[Marxism] US imperialists weigh prospect of decades of occupying, BUT NOT CONTROLLING, Iraq
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 26 19:32:12 MST 2005
The following articles highlight aspects of the US imperialist debate
over how to manage the debacle -- though nowhere close yet to a
Vietnam-style defeat -- of the US imperialist offensive in invading
CAN the imperialists withdraw without a political and military disaster
for them in the region? But can US public opinion, the antiwar
movement, and the developing social unrest in the United States -- be
contained with a policy of merely hanging on in Iraq without any
perspective of stabilizing US domination?
I am also coming to the conclusion that Al Qaeda and related groups have
become more popular and more dangerous to US interests as a consequence
of the US war. I believe that Zarqawi is alive, and that his group is a
real force in the resistance -- and not primarily as "foreign" fighters,
but as a component of the Iraq resistance. I think that participating in
the resistance to the occupation of Iraq and the demonization by the US
has made them more of a genuine political force in the region, with
wider popular sympathy, despite the brutal antipopular character of many
actions. While it is likely that they -- and not they alone -- are
infiltrated by US agents and sometimes manipulated into some of their
anti-popular actions, I do not believe that they are simply false-flag
or psy-op fronts for the CIA but are real expressions of a kind of
bourgeois anti-imperialist politics in the current crisis of leadership
across the Muslim world facing a sharpening conflict with imperialism
that they did not seek.
The introductory comments that follow are by the always interesting --
to me at least, though we don't always agree by any means -- Professor
Mark Jensen from the Seattle-based SNOW-NEWS group
ANALYSIS: Three years in, think tank says Iraq war only in 'its very
[It didn't rate a mention in either the *New York Times* or the
Post*. -- But London's *Financial Times* reported that on Wednesday a
well-respected British think tank called the Oxford Research Group
report authored by Prof. Paul Rogers of the University of Bradford
that the Iraq war is now only in "its very early stages": "Maintaining
friendly government in Baghdad is an essential part of U.S. security
even if it requires a permanent U.S. military presence. . . . This is
long-term access to oil from the region is essential to the U.S., given
increasing dependence on imported oil. -- If Iraq can no longer be
controlled, and if Iran guards its independence, then the U.S. risks
its access to Gulf oil diminishing at precisely the same time as China
to make gains in the region. -- Contrary to some reports, the
not diminishing. . . . [T]he report concludes that the war in Iraq has
'gift' for al-Qaeda. -- Iraq has become a magnet for young jihadists,
replacing Afghanistan as a combat training zone, even to the extent that
jihadists from Afghanistan now travel to Iraq to gain combat experience,
taking their skills back to Afghanistan to use against Western forces
it says." -- In its news release, the Oxford Research Group said
called "the al-Qaida movement" is "successfully presenting the U.S.
as a neo-Christian occupation of a major Islamic state, gaining new
as it does so. Baghdad was the seat of the most notable historic
caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate of 750 to 1250, and with it now seen as
U.S. control, this can be used as a powerful rallying call to potential
paramilitaries." -- The October 2005 report is reproduced below.
Prof. Rogers notes that al-Qaida is "now more of an idea than a firm
and is therefore much more difficult to infiltrate, track, and counter."
(It is the thesis of Adam Curtis's "The Power of
Nightmares"[http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/3394/] that this was
case.) -- Prof. Rogers argues that "regional geopolitics, especially
security of Gulf oil supplies, means that there is no serious prospect
United States withdrawing substantially from Iraq. As argued in an
briefing (*US Options in Iraq*, May 2005), one option for the United
forces would be what is sometimes called 'Plan B', a withdrawal from the
cities and consolidation of US troops in a small number of large heavily
protected bases, including some strategically located close to the major
fields." -- (This is actually what Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12th)
[http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/3647/] on Nov. 17; Republicans
mischaracterized his speech as a call for "immediate withdrawal.") --
October report concludes that there is a significant possibility that as
result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "not only will the country [come
constitute a long-term training environment in urban guerrilla warfare,
will also be available as a base for al-Qaida operations. As
in the 1990s, so Iraq may be in the coming decade -- that is the
potential consequence of the decision to terminate the Saddam Hussein
by force." -- In other words, the widely circulated 2002 antiwar
showed Uncle Osama saying "I want you to invade Iraq" expressed an
truth about the American invasion. --Mark]
Middle East & Africa
IRAQ CONFLICT 'STILL IN ITS EARLY STAGES'
By Fiona Symon
Financial Times (UK)
November 23, 2005
The war in Iraq is still in its early stages and British troops are
be bogged down in the conflict for decades, a report by the Oxford
Group claimed on Wednesday.
Maintaining a friendly government in Baghdad is an essential part of
security policy, even if it requires a permanent U.S. military presence,
the report by the independent U.K. think tank. This is because
access to oil from the region is essential to the US, given its
dependence on imported oil.
If Iraq can no longer be controlled, and if Iran guards its
the U.S. risks finding its access to Gulf oil diminishing at precisely
same time as China seeks to make gains in the region.
Contrary to some reports, the insurgency is not diminishing and it is
to prove very difficult to withdraw all the British troops from Iraq
there is a major change of policy by the British government, risking a
with the United States, says the report by Oxford Research Group's
security consultant, Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University.
The report will make unwelcome reading for the British and US
which have both indicated that they hope to begin reducing the number of
troops involved in Iraq after the next Iraqi parliamentary elections are
The report provides a detailed month-by-month assessment of the
insurgency for a year between late 2004 and 2005.
Pointing to the growing numbers of civilian casualties, as well as the
to control the insurgency, even with the use of overwhelming firepower,
with the assault on Fallujah last November, the report concludes that
in Iraq has been a 'gift' for al-Qaeda.
Iraq has become a magnet for young jihadists, replacing Afghanistan as a
combat training zone, even to the extent that jihadists from Afghanistan
travel to Iraq to gain combat experience, taking their skills back to
Afghanistan to use against western forces there, it says.
For Release: 00.01 hrs, Wednesday 23rd November 2005
NEW REPORT SAYS COMPLETE BRITISH WITHDRAWAL UNLIKELY -- WAR COULD LAST
Oxford Research Group
November 23, 2005
Contrary to recent reports from Iraq, the insurgency is not diminishing
is likely to prove very difficult to withdraw all the British troops
unless there is a major change of policy by the British government,
break with the United States. This is one of the main conclusions of a
study of the second year of the Iraq War, during which the insurgency
deeply embedded, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Iraqi
*Iraq and the War on Terror: Twelve Months of Insurgency, 2004-2005* is
new edition of Oxford Research Group's annual International Security
for 2005. Published today, it assesses the Iraq War as still being in
early stages, pointing to two fundamental factors that indicate that it
last for many years.
1. The occupation of Iraq is proving to be a 'gift' to the al-Qaida
It is successfully presenting the U.S. presence as a neo-Christian
of a major Islamic state, gaining new recruits as it does so. Baghdad
seat of the most notable historic Islamic caliphate, the Abbasid
750 to 1250 (western calendar), and with it now seen as under U.S.
this can be used as a powerful rallying call to potential
Al-Qaida readily uses the terminology of a crusader occupation and
the close connections between the United States and Israel as proof of a
Christian/Zionist plot to control Iraq and dominate Arab oil. Whatever
validity of this, the message is both seductive and effective.
As a result, Iraq is now becoming a magnet for young jihadists and has
replaced Afghanistan as a paramilitary combat training zone, even to the
extent that jihadists from Afghanistan now travel to Iraq to gain combat
experience, taking their skills back to Afghanistan to use against
2. Ensuring Iraqi security and maintaining a friendly government in
an essential part of U.S. security policy even if it requires a
military presence. This is because long-term access to Persian Gulf oil
essential to the United States, given its increasing dependence on
oil. If Iraq can no longer be controlled, and if Iran guards its
fiercely, then the United States will find its access to Gulf oil
at precisely the same time as China seeks to make gains in the region.
These two factors, al-Qaida's use of the Iraq occupation and the U.S.
be dominant in the region, mean that Iraq is potentially the focus for a
long-term conflict that is still in its very early stages. A U.S.
would be a foreign policy disaster for them greater than the retreat
Vietnam, and it would take a fundamental change of policy in Washington
this to happen. Meanwhile, the al-Qaida movement gains strength from
The report concludes:
--Given that the al-Qaida movement and its affiliates are seeking to
their aims over a period of decades rather than years, the probability
that, short of major political changes in the U.S.A., the Iraq war might
be measured over a similar time span.
--For Britain, the likelihood of a peaceful withdrawal of U.K. troops
South East Iraq is minimal unless London breaks with Washington. This
be a major policy shift for the Blair government, representing the
difference in its relationship with Washington in the past eight years.
present circumstances it is highly unlikely, yet the war is likely to
increasing shadow over U.K. politics in the next year.
In covering the 12-month 2004-05 period, the report provides a detailed
month-by-month assessment of the developing insurgency, pointing to the
growing numbers of civilian casualties, as well as the failure to
insurgency, even with the use of overwhelming firepower, as with the
on Fallujah last November.
Written by Oxford Research Group's global security consultant, Professor
Rogers of the University of Bradford, *Iraq and the War on Terror* is
second in a series of annual reports from this independent policy group.
Based in Oxford, it works on alternative security policies and was
named as one of Britain's top twenty think tanks for innovative
*Iraq and the War on Terror* is published today by I.B. Tauris, one of
leading publishers on international relations and Middle East studies.
Professor Paul Rogers - 07867 982 061 / 01484 603 194
Chris Abbott (Oxford Research Group) - 01865 242 819
Hannah Ross (I.B. Tauris) - 020 7243 1225 ex. 120
www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk chris.abbott at oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
IRAQ IN A WIDER PERSPECTIVE
By Professor Paul Rogers
Oxford Research Group
International Security Monthly Briefing
The month of September had been considered a relatively easy month for
forces in Iraq, in that only 49 American military personnel were killed.
was the lowest figure for six months and was one of the factors that
to another phase of the oft-repeated claim that the insurgency was
some ways, even this 'good news' was misleading, in that the military
in September were still higher than for any of the six months from May
October 2003 when the insurgency was getting into its stride.
In any case, the optimism was short-lived in that the following month,
October, turned out to be one of the worst since the start of the war,
troops killed. Apart from the two months of intensive fighting around
Fallujah in April and November of last year, there was only one month
the war started, January of this year, when the death toll among
forces was higher. Overall, the period from August to October 2005 has
particularly difficult for the U.S. forces in Iraq. It is not just the
toll, standing at 230 for the three months, but it is also the
high rate of injuries. In this period, 1,700 U.S. personnel have been
injured, with 600 of them sustaining serious injuries, most of these
evacuated to Landstuhl military hospital in Germany and then on to the
States for longer-term treatment. About half of all the troops sent
the United States are eventually discharged from the armed forces, many
them disabled for life.
There had been an expectation that there would be a surge in the
around the time of the referendum, but this had also been anticipated
earlier elections, and maintaining U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces
high alert had actually reduced the incidence of attacks on previous
occasions. While the referendum did yield a positive result for the new
constitution, it came close to falling as two provinces rejected it.
three were required to do so for it to fail to be approved, the
goes ahead, but it seems likely to do little to curb the insurgency.
Meanwhile, the casualties among Iraqi police and security forces
continue at a
high level. Iraq Body Count now reports up to 30,000 casualties since
began. While the great majority have been civilians, the police and
forces continue to be severely affected. There have also been some
sophisticated attacks, including one on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad
used widely by the foreign media. The hotel is across the river from
heavily protected 'green zone' that houses the Iraqi government, U.S.
and many other U.S. facilities, but the Palestine Hotel is in a heavily
protected compound. On 24 October, two bombs were used to breach the
protected perimeter around the hotel complex, and a cement truck loaded
explosives was then rammed through the damaged perimeter and into the
before exploding. Although the hotel was not destroyed, at least
people were killed.
COUNTERING THE INSURGENCY
Two trends have recently emerged in the evolution of the insurgency.
the increased use of large improvised explosive devices against road
including the more regular use of shaped charge explosives that are able
pierce armored vehicles. Many of the recent American casualties have
caused by such IEDs and they are also being used against British forces
southeast of the country, so much so that the British Army is making far
use of its limited force of helicopters in order to move troops around
minimize road patrols.
One of the responses on the U.S. side is to increase the number of major
military operations in the towns and cities north west of Baghdad
Syrian border. This region has been presumed to be both a center of
insurgency and a route for foreign paramilitaries coming in from Syria.
were several occasions in October when combined U.S./Iraqi forces of
a thousand troops were deployed against particular centers of
feature of these attacks was the use of substantial firepower, including
helicopter gun-ships and strike aircraft. This often involved the
of presumed insurgent strongholds with substantial bombing raids,
reports from U.S. sources of many insurgents killed. All too often,
these were followed by reports from local hospitals of large numbers of
civilian casualties. Although it is difficult to be sure, it is
case that as the deaths and injuries among U.S. troops stay at a high
and as the U.S. military forces appear unable to curb the insurgency, so
is a marked tendency to play to their strengths. The main one is the
fire power advantage, but the two inevitable results of this, as seen in
Fallujah a year ago, are firstly the civilian deaths and other
damage, and secondly the persistent reporting of these actions across
region, even though they may seldom reach into the Western media.
The July 2005 briefing (*London, Sharm al Sheikh and the al-Qaida
in this series sought to analyze the significance of Iraq for al-Qaida.
general sense it is certainly the case that the continuing Western
of Iraq is very useful to the al-Qaida movement. Since one of the
aims of the movement is to establish a renewed Islamic caliphate, the
that Baghdad was the main city of the Abbasid Caliphate for several
years is a powerful motivating force. The occupation of Iraq can
presented as a neo-Christian endeavour involving Israeli (Zionist)
that is an affront to Islam and is, furthermore, also motivated by a
determination to control Arab oil.
Moreover, the high civilian death toll in Iraq, and the widespread
by regional satellite news channels of the death and destruction wrought
high-tech U.S. weapons systems both serve to increase anti-Americanism,
just in the region itself but also across the wider world. This may not
be directly relevant to al-Qaida, given that foreign paramilitaries
up only a small minority of the insurgents in Iraq, but this is likely
with time, and it is certainly the case that Iraq is becoming
significant as a
combat training zone for young Islamic paramilitaries.
In the past four years, al-Qaida has lost a number of its key leaders,
killed or detained, and has also lost its main base in Afghanistan. As
it is limited to those parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan that are not
government or U.S. control. Many analysts argue that this is not a
problem for the movement since it has undergone a metamorphosis into a
more dispersed entity. Having lost its more structured organization of
pre-9/11 days, al-Qaida is now more of an idea than a firm movement, and
therefore much more difficult to infiltrate, track, and counter.
Such a form of analysis also points to the many different attacks that
al-Qaida and its affiliates have carried out in the past four years,
Bali, London, Djakarta, Istanbul, Karachi, Casablanca, Madrid, and many
This list excludes a number of attacks that may have been countered by
agencies, including potential incidents in Rome, Paris, and Singapore, a
cluster of incidents that was augmented by George Bush in October to
planned attacks in Los Angeles, London's Heathrow Airport, and the
Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.
In listing these further operations, President Bush was seeking to show
al-Qaida is being curtailed and that the United States and its coalition
partners are having successes in his global war on terror. It can also
interpreted in a rather different way. If this 'weakened' organisation
able to mount all the attacks listed above, while having other
intercepted, it suggests a capability that is formidable, and is
much greater than its level of operations in an equivalent period before
There is, though, a further factor to consider. An objective assessment
that the al-Qaida movement remains active, and is capable of encouraging
not actually directly organising attacks across the world. Moreover, it
do this when it has only the loosest of structures and operates without
coherent base. While this could be represented as a successful
transformation, not least because it makes counter-terrorism operations
difficult, it could also be said to be a disadvantage in that an even
capability could result from a combination of this dispersed movement
more coherent base that would demonstrate that the movement actually
distinct territory. If this combination was to evolve, then the wider
jihadist movement, with al-Qaida at its center, could become very much
AL-QAIDA IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
Could such a combination evolve? There are two current possibilities --
Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency continues,
currently tying down around 20,000 foreign troops, mostly American.
force operates in those eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan in
Taliban and other guerrilla groups are currently operating. It is
from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that engages in
peacekeeping and peace-enforcing operations in Kabul and some other
At the present time, the guerrilla forces may have influence over some
districts but cannot be said to control them in the manner in which the
Taliban regime did in the 1990s.
Nor is it possible for al-Qaida militias to operate freely in North and
Waziristan and other districts across the Pakistan border. Osama bin
and other elements of the surviving leadership, together with
support, may be able to move around in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border
but that is different from having a degree of territorial control that
them to maintain training camps and other facilities. This is what was
existence prior to the termination of the Taliban regime at the end of
It is true that many of the jihadists who went to the training camps in
Afghanistan during this earlier era were actually doing so in order to
the Taliban in their ongoing civil war with the Northern Alliance. This
more significant role for the training camps than preparing
action in other parts of the world, although that may have been a
At the present time, it is unlikely that Taliban or al-Qaida militia
adequate territorial control in Afghanistan to establish training camps,
they certainly do not have such capabilities in Pakistan. At the same
relatively small groups of insurgents are tying down close to 20,000
combat troops supported by helicopters, strike aircraft, and a wide
space-based and land/air-based reconnaissance facilities. Their very
to do so means that such insurgents are continually getting combat
For the U.S. forces, with their problems of overstretch, Afghanistan is
becoming a costly diversion while they have much larger forces committed
Iraq. Their predicament is that they cannot withdraw, nor can they hand
to less well-equipped forces from coalition partners, because of the
Taliban/al-Qaida paramilitaries could make territorial advances that
give them the potential to re-establish bases.
A NEW BASE FOR AL-QAIDA
If this is a potential problem in Afghanistan, then it is a far greater
in Iraq, even if the number of foreign paramilitaries remains relatively
so far. The insurgency shows no signs of diminishing, but regional
geopolitics, especially the security of Gulf oil supplies, means that
no serious prospect of the United States withdrawing substantially from
As argued in an earlier briefing (US Options in Iraq, May 2005), one
for the United States forces would be what is sometimes called "Plan B",
withdrawal from the cities and consolidation of US troops in a small
large heavily protected bases, including some strategically located
the major oil fields.
Such a redeployment would leave U.S. forces far less vulnerable to
attacks but would enable them to aid a client government in Baghdad when
necessary. It was pointed out, though, that this would depend on the
successful training and operation of Iraqi police and security force
with them taking over many security functions still being undertaken by
forces. So far this has had made little progress. Moreover, there
still be a major U.S. presence in Iraq, serving as a continuing magnet
young paramilitaries drawn to Iraq from throughout the region and
Even so, a withdrawal from the cities and a much greater reliance on air
to limit insurgents and support a client government would have the
political advantage of decreasing American casualties. Given the
unpopularity of the Bush administration, there is a real concern in
Party circles that the mid-term congressional elections in a year's time
see major gains for the Democrats. If they were to achieve substantive
majorities in the House and Senate, as is certainly possible, the last
years of the Bush administration could make for a seriously "lame duck"
presidency, limiting the chances for a conservative victory in the 2008
For these reasons of domestic reality, some version of "Plan B" might
come to the fore in the next four to six months, but this may now have
added drawback of allowing the al-Qaida movement to gain a much stronger
within Iraq. This is by no means certain -- the al-Qaida presence in
makes up a small minority of the insurgency, even if its leadership is
innovative in its methods and particularly skilled at publicizing its
actions. In spite of this, there are persistent tensions between
linked to al-Qaida and what might best be described as neo-Ba'athist and
The real issue is one of timescales. If the U.S. forces do
withdraw to major bases while supporting the Iraqi government and
large forces in the country, they are likely to be entrenched in such
dispositions for some years to come. With continuing violence and the
consequent civilian casualties, Iraq will remain a magnet for
from many other countries, providing a combat training zone that may
effect stretching over more than a decade, not least as an increasing
proportion of the insurgents come from abroad.
This was already recognized as one of the consequences of the occupation
the country. What is new is the idea that the U.S. predicament may go
than this if Iraq ends up having substantial districts that are simply
under any kind of central control. In these circumstances, not only
country constitute a long-term training environment in urban guerrilla
warfare, but it will also be available as a base for al-Qaida
Afghanistan was in the 1990s, so Iraq may be in the coming decade --
the extraordinary potential consequence of the decision to terminate the
Saddam Hussein regime by force.
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