Socialist Worker

Deeper into the quagmire

Issue No. 1886

NOT ONLY the political fallout, but the war itself in Iraq is continuing.

The occupation and handing of the economy over to multinationals such as Halliburton and Bechtel are deepening resistance. Eight US soldiers were killed over last weekend. The official toll of US dead had already topped 500 in the middle of last week. There are many thousands of other casualties, some of them serious.

The resistance is spreading beyond the Sunni Muslim areas of central Iraq. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent reports that opposition to the US is breaking out in the north of the country. There, the main Kurdish organisations have worked hand in hand with the US. But now they are clashing with Iraq's US governor, Paul Bremer.

And there are heightened tensions between Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans-the three main ethnic groups in the north.

In the predominantly Shia Muslim south there were demonstrations tens of thousands strong last week calling for immediate direct elections. The US plan is to hand over authority to a fig leaf Iraqi council in June, while maintaining the levers of power. The council would not be elected, but instead would be endorsed by local meetings of notables.

Those notables would be invited to the selection meetings by the very council members who they would in turn back.

The plan has infuriated most people in Iraq. The demonstrations last week were called by Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sistani. He had previously refused to call for resistance to the occupation. One of his confidants, Mowaffak Al Rubaie, says: "The major thing in his mind is not to hand over the country to an American-picked government. "The fear is that the coalition forces will impose a group of Western-influenced politicians."

The call for elections is so strong that the stooge Iraqi Governing Council has felt forced to come out against the US handover plan.

Meanwhile, reports from Baghdad suggest the shortage of petrol, electricity and other essentials is greater now than it was last summer. That is leading to small-scale but significant battles by groups of workers.


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Features
Sat 31 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1886
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