Defeat in Iraq undermines US hegemony

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A recent statement from the official Chinese Xin-Hua News Agency emphasised China’s determination to end US global hegemony. It said, ‘The world is still crawling its way out of an economic disaster thanks to the voracious Wall Street elites. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.’ While the US tries to control the consequences of its failure to impose military domination in the Middle East, China has been extending its influence by economic and political means. China has cancelled Iraq’s huge debt and made extensive investments in the infrastructure and oil industries. It plans to buy 30% of Iraq’s oil exports next year. China is also a major customer for Iran’s oil, putting it in a strong position to affect events at the core of the region. In contrast, US hopes of affecting regime change in Syria and Iran, if necessary by military means, have been dashed, first by Russia’s intervention over Syrian chemical weapons and then by Iran’s readiness to negotiate over its nuclear programme.

In early November, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri Al Maliki, visited Washington to seek US help in curtailing the violence that is ravaging the country. There are now an average 70 bombings and shootings every month. Around 7,000 people were killed in the first ten months of 2013. Recently, the fighting has spread to the Kurdish north where multinational companies previously considered their investments were relatively secure. Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group believes, ‘Iraq is a house of cards on the verge of collapse.’

The outcome of the talks illustrates the US predicament. Al Maliki wanted the US to provide heavy weaponry and combat helicopters. In return, he offered to help persuade Iran to accept US restrictions on its nuclear programme and to help broker peace in Syria. President Obama agreed to continue the existing contract for F-16 fighters and to provide a missile defence system, hoping these might deter Iranian air shipments to the Syrian government. However, the US wants Al Maliki to stop his attacks on Sunni politicians and to share power with them and the Kurds so as to move the predominantly Shia Iraqi government away from the influence of Iran. Al Maliki was refused the new armaments he sought, despite the fact that he would be using them against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which, as an Al Qaeda-linked group, provided a pretence for the imperialist war on Iraq and its occupation.

Iraq’s ‘dictatorship’

Although many of the reported attacks in Iraq are by ISIL on Shia and pro-government targets, one Iraqi analyst has pointed out, ‘What fuels the conflict most is the presence of central government forces in Sunni areas, where they arrest young people by the hundreds, torture them and then release them after money is paid.’ There are at least five Shia militias working with the Iraqi security forces, together with special units attached to Al Maliki’s office. His son, Ahmed, has his own armed forces and conducts military operations even though he has no official mandate to do so. Of the 30,000 Iraqis in gaol, 17,000 are being held without trial. According to the UN, between January and October 2013, 140 Iraqis were executed by the Ministry of Justice.

Al Maliki has seized six high government posts for himself. His state apparatus is riddled by corruption. Transparency International estimates that $800m is transferred out of the country every week. Al Maliki admits he is aware of this corruption but ignores it for the sake of political stability. He has called those who demonstrate against his regime a ‘stinking bubble’ and threatened to liquidate them. Protesters have been arrested, beaten and killed in Basra, Nassyria, Fallujah and Mosul. In April 2013, 50 unarmed protesters were killed in Hawija.

At present, with various sections of the Iraqi ruling classes squabbling over control of oil revenues and sectarian violence verging on civil war, there is little prospect of a united opposition to Al Maliki and he will probably seek a third term in office in 2014, contrary to the original provisions of the constitution.

Sectarianism – an imperialist crime

Nir Rosen, in his study of the aftermath of US wars in the Middle East, writes ‘there was no history of civil wars between Sunnis and Shiites until the American invasion of Iraq. But since the American invasion created a bloody civil war, relations between Sunnis and Shiites in the region have deteriorated’. Sectarian violence in Iraq was deliberately ignited by the US in a divide and conquer policy. Now, as Martin Kohler, until recently UN special envoy to Iraq, has pointed out ‘the battlefields of Iraq and Syria are merging’ and the consequences are set to spread further, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar Turkey and ISIL supporting the anti-government forces in Syria and Iran, Hezbollah from Lebanon and Iraqi Shia militias supporting the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, the people of the region continue to suffer. Eman Ahmed Khamas, an Iraqi journalist, describes an Iraq where mothers sell their children; where prostitution, begging and child labour are rife; where unemployment is more than 30% and illiteracy is greater than it has been for over 50 years; where health and education are a shambles and ghetto walls and murderous checkpoints divide communities. 70% of Iraqis lack access to drinkable water, 80% have inadequate sanitation and four million people suffer food shortages.

The imperialists continue to attempt to bury their guilt. After four years, the Chilcot inquiry into the decisions leading up to Britain’s participation in the 2003 attack on Iraq and subsequent British involvement in the country remains unpublished. The US is refusing to allow communications between Blair and Bush to be revealed. Of course, this suits both governments. Even a critical report from Chilcot could then be rejected as not containing the full evidence. Another report, by the World Health Organisation claims there has been no rise in congenital birth defects in Fallujah and other Iraqi cities where the imperialist forces used depleted uranium (DU) weapons, despite clear evidence from Iraqi medics and from independent researchers. The WHO report has been widely condemned by experts as unscientific. Dr Keith Bantock, a former WHO expert on radiation and health, whose own research on the effects of DU weapons had been blocked by the US, said, ‘There are question marks about the role of the US and the UK, due to compensation issues that might arise from findings determining links between higher birth defects and DU.’ Dr W T Whitney, a retired US paediatrician who is also critical of the WHO report, pointed out that the Geneva Convention requires combatants to protect civilians but that the US refutes the authority of the International Criminal Court and would also veto any UN inquiry in the Security Council. Whitney concludes, ‘Obtaining justice requires joining the anti-imperialist cause and the people’s movement that is its substance.’

Jim Craven

 

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