Despite the murmurings over the past months about reducing troop levels, the US has announced that it will be increasing the number of its troops deployed in Iraq to 135,000. As the Financial Times of 29 July pointed out, “the rise will prompt fears that the US is becoming increasingly bogged down in an unwinnable conflict”.
Three years of bombing, murder, collective punishment, assassinations, rape, corruption, bribery and theft have not won the occupying forces control over the country, and have only served to boost the Iraqi resistance.
US and British government ministers and military commanders promised in 2003 that the campaign in Iraq would be a short, sharp display of ‘shock and awe’ that would result in Iraqi people living the good life on the basis of our benevolent oil companies ‘assisting’ them to ‘maximise the possibilities’ offered by Iraq’s enormous untapped oil reserves. Three years later and the troop numbers are still increasing, and the occupying forces and their Iraqi henchmen in the Iraqi army, police force and government, are paying for their behaviour with their lives.
At the time of writing, at least 2,580 US soldiers and 115 British soldiers have been killed in the conflict, resulting in considerable political fallout in the imperialist heartlands. According to the Financial Times of 30 July, Tony Blair’s popularity has dropped to an all-time low as a result of his handling of Iraq and now Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the ‘coalition’ of countries engineered by Britain and the US to give an international flavour to the occupation has completely collapsed, with Japan and Slovakia being the latest countries to withdraw troops, joining Spain, Holland, Poland, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Honduras in the ex-occupation club.
The occupiers are running the very serious risk of being driven out of Iraq altogether by the resistance forces. And yet the US and Britain still cannot give up the dream of all that oil.
Capture of Iraq’s oil – a failed mission
A Reuters article of 2 August showed some optimism on the part of the Iraqi Oil Ministry that the imperialist plunder of Iraq’s oil would be allowed to proceed unhindered in the not-too-distant future:
“‘I think within two months we will begin talking to the companies and negotiate and decide the fields which need to be developed,’ Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters in an interview.
“Shahristani said he had met officials from the major oil companies, American and European, during a visit to Washington with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last week.
“‘We talked about Iraq’s vision and plans. The companies were happy. In return the companies expressed their readiness to start working immediately,’ he said.
“‘They (the companies) told us that the security situation does not stop them from working here because they work in difficult conditions in other countries,’ he added.
“‘Some companies said they were ready to work before the hydrocarbon law is approved.’” (‘Iraq to talk with big oil companies in 2 months’)
However, despite the rather sickening willingness of the Oil Ministry to allow Iraq’s natural resources to be ‘liberated’ from Iraq, the resistance has somewhat different ideas. Oil pipelines have consistently and very successfully been sabotaged since the very beginning of the invasion. In spite of the best efforts of the imperialists to make the whole adventure in Iraq worth their while, oil production is currently running at under half its pre-invasion level.
An article from AP Worldstream on 27 July exposed some of the difficulties that the occupiers are facing in their pursuit of black gold:
“Pipelines carrying crude oil through Iraq’s unguarded desert suddenly collapse after weeks without disruption – a single bullet puncturing a line, halting Iraq’s main source of revenue …
“Since resuming petroleum exports after the US invasion in 2003, Iraq has struggled for lasting security of its pipelines and refineries. It sits atop the world’s third-largest reserves, but saboteurs routinely disrupt the 4,300-mile 6,919-kilometer system of pipelines.
“For weeks in June, Iraq exported millions of barrels to Turkey. But during the second week of July, flow to the country’s largest refinery in Beiji stopped when pipelines were attacked. Such topsy-turvy progress is symbolic of the delicate balance between oil and security.
“More than 250 Oil Ministry officials, workers and security guards have been assassinated since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, according to the ministry.
“During a recent visit to Baghdad, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said frequent attacks on oil workers and infrastructure have kept Iraq from moving forward. International investors won’t come, and Iraq continues to struggle, he said.” (‘At crossroads in Iraq, U.S. faces the question: what to do about the oil?’ by Ryan Lenz)
The sabotage of the oil pipelines by resistance forces is a little-reported but highly effective means of breaking the will of the invaders and destroying the unity of the British and US ruling classes. Many of the members of the bourgeoisie who were privately promised that the colonisation of Iraq would result in reduced oil prices and enhanced fuel security must now be kicking themselves for believing the deluded claims of the ‘hawks’.
The resistance continues
Although the imperialist press has been studiously avoiding mention of attacks by the Iraqi resistance (it suits imperialist interests far better to give attention to sectarian attacks), these have been continuing at a steady rate.
In the last week of July alone, the following incidents (collated from reports by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, police and army), were reported by Reuters AlertNet:
– Four US marines were killed in action in Anbar province;
– Eleven people, including two policemen, were wounded when a car driven by a suicide bomber exploded near a US military patrol in Mosul;
– Gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at two fuel trucks on the main road between Kirkuk and Baghdad;
– Gunmen wounded four people working for a private Iraqi company that deals with the US military near the town of Daquq;
– A policeman was killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the Zayouna district of the capital;
– Gunmen killed a policeman in a drive-by shooting in south-western Baghdad;
– Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a joint Iraqi-US patrol in Mosul;
– Gunmen killed a police officer while he headed to work in the town of Ishaqi, 100km (60 miles) north of Baghdad;
– Gunmen killed Fakhri Salman, a brigadier in the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS).
Since these incidents are reported by various stooge Iraqi bodies, we are unable to vouch for the details, as these bodies no doubt add their own spin to the reports (for example, we are reliably informed that suicide bombings by resistance groups are extremely rare, since these groups have other means of combat at their disposal).
However, the reader can see that the Iraqi resistance is maintaining the pressure against the occupying forces and their stooges in the Iraqi government, army and police.
A central part of the occupiers’ plans in Iraq has been to try to incite sectarian violence between shia and sunni muslims, in the hope that this will:
i) break the popular united front against the occupation;
ii) confer legitimacy upon the sustained imperialist occupation of Iraq (ie, a justification for maintaining troops whose only other possible purpose in remaining in Iraq is to get control of the oil); and
iii) prepare the ground for the division of Iraq into smaller, more manageable countries.
To this end, the occupiers have been heavily reliant upon their stooges in the Iraqi government and various sectarian militia groups.
However, there is good reason to think that these groups are becoming increasingly unwilling to apply themselves to the demands of the occupiers, particularly in light of the newly-emerged anti-imperialist militancy of the (predominantly shia) Iranian government and the heroic resistance being waged by the (again predominantly shia) Lebanese resistance against the despicable Israeli invasion.
David Gardner, writing in the Financial Times of 27 July, writes that “the newly empowered Iraqi shia majority – which is just about preventing the total meltdown of the US project – is inflamed by Israel’s US-licensed destruction of shia Lebanon. Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, modelled on Hizbollah, which fought alongside it against US troops at the 2004 siege of Najaf, is itching to launch a new uprising.” (‘The Fires of the Middle East cannot be contained’)
Another FT article of 27 July cites Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, as saying: “Lebanon is adversely affecting the situation in Iraq – it will lead to extremism, anti-Americanism. It is in everybody’s interest to contain it.”
According to The Guardian of 23 July, “all analysts agree Iran has gained a huge amount of influence – ‘soft’ power – by saying openly what the majority, Arabs and Persians, shia and sunni, in the Middle Eastern ‘street’ say privately. ‘The [Iranian] discourse is pan-Islamist and plays the chord of anti-imperialism, Arab nationalism and anti-zionism,’ said Olivier Roy, the director of the National Scientific Research Centre in Paris.”
Even Iraq’s ‘prime minister’, Nouri al-Maliki, in an attempt to gain a modicum of credibility amongst Iraqis, has condemned Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. An Associated Press journalist commented that “anger over the Israeli offensive has united shiites and sunnis at a time of sectarian divisions here”.
The Iraqi government has even donated $35m to Lebanon to ease the humanitarian crisis, with Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, saying that Iraq “wanted to show support for Lebanon’s government and concern for its citizens, hundreds of whom have been killed in the bombing, mainly civilians”. (‘Iraq donates US$35 million to Lebanon’, AP Worldstream, 26 July 2006)
Many of the shia groups that now dominate the Iraqi puppet government and the sectarian militias were initially supportive of the US invasion, as Saddam Hussein’s government had very little time for religious extremism. In the three years since the beginning of the occupation, they have, for the most part, been loyal to their imperialist masters. However, changing circumstances have a peculiar habit of throwing up unexpected results, and we should not be surprised if some of those Iraqis who have up till now played the role of willing puppets of imperialism come to play an increasingly anti-imperialist role.
The farce that is the trial of Saddam Hussein continues to make a mockery of established legal process, proving that it is nothing more than a propaganda exercise for the occupiers.
The former president’s defence team has been boycotting the trial for some weeks, in protest at the bias of the judge, the defence not being allowed to put its case, and the lack of appropriate security arrangements for the defence team (three members of the team have been assassinated since the trial started).
The position of the defence team has been supported by the Arab Lawyers Union and most international legal organisations. However, their entreaties have been consistently ignored by the judge.
In support of his defence team’s demands that the norms of a fair trial be observed and that the lawyers’ security be guaranteed, Saddam went on a hunger strike, which lasted for 17 days, until US military officers force fed him. He was then dragged into court against his will, only to be represented by court-appointed defence lawyers who all but admitted his guilt.
Nonetheless, Saddam was able to use the court appearance to make a number of defiant statements for the benefit of the Iraqi resistance:
“I am sure that you hear the sounds of weapons [of armed attacks] just as we hear them, though we are in jail. This is the sound of the people. Let us see how the Americans will face the people.”
Replying to a question “whether he is instigating murder”, Saddam said: “I am not calling for murder of Iraqis. I am calling for fighting America. I am calling for driving the invaders out.”
“Listen. If you are trying to intimidate me, not even a thousand people like you can intimidate an inch of my body … I am calling for kicking the damned invaders out.”
“I call for the invaders to be hunted down and I call for a national truce, brotherhood and tolerance between Iraqis,”
“The invaders only understand the language of the gun. I am in prison but the knights outside will liberate the country.”
Saddam Hussein is to be congratulated for standing firm in the face of torture, and for using the kangaroo court to the advantage of the Iraqi resistance, taking every opportunity to expose not only the machinations of the court but also the occupation in general.
It is almost inevitable that Saddam will be sentenced to the death penalty, as this is the wish of the US and British forces who set the trial up. However, this will lessen the will of the resistance not one bit; on the contrary, the judicial murder of Iraq’s legitimate president by colonial occupiers will only serve to inflame the resistance forces still more.