[Marxism] Rahul Mahajan on 'Iraq's New Civil War'

Russell Morse russell.morse at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 28 09:07:00 MST 2006


Iraq's New Civil War

By Rahul Mahajan

The war in Iraq seems to have fundamentally changed character.

The violence has reached hitherto unheard-of proportions. In today’s and
yesterday’s news reports, at least 30 Iraqis were killed in a bomb blast
at a U.S.-Iraqi joint military base west of Mosul; 30 corpses, many
headless, were found near Baqubah; 13 corpses, many of them handcuffed
before being shot, were found around Baghdad; and, most ominously,
somewhere from 16 to 37 supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr killed in a mosque
raid carried out by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. In a particularly macabre
episode, an Iraqi doctor admitted, presumably under torture by Kurdish
security forces, that he had killed 35 patients under his care, members
of the Iraqi army and police.

News reports alone show perhaps 50 people a day being killed in Iraq;
the true number is, of course, significantly higher. Individual murders
don’t even make the news any more.

This level of violence has only been matched during a few months of last
summer, when a sensational wave of suicide bombings was unleashed
following formation of the Iraqi government in late April. This time, it
doesn’t even involve Zarqawi and the suicide bombers, who have
drastically decreased their level of attacks. Responding to severe
criticism from everyone from the Iraqi insurgency to Ayman al-Zawahiri
of al-Qaeda, they have stopped beheading prisoners, cut down on car
bombings, and are now reconfiguring, supposedly with an Iraqi leader. In
U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s words, “More Iraqis are dying today
from the militia violence than from the terrorists.”

At the same time of this explosion of violence, the anti-occupation
struggle has fallen to a low ebb. March will see fewer U.S. fatalities
than any month since February 2004, before the events of late March and
April 2004 permanently altered the character of the occupation.

Although the bombing of the shrine in Samarra on February 22 triggered
the shift, it had been building for a long time. The shift is not all
peaches and cream for the Bush administration. They appear to have lost
control of the country (although they never really had it); the car-
bombing campaign of last summer, which gave the same impression, helped
drive down Bush’s job approval rating significantly.

Still, the United States seems to be viewing the prospect of Iraqis
killing Iraqis and ignoring Americans with, shall we say, great
equanimity. Indeed, it plays well into the strategic shift that I wrote
about earlier. Although U.S. forces are still occasionally attacking the
Sunni insurgency, they are beginning now to openly attack the Shi’a
militias, in concert with Iraqi troops.

This serves several purposes. The United States needs to reign in Shi’a
militias because the Shi’a political parties they’re associated with
have grown too powerful and independent. The sectarian killings provide
an excuse to attack Moqtada al-Sadr, who has become their number one
enemy – partly because he still opposes the occupation and partly
because he has made serious attempts to build unity with Sunnis,
including clerics from the Association of Muslim Scholars. Joint
maneuvers against militias with Iraqi troops serve the goal of trying to
detach the Iraqi soldiers’ loyalty from the militias and transfer it to
the U.S. military. Simultaneously, those maneuvers, presumably largely
with Kurdish troops, help disrupt the Kurdish-Shi’a bloc that had been
emerging but that threatened to be hegemonic, reinforcing the current
much weaker Kurd-Sunni Arab bloc.

Daniel Pipes, in an op-ed in early March, almost seems to lick his lips
as he contemplates Iraq’s possible descent into civil war, pointing out
that “when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice versa, non-Muslims
are less likely to be hurt,” adding that, from his point of view, “Civil
war in Iraq 
 would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.”

Although Pipes’ attitude is probably shared by many neoconservatives, it
is not by the Bush administration or the bulk of the foreign policy
establishment. This level of violence is not good for U.S. interests. It
imperils the oil flow and makes the occupation look like a failure. But
if it lays the foundation for permanent ethnic-sectarian feuding by
warring factions, all of whom look to the United States to be an “honest
broker,” then indeed it will be worth the temporary cost to them.

One thing is for sure: the United States was not asked to invade Iraq by
anyone and it is morally culpable for all the resulting mayhem.
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