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In post-election Iraq, it's still resistance v. occupation

Published Feb 17, 2005 11:09 PM

In the first two weeks after the Jan. 30 Iraqi election, 296 people were reportedly killed in battles involving the U.S.-led occupation forces and the puppet Iraqi army on one side and the Iraqi resistance on the other. All evidence points to this struggle continuing as it has for the past 20 months, despite the election.

The U.S. government and its media present the Jan. 30 Iraqi election as if it was an honest poll of the wishes of the people living in Iraq. It is a step to stability and international acceptance of the new Iraqi regime, they say.

Accepting this approach leads to a series of unanswered questions:

How, the day after the vote, could the U.S. authorities say that 8 million Iraqis voted, before there was a count? How did they know this was 57 percent of possible voters, when there has been no census of Iraqis? Why did it take two weeks to count the vote? Why did the Shiite coalition around al-Sistani wind up with only 48 percent of the vote, when early media estimates had showed it with 60 percent? How did the Kurdish parties wind up with as much as 25 percent of the vote?

Mahdi Ibrahim, a prominent member of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the highest Sunni religious authority, has strongly challenged British and U.S. claims that the election was a success, putting the turnout at no more than 30 percent.

These questions are difficult to answer if you accept the U.S. framework. But make a different assumption: namely, the election was an elaborate farce organized by the U.S. occupying forces; the vote totals were decided on beforehand and the voting totals were adjusted to allow the U.S. occupation to continue.

The goal of this farce was to establish an interim regime that gives an appearance of stability and fairness, but which is weak and unable to take steps to end the occupation. This was difficult, as the vast majority of Iraqis want an end to U.S. rule of their country.

Major groupings
in the new puppet assembly

The U.S. puppet ruler, Iyad Allawi, did poorly. Even the adjusted totals gave him less than 15 percent of the vote. Of all the candidates, he was most clearly an occupation puppet.

The largest grouping is an alliance of mostly religious and some secular parties from Iraq's South, gathered around the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, a religious leader of the Shiite community. This grouping, called the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), refused to join the boycott called by secular and Sunni parties in the center of Iraq. It went along with the U.S. election, which many of its voters looked to as a step toward ending the occupation.

First estimates put the UIA at 60 percent of the vote. This would give them a large majority of seats in the National Assembly and a chance to structure a new Constitution. The mass movement supporting the UIA would likely refuse open collaboration with the occupation. For this reason, the U.S. worked to diminish the UIA's role in the government. In addition, Washington suspects links between this grouping and the Iranian regime.

So 60 percent somehow shrank to 48 percent by Feb. 14. More votes than expected turned up instead in the count for major Kurdish parties. These are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader likely to be named president, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Massoud Barzani.

These leaders have been cooperating with the CIA since the 1970s in an attempt to win more power for themselves, in the name of Kurdish autonomy. Since the northern, majority Kurd section of Iraq was virtually separated from the rest of Iraq in the 1990s, they have worked in close alliance with the U.S.

In the early stages of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Turkish government prevented the Pentagon from launching an assault from Turkey. The U.S. turned to cooperation with the Peshmerga, an armed Kurdish group allied with these two parties, to put pressure on Iraq's armies from the north.

Since the occupation began in April 2003, the majority Kurdish region has been the one that suffered least under the occupation troops, and where there has been the least friction between the troops and the population. The Pentagon has even used Peshmerga troops against the Arab population further south. They were the only "Iraqi" forces that joined the U.S. bloody assault on Falluja last November, and have consequently become a target of the resistance, at least throughout central Iraq.

"In Mosul the bodies of 12 men--six Iraqi national guardsmen and six Kurdish security guards--were dumped in two areas of the city, the Associated Press reported. Notes left near the guardsmen's bodies said, 'This is the destiny for those who participated in besieging Falluja.'" (Feb. 13, New York Times)

By inflating the success of the PUK and the KDP in the votes, the U.S. has turned the National Assembly into a bargaining marketplace for posts of leadership. Right now there is speculation that Talabani will be named president, which is described as a " position. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the United Iraqi Alliance leader and current interim vice president, is likely to be named prime minister.

Strangely enough, Ahmad Chalabi is al-Jaafari's main competition for prime minister. Chalabi, notorious for his corruption, was the first Iraqi exile promoted by the Pentagon as the leader of post-Baathist Iraq. A year ago Chalabi was forced out in disgrace. U.S. troops even occupied his party's offices. Now it seems Washington may need him again.

Resistance continues,
and occupation

That's the struggle for the National Assembly, which is really just a talk shop, especially if none of the main groupings has a permanent majority. It does not determine who has power in Iraq.

Real power in Iraq comes from control of the state. That means the ones who can give orders to an armed force and impose their will on the rest of society.

In Iraq there are only two such forces struggling for power. On one side are the armed forces of the U.S. and Britain, with diminishing symbolic aid from a collection of allies and client states.

On the other side is the Iraqi resistance. Even without an established national leadership, this resistance has denied Washington control of most of central Iraq, including most of Baghdad:

"After the relative calm during the voting, when most of Iraq was placed under a security clampdown that banned traffic and put massive numbers of troops and police on the streets, a pattern of abductions, assassinations, sabotage and car bombings has returned. Some roads are again controlled by guerrillas, and there has been a sustained rebel assault on a police outpost." (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 13)

Washington's attempt to set up an Iraqi puppet army continues to fail badly.

Because the Pentagon has fudged how it reports the Iraqi troop count, the U.S. administration can "claim that it is half-way to meeting the target of training almost 270,000 Iraqi forces, including around 52,000 troops and 135,000 Iraqi policemen. The reality, according to experts, is that there may be as few as 5,000 troops who could be considered combat ready." (The Independent [Britain], Feb. 13)

Thus the prognosis for post-election Iraq is that the resistance will continue to grow and that the Bush administration will continue to keep large numbers of U.S. troops there. Withdrawal from Iraq would mean an admission of defeat by U.S. imperialism.

All the more so must the demand for immediate withdrawal remain central to the anti-war movement here. It is the one demand that has the current support of the vast majority of Iraqis and the potential support of the vast majority of workers, students and also soldiers, sailors and marines from the United States.

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