Iraqi anti-war activist Sami Ramadani spoke to Socialist Worker about why Bush’s troop ‘surge’ will not end the daily death toll in Iraq
George Bush has ordered 21,500 more US troops into Iraq. What do you think are the likely effects of this “surge” and the forthcoming assault on Baghdad? Can the US succeed in “stabilising” its occupation?
I think it will inevitably lead to an escalation of violence.
The Americans are daydreaming if they think they can maintain full control over the capital. Most of Baghdad is intensely against occupation – and that is the root of the US’s problem.
Unless the US recognises the hostility to the occupation in Iraq and gets out of the country, the main source of the violence will remain and the violence will continue.
The troop surge is really an admission of this by the US military.
Bush hopes that by increasing the number of troops, he might be able to change the balance of forces in the country – I think this is very unlikely.
Who will be the main targets of the US military’s latest assault?
Primarily it will be the resistance, which targets US forces. I doubt if the US is particularly concerned about terrorist-style attacks that target civilians in crowded city markets – many of which are in mixed areas.
Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army movement is a factor in the US’s calculations. They see him as an obstacle to the occupation. Much of the propaganda directed against Sadr is groundless – for instance, I doubt if the Sadr leadership officially sanctions sectarian killings
There is also a lot of propaganda being directed against Iran.
This campaign is part of a political drive to accompany the military drive, a “political surge” if you like.
For instance, the US claims that Iran is behind the wave of bombings, though any realistic assessment of the situation comes to the conclusion that Iran is not to blame.
But the US will promote various explanations – anything to avoid facing the reality that Iraqi people hate them and hate their presence.
The US will try to buy forces to terrorise and torture people, it will bomb cities – but all of this is failing.
What we are seeing is not new. If one recalls Vietnam, in 1968 after the Tet Offensive, strategically the US knew it was not going to win the war, but it stayed in Vietnam for seven more years.
It installed a puppet government, killed millions, bombed the neighbouring states of Cambodia and Laos – all in preparation to withdraw leaving a puppet regime and a few military bases.
That seems to be their strategy for Iraq too, while trying to convince people in the US they can “stabilise” it.
How does the occupation of Iraq fit in to US strategy in the Middle East? And what difficulties is the strategy running into?
At the moment the US is building a big alliance across the region that resembles the alliance they put together in the 1980s, when they backed Saddam Hussein against Iran.
They are trying to rebuild that alliance, and some pro-Saddam leftovers and chauvinistic nationalists in Iraq are prepared to work with the US in the hope that a fight against Iran will strengthen their hand.
Other problems involve the Kurds and Turkey. The Kurdish leadership in Iraq is split between Jalal Talibani’s PUK and Massoud Barzani’s KDP. Both want the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which lies just outside the Kurdish region, to be part of their domain but they are at loggerheads over whose forces will control the city.
Meanwhile Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population, does not want any Kurdish forces to control Kirkuk. It is possible that Turkey will intervene militarily under the guise of helping the ethnic Turkmen of the city.
Turkey is also scared that the Kurds might declare an independent state in future, and is trying to put pressure on the US to ensure that this does not happen. Kirkuk is a powder keg with all sorts of tensions coming to the surface.
All of this means the anti-war movement in Britain is more important than ever, both in terms of building solidarity with Iraqi people, and in pushing the British government to break with the US.
Britain may only be a minor force in Iraq militarily, but its political role is crucial to the US’s plans.
If we can force Britain to break with Bush the US will be isolated internationally.
This would hurt Bush enormously, both internationally and within the US as well. So the role of the Stop the War Coalition and the demonstration on 24 February is vital – we have to keep up the pressure.
Sami Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam’s regime and is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University