Iraq - Security Council gives the green light to US aggression

Resolution 1441 has given the green light to the warmongers in Washington and London. It was voted unanimously by the 15 members of the council, including Syria, the only Arab member. This scandalous result at least serves to expose a lot of things, starting with the UN itself. What all this shows yet again is the completely reactionary nature of the dis-United Nations, and the hopelessly utopian attitude of those "Lefts" and pacifists who always appeal to the UN to "defend peace".

What the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq says:

Iraq has until November 15 to accept its terms and pledge to comply.

It has until December 8 to provide weapons inspectors and the Security Council with a complete declaration of all aspects of its chemical, biological and nuclear programmes.

Weapons inspectors have until December 23 to resume their work in Iraq.

Weapons inspectors are to report to the Security Council 60 days after the start of their work. If inspectors resume their work on December 23, the latest they would be able to report to the council would be February 21, 2003.

Weapons inspectors, however, are to immediately report any Iraqi interference with their work, any failure by Iraq to comply with disarmament obligations, and any false statements or omissions in its declaration.

Upon receipt of such a report from inspectors, the Security Council will immediately convene to consider the situation and the need for full compliance in order to restore international peace and security.

The UN stands exposed

Resolution 1441 has given the green light to the warmongers in Washington and London. It was voted unanimously by the 15 members of the council, including Syria, the only Arab member. This scandalous result at least serves to expose a lot of things, starting with the UN itself.

What all this shows yet again is the completely reactionary nature of the dis-United Nations, and the hopelessly utopian attitude of those "Lefts" and pacifists who always appeal to the UN to "defend peace". Long ago Lenin poured scorn on those who appealed to the League of Nations to "stop war". He described it as "that thieves' kitchen". But the UN is not one whit better than the League of Nations.

The UN, as we have repeated many times, is not a neutral arbiter, but only a forum of capitalist powers that can sometimes reach a deal over secondary matters, but on fundamental questions cannot alter anything. The contrast between the supine inactivity of the UN in relation to Palestine and its open defence of the US's aggression against Iraq is glaringly obvious.

Where the UN has intervened, as in Korea and the Congo, it has played an openly counterrevolutionary role. It is therefore completely impermissible for socialists to have any illusions in the UN or to appeal to it under any circumstances. Those who have been beating the drum for the involvement of the UN in recent months have now got what they asked for. The UN has voted for a resolution that paves the way for aggressive military action against Iraq and provides the USA with a convenient excuse for future aggression.

Russia and France

"Resolutely opposed" to a war in the region, and having a right of veto in the council, Russia, China and France said "yes" to the text, just as the United States and Britain did. The French and Russians, having made a lot of noise, have done an about-turn and backed the resolution. They have doubtless been offered some nice little concessions under the table.

These events are entirely in line with what we stated in previous articles: "While preparing for unilateral military action, the Bush administration, with an eye to manipulating world public opinion, is also pressing for a new UN resolution, which will state that Iraq is in material breach of international law, and implicitly threaten force. The aim of all these manoeuvres is not to prevent war, as some people foolishly imagine, but only to provide a "legal" smokescreen to cover the nakedness of the US aggression against Iraq." (Diplomacy prepares the way for war, by Alan Woods, September 25, 2002)

And again: "The European allies can easily be dealt with by making a few formal 'concessions', such as going to the UN, which Bush now says he will do. He will consult the permanent members of the Security Council, he says. It now seems that China may abstain (Beijing's interests are not directly involved). No doubt the Americans have also offered them something in return for their complicity. The biggest problem was the danger of a Russian veto in the Security Council. But every problem has a solution! (…) President Putin is fortunately a Man of Principle, and as such, will only sell himself for a suitably large quantity of dollars. But in the end, he is a 'man one can talk to'." (The first shots in the war against Iraq, by Alan Woods, September 6, 2002

Thus the US has achieved unanimity on the UN Security Council. This leaves the Iraqis completely isolated. The warmongers in Washington and London were dancing with joy.

On the other hand, what could they do if Bush was going to invade anyway? Unilateral action by the USA would have exposed the complete impotence of the Security Council and called the bluff of Paris and Moscow. Faced with a fait accompli, the Russians have cut a deal with Washington to give their backing to the invasion of Iraq in exchange for contracts, money and a bit of "understanding" for their little Chechen problem. (Remember how Blair rushed to support Putin's heavy-handed actions over the Moscow hostages?)

The French are a bit more complicated. They want to push their own role in the world and have interests in Iraq that do not fit in with America's plans. But they also decided that discretion is the better part of valour. "The ball is in Saddam Hussein's court", declared the French Foreign Affairs Minister Dominique de Villepin: "war or peace". We wonder what those people who have been saying, "No war without the backing of the UN" will say now? Perhaps they will say: "But the resolution does not speak of military action, only inspection and disarmament!" Such an argument is naïve in the extreme.

It is clear that there are still deep splits and contradictions between the USA, France and Russia, who are all jockeying for position on the world stage and particularly in the Middle East. Already they are squabbling over the precise mandate given by the Security Council to the effort to disarm Saddam.

Other members of the Security Council - notably Russia - hastened to declare that Resolution 1441 had averted the threat of a US-led war against Iraq. But that is just empty words. Senior US have officials made it clear that the resolution gave Washington a legal basis to go to war unilaterally if the Security Council could not agree on how to respond to further violations by Baghdad. The weapons inspectors will be used to provoke Iraq and engineer a clash that will immediately be used as a pretext for the commencement of hostilities.

Hypocrisy of Bush and Blair

Blair and Bush cannot conceal their glee at the prospect of war against Saddam, which, according to the open admissions by senior British and US officials, both privately regard as inevitable. The ink was not dry on the UN resolution than the terrible twins began a campaign on the lines that Saddam could not be trusted. The Observer comments: "British sources believe that although he will almost certainly 'agree' to the UN resolution, the advice that he is receiving from both pragmatists and hardliners within his regime are ultimately aimed at hiding his programmes for weapons of mass destruction from UN scrutiny."

Hours after it was passed by a unanimous vote Bush was already admonishing the Security Council not to "lapse into unproductive debates over whether specific instances of Iraqi non-compliance are serious". This means in plain English: "Listen up, you guys. We all know what's what around here. I mean to get rid of Saddam Hussein and take over Iraq, with or without your permission. All I need now is a little excuse, and don't try to get round it. This is all the consultation you folks are going to get, so from now on consider yourselves consulted and keep out of my way."

With a majority in Congress under his belt, George W. is not in a mood to listen to the views of the General Assembly. And the most hawkish members of the administration - including Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - are even less inclined to do so. They are urging the President to act at the first sign of Iraqi non-compliance, rather than wait months while Saddam spins out an inspections crisis through the winter. Iraq is expected to give its formal reply to the resolution within the next few days. Saddam will probably agree to accept the new resolution. But the Bush clique that runs the USA are gambling that Saddam will fail to deliver a complete inventory of his programmes for weapons of mass destruction. If he does they want an immediate attack.

Betrayal of the Syrians

Iraq's Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, has praised the Security Council for 'thwarting' American attempts to use it as a cover to attack Iraq. But this is just more diplomatic fencing. Iraq knows who is in command of the situation. And so does the Security Council. The Washington Post yesterday put the question very frankly: "The unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council yesterday was an important achievement for President Bush. It aligns the world behind the Bush administration's campaign and should help ensure that any US military action wins broad international support." (my emphasis)

This is absolutely correct. The real meaning of this resolution is not at all that it makes military action less likely, but quite the contrary. It lines up the UN ("world public opinion") unanimously on the side of US imperialism and its aggressive campaign against Iraq. Whoever does not see this must be either a fool or a rogue. Yet there are, incredibly, some who claim not to see it.

Particularly disgusting was the role of the Syrians on the Security Council. They have quite clearly been "made an offer they could not refuse" by Washington to make them vote for the resolution. The regime in Damascus (which Washington had previously put on its list of "rogue states") is trying to accommodate itself to the USA. Yesterday Syria's Sana News Agency tried to find some justification for its capitulation in the UN: "Voting with the resolution in the Security Council will keep the region away from premeditated designs of a military strike on Iraq that would benefit Israel and enemies of the Arab nation. Syria worked alongside friends in the Security Council to insert fundamental changes to the American-British draft resolution to cut off the path of the war drums in these capitals by taking out what was vague in the draft resolution."

This is a joke in extremely bad taste. Whatever (unspecified) changes the Syrians managed to introduce into the resolution, it was still a capitulation to vote for the position of US imperialism. The fact that Syria, the only Arab state on the Security Council, did not even abstain will have given a boost to the morale and confidence of the imperialists and further isolated and discouraged the Iraqis. Many Arabs will say: Syria was supposed to be the most militant Arab state, but they do not support Iraq. What chance do we have? This was a real stab in the back.

Egypt's al-Jumhuriya gave a more accurate assessment: "Unfortunately, America has succeeded, as expected and as it planned, in winning the support of those opposed [to an Iraq resolution]. Now everyone is repeating that the ball is in Iraq's court. Therefore, if it wants safety it must implement the ‘impossible' clauses. Otherwise, it is annihilation and extermination of its children, elderly, women and youths."

Jordan's al-Dustur gave voice to the fright of the shaky pro-western regime of that country and all the other pro-US stooges who are now quaking in their shoes: "We hope the new resolution is implemented in order to spare Iraq and its people, as well as the region and its peoples, the danger of a catastrophic war which, if it breaks out, God forbid, would destroy all."

Yes, they are really frightened that a war in Iraq could light the fuse that would bring the masses onto the streets of Amman and Cairo and (God forbid) lead to the overthrow of these rotten and corrupt regimes. Therefore they hope there will be no war, and, if there is one, that it will short and that Jordan will (if God wills) get a bite of the bones afterwards…

How instructive it is to follow the intricacies of international diplomacy and to discover the manoeuvres and interests that lie behind all the high-sounding phrases!

A squeak in the Cabinet

While a great tragedy was unfolding on the world stage, a little farce appears to have begun in the midst of Tony Blair's Cabinet. According to yesterday's papers, there is now "growing tension in the Cabinet over whether the United Nations should have the final say on military action against Iraq". It seems that Clare Short, the Minister for Overseas Development has demanded that any force used against Saddam Hussein had to be sanctioned by - the Security Council.

Clare Short appeared to be at odds with the Downing Street line when she said that it was "essential" that the Iraqi dictator was dealt with through the UN. "I am, and have been - I have publicly said on many occasions - of the view that it is essential to keep the international community together and to operate through the United Nations," she said. At the same time, to introduce a bit of balance into things, she urged Saddam to co-operate with chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix. But Tony ("Blessed be the Peacemakers") Blair has made it quite clear that any breach by Saddam could lead to immediate military action without a fresh Security Council resolution. Can there be anything clearer than this?

Moreover, one might ask what more Clare Short wants. She asked for the UN to intervene, and it has done so. She wanted a resolution to be approved in the Security Council, and she has got what she wanted. Another resolution, maybe? But the present resolution has already made it clear for all those with eyes to see and ears to hear that the UN is entirely in the pocket of the USA and will do just about anything it asks. And considering who pays the bills of that worthy institution, that is perfectly natural.

As if to answer Ms. Short in advance, Britain's ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said yesterday: "The UK will give the Security Council every chance to produce a resolution that deals with any problem that arises," he said. "But if there is a funk or a fudge, then we are not going to allow Iraq to escape disarmament because the Security Council can't handle it. That's the point." Now that's plain speaking for you!

The rush to war

George Bush is wasting no time. Immediately after getting the endorsement of the UN for tougher action against Iraq he has accelerated planning for a massive military attack against Baghdad. The excuse is now that Washington fears that Saddam Hussein will defy last Friday's UN resolution commanding him to disarm.

Well before the Security Council's vote on Friday to disarm Iraq, it emerges, Bush had approved a plan for the removal from power of Saddam Hussein. According to US sources, quoted in yesterday's New York Times, Bush and his senior officials have approved an outline of a plan involving a land attack on Iraq by upwards of 200,000 troops, up to 20,000 of them British. The British troops are likely to get provisional deployment orders next week. The latest reports indicate that 50,000 troops have already been stationed in the region.

The Observer reported yesterday: "The plan envisages four US divisions plus one UK armoured division and planners are working around two attack dates, one for early January and a second for late February. The British force will include the 7th Armoured Brigade - the Desert Rats - and up to 200 Challenger tanks, as well as elements of the SAS."

Predictably the Americans want to start, as usual, with a devastating bombing campaign to "soften up" (i.e., pulverise) Iraqi air defences, communications and headquarters before sending in American and allied forces to establish footholds within Iraq, as part of a campaign that US planners hope will "isolate" the leadership within rapidly tightening pockets.

The Observer continues: "Military commanders believe that the recent sharp increase in bombing of Iraqi targets - which has seen missions in the northern and southern no fly zones increase by upwards of 40 per cent - has already softened up anti-aircraft and anti-shipping missile facilities and command posts to the degree that troops could quickly force their way deep into Iraq."

We already pointed out some time ago that the recent bombing of Iraqi targets represented the first shots in the war against Iraq. Now this has been confirmed. All the fussing about the UN was merely a smokescreen behind which Washington has been pressing on with its military preparations for invasion.

Capitalism means war

Lenin explained long ago that capitalism means war. In the present epoch of capitalist decline this is truer than when it was first written. The global crisis of capitalism expresses itself as general instability, economic, political and military. Wars cannot be prevented by the UN or by pacifist appeals for peace. War can only be prevented by mass action and by the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and capitalism.

Despite all the carefully laid schemes of the Pentagon, this conflict can yet produce many surprises. The US military planners want the war to be over quickly. They are banking on the quick capture of land, which would be used as bases to permit the penetration of American forces deeper into the country. The reason for this approach is self-evident. The US is under pressure from the neighbouring countries, including Saudi Arabia to get this over quickly and with the minimum of civilian targets. The massing of large numbers of US troops in the region is causing deep alarm in the pro-western Arab regimes, which fear the reaction of the masses.

White House and State Department officials are discussing what one senior official called a "seamless transition" from attack to a military occupation of parts of the country. They seem very confident - probably over-confident. But the bloody equation of war is full of imponderables, and nobody can predict the outcome with certainty.

It is impossible to judge beforehand the morale of the Iraqi army and the masses. Iraq is now quite alone. One by one all her "friends" on the international arena have abandoned her to her fate. The Syrian betrayal was only the latest blow. Nor is it clear how far the Iraqi people will be prepared to fight for the present regime.

On the other side of the equation, the Iraqis will be fighting a defensive war, not in Kuwait but in their own country. There is a hatred of American imperialism that can be expressed in a fighting spirit that may give the invaders some disagreeable surprises. Nor will it be a simple matter to occupy a country like Iraq.

The question of morale is not all on one side. There is no great enthusiasm in the USA for this war, but rather a state of reluctant acquiescence. Here in Britain there is very little support for it. In most European countries there is open hostility that can grow into a serious anti-war movement in the coming months. The potential for such a movement was clearly shown in Italy on Saturday, November 9, where around one million gathered in Florence to protest against the war.

Even in the USA it will not be so simple as Bush now thinks. If the US army begins to take serious casualties, what mood there is in favour of war will swiftly evaporate. The present electoral successes will then soon turn into their opposite.

One thing, however, is absolutely certain: this war is not in the interests of anyone except the imperialists and the big oil interests that stand behind the White House. Every true socialist, every class conscious worker and trade unionist, every young person who wants to fight for a better world, must join in the most active and militant struggle against this unjust imperialist war.

We must fight against the war, but we must do so with the correct methods, tactics and policies: the tactics of the workers' movement, the policies of socialism and internationalism that links the struggle against world imperialism with the perspective of the socialist transformation of society at home and abroad:

Oppose this criminal war!

Down with imperialism and capitalism!

No war but the class war!

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