We have seen the celebrations of the western powers at the yes vote in the referendum on the new Iraqi constitution. A constitution that is designed to break up the national unity of Iraq, that attempts to shift the struggle from being anti-USA to interethnic, that allows Bush to watch the spectacle of the Iraqis fighting it out among each other while the multinationals take away all their wealth, is obviously hailed as a great victory for democracy. But hardly a day of celebrations has gone by and the “rosiest” of dreams have been shattered by the real situation on the ground. In October the number of US casualties was the highest since January (during the so-called democratic elections), and have now gone well over the figure of 2000 and a new front has opened up along the Syrian border.
The majority of “yes” votes (78%) in favour of the “American constitution” turns out to be a small minority. Iraq has 26 million inhabitants, of whom 19 million have the right to vote. Only 15 million of these registered to vote in the referendum, and of these only 9 million actually bothered to vote, and according to official estimates 7 million voted “yes”. That means that only 36% of those who had a right to vote voted for the constitution, i.e. a small minority.
These figures might be considered acceptable in any normal election, but the situation in Iraq is far from being normal.
In the months of September and October US troops launched three offensives in the province of Anbar, from Ramadi up to the Syrian border, during which 8 of the 12 bridges on the Euphrates were destroyed. The excuse was that they were hunting down Al-Qaeda terrorists. In reality the purpose of the offensives was to weaken one of the areas (with a Sunni majority) where resistance against the occupation is strongest and to stop any movement that is not controlled by US troops. In the battles of Tal Afar and Al Quaim this “hunting down terrorists” involved house-to-house raids, mass murder, of mainly women and children. We can easily imagine what has really happened in these towns when we take into account the latest revelations about the massacres that took place at Fallujah last November: the use of unconventional chemical weapons, napalm, white phosphorous that literally burned the whole town to a cinder.
This region boycotted the January elections and this time round only 30% turned out to vote. To vote in these conditions was a heroic act considering the conditions. The use of cars to get to the polling stations was prohibited. Often the polling stations would be closed, as the ballot papers had not been delivered. Those polling stations that did manage to open were guarded by US troops and were run by those parties that supported the constitution and who insulted or manhandled anyone was for a “No” vote.
In spite of all this, the government took 10 days to count the votes and doctor the results according to its own desires. To invalidate the constitution a straight majority of “No” votes was necessary, or in at least three regions out of eighteen the “No” had to be two-thirds of the votes. In the Anbar region (where Fallujah and Ramadi are situated) and in Salaheddin (whose capital is Tikrit) the “No” vote achieved 96.9% and 81.75% respectively, and in the Mosul region the government was forced order several recounts and in the end the “No” achieved 55%, thus only 11 percent short of the necessary two-thirds.
Divide and Rule
It is therefore comes as no surprise that there has been escalation of violence in these last few weeks. In spite of all the talk of an “exit strategy”, the number of US troops has gone up from 138,000 to 152,000, an inevitable development considering the Divide and Rule policy promoted by the Americans.
The main aim of the occupying forces is no longer to gain control of Iraq, as this is proving an impossible task. The aim now is to divide the country pitting the different ethnic groups one against the other, using any means necessary. Let us not forget the provocation orchestrated in September. Just after there had been the announcement of a possible agreement between the Sunni and Shi’ite Moqtada al-Sadr militias, there was a terrorist attack on a Shi’ite religious procession which killed at least one thousand people. It seems that later the moderate Shi’ites of Al-Sistani succeeded in softening the position of the al-Sadr militias and even integrating Moqtada al-Sadr into al-Sistani’s moderate party. What is evident is that al-Sadr remained silent during the anti-referendum campaign. Future developments will show whether such a truce will hold.
What is clear is that the scarecrow –i.e. al-Qaeda and its terrible adventurist leader al-Zarqawi that the puppet Iraqi government and the USA have erected and are trying to keep on its feet is in serious difficulty.
These forces have only played a very marginal role in the resistance. And it is precisely when the resistance, in its efforts to win the support of the best part of the Iraqi people, raises the question of national unity and the need to overcome ethnic divisions and all attempts to "Lebanonise" Iraq, that these groups are facing a major crisis. It seems that a struggle has erupted within al-Qaeda, because its position of jihad and its anti-Shi’ite outbursts are objectively playing into the hands of the Americans, something which does not allow it win much sympathy.
Syria is in the firing line
The more determined the resistance is in its struggles, the more brutal will the occupation prove to be. It is not by chance that a new front has opened up on the Syrian border. According to the New York Times fighting has already started on Syrian territory. Syria is the only country in the region that is still demanding the withdrawal of Israel from the 1967 occupied territories. It is the only country that is still fighting jihad terrorism. And it is the only country that still defends the right of the Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese peoples to armed resistance. In spite of the ambiguous way in which Syria has defended this right, it nonetheless remains a power within the region that has not bowed down before US imperialism and the other western powers. If Bush wants to break the back of the Iraqi resistance it must also attack Syria. This aggression is developing on different levels, with military skirmishes along its border with Iraq and on the diplomatic front, involving the UN and especially France, an international campaign to isolate Syria along the now well-known lines of the “weapons of mass destruction” used against Saddam Hussein.
Now the US is accusing the Syrian government of being directly responsible for the assassination of Hariri, the ex-premier of Lebanon, on February 14. Syria has obviously denied any responsibility and has declared that is prepared to fully cooperate with the international inquiry. This is not the place for a detailed analysis of this Lebanese affair [see US hands off Syria for a more detailed account]. Suffice it to say that with the death of Hariri the 29-year Syrian occupation of Lebanon came to an end. Since then pro-American tendencies within the Lebanon have been strengthened, so much so that after thirty years Lebanese military operations against the Palestinians in southern Lebanon have started up again, leading to renewed fears among the Lebanese people of civil war. This brief outline of events raises serious doubts about whether Syria had any interest in fomenting all this, seeing that it has all been to its own disadvantage.
At the centre of all this is a weak Syrian government that has partially given in to the demands of the IMF and the USA on questions such as privatisations and deals with western multinationals. But even this is considered insufficient, and in the present context willingness to compromise only invites more aggression. The USA have accused the head of Syria’s secret services of being behind the assassination and are consciously working to destabilise the country and impose a puppet government. For now the UN has voted a resolution in which direct military threats are not mentioned, but it is clear that the game has begun.
If we look around at the rest of the Middle East we see how the American policeman has utterly failed. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no matter how much the media tries to prettify it telling us tales about the withdrawal from Gaza, is not solved at all, as we have seen with the bombings of the Gaza Strip, something not witnessed since 1973. We have also seen an increase of 15% in the number of settlements on the West Bank, the abandoning of any idea of reuniting the two territories and a crisis within the PA. The new Iranian government, three months into office has already had to change half its ministers because of the deep economic and social crisis affecting the country and it has been forced to launch a demagogic, nationalist and anti-Semitic propaganda campaign in an attempt to hold on to a minimum of popular support. Add to this the crisis in Saudi Arabia and the situation in Egypt where “democratic” elections have recently been held in a climate of growing internal conflict.
The Pax americana is wallowing in blood, the very same blood that it is spilling with its own hands.
November 15, 2005