US threatens intervention as ISIS advances towards Baghdad

On 12 June 2014, the Iraqi air force began bombing its own people in Mosul and Tikrit. The attacks were part of a desperate attempt to stop the advance of Sunni fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who had earlier captured the two cities. The following day ISIS captured two more towns in Diyala province. In the previous few days, ISIS had also attacked parts of Samara and Kirkuk, taken-over the university in Ramadi and seized the town of Baiji, the site of a major oil refinery and a power station for Baghdad. ISIS stated its intention to attack the capital.


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Iraq’s election sham

Parliamentary elections in Iraq this spring took place within the deepening conflict between the mainly Shia government and the Sunni Al Qaeda inspired group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since December, over 1,700 members of the Iraqi military and 4,000 civilians have been killed. ISIS now has effective control of Anbar province and other areas in the north and west. It controls the Fallujah dam and has been able to damage water supplies to Baghdad. ISIS levies taxes in cities such as Mosul and Tikrit and has held a military parade on the outskirts of Baghdad. ISIS also controls large parts of southern and eastern Syria. It is recruiting fighters from North Africa, Chechnya, Iran and Tajikistan.


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IRAQ: US supports attacks on Sunni opposition

At the turn of the year, Iraqi government forces launched attacks against centres of Sunni opposition in Anbar province. In Ramadi they destroyed a Sunni protest camp and arrested Ahmad Al Awani, a Sunni MP. Al Awani’s brother and five guards were killed, together with a further 11 people. In Fallujah, 15 Iraqi soldiers were killed in initial clashes. The leading force in the Sunni uprising, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), took control of police stations, burnt military vehicles and captured 75 Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqi government attacked with air strikes and artillery, claiming to have killed 60 ISIS fighters. Indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian areas was reported, forcing more than 10,000 people to flee the city. Clashes were also reported in Abu Ghraib and Baghdad. Jim Craven reports.


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Defeat in Iraq undermines US hegemony

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.


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Iraq deteriorates as imperialist carve-up unravels

In the aftermath of the imperialist occupation, Iraq has become ever more unstable. The Iraqi people are suffering the highest levels of bloodshed since 2008. At the end of July, at least 55 people were killed and more than 100 injured in five bomb blasts in Baghdad and elsewhere. On 28 August, at least 66 were killed in bombings and shootings, which included an attack on a military convoy. Altogether, more than 700 people were killed in July and more than 800 in August – a total of over 4,000 since April. Much of the violence has been initiated by Sunni militias, particularly the Al Qaeda affiliated group called Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and has been aimed at Shia and government targets. The Sunnis claim they are being discriminated against and denied jobs and influence by the predominantly Shia government of Nouri Al Maliki, though the aims of ISI no doubt extend beyond parity with the Shia. Shia militias and government forces have retaliated against the Sunni population such that most areas of Baghdad and elsewhere have become ever more divided along sectarian lines. Jim Craven reports.


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Iraq war’s bloody aftermath

An estimated 1,000 people were killed in May in the sectarian violence that is escalating throughout Iraq. Former Iraqi security adviser Dr Mowaffak al-Rubaie warned: ‘If we go on like this we will have civil war and then partition – partition of Iraq would be as bloody as the partition of India.’ Both will have been the consequence of imperialist intervention and occupation.

While much of the violence is around Baghdad and the south of the country, it is the Kurdish north that poses the greatest immediate challenge to the unity of the country. Ignoring the central government, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has unilaterally signed oil contracts worth $20bn with over 50 companies, including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Total and the Russian Gazprom. A pipeline delivering 300,000 barrels per day from the high quality Taq Taq field to Turkey is due to open shortly. The pipeline is a joint venture by the Turkish company Genel, run by former BP boss Tony Hayward (of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill infamy) and the Chinese company Sinopec. Security at the oil field is provided by a British company using ex-special force mercenaries from South Africa.


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Iraq ‘civil war’ widens

At the beginning of May, a senior Iraqi politician told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent: ‘It is wrong to say we are getting close to civil war. The civil war has already started.’ Jim Craven reports.

On 23 April, Iraqi government forces attacked a Sunni protest camp at Hawija near Kirkuk, killing at least 23 people. In the ensuing clashes, over 50 more people were killed. The next day, Sunni militants took over a police station and killed three Iraqi soldiers near Tikrit. A few days later, five more soldiers were killed in Fallujah and at least 23 people were killed in bomb blasts in southern Iraq. The UN estimates that 700 people were killed in April, the highest monthly figure for five years. On 20 May, more than 70 people were killed and nearly 200 injured in bomb blasts across the country – from Baghdad and Samarra to Basra and Hilla in the south. People in Baghdad are reported to be stocking up on food and other supplies. Shia militias, in the guise of government soldiers, are surrounding Sunni areas as they did during the worst sectarian conflicts of 2006. The main road to Jordan, where many Sunnis sought refuge, has been closed.


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Iraq – 100 years of imperialist division

The prime minister of Iraq, Nouri Al Maliki, recently warned ‘If the Sunni opposition is victorious in Syria, there will be civil war in Lebanon, divisions in Jordan and a sectarian war in Iraq’. His prediction was provoked by the growing, mainly Sunni, movement against Al Maliki’s government. Over 250 people were killed during January and February in attacks by Sunni groups on Shia and government targets. More than 50 were killed in 17 bomb attacks in and around Baghdad on the 10th anniversary of the invasion. In February, tens of thousands of Sunni demonstrators blocked the streets in five major cities. In Samarra, Sheik Mohammed Jumaa called for an end to ‘tyranny and oppression’, threatening: ‘You will witness what other tyrants have witnessed before’. The movement is gaining inspiration from the Sunni opposition in Syria. In March, 48 Syrian government soldiers were killed by Sunni fighters when they crossed the border into Iraq. Jim Craven reports.


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Iraq – bloody legacy of the occupation

One year on from the withdrawal of imperialist troops, the Iraq they occupied for over eight years remains divided and torn apart by violence. Iraq Body Count recorded over 5,000 Iraqis killed in 2012 and concluded, ‘The country remains in a state of low-level war. Little has changed since 2009.’

In late October and November, at least 110 people, mainly Shia, were killed in a series of bombings in Baghdad. In December, thousands of Sunnis took to the streets in Ramadhi to protest against the Shia-dominated government. The protests followed the arrest of 10 bodyguards of the Sunni finance minister Rafia Al Issawi during a raid on his office. The Sunni deputy prime minister, Tariq Al Hashemi, is still in exile in Turkey after fleeing for his life last year. At a rally, Al Issawi claimed, ‘Injustice, marginalisation, discrimination and double standards, as well as the politicisation of the judicial system and a lack of respect for partnership, law and constitution...have all turned our neighbourhoods in Baghdad into huge prisons surrounded by concrete blocks.’ Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al Malaki threatened to use force against the demonstrators. Days later a car bomb in Musayyib killed at least 27 Shia pilgrims. Maria Fantappie, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group, said, ‘December has completely shaken the political scene. We are at this moment in a kind of tornado.’ Abdulazziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre said, ‘If the demonstrators decide to defend themselves with guns this could easily lead to a civil war.’


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Iraq - Britain’s torture policy – Jan 2013

Baha Mousa

On 29 January, the statements of nearly 200 Iraqis will go before a judicial review hearing at the High Court in London in a case intended to show that Britain deliberately pursued a policy of systematic torture and abuse during its occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2008.


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Iraqi people resist oil theft

In August Iraq overtook Iran as the second largest oil producer in OPEC. It had not been in this position since the 1980s. Although the result reflects the dwindling sales from Iran because of the international sanctions, Iraqi production has nevertheless increased to more than three million barrels per day (mbpd) in recent months. This follows the signing of major contracts with international oil companies between late 2008 and early 2010 to develop a dozen oil fields. The companies include Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total, Russian Lukoil and the Chinese CNPC. In addition, Total, Exxon Mobil and Russian Gazprom signed deals with the Kurdish regional government. The Iraqi government has a target to produce 12 mbpd by 2017 (more than Saudi Arabia), though a more realistic estimate would be 4.5 mbpd because of the lack of pipeline infrastructure. The oil companies, however, are being paid per barrel produced regardless of whether or not they meet government targets. This is far more profitable than simply being paid for the services they provide, although oil drilling contractors are receiving above rate fees from the Iraqi government.


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Afghan misery continues: imperialist plans in disarray

A UN-backed survey has found that around one million Afghan children under the age of five are malnourished. In southern provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar, where the war is at its fiercest, almost 30% of children suffer acute malnutrition (30% is one of the official bench marks for declaring a famine). Afghanistan is now bottom of the UN development programme poverty index. It has the world’s third worst infant mortality rates. Nine million Afghans (36% of the population) live in absolute poverty, with a similar number living just above the threshold. Less than a quarter of the Afghan people have regular access to safe water. At the same time, a super-rich elite, sponging off the spoils of war, live in grand mansions and drive around in luxury cars. As of 16 September 2012, 430 British soldiers have been killed for this. Jim Craven reports.


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Iraqi ‘dictatorship’

Among the many excuses made by the imperialists for their war on Iraq were the removal of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of democracy. As Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki consolidates his power, many in the country believe one dictator has been replaced by another. Kurdish journalist Zakia Al Mazouri, persistently threatened by Al Maliki’s regime, said, ‘This government that came now is not better than the old one. There is no real democracy.’


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No peace in Iraq

Violence continues to sweep across the supposedly ‘secure’ Iraq that US forces left in December. By the beginning of February 434 Iraqis had been killed. On 24 February at least 60 more were killed when Sunni groups attacked Iraqi security forces. 25 Iraqi police were shot in Haditha on 6 March and 13 people died in explosions in Tal Afar two days later. Iraqi legislators have passed a bill to buy 350 armoured vehicles for their own use.


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US troops leave Iraq in turmoil

When President Bush and his allies in the British Labour government launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 they did so with the deception that the Saddam regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al Qaeda. They suggested that the troops would be welcomed as liberators, that they would have to stay for only six months and that Iraq would become a beacon of democracy for the Middle East. The number of troops involved was estimated at 100,000 and the total cost at around $2 billion. Over eight years later, some 1.5 million US troops have served in Iraq and direct spending by the US Department of Defence is an estimated $757.8 billion. Over 4,800 US, British and other coalition troops have been killed. Jim Craven reports.


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Iraq’s oil and Labour lies

On 22 May the last British troops left Iraq when 81 Royal Navy trainers left the southern port of Umm Qasr. That same day there were at least ten bomb attacks across the country. Foreign Secretary Hague declared that the allies had left Iraq ‘a much better place than we found it’. In 2010 the death toll from attacks in Iraq was 4,038 or 11 a day. So far this year 1,200 Iraqis have been killed in attacks. 179 British military personnel were killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Iraq’s dead run into hundreds of thousands.


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War for global domination

FRFI 172 April / May 2003

The US/British Coalition war on Iraq has immense consequences not only for the countries involved, the invaders and the invaded, and the neighbouring countries in the Middle East, but also for the rest of the world. This war is a watershed, marking the complete disintegration of the old world order which subsisted from the Second World War onwards. This war initiates the new century that the US has marked down as its own: this is its opening bid for global domination. The British ruling class, under the leadership of its most committed imperialists, the Labour government, is no poodle, but a greedy partner in this enterprise. The Coalition strategy is both a war for oil and for stamping its authority on future world relations. We should be clear, however, that while the US may want to claim ‘a new American century’, and Britain may demand its share, the seeds of their own destruction have already been sown. Alongside wars come revolutions.

The Coalition war began on 19 March after months of diplomatic manoeuvring, strong-arm tactics, and behind the scenes, the remorseless movement of troops and war materiel to the region around Iraq. US Joint Chief of Staff, General Tommy Franks, promised ‘this will be a campaign unlike any other in history’, comprised of ‘shock, surprise, flexibility and overwhelming force’. ‘S, G and A’, he said, adopting the style of an advertising executive, ‘special forces, ground attack and air bombardment, in that order.’ Hundreds of journalists were ‘embedded’ with Coalition forces, ready to be drip-fed information favourable to the invaders. As if as a warning, a crew of ITN journalists travelling independently, were wiped out by Coalition ‘friendly fire’ in the first days of the war.


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Bin Laden killing signals US military intentions

As the crisis of capitalism deepens, the US must become ever more determined in defence of its global hegemony. The killing of Osama Bin Laden on 2 May 2011 was a calculated act to demonstrate that the US will use its military power wherever and whenever necessary, regardless of international law and national sovereignty. As President Obama boasted in his ‘victory’ speech, ‘Tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.’ Jim Craven reports.

Since Obama took office, air attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan launched against the (professed) wishes of their governments, and certainly against the wishes of the people, have increased dramatically. According to the Brookings Institute, ten civilians have been killed for every militant victim. In the past two years special forces operations have multiplied six-fold and now average 20 attacks every night. Their rules of engagement allow soldiers to kill ‘enemy combatants’ even if they are unarmed and present no visible threat. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered.


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Iraq: Demonstrations rock government

Anti-government demonstrations were held in dozens of towns and cities across Iraq during February and continued into March. Thousands of people took to the streets and occupied buildings, demanding better services, clean water and electricity, more jobs and the dismissal of corrupt politicians and officials.

In Suleimaniyah in the Kurdish north, nine people were killed and 47 injured when the local militia fired on a crowd of more than 3,000 besieging the headquarters of Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party. Iraqi security forces also had to defend the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is led by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani. Protests continued every day, causing the local government to impose a night time curfew. In Kut three people were killed in clashes with police while demonstrating against the US occupation and Iraqi Prime Minister Al Maliki. In Basra hundreds of protestors erected tents outside government buildings, while in Fallujah demonstrators carried banners reading, ‘No for sectarianism, yes for unity, down with Al Maliki’s government.’ In Sadr City, the poor working class area of Baghdad, posters read, ‘We voted for you, where are your promises?’ The Iraqi army tried to force demonstrators to leave Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and established checkpoints to identify protesters.


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Afghan people resist occupation

Reviewing the war on Afghanistan in December 2010, President Obama claimed that US/NATO troops had arrested and reversed the Taliban’s momentum. The US military claimed it had killed over 1,260 Taliban leaders and fighters and captured 2,360 in the previous three months. Since July 2010, when General Petraeus took command of US and NATO forces, there has been a 300% increase in special forces’ night-time raids. In Kabul, the CIA now has its biggest foreign station since the Viet Nam war, with a private army of 3,000. The number of bombs and missiles launched by the occupying forces increased by almost 50% last year. One US official proclaimed, ‘We’ve taken the gloves off, and it’s had a huge impact.’ Jim Craven reports.


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Iraq: new government – same occupation

At the end of December 2010, the Iraqi parliament finally endorsed Nouri Al-Maliki as prime minister, nine months after the elections. In a compromise deal following pressure from both the US and Iran, Sunni candidates received nine ministries and one of three deputy prime ministers. Iyad Allawi, favoured candidate of the US, whose Sunni-supported Iraqiya alliance won the most seats in the election, called for ‘real reconciliation’, having previously repudiated any coalition with Al Maliki. Supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr received eight junior ministries. The Sadrists had also previously refused to join any government headed by Al Maliki, who had backed US attempts to destroy the Sadrist militia, the Mehdi Army, in 2007. Al Sadr himself returned from four years’ self-imposed exile in Iran and called on his supporters to give the new government a chance.


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Currency wars

The 11-12 November meeting of the heads of the G20 group of countries ended in failure. The world economy faces crisis: massive unemployment exists internationally, there are huge global trade and investment imbalances, and the shadow of a future financial crisis looms large. Yet by the end of the meeting, all they could agree about was a collection of platitudes, hopes, wishes and fine words about the desirability of co-operation.


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IRAQ: a record of death, torture and deceit

Secret US documents revealed by Wikileaks in October confirmed the record of atrocities committed by US, British and Iraqi forces that we have regularly reported in FRFI, but which the imperialists have always denied. Jim Craven reports.

In order to try to hide the extent of the slaughter, the imperialists maintained they never recorded the number of Iraqis killed, but the leaked documents log over 109,000 deaths. This is still a gross underestimate. For example, only 103 deaths were logged from 3,800 air strikes. The documents contain evidence of the murder of 21 civilians by British troops and 700 civilians killed at checkpoints. Video footage of resistance fighters being killed in cold blood while trying to surrender is included, as well as evidence that US forces were involved in Shia death squads. There are over 300 examples of US abuse and torture of detainees and at least 1,500 records of torture by the Iraqi security forces. Between 2004 and 2005 orders were issued to US forces not to intervene in such cases, but US troops continued to hand over Iraqi detainees, knowing they would be tortured.


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Violence rises in Iraq

Keen to bolster his poll ratings before the forthcoming mid-term elections, President Obama declared the end of US combat operations in Iraq at the end of August. The 50,000 US troops still in the country are supposed to leave by the end of 2011. They remain fully armed and combat-ready but are supposed to fight only in self-defence or if asked to do so by the Iraqi government.

However, six months after the elections in March, no elected Iraqi government was in place. The parliament of ‘democratic, sovereign’ Iraq, as Obama recently called it, had not met since January. Talks between State of Law, the coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, first with the other main Shia coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, and then with Iraqiya, the coalition headed by Iyad Allawi that won most seats in the election, broke down because of Al Maliki’s insistence on remaining in office. The US is now trying to devolve prime ministerial powers while allowing Al Maliki to stay. The plan is to create a council for national strategy that would be headed by Allawi. He was the imperialists’ choice as first prime minister after the invasion and is long associated with the CIA.


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Iraq: eyes still on the prize

Iraq held a parliamentary election in March 2010 but still the country does not have a new government. The State of Law coalition, led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, joined forces with the other Shi’ite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, to achieve an overall majority but they cannot agree on who should be the new prime minister. US Vice-President Joe Biden has intervened to try and forge an agreement between Al Maliki and the imperialists’ favourite, Iyad Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition won the most seats.


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Iraq: Sectarian elections provoke more violence

Following the stalemate in the March Iraqi parliamentary elections, sectarian divisions that were inflamed by the imperialist occupation are again threatening the security of the Iraqi people, as the various bourgeois factions battle for control of the country’s resources. In the election, the predominantly Sunni Iraqiya Alliance, headed by Iyad Allawi, won two more seats than Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s State of Law Party. Al Maliki immediately made accusations of electoral fraud and demanded a recount in Baghdad, which he hopes will give him four more seats. An Iraqi court has disqualified another two Iraqiya MPs because of links to the old ruling Baath party. Other opposition MPs have been arrested or have fled their homes fearing arrest.


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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.’


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Multinationals grab Iraqi oil

Since the height of the violence in Iraq in 2007, both civilian and US casualties have fallen by over 90%. There is, however, no peace for the Iraqi people. In the northern Kurdish areas around Kirkuk and Mosul tension remains high because Kurdish aspirations for an autonomous government controlling its own oil are being thwarted by central government and Sunni political advances in the region. Car and suicide bombs in the latter part of last year aimed at Iraqi government and US targets in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad killed more than 500 people. Sadi Piri of the Kurdish PUK said ‘This proves that the Iraqi forces are not able to control their own cities and borders’.


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Iraq: Tensions threaten to explode

Several large bomb attacks on Iraqi government buildings this autumn have demonstrated that the war there is far from over. The Iraqi government, which had begun to remove the US-built concrete blast walls, has been forced to start rebuilding them. 1.6 million internal refugees are still unable to return to their homes because of the violence. The attacks have highlighted the inability of Iraqi forces to maintain security and thus throw into doubt whether US forces will pull out according to the schedule promised by President Obama.

There are still 120,000 US troops in Iraq, supposedly away from the towns and not in combat roles. In reality, town boundaries have been redefined to allow US bases to remain nearby and US troops have been accompanying Iraqi forces on combat missions re-labelled as ‘reconstruction’. US forces are supposed to fall to 50,000 by 31 August 2010. Any delay will affect US options in Afghanistan.


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Iraq: US occupation under threat

Despite President Obama’s much vaunted pull-out from Iraq, there are still 134,000 US troops in the country, occupying 320 outposts and bases. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said he will maintain an average of 100,000 troops in Iraq during the next fiscal year and at least 50,000 throughout 2011. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has reiterated that US troops may stay beyond the 2011 deadline. In addition, there are around 133,000 military contractors in the country, 36,000 of whom are US citizens.

US combat troops were supposed to have withdrawn from Iraqi cities by the end of June, according to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Several city bases were able to remain, however, by simply redrawing city boundaries to define them as being outside. British television has also shown US troops continuing to operate within the cities in full combat gear, with guns at the ready supposedly undertaking reconstruction missions.


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Iraq: Obama’s great vanishing trick

On 4 June President Obama made a speech at Cairo University that was intended to cement ‘better relations’ between the US and the Muslim world. The cornerstone of the speech was a promise that the US would keep no bases in Iraq and would withdraw its military forces from the country by the end of 2011. Fine words, but reality does not mirror them. Obama has stated that only ‘combat’ troops will be withdrawn; such troops make up only about a third of the 130,000 US forces still in Iraq. The rest of the military personnel have now been re-labelled ‘advisors’ so that they can stay on in the areas vacated by ‘combat’ troops.


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