The Godfather's Agreement

U.S. Hands Off Iraq!

Revolutionary Worker #947, March 8, 1998

On February 22, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced in Baghdad that he had signed an agreement with the Iraqi government regarding UN weapons inspections. With this agreement, the United States has stepped back from the brink of a new bombing campaign against Iraq--at least for now.

Bill Clinton said that the UN-Iraq agreement was the result of "diplomacy backed by strength." Translating this from the language of imperialist gangsters, Clinton was saying that the U.S. godfathers gave Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government an "offer they couldn't refuse": submit unconditionally to the humiliation of inspection teams poking their noses everywhere --or face days and weeks of the heaviest bombing since the 1991 Gulf War.

As Mao Tsetung said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of the gun." The "diplomacy" that Clinton talked about was nothing but a blatant power play by an international bully. The U.S. used Cruise missiles, aircraft carriers and Stealth bombers to threaten and coerce an already battered Third World country.

The deal struck by Kofi Annan gives the Iraqi government some face-saving measures. For example, the inspection team visiting the presidential sites will be accompanied by diplomats chosen by Annan, in addition to the regular UN Special Commission (Unscom) officials. Iraq has been blocking inspections of the presidential sites--charging that Unscom is dominated by, and spies for, the U.S. and Britain.

This and other aspects of the deal made by Kofi Annan are controversial among some U.S. ruling class forces. Top Republican Senator Trent Lott said, "The Secretary General is calling the shots. The United States is not." These forces worry that other powers, especially Russia and France, will be able to work through the UN to push their own agendas in Iraq--and restrict the U.S.'s ability to "call the shots."

But Clinton focused on the fact that the agreement requires Iraq to give the inspection teams "immediate unconditional and unrestricted access" to all military, government, scientific and production sites. He threatened that if the inspection teams are blocked this time, "There will be serious consequences"--meaning military action. The U.S. announced that the huge military deployment built up over the past several weeks will be maintained in place in the Gulf. And the New York Times reported (2/26/98) that the CIA is working on a plan for a major covert operation of sabotage and destabilization aimed at overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Imperialists Working on Two Tracks

In the weeks leading up to the February 22 agreement, the U.S. ruling class found themselves in some difficulty as they prepared for a military assault on Iraq. Among the "coalition" that joined in the 1991 Gulf War, only Britain and Kuwait openly backed a new war against Iraq. Russia and France actively opposed military action and pushed for easing the economic sanctions on Iraq--a sign of competing interests between the major powers over Iraq and the control of Persian Gulf oil.

The Clinton administration also had problems gathering support among the pro-U.S. regimes in the Gulf and the Middle East. In 1991 most of these regimes joined in the war against Iraq. But today the conditions are different. Iraq has not sent troops into another Arab country, and there is widespread sympathy among the masses in the region for the Iraqi people who are suffering from years of sanctions. Meanwhile, the U.S.-sponsored "peace process" has not led to any basic changes in the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel. Egypt's Mubarak and other reactionary rulers in the region were deeply worried that another U.S. attack on Iraq would touch off an explosion of mass anger and opposition--directed at the U.S. as well as the local governments.

And the whole world was watching when protesters in Columbus, Ohio turned the tables on Secretary of State Albright and two other top Clinton administration officials as they tried to make a case for bombing Iraq. There was also much unease within the U.S. bourgeoisie about Clinton's plan for bombing Iraq. They feared that U.S. standing and credibility would suffer if Saddam Hussein remained in power after the bombing.

Despite these problems, the Clinton administration made it clear it was ready to order a military strike on Iraq if necessary. But the U.S. policymakers were also working on another track--using the threat of massive military force to make the Iraqi government blink and accept U.S. demands.

The New York Times reported (2/25/98) that U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with Kofi Annan on February 15, a few days before he travelled to Iraq. According to the Times, Albright handed Annan a secret document spelling out the U.S. "red lines" for his mission. Annan was given instructions on what he could and could not negotiate in Baghdad--any agreement not meeting those requirements would be vetoed by the U.S. As the Times put it, the "fingerprints" on the deal that Annan reached with the Iraqi government "belong to Albright."

The Clinton administration is apparently calculating that this agreement will in the end enable the U.S. imperialists to achieve their goal of toppling Saddam Hussein and tightening their grip on Iraq. They think that by making the Iraqi government back down and accept U.S. demands around the inspection teams, Hussein's standing within Iraq's ruling circles would be diminished. This, combined with the continuing pressure of economic sanctions and perhaps CIA-backed sabotage, could prod forces in the Iraqi military to carry out a coup--and Hussein would be replaced with a more obedient set of rulers, without the risk of mass unrest in Iraq. At least this is how some in the U.S. power structure hope things will turn out.

The policymakers in Washington may also figure that the agreement will provide a better justification for war if the U.S. decides to launch military action against Iraq at some later point. Clinton said that the UN must quickly "test and verify" the agreement. If the Iraqi regime balks at letting the inspection teams into some highly sensitive sites, the U.S. government might argue that it had already "gone the last mile to avoid war"--and that there was "no choice" but to attack Iraq in order to punish Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. and other powers are now hammering out the details of the inspection procedures under the new agreement--and the various imperialists will try to push their own agendas and goals in this process. The French government has already said that it would not automatically support a military action if Iraq broke the terms of the agreement. Russia is pushing for an early end to the sanctions--while the U.S. made sure that the new agreement did not include a timetable for an end to the sanctions. Both the French and Russian imperialists have large economic interests in Iraq, and they want to increase their influence in the Gulf at the expense of the U.S.

The U.S. Can Do NO Good in Iraq

It is important for people to keep vigilant about the U.S. moves in the Gulf. The threat of a U.S. military assault still hangs over the heads of the Iraqi people. The U.S. is sure to use the weapons inspections once again to try to provoke Saddam Hussein--and to spy on key government and military areas.

And the economic sanctions against Iraq are still in place, causing dire shortages of food, medicine and other essential materials. Widespread malnutrition and disease hit the children the hardest. According to UNICEF, almost 5,000 children are dying in Iraq each month as a result of the effect of the sanctions.

The U.S. demand for "unconditional and unrestricted access" by weapons inspectors is outrageous and unjust. These inspections are aimed at further undermining Iraq's status as a sovereign country. And the Unscom inspection teams are controlled by the U.S. and Britain, who have made no secret of their desire to "get rid" of the current head of the Iraqi government.

The U.S. claims that these intrusive inspections are necessary because Iraq is a "repeat offender" and poses great danger to the world with "weapons of mass destruction." But when ordinary people around the world hear the words "weapons of mass destruction," they think of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whole Vietnamese villages burned down by napalm, and the 200,000 Iraqis who died in the Gulf War bombings. If anybody should be forced to open up their military and government secrets to international inspection teams, shouldn't it be this imperialist repeat offender? (See last week's RW for more on the question of "weapons of mass destruction" and other U.S. lies of the war.)

At his press conference on the UN-Iraq deal, Clinton said, "We care a lot about the people of Iraq." This is a gross lie--coming from the top representative of a ruling class that has caused immense death and suffering for the Iraqi people. The U.S. moves in Iraq are not about "protecting the world from dangers of biological and chemical weapons." These moves are about tightening the grip on Persian Gulf oil, which is essential for the economies of many countries around the world. They are about strengthening U.S. status as an imperialist superpower by beating up on a small Third World country. People around the world--including here in the U.S.--have no interest whatsoever in supporting these U.S. goals in Iraq.

The U.S. imperialists can do NO good in Iraq--whether they bomb again, or are able to bully and dominate through "diplomacy" backed by weapons of mass destruction.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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