Shipwreck of US Ambitions

Society on the point of breakdown

In late May and early June, first Blair and then Bush visited Baghdad to congratulate the new Prime Minister Maliki and proclaim that the formation of his government represented a new dawn for Iraq. These visits by the architects of the invasion, and their joint admission of the mistakes made after that invasion are a sign of desperation rather than a recognition of progress. The situation in Iraq is now worse than at any time since the invasion, as a leaked e-mail from the US ambassador in Baghdad to the US Secretary of State illustrates. It portrays a society in a state of near collapse. The US loss of control is illustrated by the fact that some government ministries are now controlled by sworn enemies of the US such as the party of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr (1), and the Prime Minister is prepared to openly criticise the US army. The much vaunted Iraqi security forces, now numbering 230 000 men, are actually made up of militia with ethnic or sectarian loyalties and little loyalty to the central government. Many of these forces are part of death squads which now roam the major Iraqi cities killing hundreds of people every week on a sectarian basis. Ex-Prime Minister, Allawi, stated that 60 people were being killed daily by the death squads. In Basra alone, during the month of May, one person was being killed every hour. Of course, these figures do not count the numbers being murdered by the coalition forces. Over half the bodies brought to the Baghdad morgue have US bullets in them and Iraqi doctors are told not to do post mortems. The recent disclosures of massacres of civilians at Haditha, and similar events at Latifiyah, Hamandiya, Ishaqi, the massacre of 37 worshippers at a Baghdad mosque, etc., represent just the few atrocities which have come to light. These massacres indicate the demoralisation and frustration amongst the invading forces. Desertion from both the US and UK armies have risen sharply in the last 6 months. (2)

The general climate of sectarian violence has led to 100 000 people fleeing their homes in what can only be called ethnic cleansing. (3) Meanwhile the infrastructure remains much worse than under the Saddam regime. Electricity in the capital, for example, is provided one hour in every 7. Water supply is intermittent and often filthy and many areas have not had a sewage system for over 3 years. Malnutrition amongst Iraqi children is now 25%. (4) The coalition of invaders has never been more unpopular. This is indicated by the fact that Iraqi politicians are trying to distance themselves from it. The new Prime Minister, Maliki, for example, denounced the daily US atrocities against unarmed Iraqi civilians as no longer acceptable. One of his first acts has been to declare a qualified amnesty to sections of the insurgency in the hope of gaining control of the situation. Meanwhile another coalition partner, Japan, has announced it is pulling its forces out and Italy is now in the process of a phased withdrawal.

US loss of control

As is well known, the US did not want to hold elections in Iraq but rather to impose its own chosen exiles as the new leadership for the country. It agreed to elections in a move to appease the Shia clergy and to try and draw support away from the insurrection. It believed it could control the drafting of the new constitution and so determine the election result. Although the US did have an influence on the constitution which, for example, requires the major sections of the Iraqi economy to be privatised with guaranteed rights for foreign companies (this, of course, will apply to the oil sector), the final document was not one the US would have wanted. The US insisted on some changes before the referendum to endorse the constitution but was unable to amend the federalist nature of the document. (5) The US still imagined it would be able to place its chosen leader Allawi, an ex-CIA operative, at the head of the new government. The election results, however, confirmed a Shia alliance as the majority and Allawi’s share of the vote, despite massive financial backing for his campaign from the US, was derisory.

The US then changed tack and started to manoeuvre with the Kurds and the Sunni politicians to determine the shape of the new government. They blocked the prime minister chosen by the Shia alliance, Jaafari, and insisted certain ministries go to Sunni politicians. This has produced suspicion amongst the Shia political alliance and resulted in a delay of 6 months between the election and the formation of the government. All this has been the political background to the disintegration of civil society described above.

Although the US and UK like to portray themselves as being in Iraq under resolutions of the UN and acting as honest brokers in the establishment of democracy and reconstruction, Iraqis are quite aware that the complete opposite is the case. The looting and corruption of the US administration in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), has been catalogued by its own inspector general. Some $8.8bn of funds were not properly accounted for! Millions were handed out to US commanders without any records being kept. US contractors were overpaid, one by $2.8bn, another was give $25 million in cash with no records being kept. Most of this was Iraqi money from oil sales. The CPA kept no records of oil exports nor was the money placed in development accounts as required by UN resolution 1483. Since the handover to Iraqi governments, US and UK contractors have continued to make millions in Iraq. It was reported in March, for example, that UK companies had made profits of £1.1bn through their contracts in Iraq. (6) It is not for nothing that our boys are dying in Iraq!

Today the plans for Iraq announced with such arrogance at the time of the invasion are far from realised. Instead of becoming a stable oil protectorate with a pliant secular regime, happily ceding its oil resources to US and UK oil companies, oil production is below what it was when Saddam was in power, no new fields have been developed and oil installations are subject to continual sabotage. Instead of producing a secular regime, the invasion has empowered the forces of Shia Islam and created a proto-clerical regime. Instead of serving as the springboard for projecting US power and precipitating changes in neighbouring regimes hostile to the US, particularly Iran, the new Iraqi government has allied itself to Iran and is heavily influenced by Tehran. Instead of isolating Iran, the influence of the theocratic regime there has been increased, thereby threatening US interests in the whole region. Instead of advancing US imperialism’s project to dominate the entire oil-producing region from the Red Sea to the Caspian, the US remains bogged down in Iraq.

How is it that US imperialism today seems further from achieving its ambitions in Iraq than when it invaded three years ago? Although the US and their UK auxiliaries clearly did underestimate the resistance of the Iraqi ruling class to the invasion, it is insufficient to ascribe the present debacle to one or two mistakes. The US has, after all, enough power to correct such mistakes, and impose its will on a weak bourgeoisie such as that of Iraq. It is rather that the US ruling class underestimated the resistance they would face from their less powerful imperialist rivals. They considered that after the collapse of the Russian imperialist bloc, the remaining minor powers would accept the dictates of the US. However, this was not the case. Instead US rivals have mounted a quiet but steady resistance as far as they have been able, and it is this which lies behind the present setback.

Imperialist rivalry

The US invasion was, as we have argued in previous texts (7), part of a larger strategy for US imperialism. This is to dominate all the oil resources from the Red Sea to the Caspian Sea. This would allow the US to control the price which its rivals pay for oil thus giving US capitalism a competitive advantage. It would also ensure that oil and gas continue to be traded in dollars allowing the US to print hundreds of billions of dollars annually to circulate outside the US. Such a strategy is so clearly to the disadvantage of its rivals that it is hardly surprising that they have resisted. European, Russian and Chinese companies lost their oil concessions in Iraq after the US invasion and further had to write off the debts which they were owed by the Saddam regime. Although the US rivals are not yet prepared to put their heads over the parapet they are intent on frustrating US plans indirectly. The French with Russian support ensured that the US invaded Iraq without any UN sanction thus ensuring that the war was illegal. Since the invasion they have refused any assistance to the US coalition. Instead they have undermined it and encouraged members to leave it. This resistance has also encouraged neighbouring states to feed the insurgency.

China and Russia have also been cooperating in attempts to exclude the US from central Asia. The two states are key members in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This organisation, founded 5 years ago was given fresh impetus by the US withdrawal from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and the start of its Missile Defence system. It has now emerged as a vehicle for organising opposition to the US. The first joint military exercises between Russia and China ever were held in 2005 and further exercises are planned fro 2007. The organisation, whose other members are, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, called on the US to withdraw from its bases in central Asia and to stop stirring up trouble in the area. The organisation which, of course, includes major oil producers gives itself the objective of promoting energy cooperation amongst its members and a number of significant oil and gas pipelines are under construction or being planned. The organisation is clearly trying to exclude the US from its area. (8) Iran is at present an observer member of this organisation but is expected to become a full member in due course. The Iranian president Ahmadinejad was a speaker at the recent 5th annual meeting of the organisation.

It is clear the US rivals are not simply sitting on their hands and watching the US’s predatory advances into their regions. The issue which has brought this resistance into focus is the latest hue and cry the US has raised about Iran.


Iran is a key piece of the jigsaw of states occupying the region from the Red Sea to the Caspian. At present the US has invaded and occupies Afghanistan and Iraq, states to the east and west of Iran. For its grand strategic plan the US would dearly love to have a client regime in Iran. However, the US also sees Iran as a source of some of its immediate difficulties in Iraq. For the US, it exists as a malevolent presence having the potential to cause it much greater problems in Iraq should it decide to do so. The solution to US problems in Baghdad, so the argument goes, lies in Tehran, hence the necessity for changing the Iranian regime. Consequently, the US has been searching for a means of isolating Iran and providing cover for an attack on it which they hope could precipitate a change in regime. As we all know, it decided that Iran’s nuclear programme was the most promising line of attack, even though Iran has not actually infringed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the crimes it stands accused of are those of possible future intentions.

If the US were to invade Iran then Russia, China, France and other European countries would lose oil supplies and drilling concessions, just as happened in Iraq. The long-term goals of the US would be massively advanced by an invasion of Iran, and this can still not be discounted. However, after the setbacks in Iraq, the US is keen to get some international sanction for a move against Iran and has been trying to swing the UN Security Council behind its position. It is hardly surprising that Russia and China have been frustrating US plans at the UN. Their attempts have forced the US to completely reverse its policy of having no contact with the regime, a policy which has been followed since the Islamic revolution of 1979, and to offer Tehran direct talks on its nuclear programme. The US is prepared to appear weak while it plays out a longer term diplomatic game with its Russian and Chinese rivals.

The manoeuvrings over Iran are part of a wider imperialist struggle which can only lead to fresh wars with massive bloodshed. It is simply incorrect to imagine that the imperialisms of Russia or China are in any way more benevolent or progressive than that of the US.

Prospects for the working class

The examination above is simply an examination of the manoeuvrings of imperialism and so an examination of the actions of the bourgeois class. None of these struggles can benefit the working class in the least. Workers are being asked to align themselves either with the predatory imperialism of the US or the blackest medieval reaction of the Islamicists. The hostility of the western bourgeois regimes to Islamic regimes obscures the fact the Islamic regimes are just as hostile to the working class as their western counterparts. The Iranian clerical regime, for instance, has presided over 26 years of reduction in wages for workers and longer working hours. Through its labour law the regime has banned all strikes, collective bargaining and independent organisations. Strikes, which are now illegal, are met with barbaric violence of thugs hired by the regime. The Tehran bus drivers strike, which we reported in our last issue, is just one illustration of this. (9) The Islamic regime is simply a type of bourgeois regime. As for the insurgents, their attitude towards the working class is shown by their mass kidnapping of workers and executing them on sectarian lines. There could be few atrocities more clearly directed at dividing and weakening the working class. In the Iraq conflict neither side has anything to offer the working class. The workers should not follow the siren calls of the capitalist left, who act as cheer leaders for the insurgents, and urge workers to back them because they are “anti-imperialist”. They are not against imperialism nor are they against capitalism. Workers need to continue their struggles on class issues such as pay and conditions and refuse to give any support to either the invaders or the insurgents. They are both factions of the capitalist class. The sickening massacres in Iraq are an expression of the true nature of the capitalist system. They illustrate the bourgeoisie’s complete contempt for human life when it is in the way of imperialist interests. Such massacres are not anomalies in the otherwise harmonious running of the capitalist system, they are its inevitable conclusion as it desperately searches for raw materials and strategic positions which can bring it profits. They are part of a global struggle to exploit the world’s workers. Ultimately the system can only be ended by struggles of the working class on its own terrain for its own interests. As opposed to the imperialist struggles of the bourgeoisie in which workers are used as cannon fodder, workers should raise once again the banner of the struggle of class against class.


(1) US viceroy Bremmer, the CPA chief, vowed to put Sadr on trial or kill him

(2) Desertions from the US military are 8000 and those from the UK are 1000. Many US deserters have fled to Canada saying they were ordered to commit atrocities.

(3) Religious communities were previously mixed and under the Saddam regime 1 in 5 marriages was between a Sunni and a Shia partner.

(4) Reported in Independent 17th May 2006

(5) This is discussed in greater detail in Revolutionary Perspectives 37 “US imperialism on the back foot.”

(6) See Independent 13th March 2006.

(7) See Revolutionary Perspectives 32, “US imperialism flounders” and Revolutionary Perspectives 34, “War elections and class struggle.”

(8) The US asked to join the SCO in 2005 but was rejected.

(9) See Revolutionary Perspectives 38, “Tehran Transport Workers Gaoled” and Revolutionary Perspectives 32, “Iranian Elections”

Revolutionary Perspectives

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