We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bombing Iraq: just the start?

Barely a week after Parliament voted for air strikes on Iraq, Isis are on the outskirts of Baghdad and there is a growing call from military hawks for the deployment of western ground troops. Belgium and Denmark are the latest countries to join the coalition of western military action against Iraq, but in practice it is the US that is leading the campaign, having now carried out hundreds of sorties, to little effect. Why is this?

George Galloway provided part of the answer when he spoke in the parliamentary debate at the end of September. Speaking of ISIS, he said. “It does not have any bases. The territory that its personnel control is the size of Britain and yet there are only between 10,000 and 20,000 of them. Do the maths. They do not concentrate as an army. They do not live in bases. The only way that a force of that size could successfully hold the territory that it holds is if the population acts as the water in which it swims.” http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0002.htm#14092616000877

So Isis are tolerated in some of the areas they control because the alternative is often worse. Thanks to the sectarian policies of the Shia-dominated government of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Sunni majority regarded the Iraqi army as a hostile, occupying force. Isis were part of a broader Sunni uprising against this army, which ran away from Mosul without firing a shot. The real problem is how to isolate Isis from the broader Sunni population, which feels justifiably menaced by the attacks of equally murderous Shia militias. This is not going to be achieved by bombing.

Isis are undoubtedly barbaric, but they are the creation of a very barbaric Occupation that began over a decade ago. There was little religious sectarianism in Iraq before the invasion of the US and its allies. It was they who instituted electoral slates based on religious affiliation and they who supported the now defunct sectarian Shia government of al Maliki, which persecuted Sunnis. Even today the Iraqi Government’s bombing of Fallujah continues and Shia militias mobilised by this Government continue to commit atrocities of their own, for example recently executing 15 Sunnis and hanging them by electricity poles in a public square in a town northeast of Baghdad.

Isis have benefited from the huge amount of war materiel that has flooded into the region. When the Iraqi army fled Mosul, they gained a massive trove of US-supplied weaponry. On at least one occasion, the Iraqi air force accidentally dropped food, water and ammunition on Isis forces instead of their of their own troops.

There is evidence too of weapons from Saudi Arabia - now part of the supposed coalition against Isis - finding their way into the hands of Isis, just as “moderate” opponents of Assad, trained by the US, later defected to Isis.

Isis also have other sources of support. Oil revenues alone bring in $2 million a day and then there is trafficking in antiquities, hostage taking and ransoms. Isis are now the richest terrorist group in the world, paying twice as much to their members as any other group in the region. Their wealth offers a promise of prosperity to areas they take over which have long been deprived, even before they fell victim to sectarian government policies.

As for the Iraqi army, the problem is far greater than incompetence. While the Pentagon may be exasperated at how little there is to show for the $41.6 billion in military aid it has given the Iraqis in the last  three years, for the recipients it has been a bonanza.

The culture in the military is so corrupt that many soldiers bribe their officers to be as far from the front line as possible. These soldiers are often referred to as “astronauts”, because they are so far away from where they are meant to be. According to local reports, “this means that sometimes when a general sends a battalion to fight, only half the soldiers are there.”

It’s estimated that only one in three soldiers of the 30,000 supposed to be in Mosul  were present when the city fell. Needless to say, the top brass still claim salaries and equipment  for all these phantom soldiers, the profits on the sale of which they share among themselves. Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, commented recently, “A colonel of a battalion nominally of 600 men would get money for 600 men, [but] in fact there were only 200 men in it, and would pocket the difference, which was spread out among the officers. And this applied to fuel, it applied to ammunition… I remember about a year ago talking to a senior Iraqi politician, and who said look: the army’s going to collapse if it’s attacked. I said surely some will fight, he said: no no no, you don’t understand. These officers are not soldiers, they’re investors! They have no interest in fighting anybody; they have interest in making money out of their investment. Of course you had to buy your position. So in 2009, you want to be a colonel in the Iraqi army, it’ll cost you about 20,000 dollars, more recently it cost you about $200,000.”

Writing on the \Left Futures blog after the debate, Grahame Morris MP estimated it would cost £1 million a year to fight Isis and could take at least three years. Military action alone would not work, he concluded, and like other MPs who oppose the bombing, he is alarmed by the lack of an exit strategy. http://www.leftfutures.org/2014/10/why-i-opposed-intervention-in-iraq/

Far from exiting, escalation is now the talk of the day. If it is to be “boots on the ground”, will MPs get a vote on that as well, and  will that policy be any more effective? More importantly, what is the future for Iraq, after a dozen years of economic sanctions, a military occupation that killed a million people and displaced double that, now facing endless military operations, piling failure upon failure, disaster upon disaster and promising unending destruction and misery for its people?


IWS said...

It beggers belief that the British MPs are duped (yet again) into voting for a war with no clear end or exit strategy. Did the US get upset cause Maliki did not extend the US troops' presence? Not that he can stop clandestine/official increase in special and intelligence forces. The sudden rise in power of Isil is just very puzzling.iraq has undoubtly become a playground for regional rivalries and a buffer zone for Iraq. Anyone can come over and bomb iraq abady cannot do a thing about it.

IWS said...

I meant a buffer zone for Iran