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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 March 2006

What we think

IRAQ: Sectarian civil war looms as the occupation flounders

SECTARIAN BLOODSHED by some of the Shia and Sunni muslim militias in Iraq dramatically worsened following the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

That bombing, on one of the holiest Shia mosques, triggered revenge attacks causing around 200 deaths, mainly of Sunni muslims. The death toll included the horrific execution of 47 people who had been returning from a united protest of Sunnis and Shias against the mosque's destruction.

A journalist reporting from Baghdad for the International Herald Tribune, wrote that "the violence was the closest thing to open civil war that Iraq had seen" and that even the long-suffering Iraqi people "could barely contain their disbelief".

This is the latest terrible episode in the three year US-British led imperialist occupation, with no respite in sight. Even before the Golden Mosque was destroyed, the insurgency was at record levels, with the US Defence Department reporting 550 attacks between 29 August 2005 and 20 January 2006. 80% of those attacks were aimed at coalition forces, but three-quarters of the casualties were Iraqis (The Observer, 26.2.06).

Although no longer suffering under the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein and 12 years of UN sanctions, all the main indicators show that the Iraqi people have a much worse existence under the present occupation. Supplies of electricity and clean water are worse, oil production is lower and insecurity is overwhelming in many areas.

It would be hard to exaggerate the seriousness of the situation for George Bush's US regime. It faces increasing demands in America for the troops to be withdrawn, as US troop fatalities approach 2,300 in number. But a complete pull-out would leave its ambitions to control the Iraqi oil supply and its pretensions of 'democratising' Iraq, in obvious ruins.

However, staying in Iraq is worsening the situation week by week. One of the few demands that unites the main Iraqi political parties - reflecting the widespread hatred of US imperialism - is for foreign troops to be removed.

Occupation failure

Bush's original goal of presiding from the White House over a new pliant, secular Iraqi regime has moved far from his grasp, as the Iraqi people, on top of increased anti-imperialism, have reacted to the mess created by the war and occupation by voting along religious and ethnic lines. December's parliamentary elections only accentuated this process, much to the anger of Bush's regime.

The US ambassador to Iraq recently threatened not to fund "forces run by people who are sectarian". He said this in response to Shia leaders' desire to appoint an interior minister who is viewed by Sunnis as orchestrating police death squads against them. Bush's government is also incensed that two of the large Shia blocs in Iraq's new government, Sciri and Dawa, have links with the Iranian regime, marked out as a US enemy.

To add to its disastrous failings, the US intervention in Iraq will end up costing the US economy a staggering minimum of $1,026 billion according to a newly released study by two Harvard and Columbia university academics.

Iraqi Sunni leaders are under US pressure to resume talks on the creation of a government of 'national unity', which they recently suspended. But there is no prospect of the present Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders achieving an end to the inter-ethnic and religious conflict. Rather they have a vested interest in maintaining it, in order to carve out their own arenas of influence, prestige and power.

Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militias were blamed for many of the attacks on Sunnis after the Samarra mosque bombing. Al-Sadr stepped in, calling for an end to the violence, along with other Shia leaders. However, although he has called for unity with the Sunnis against the occupation, al-Sadr leads a movement of the poorest layer of Shias which rather than being based on workers' unity, is based on right-wing political Islam. It is contributing to the building of sectarian based militias, all of which are able to use the escalation of bombings and killings to strengthen their position, exacerbate division and in some cases to actually counter attempts from below to strive towards working class unity.

The propaganda of Bush and Blair about building a genuine Iraqi army and police force is increasingly exposed for its lack of substance. In reality, virtually all the personnel in the new Iraqi security forces have their allegiance to one or other of the religious or ethnic leaders.

This is particularly unacceptable to the Sunni population who are under-represented in the state forces, and even if they had proportional representation, would still fear victimisation from the numerically superior Shias.

Workers' unity

The present descent into civil war shows the hopelessness of all capitalist solutions. The occupying troops must be immediately withdrawn.

But without the Iraqi working class and poor organising independently, with the creation of democratic, class-based organisations, the prospect of the break up of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia zones looms large. Not only would the Sunni population be cut off from the main oil-producing areas, but the poorest Kurdish and Shia people would also face continued poverty and exploitation.

The socialist has consistently warned that a decent future for all Iraqi people can only lie with breaking away from this path; and instead working towards the only viable alternative, ie a socialist solution. This would mean using Iraq's oil wealth and other natural resources to benefit the unity, security and living standards of working class and poor Iraqis in every ethnic and religious group.

Stop the War Coalition demo

18 March

Assemble 12 noon Parliament Square,

London SW1

Socialist Party voices concern about Stop the War Coalition material

THE SOCIALIST Party tabled a motion at the recent Stop the War Coalition Steering Committee raising concerns about material which had been sent out by the national officers without consultation or discussion amongst steering committee members.

The motion raised particular points of concern about the slant of some material, including a press release highlighting, without comment, a demonstration organised in Baghdad by the al-Sadr movement, and material which could be potentially divisive relating to the response following the recent deterioration of the situation inside Iraq.

The resolution stated: "Recent developments, particularly the potentially catastrophic situation that could result from the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra - where what is already a low level civil war has the potential to escalate - requires a wider consultation amongst the steering committee and affiliated organisations and local groups before the Coalition issues statements and press releases.

"In particular, we feel that it is necessary for the STWC to link its call for withdrawal of troops to an appeal for a solution which emphasizes the importance of unity across non-sectarian lines against the occupying powers."

After a truncated discussion that did not allow for a proper debate of the issue, the resolution got only three votes.

Nevertheless, the Socialist Party felt it necessary to raise the issues because of the possibility of the Coalition giving "the impression that we are supporting actions of the Al Sadr movement uncritically." And that this "could be used by the Coalition's opponents and have damaging consequences for the anti-war movement."

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The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

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In The Socialist 2 March 2006:

Quality education for all

Education under attack

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Stoke councillors join the Socialist Party

Corruption and lies

Ken Livingstone removed from office

Change the world!

Fight for women's REAL right to choose

IRAQ: Sectarian civil war looms as the occupation flounders

Swansea car workers fight plant closure

University staff to strike

Sheffield workers are fighting back

35,000 public-sector workers strike


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