U.S. Stages Elections in Iraq -- Results Pose New Problems and Dangers
Revolution #029, January 8, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Elections took place in Iraq on December 15 literally under the gun.
The polling places were packed with U.S.-trained Iraqi police and soldiers -- who have earned themselves a reputation as corrupt death squads and torturers in many parts of the country. U.S. troops were typically stationed on surrounding roofs or gathered within striking distance. And the streets in many cities were criss-crossed with armed checkpoints.
Immediately, people in the U.S. were told that this election showed that they should all support this bloody and unjust occupation -- however long it took to reach victory. President Bush reached new heights of hype saying that this election was one of the most "amazing achievements in the history of liberty" and a "major milestone" toward U.S. victory over the insurgency. In fact, this election was none of these things -- and attacks on U.S. forces increased sharply in the days after the voting.
In Iraq itself, the U.S. intended to use the election to prove their control over the country, and to legitimize a new government of political forces that could help the U.S. stabilize its permanent domination.
A coalition of fundamentalist Shiite Islamic forces, the United Iraqi Alliance, won almost exactly half of the seats in the new Iraqi national assembly. The rise of Islamic theocratic forces, especially in the Shiite south, and the arrangements the U.S. occupiers have worked out with these forces and their militias has meant that in growing parts of Iraq, the people are now subject to the harsh theocratic rules of armed fundamentalists. This has meant intensified oppression of women. And it has mean the growth of merciless and deadly attacks on people who do not share their religion -- which are sometimes carried out through fundamentalist militia and sometimes by the U.S.-armed Iraqi army. And now that the U.S.-staged elections of December 15 have brought these theocratic forces even more prominence in the Iraqi puppet government there is a real danger that these kinds of reactionary and murderous attempts at repression and ethnic cleansing will accelerate.
The various Sunni and what are described as "secular Shiite" forces that the U.S. had been promoting suffered devastating defeats in the voting. For example, the coalition associated with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won only about 6.5% of the assembly seats.
On one level, no matter what the results of these elections were, it remains a basic fact of life that U.S. guns dominate Iraq. Nobody got to vote on whether or not they wanted that. Since its invasion in 2003, the U.S. has staged three elections and one "transfer of national sovereignty" -- but the truth is that power remains firmly in the hands of the U.S. government whose armed forces dominate Iraq. And, as a vivid example of what that means in practical politics, the notorious U.S. agent Ahmed Chalabi was (despite a humiliating defeat in the Dec. 15 election) suddenly elevated to the highly strategic post of Iraqi oil minister two weeks later, on Dec. 30.
And on another level, the U.S. imperialists have serious concerns about the domination of Shiite theocratic forces over the new central Iraqi government. One of those worries is that this will fuel the anti-U.S. insurgency among Sunni people and accelerate the disintegration of Iraq as a unified country--destabilizing the region in ways the current U.S. occupation force would find extremely difficult to contain.
The U.S. invasion in 2003 shattered the largely secular ruling Baathist party that cultivated support among Sunnis and kept Shiites especially oppressed. The U.S. imperialists have worked out arrangements with a number of theocratic Shiite forces -- including training their militia forces within the puppet ranks of so-called "Iraqi National Army." These forces have been documented carrying out brutal ethnic-cleaning and torture of Sunni people in the name of the Iraqi national government and in alliance with the U.S. occupation forces. The U.S. has allowed and sponsored all this as as a way of setting Iraqis against each other and suppressing elements of the resistance to the occupation. [See the article "Bush's Plan for Victory Part I: Ethnic Cleansing and Stone Age Bombing, Revolution 26 at revcom.us]
Now the election victory of these theocratic forces, and the prospect of their open domination of the central government, raises serious questions about whether the country as a whole can hold together.
The other concern the U.S. has is that the dominant parties in the new government are closely aligned with the theocratic government of neighboring Iran. The election victory of this Shiite religious coalition might increase the influence of the Iranian government in southern Iraq, and its power throughout the whole strategic Gulf region. After Iraq's election, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads the Iranian government's powerful Guardian Council, said: "We are happy with all that has happened in Iraq, including the elections and the victory of the encompassing and Islamist alliance. Considering this trend, we can determine that a stable Islamic rule is being established in this country."
The ruling regime in Iran is a major impediment to the agenda of U.S. imperialism in Middle East, and in particular to the neo-con vision of radically reshuffling the whole region. Iran is involved in negotiating its own deals with other imperialist powers like Russia and France, and its own attempts to strengthen its position in the region. And so the rise of Iran's allies to power in Iraq puts Iran in the position of deepening the quagmire for the U.S. And it raises the danger that Bush will feel all the more compelled to escalate aggression against Iran. [See Seymour Hersh, Where is the Iraq war headed next?, New Yorker, Dec. 12, 2005]
This raises extremely acute concerns that Bush may be about to launch a major new military aggression against Iran itself -- drawing even more countries into a widening war within the Middle East. Der Spiegel and other German press are reporting that the U.S. government has plans in place for an air strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities quite possibly now in early 2006. Their preparations reportedly included a heavy series of high level U.S. consultations with its allies -- including Turkey, the European Nato powers and regional allies like Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is also alleged that the U.S. has given a green light to Turkey's military to cross its eastern borders into Iran during such a U.S. attack, supposedly in order to destroy Kurdish nationalist encampments there.
Already over 100,000 Iraqi people have died since the U.S. launched its 2003 invasion. U.S. forces constantly rage through the country, punishing whole towns and neighborhoods with ground assaults and intense air bombardments. In the buildup to the December 15 elections, U.S. marine warplanes bombed the town of Husaybah killing 97 civilians, during the brutal two-week U.S. offensive in Anbar province. U.S. forces and their allies have rounded up captives, often literally at random, with over 15,000 now brutalized and tortured in prison camps like Abu Ghraib that are so notorious around the world.
While the election didn't offer the Iraqi people any option for ending all this, for true self-determination, and was staged to legitimize the U.S. occupation of the country, the results created complex problems for the U.S.
While Bush may claim the election legitimizes the war, the results deepen the real quagmire Bush has plunged into in Iraq, and also present real dangers that the U.S. will "up the ante" and attack Iran. All of which increases the necessity of the people to struggle to end this unjust war and occupation, right now.