes counted, Al Maliki’s and Allawi’s coalitions were running neck and neck. However, no party will gain a clear majority and it will take several weeks to form a new coalition government. The US will interfere in negotiations in order to weaken the pro-Iranian parties and strengthen Allawi’s position. Allawi is a former US agent and oil executive and was appointed by them as first interim prime minister.

Although the Kurds predominantly voted for Kurdish parties, Iraqiya took half the votes in the disputed city of Kirkuk. The Kurdish regional government hopes to make it the capital of an autonomous region, a proposition opposed by the Iraqi national government and by Turkey, which oppresses a Kurdish national liberation movement in Turkey and has threatened to invade Kurdish Iraq. 40% of Iraqi oil reserves lie within the Kirkuk region. Kirkuk could become the focus of renewed violence.

In February, US commander General Odierno said that there were still 96,000 troops in Iraq. Although these troops are not supposed to be involved in combat roles, they are acting as ‘advisers’, embedded in the Iraqi security forces, selecting targets and directing operations backed by US air support. The Iraqi Defence Minister Abdul Qader Jassin said in March that the armed forces modernisation programme would not be completed until 2020. The US/Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement allows for a ‘long-term relationship in economic, diplomatic, cultural and security fields’. Tens of thousands of US troops will occupy their three main bases and their huge embassy, long after the so-called withdrawal is complete.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi people continue to suffer the consequences of imperialist occupation. In Fallujah, a large number of children have been born with deformed limbs and developmental problems. The situation is so bad that women in the city are advised not to get pregnant. Fallujah was the victim of a massive bombardment and massacre by US forces in 2004. The worst of the birth defects are in the working class Al Julan district, scene of the most intense fighting.

Jim Craven

FRFI 214 April / May 2010


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