Occupation of Iraq – no end in sight

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

When Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a Baghdad press conference last December shouting, ‘This is a farewell kiss. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq’, he no doubt hoped to be seeing the end not only of Bush but also the whole of the imperialist occupying forces. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the US and the Iraqi governments in November calls for US troops to be withdrawn from Iraqi towns and cities by 30 June this year and from the whole of Iraq by the end of 2011. Opposition to the occupation by the people of Iraq and neighbouring governments, principally Iran, forced the Iraqi government to insist on far more than the US initially wanted to concede. But they both knew that the Iraqi government and President Al Maliki had to be able to pose as ending the occupation; otherwise the followers of Moqtada Al Sadr, who, unlike the Iraqi government, have consistently opposed the occupation, were likely to make sweeping gains in the forthcoming provincial elections. SOFA, however, includes provision for it to be cancelled by either side at any time.

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Iraq: Imperialists attempt an orderly retreat

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

Months of wrangling resulted in a vote for the Status of Forces Agreement between the US and Iraq by the Iraqi parliament on 27 November. ‘All US forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than 31 December 2011.’ Make no mistake: if this is enforced it will be a defeat for US imperialism. All US forces are to pull out from cities, towns and villages ‘on a date no later than 30 June 2009’. From the boast of ‘Mission Accomplished’ in 2003 to the so-called victory of the surge in 2007, the reality is that the ground has given way beneath the imperialists’ feet until they stumbled and fell and could no longer claim success. They have accepted a way out that allows them to claim an orderly withdrawal – leaving behind over one million Iraqi dead, and, thus far, 4,136 US soldiers killed.

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AFGHAN WAR: Problems deepen as more troops are promised

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

In October, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, commander of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, told the Daily Telegraph, ‘We’re not going to win this.’ He had just returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Three months earlier Carleton-Smith had claimed that the Taliban leadership had been ‘decapitated’ and that the ‘tipping point’ in favour of the occupation forces had been reached.

The imperialist’s exasperation was emphasised by Major Will Pike, a former serving officer in Afghanistan, saying, ‘No real thought is going into what we are doing and why. Who is in charge of the campaign in Afghanistan – the Secretary of State for Defence, the Foreign Secretary or the Minister for International Development?’ Major Pike highlighted the dilemma for British imperialism, the second biggest imperial power in terms of overseas assets, yet militarily too weak to defend its global interests without riding on the back of the US. He said, ‘If the UK wants to play on this stage, across the world, then the will has to be backed by the resources. Otherwise it’s a bit of a con.’ JIM CRAVEN reports.

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Afghan war escalates: Pakistan under threat

US presidential candidate Barack Obama calls the tragedy in Afghanistan a ‘good war’, adding ‘we must win...there is no other option’. He has promised to send 10,000 extra troops to ‘finish the job in Afghanistan’. Far from winning, the imperialist occupation forces are stuck in quicksand and the more forces they throw in the more they will sink. JIM CRAVEN reports.

A poll carried out by the Canadian Globe and Mail earlier this year showed that only 14% of Afghans wanted the occupying forces to leave the country immediately. However, more than half wanted them out within three to five years, 74% wanted negotiations with the Taliban and 54% would support a coalition government with the Taliban, indicating that a majority of the Afghan people does not see the war as Obama does; as a war to be won by the invaders. Furthermore, only a small minority of Afghans in the poll saw the Taliban as a united political force. The Globe and Mail concluded that, ‘The typical Taliban foot soldier … is not a global jihadist’… but a young man who has had someone he ‘knows or loves …killed by a bomb dropped from the sky’ and ‘fervently believes that expelling the foreigners will set things right in his troubled country’.

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Iraq: ‘sustained progress’ is ‘fragile and reversible’

FRFI 205 October / November 2008

Speaking of Iraq this summer President Bush claimed, ‘A significant reason for the sustained progress is the success of the surge’. It is thankfully true that casualties have fallen greatly in the past year, but that is only in comparison with the worst period of sectarian conflict. According to Iraqi government figures there were 851 Iraqis killed in July of this year, 300 more than in June. More than 3,000 people have been killed by Apache helicopter attacks alone in the past year. The imperialists launched 200 Hellfire missile attacks around Baghdad in the early summer compared with just six in the previous three months.

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