[Marxism] US imperialists weigh prospect of decades of occupying, BUT NOT CONTROLLING, Iraq

Fred Feldman 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
Iraq.

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
Fred Feldman



ANALYSIS: Three years in, think tank says Iraq war only in 'its very
early 
stages'

[It didn't rate a mention in either the *New York Times* or the
*Washington 
Post*.  --  But London's *Financial Times* reported that on Wednesday a 
well-respected British think tank called the Oxford Research Group
issued a 
report authored by Prof. Paul Rogers of the University of Bradford
predicting 
that the Iraq war is now only in "its very early stages":  "Maintaining
a 
friendly government in Baghdad is an essential part of U.S. security
policy, 
even if it requires a permanent U.S. military presence. . . . This is
because 
long-term access to oil from the region is essential to the U.S., given
its 
increasing dependence on imported oil.  --  If Iraq can no longer be 
controlled, and if Iran guards its independence, then the U.S. risks
finding 
its access to Gulf oil diminishing at precisely the same time as China
seeks 
to make gains in the region.  --  Contrary to some reports, the
insurgency is 
not diminishing. . . . [T]he report concludes that the war 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 now travel to Iraq to gain combat experience,

taking their skills back to Afghanistan to use against Western forces
there, 
it says."[1]  --  In its news release, the Oxford Research Group said
what it 
called "the al-Qaida movement" is "successfully presenting the U.S.
presence 
as a neo-Christian occupation of a major Islamic state, gaining new
recruits 
as it does so.  Baghdad was the seat of the most notable historic
Islamic 
caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate of 750 to 1250, and with it now seen as
under 
U.S. control, this can be used as a powerful rallying call to potential 
paramilitaries."[2]  --  The October 2005 report is reproduced below.[3]
--  
Prof. Rogers notes that al-Qaida is "now more of an idea than a firm
movement, 
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
always the 
case.)  --  Prof. Rogers argues that "regional geopolitics, especially
the 
security of Gulf oil supplies, means that there is no serious prospect
of the 
United States withdrawing substantially from Iraq.   As argued in an
earlier 
briefing (*US Options in Iraq*, May 2005), one option for the United
States 
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
oil 
fields."  --  (This is actually what Rep. John Murtha (D-PA 12th)
proposed 
[http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/3647/] on Nov. 17; Republicans 
mischaracterized his speech as a call for "immediate withdrawal.")  --
The 
October report concludes that there is a significant possibility that as
a 
result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "not only will the country [come
to] 
constitute a long-term training environment in urban guerrilla warfare,
but it 
will also be available as a base for al-Qaida operations.  As
Afghanistan was 
in the 1990s, so Iraq may be in the coming decade -- that is the
extraordinary 
potential consequence of the decision to terminate the Saddam Hussein
regime 
by force."  --  In other words, the widely circulated 2002 antiwar 
"recruiting" poster
(http://www.outlandishjosh.com/images/uncleosama.jpg) that 
showed Uncle Osama saying "I want you to invade Iraq" expressed an
essential 
truth about the American invasion.  --Mark]

http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/3678/

1.

Middle East & Africa

Iraq

IRAQ CONFLICT 'STILL IN ITS EARLY STAGES'
By Fiona Symon

Financial Times (UK)
November 23, 2005

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/a33ef8ca-5c0e-11da-af92-0000779e2340.html

The war in Iraq is still in its early stages and British troops are
likely to 
be bogged down in the conflict for decades, a report by the Oxford
Research 
Group claimed on Wednesday.

Maintaining a friendly government in Baghdad is an essential part of
U.S. 
security policy, even if it requires a permanent U.S. military presence,
says 
the report by the independent U.K. think tank.  This is because
long-term 
access to oil from the region is essential to the US, given its
increasing 
dependence on imported oil.

If Iraq can no longer be controlled, and if Iran guards its
independence, then 
the U.S. risks finding its access to Gulf oil diminishing at precisely
the 
same time as China seeks to make gains in the region.

Contrary to some reports, the insurgency is not diminishing and it is
likely 
to prove very difficult to withdraw all the British troops from Iraq
unless 
there is a major change of policy by the British government, risking a
break 
with the United States, says the report by Oxford Research Group's
global 
security consultant, Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University.

The report will make unwelcome reading for the British and US
governments, 
which have both indicated that they hope to begin reducing the number of

troops involved in Iraq after the next Iraqi parliamentary elections are
held 
in December.

The report provides a detailed month-by-month assessment of the
developing 
insurgency for a year between late 2004 and 2005.

Pointing to the growing numbers of civilian casualties, as well as the
failure 
to control the insurgency, even with the use of overwhelming firepower,
as 
with the assault on Fallujah last November, the report concludes that
the war 
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
now 
travel to Iraq to gain combat experience, taking their skills back to 
Afghanistan to use against western forces there, it says.

2.

For Release: 00.01 hrs, Wednesday 23rd November 2005

NEW REPORT SAYS COMPLETE BRITISH WITHDRAWAL UNLIKELY -- WAR COULD LAST
DECADES

Oxford Research Group
November 23, 2005

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/aboutus/pressrelease231105.pdf

Contrary to recent reports from Iraq, the insurgency is not diminishing
and it 
is likely to prove very difficult to withdraw all the British troops
from Iraq 
unless there is a major change of policy by the British government,
risking a 
break with the United States.  This is one of the main conclusions of a
major 
study of the second year of the Iraq War, during which the insurgency
became 
deeply embedded, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Iraqi
civilians.

*Iraq and the War on Terror: Twelve Months of Insurgency, 2004-2005* is
the 
new edition of Oxford Research Group's annual International Security
Report 
for 2005.  Published today, it assesses the Iraq War as still being in
its 
early stages, pointing to two fundamental factors that indicate that it
will 
last for many years.

1. The occupation of Iraq is proving to be a 'gift' to the al-Qaida
movement.  
It is successfully presenting the U.S. presence as a neo-Christian
occupation 
of a major Islamic state, gaining new recruits as it does so.  Baghdad
was the 
seat of the most notable historic Islamic caliphate, the Abbasid
Caliphate of 
750 to 1250 (western calendar), and with it now seen as under U.S.
control, 
this can be used as a powerful rallying call to potential
paramilitaries.

Al-Qaida readily uses the terminology of a crusader occupation and
points to 
the close connections between the United States and Israel as proof of a

Christian/Zionist plot to control Iraq and dominate Arab oil.  Whatever
the 
validity of this, the message is both seductive and effective.

As a result, Iraq is now becoming a magnet for young jihadists and has
already 
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
Western 
forces there.

2. Ensuring Iraqi security and maintaining a friendly government in
Baghdad is 
an essential part of U.S. security policy even if it requires a
permanent U.S. 
military presence.  This is because long-term access to Persian Gulf oil
is 
essential to the United States, given its increasing dependence on
imported 
oil.  If Iraq can no longer be controlled, and if Iran guards its
independence 
fiercely, then the United States will find its access to Gulf oil
diminishing 
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.
need to 
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.
withdrawal 
would be a foreign policy disaster for them greater than the retreat
from 
Vietnam, and it would take a fundamental change of policy in Washington
for 
this to happen.  Meanwhile, the al-Qaida movement gains strength from
this 
very occupation.

The report concludes:

--Given that the al-Qaida movement and its affiliates are seeking to
achieve 
their aims over a period of decades rather than years, the probability
is 
that, short of major political changes in the U.S.A., the Iraq war might
well 
be measured over a similar time span.

--For Britain, the likelihood of a peaceful withdrawal of U.K. troops
from 
South East Iraq is minimal unless London breaks with Washington.  This
would 
be a major policy shift for the Blair government, representing the
sharpest 
difference in its relationship with Washington in the past eight years.
In 
present circumstances it is highly unlikely, yet the war is likely to
cast an 
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
control the 
insurgency, even with the use of overwhelming firepower, as with the
assault 
on Fallujah last November.

Written by Oxford Research Group's global security consultant, Professor
Paul 
Rogers of the University of Bradford, *Iraq and the War on Terror* is
the 
second in a series of annual reports from this independent policy group.

Based in Oxford, it works on alternative security policies and was
recently 
named as one of Britain's top twenty think tanks for innovative
thinking.

*Iraq and the War on Terror* is published today by I.B. Tauris, one of
the 
leading publishers on international relations and Middle East studies.

Contacts:
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

3.

Global Security

IRAQ IN A WIDER PERSPECTIVE
By Professor Paul Rogers

Oxford Research Group
International Security Monthly Briefing
October 2005

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/paulrogers/Oct05.htm

The month of September had been considered a relatively easy month for
U.S. 
forces in Iraq, in that only 49 American military personnel were killed.
This 
was the lowest figure for six months and was one of the factors that
gave rise 
to another phase of the oft-repeated claim that the insurgency was
easing.  In 
some ways, even this 'good news' was misleading, in that the military
deaths 
in September were still higher than for any of the six months from May
to 
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,
with 96 
troops killed.  Apart from the two months of intensive fighting around 
Fallujah in April and November of last year, there was only one month
since 
the war started, January of this year, when the death toll among
American 
forces was higher.  Overall, the period from August to October 2005 has
been 
particularly difficult for the U.S. forces in Iraq.  It is not just the
death 
toll, standing at 230 for the three months, but it is also the
persistently 
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
being 
evacuated to Landstuhl military hospital in Germany and then on to the
United 
States for longer-term treatment.  About half of all the troops sent
back to 
the United States are eventually discharged from the armed forces, many
of 
them disabled for life.

There had been an expectation that there would be a surge in the
violence 
around the time of the referendum, but this had also been anticipated
during 
earlier elections, and maintaining U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces
on 
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.
Since 
three were required to do so for it to fail to be approved, the
constitution 
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
the war 
began.  While the great majority have been civilians, the police and
security 
forces continue to be severely affected.  There have also been some
highly 
sophisticated attacks, including one on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad
that is 
used widely by the foreign media.  The hotel is across the river from
the 
heavily protected 'green zone' that houses the Iraqi government, U.S.
Embassy 
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
outer 
protected perimeter around the hotel complex, and a cement truck loaded
with 
explosives was then rammed through the damaged perimeter and into the
compound 
before exploding.  Although the hotel was not destroyed, at least
seventeen 
people were killed.

COUNTERING THE INSURGENCY

Two trends have recently emerged in the evolution of the insurgency.
One is 
the increased use of large improvised explosive devices against road
convoys 
including the more regular use of shaped charge explosives that are able
to 
pierce armored vehicles.  Many of the recent American casualties have
been 
caused by such IEDs and they are also being used against British forces
in the 
southeast of the country, so much so that the British Army is making far
more 
use of its limited force of helicopters in order to move troops around
and 
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
towards the 
Syrian border.  This region has been presumed to be both a center of 
insurgency and a route for foreign paramilitaries coming in from Syria.
There 
were several occasions in October when combined U.S./Iraqi forces of
well over 
a thousand troops were deployed against particular centers of
population.  A 
feature of these attacks was the use of substantial firepower, including

helicopter gun-ships and strike aircraft.  This often involved the
targeting 
of presumed insurgent strongholds with substantial bombing raids,
leading to 
reports from U.S. sources of many insurgents killed.  All too often,
however, 
these were followed by reports from local hospitals of large numbers of 
civilian casualties.  Although it is difficult to be sure, it is
probably the 
case that as the deaths and injuries among U.S. troops stay at a high
level, 
and as the U.S. military forces appear unable to curb the insurgency, so
there 
is a marked tendency to play to their strengths.  The main one is the
immense 
fire power advantage, but the two inevitable results of this, as seen in

Fallujah a year ago, are firstly the civilian deaths and other
collateral 
damage, and secondly the persistent reporting of these actions across
the 
region, even though they may seldom reach into the Western media.

AL-QAIDA EVOLVING

The July 2005 briefing (*London, Sharm al Sheikh and the al-Qaida
Movement*) 
in this series sought to analyze the significance of Iraq for al-Qaida.
In a 
general sense it is certainly the case that the continuing Western
occupation 
of Iraq is very useful to the al-Qaida movement.  Since one of the
long-term 
aims of the movement is to establish a renewed Islamic caliphate, the
fact 
that Baghdad was the main city of the Abbasid Caliphate for several
hundred 
years is a powerful motivating force.  The occupation of Iraq can
readily be 
presented as a neo-Christian endeavour involving Israeli (Zionist)
cooperation 
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
reporting 
by regional satellite news channels of the death and destruction wrought
by 
high-tech U.S. weapons systems both serve to increase anti-Americanism,
not 
just in the region itself but also across the wider world.  This may not
all 
be directly relevant to al-Qaida, given that foreign paramilitaries
still make 
up only a small minority of the insurgents in Iraq, but this is likely
to grow 
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,
either 
killed or detained, and has also lost its main base in Afghanistan.  As
such 
it is limited to those parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan that are not
under 
government or U.S. control.  Many analysts argue that this is not a
major 
problem for the movement since it has undergone a metamorphosis into a
much 
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
is 
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,
including 
Bali, London, Djakarta, Istanbul, Karachi, Casablanca, Madrid, and many
more.  
This list excludes a number of attacks that may have been countered by
Western 
agencies, including potential incidents in Rome, Paris, and Singapore, a

cluster of incidents that was augmented by George Bush in October to
include 
planned attacks in Los Angeles, London's Heathrow Airport, and the
Straits of 
Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

In listing these further operations, President Bush was seeking to show
that 
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
be 
interpreted in a rather different way.  If this 'weakened' organisation
is 
able to mount all the attacks listed above, while having other
operations 
intercepted, it suggests a capability that is formidable, and is
certainly 
much greater than its level of operations in an equivalent period before
the 
9/11 attacks.

There is, though, a further factor to consider.  An objective assessment
is 
that the al-Qaida movement remains active, and is capable of encouraging
if 
not actually directly organising attacks across the world.  Moreover, it
can 
do this when it has only the loosest of structures and operates without
a 
coherent base.  While this could be represented as a successful 
transformation, not least because it makes counter-terrorism operations
so 
difficult, it could also be said to be a disadvantage in that an even
greater 
capability could result from a combination of this dispersed movement
with a 
more coherent base that would demonstrate that the movement actually
holds 
distinct territory.  If this combination was to evolve, then the wider 
jihadist movement, with al-Qaida at its center, could become very much
more 
potent.

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.
This 
force operates in those eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan in
which 
Taliban and other guerrilla groups are currently operating.  It is
distinct 
from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that engages in 
peacekeeping and peace-enforcing operations in Kabul and some other
cities.  
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
South 
Waziristan and other districts across the Pakistan border.  Osama bin
Laden 
and other elements of the surviving leadership, together with
paramilitary 
support, may be able to move around in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border
zone, 
but that is different from having a degree of territorial control that
enables 
them to maintain training camps and other facilities.  This is what was
in 
existence prior to the termination of the Taliban regime at the end of
2001.  
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
join 
the Taliban in their ongoing civil war with the Northern Alliance.  This
was a 
more significant role for the training camps than preparing
paramilitaries for 
action in other parts of the world, although that may have been a
subsidiary 
function.

At the present time, it is unlikely that Taliban or al-Qaida militia
have 
adequate territorial control in Afghanistan to establish training camps,
and 
they certainly do not have such capabilities in Pakistan.  At the same
time, 
relatively small groups of insurgents are tying down close to 20,000
Western 
combat troops supported by helicopters, strike aircraft, and a wide
range of 
space-based and land/air-based reconnaissance facilities.  Their very
ability 
to do so means that such insurgents are continually getting combat
training.  
For the U.S. forces, with their problems of overstretch, Afghanistan is 
becoming a costly diversion while they have much larger forces committed
in 
Iraq.  Their predicament is that they cannot withdraw, nor can they hand
over 
to less well-equipped forces from coalition partners, because of the
risk that 
Taliban/al-Qaida paramilitaries could make territorial advances that
could 
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
risk 
in Iraq, even if the number of foreign paramilitaries remains relatively
small 
so far.  The insurgency shows no signs of diminishing, but regional 
geopolitics, especially the security of Gulf oil supplies, means that
there is 
no serious prospect of the United States withdrawing substantially from
Iraq.  
As argued in an earlier briefing (US Options in Iraq, May 2005), one
option 
for the United States 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 oil fields.

Such a redeployment would leave U.S. forces far less vulnerable to
insurgent 
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
units, 
with them taking over many security functions still being undertaken by
U.S. 
forces.  So far this has had made little progress.  Moreover, there
would 
still be a major U.S. presence in Iraq, serving as a continuing magnet
for 
young paramilitaries drawn to Iraq from throughout the region and
beyond.

Even so, a withdrawal from the cities and a much greater reliance on air
power 
to limit insurgents and support a client government would have the
domestic 
political advantage of decreasing American casualties.  Given the
current 
unpopularity of the Bush administration, there is a real concern in
Republican 
Party circles that the mid-term congressional elections in a year's time
could 
see major gains for the Democrats.  If they were to achieve substantive 
majorities in the House and Senate, as is certainly possible, the last
two 
years of the Bush administration could make for a seriously "lame duck" 
presidency, limiting the chances for a conservative victory in the 2008 
Presidential Election.

For these reasons of domestic reality, some version of "Plan B" might
well 
come to the fore in the next four to six months, but this may now have
the 
added drawback of allowing the al-Qaida movement to gain a much stronger
base 
within Iraq.  This is by no means certain -- the al-Qaida presence in
Iraq 
makes up a small minority of the insurgency, even if its leadership is
both 
innovative in its methods and particularly skilled at publicizing its
actions.  In spite of this, there are persistent tensions between
foreign jihadists 
linked to al-Qaida and what might best be described as neo-Ba'athist and
Iraqi 
nationalist insurgents.

The real issue is one of timescales.  If the U.S. forces do
progressively 
withdraw to major bases while supporting the Iraqi government and
retaining 
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
paramilitaries 
from many other countries, providing a combat training zone that may
have an 
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
of 
the country.  What is new is the idea that the U.S. predicament may go
further 
than this if Iraq ends up having substantial districts that are simply
not 
under any kind of central control.  In these circumstances, not only
will the 
country constitute a long-term training environment in urban guerrilla 
warfare, but it will also be available as a base for al-Qaida
operations.  As 
Afghanistan was in the 1990s, so Iraq may be in the coming decade --
that is 
the extraordinary potential consequence of the decision to terminate the

Saddam Hussein regime by force.





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