Socialist Worker

British soldiers are back fighting in Iraq

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2542

British troops at Al Asad air base in Iraq on Saturday

British troops at Al Asad air base in Iraq on Saturday (Pic: Sgt Lisa Soy/US army)


Iraqi government troops, backed by the US and Britain, began a fresh assault on the northern city of Mosul on Monday.

US and British SAS special forces, aircraft and drones are at the forefront of the attempt to retake the western half of the city.

This is the reactionary, sectarian outfit Isis’s last major stronghold in Iraq after it lost eastern Mosul last December.

The Times newspaper crowed on Monday, “SAS troops spearhead liberation of Mosul.” But the assault threatens 650,000 people trapped in the city.

In the latest show of the Iraqi government’s sectarian brutality, fresh footage of its troops committing torture emerged last week.

The videos, posted on a social media page supporting the government, show troops torturing and executing suspected Isis-sympathisers in eastern Mosul.

The Iraqi government’s imperialist sponsors are no better.

As the Western-backed force fought to retake Mosul airport, US defence secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis flew in unannounced.

He claimed that the US was “not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil”—but these hollow words should not fool anyone.

Before former US president Barack Obama promoted Mattis, he was a top general during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Mattis spearheaded the siege of Fallujah in 2004 where the US used white phosphorus chemical weapons, one of its greatest war crimes in Iraq.

Brawling

Referring to the war in Afghanistan, Mattis said, “It’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot people—I like brawling.”

But the US is in for more than a brawl in Iraq.

When it invaded in 2003 to project its power, it had hoped for a swift and decisive win that would give it control over a key choke point of global capitalism. Instead, it is still reaping the whirlwind of its defeat.

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq manufactured the conditions for Isis to grow. Faced with a national resistance movement across the Shia and Sunni religious divide, the US turned to divide and rule.

First it built a sectarian Shia state in the south of Iraq that remains in place. After this the US still faced a range of Sunni resistance organisations in the north of Iraq, including Isis’s forerunner Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI).

So it promised the other Sunni organisations a “national unity government” if they fought against AQI.

But after they crushed AQI, all talk of power-sharing was dumped, further entrenching sectarianism.

Isis’s scattered forces regrouped in the chaos of the Syrian civil war and crossed the border back into Iraq in 2014.

Because Obama’s US wasn’t strong enough to put boots on the ground again, it relied more on drones and constructing a web of tactical alliances.

So Iran, once part of George W Bush’s axis of evil, became a key ally in propping up the Iraqi government.

Trump is a threat to these complex networks of alliances.

His aim is still to project US power across the world, but he would like a return to more “go it alone” policies.

More bombing in Iraq and the Middle East is no solution to the brutality that was unleashed by imperialism.

The only solution lies in working class people in the Middle East rising up across the sectarian divide against imperialism, their own despots and Isis.


More troops will deepen the crisis in Afghanistan

Tory defence secretary Michael Fallon has said that without British troops Afghanistan would “collapse” and more than four million refugees would come into Europe.

There are currently 500 British troops in Afghanistan, but numbers are set to increase.

Fallon’s pronouncement reeks of hypocrisy.

A major driver of the refugee crisis has been the US and Britain’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

More war and more troops will not help the situation.

The Tories are trying to whip up racism by scaremongering about refugees.

They are also trying to keep Britain’s place at the top table of imperialism and further ingratiate themselves with Trump.


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