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Iraq occupation: Brown's token gesture
GORDON BROWN'S statement on Iraq, announcing a reduction of 1,000 serving British troops by Christmas (2,500 by spring 'depending on conditions'), will do little to appease anti-war campaigners and ordinary Iraqis.
Brown's statement is partly recycling a Ministry of Defence announcement from July 2007 that 500 troops will be withdrawn (of whom 270 have already returned home). Many people suspect that the reduction of Britain's 5,300 troops currently in Iraq will simply mean transferring forces to fight the developing war in Afghanistan.
And the suggestion that withdrawing troops from the Basra area, along with the troop "surge" by US forces in Baghdad, indicates a 'stabilisation' of the political situation in Iraq is a myth.
The withdrawal of British troops from Basra city has seen an upsurge in factional violence between different Shia groups and militias.
Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mehdi army, and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, have been locked in a bitter dispute for months. They have recently agreed a truce but the jockeying for power and control over the southern Iraq oilfields could easily reignite the conflict.
Across Iraq, as the so-called Iraq national government continues to fracture along sectarian lines, there is a bitter struggle by the different sectarian Sunni, Shia and Kurdish party leaders to grab territory and economic resources for themselves.
The Kurdish authorities have announced four exploration contracts and two refinery deals, worth around $800m (£400m), giving rights to look for oil under Kurdish territory.
A few weeks ago the Kurdish 'government' signed its first ever exploration deal with a foreign oil firm, Hunt Oil from Texas. The Iraqi national oil minister in Baghdad described this deal as illegal.
US president George Bush claims the 30,000 troop surge has been a success. "Our troops are performing brilliantly," he said. "Ordinary life is beginning to return [to Baghdad]." "Ordinary life" includes the shooting dead of 17 Iraqi civilians in the capital city by mercenaries working for the private company Blackwater USA.
US forces do not keep complete records of civilians killed but a survey of Iraqi households in the Lancet suggested that - by July 2006 - about 655,000 Iraqi deaths were "a consequence of the war". In addition, more than 4,000 coalition soldiers have died.
According to a September 2007 poll commissioned by the BBC, ABC and NHK to assess the effects of the US military's surge strategy, 70% of Iraqis believed the strategy had made Iraq's security situation worse. The survey indicated that the surge has hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development and has not improved security.
Blair and now Brown as New Labour prime ministers have spent well over £6 billion on both the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bush has blown a staggering $745 billion. The US military budget for 2008 amounts to spending $20,000 every second!
Yet, after four-and-a-half years of US-British occupation, living conditions remain intolerable. Homes in Baghdad get only eight hours of electricity supply a day and only a third are connected to water mains. Over 60,000 people a month (up from 50,000) are now leaving the country as refugees.
The only people to profit from the war and occupation have been the US approved contracting firms involved in 'reconstruction', the arms manufacturers, oil companies, and a layer of Iraqi officials linked to the country's political parties.
The only effective anti-war policy is for the immediate withdrawal of all US and British forces.
Only the Iraqi people themselves can bring the internal conflict to an end and secure a voluntary federation of the country. On the basis of a workers' and peasants' government the country's massive oil wealth could be used to reconstruct the shattered infrastructure and end the mass unemployment and poverty gripping Iraq.
In The Socialist 11 October 2007:
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