[Marxism] Sending again with apologies: Is there life after Baker?

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Thu Dec 7 23:20:36 MST 2006

I listened to the sound bites from the Bush & Blair press conference. I am not sure what I was expecting:  perhaps to enjoy the spectacle of those two being forced to munch on a shite sandwich.

But as always I neglected to ward against the shock of seeing that Bush & Blair are as bad as we say they are.

This is the best that the ruling classes of the USA and Britain can do? - two lame duck idiots up there demonstrating how delusional they are! The combination of stupidity and amorality was staggering.

Here in Oz we had our own little farcical squawk from the Prime Minister John Howard. He is concerned that America will look like it's lost the war and that the Indonesian Islamic terrorists will come and get us in our beds. But maybe they are already under the beds?

So the task of working out what is happening, never mind what will happen, is very difficult.  Especially if one makes the fundamental mistake of seeing the problem as figuring out what the USA and Britain will do. The invaders are just one element in the mix and they may well not even be the most powerful element right now. I do not go as far as Nir Rosen and say that America is now irrelevant in Iraq and that it is just one more militia.  But clearly the Bush team are stymied big time.

So what do I think is going on?  Well my best guess is that the Americans want to go for what is termed the "80% solution".  That is where they line up with the Shia & Kurdish majority against the Sunni driven insurgency. 

There are lots of problems with this.  Not the least being the deep divisions among the 80%.  In fact the 80% does not exist as a homogeneous force.  In practice the so-called "80% solution" seems to mean lining up with the al-Hakim clan. Hence the sight of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim at the White House.

So the 80% solution dissolves into an intra-Shia clash where the Badr militia and the USA (once more) join in an attack on the Sadrists. Here one of the absolute ground rules seems to be that al-Sadr's movement is in no way part of the  "solution".  He must it seems be destroyed. Why? 

I am no fan at all of al-Sadr and have no illusions that somehow he is the Iraqi equivalent of Chavez. But he must above all be understood as the head of a movement which springs from the Shia poor. Such a movement cannot be put into power without the most enormous of upheavals.  

Perhaps an historical parallel will make my point. The Shia establishment regard al-Sadr as an upstart. Just as the German establishment regarded Adolf Hitler as a vulgar upstart. The German bourgeoisie only turned to Hitler when the spectre of Red Ruin confronted them.

It would seem then that al-Sadr does not know his proper place. But to teach him that is beyond America's military ability and even an alliance with al-Hakim may not give them the necessary fire-power.

Worse even if the Americans succeed in crushing the Adrists and the Sunni resistance without provoking a regional war, the upshot of their victory would be a greater Iran with control of the oil wealth of Iran and southern Iraq. Duh!!

I have not mentioned here the usual caveat that an attack on the Sunnis by America and the “80%” would bring the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria etc in on the side of the Iraqi Sunnis. I think that the lesson of the Palestinian struggle is that the Sunni leadership of the region has an enormous capacity to stand by while Sunnis are slaughtered. Besides the rulers of the Middle East are acutely aware that if they get involved in a regional Sunni–Shia war then it is very probable that their regimes will not survive.

So I have not answered my own question as to what I think is going on.  There are so many elements at work that it is of course very difficult.  But I think that there is a distinct element of class struggle within the Shia.  This is distorted by religion and as we all know or should know the primary function of religion is to do just that. But a struggle for control over the Shia is underway.  When the Prime Minister al-Maliki went to Jordan against the explicit command of al-Sadr he chose sides in that struggle.

Al-Sadr should now know that an attack from al-Hakim’s Badr Militia backed up by the USA is very possible. It is worth pointing out here that al-Hakim is close to Iran and so an alliance with him is a de facto alliance with the Iranians.  Such an attack on al-Sadr can only push him one way – towards an alliance with the Sunnis.  If he chooses that he will survive.  If he refuses he will go under.

So to return to the heading for this post: after Baker what?  Well the safe answer would appear to be more struggle while the Americans claim to be attempt to stabilise the country: that after ruining it by bombing it and also by putting the Shia into power. This is not to make an anti-Shia point.  Rather it is to point to the reality that in Iraq the Shia have been that section of the population traditionally excluded from running the modern state.  The experts are largely drawn from the Sunni sect.

I have not mentioned the Kurds in any of this.  The reason is that they will do whatever it takes to do whatever America wants.  The only problem for the Kurds is working out what America wants.

Finally what could happen that will make the coming year even more difficult for American imperialism?  Lebanon could fall to a radical Islamic government. Hamas could emerge even stronger from the class with Abbas and the thugs of  Daylan. But the really earth shattering event would be the emergence of a revolutionary Arab government either in Egypt or Syria. Such an event is a long way off, but events in Iraq despite the awful sectarian bloodshed have made the emergence of the Arab revolution more and not less likely and of course that is the spectre that was haunting the Baker-Hamilton report.

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