It’s now getting close to three years since the American army took control of Iraq, and the country is descending further and further into chaos. More than 120,000 Iraqis killed; 2,000 American soldiers killed and 18,000 wounded; massive destruction of infrastructure, houses and public buildings. Iraq is in one of the worst situations of any country since the Second World War. On top of this, the sharpening of imperialist tensions over Iraq has led the whole of the Middle East into a period of increasing instability. The recent bombings in Amman, Jordan, which had so far avoided this infection, are proof of this.
The spread of chaos in the Middle East
Iraq today is a devastated country, hovering on the brink of civil war. The ‘new’, ‘prosperous’, ‘democratic’ Iraq announced by the Bush administration is in total ruins. Non-stop guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces, more and more horrible atrocities against the civilian population, all this shows that any hope for reconstruction is an illusion. Divisions between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cliques have been violently aggravated, with the whole population caught in the crossfire. Any future Iraqi state will be ravaged by all kinds of dissensions. In the north, Sunni terrorists and former Ba’athists, actively supported by Syria, have carried out numerous attacks on Kurdish interests. In Baghdad and the south, the conflict between Sunni and Shiite predominates. Murder, kidnappings and torture are the daily lot of the population. Last month dozens of Shiites were slaughtered by suicide bombers while praying in their mosques, while the Iraqi state, dominated by Shiites, exacts revenge by setting up torture centres which have nothing to learn from Saddam’s regime.
This situation has whetted the imperialist appetites of Iran and Syria. The latter, which is clearly staking its claim to having a say in the Iraqi melee, has already been serving as a launch pad for Sunni and Ba’athist terrorists. Its eviction from Lebanon will certainly push it towards extending its influence in Iraq.
Iran, currently involved in a stand-off with the US and European states over its nuclear programme, is licking its lips at the prospects opened up by the weakening of Iraq and the strength of the Shiite factions in the new government, especially in the security forces. This is opening the door to Iran gaining a much more powerful place in the Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf and the oil-producing areas. This perspective is leading it to act in a much more aggressive manner towards the great powers, and has strengthened the hand of the most ‘hardline’ and retrograde factions of the Iranian bourgeoisie. Tensions between Iran and Britain have increased as Tehran is increasing its support for attacks on British occupying forces by Shiite militias.
The Amman bombings remind us that no region of the Middle East is going to be spared from the forces of destruction. They are particularly significant because Jordan represents a link between Iraq and the Israel/Palestine conflict. For a long time Jordan acted as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinian organisations, which it hosted until Black September in 1970 when the regime turned on the PLO at the behest of the Americans. Thus another close ally of the US has now been targeted by the terrorists, just like Saudi Arabia which has seen numerous attacks by Al Qaida since the Iraq war.
In this situation, we also have to take into account the various manoeuvres by Sharon, which will result in growing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian groups, and even among the Palestinian groups themselves, especially Hamas and the PLO. Under cover of the withdrawal from Gaza, the Israeli state is actually tightening its grip on the West Bank and preparing to deploy more forces towards Lebanon. Sharon’s decision to leave Likud and form a new party supported by the former Labourite Shimon Peres does not mean that Sharon has been converted into a dove. It simply means that he is a more intelligent warmonger than the extreme right, which is hampered by irrational dogmas about holding on to every last inch of the Holy Land.
Growing difficulties for the USA
In this situation, it’s clear that the US administration is finding it increasingly difficult to justify its continued presence in Iraq. The idea that invading Iraq would be a blow to international terrorism has been discredited by the simple fact that the terrorist wave has grown stronger and stronger, not only in Iraq but right across the world, including Europe. The same goes for the idea of installing peace and democracy in Iraq. Thus the Bush administration is being subjected to mounting criticism not only from its traditional opponents in the ‘international community’, such as France and Germany, but also from within the American bourgeoisie itself – and not only among the Democrats, but even from inside the Republican party. The dramatic fall in Bush’s popularity in the opinion polls, the debates in the Republican-dominated Senate about the need for the US to fix a date for withdrawal and about the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, the emergence of new scandals about the way the administration manipulated the facts about weapons of mass destruction….all this shows the real impasse facing the American bourgeoisie.
What’s more, despite some recent displays of force against rebel strongholds in the north, the US is showing its powerlessness on the ground as well. The White House is caught on the horns of a dilemma:
- the pressure of public opinion about the disastrous situation in Iraq, which is pushing it towards withdrawing as soon as it can
- the threat posed to US interests by withdrawing under the current circumstances, which would not only leave Iraq to sink deeper into the quagmire, but would be seen as a defeat, even a humiliation, for the US, which would have completely failed in its promise to bring peace and democracy to the country.
America’s difficulties are a source of satisfaction to its imperialist rivals, since it legitimises their opposition to the invasion of Iraq and will give them the opportunity to further their own imperialist ambitions, under the pretext of offering their disinterested services. Thus for example we saw France making overtures to Jordan in the wake of the Amman bombings.
Iraq is the true face of capitalism today. It is also a glimpse of the future that the bourgeoisie is preparing for us. Only the struggle against this dying system can offer humanity a different future. Mulan