WDIE Masthead

Year 2005 No. 13, January 30, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Condemn the Fraud and Tragedy of the Iraqi Elections

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Condemn the Fraud and Tragedy of the Iraqi Elections

Vote Where, How, and for Whom?
Iraqi Elections are Illegal, According to Geneva Convention
Iraq: Closed Door Elections and Clandestine Candidates
Iraq and its Resistance
US-Made Election Schemes In Iraq and Palestine
The Streets of Baghdad are Empty. It Feels Like A City Preparing For War.

A Travesty of Democracy
Farce of the Century
Not Even Saddam Could Achieve the Divisions this Election Will Bring
What Iraqis Are Saying About the Elections

US Keeps Iran in its Sights
Iran Approaches a Flashpoint

US Urged to Abandon Anti-DPRK Policy
Conspiracy Comes to Light
"War Potential Build-up" Moves for Pre-emptive Strike Against DPRK

Daily On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: (Local Rate from outside London 0845 644 1979) 020 7627 0599
Web Site: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk
e-mail: office@rcpbml.org.uk
Subscription Rates (Cheques made payable to RCPB(ML)):
Workers' Weekly Printed Edition:
4 issues - £2.95, 6 months - £18.95 for 26 issues, Yearly - £33.95 (including postage)

Workers' Daily Internet Edition sent by e-mail daily (Text e-mail):
1 issue free, 6 months £5, Yearly £10

Condemn the Fraud and Tragedy of the Iraqi Elections

The monopoly-controlled media, especially the BBC, are promoting the Iraqi elections taking up the propaganda line of the bourgeoisie and British government: that these are the first "free" elections in Iraq for over 50 years. If these elections are "free", why should anyone want free elections?

These fraudulent elections organised by the occupiers of Iraq are both a farce and a tragedy for the Iraqi people.

The British working class and people must demand that Britain get out of Iraq lock, stock and barrel. The history of the country of Iraq has been completely bound up with British strategic and politically manoeuvring, intervention, aggression and interference. Only when the Iraqi people are able to determine the future of their country completely free of foreign interference will peace and stability be won. Occupation is not liberation and can never be!

In this January 30 issue of WDIE, we are carrying articles on the Iraqi elections, as well as US imperialist threats against Iran and the DPRK.

Article Index

Vote Where, How, and for Whom?

Dahr Jamail, Baghdad, Jan 26 (IPS)

With elections just four days away, many Iraqis are still uncertain how they will vote, or even where the polling stations are.. The only certainty appears to be violence. Another political assassination took place when judge Qais Hashim al-Shammari was killed with his brother-in-law as he was leaving his house in eastern Baghdad Tuesday.

At least six U.S. soldiers have been killed in Baghdad this week. One soldier died when a roadside bomb struck his patrol Monday. Five soldiers died in what the military described as a "vehicle accident".

A car bomb exploded the same day near the party headquarters of interim prime minister Iyad Allawi. At least five people, four of them police officers, died in the blast.

In Baquba, north of Baghdad, party political offices were attacked Tuesday. At least one policeman was killed.

Amidst such incidents people are guessing games around polling stations and candidates. It appears now that polling stations will be located in school buildings. The high commission for elections of Iraq has still not announced the location of polling stations due to security fears, but many school buildings around Baghdad are being cordoned off with sand barriers, concrete blocks and razor wire.

"I feel unsafe in my own home now, even more than before," said Hashim al-Obeidy, a retired engineer. A school building near his house is being prepared as a polling station. "I watched the American soldiers building these barriers. And now I am afraid mortars will hit my home if the school is attacked."

Standing outside his house in central Baghdad, he pointed to a row of large sand barriers outside an old yellow school building with damaged walls and cracked paint. "They already severely damaged our school system, they haven't rebuilt anything, and now they will create more destruction in the schools," he said.

"I would be crazy to vote, it's so dangerous now," said 45-year-old guard Salman at another barricaded school building being prepared as a polling station. Most residents do not know yet which school they could go to vote in.

Many Iraqis continue to express frustration over what they see as illegitimate elections.

Prof. Shawket Daoud, a computer science specialist who now works for the government, said uncertainty over polling booths and the fear of violence was not the only problem. "Why vote when we don't even know who is running yet?"

More than 7,000 candidates on the electoral lists have opted to remain anonymous prior to polling day. At least eight political leaders thought to be candidates have been killed. Many others receive death threats.

But some Iraqis still say they will vote. "I'll vote because I can't afford to have my food ration cut," said Amin Hajar, 52, who owns a small auto garage in Baghdad. "There is a rumour that if we don't vote our ration will be stopped. And if that happened, I and my family would starve to death."

He said that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently, he was forced to sign a form saying he had picked up his voter registration. He believes that the government may use this to track whether he votes or not.

This rumour has circulated broadly around Baghdad even though there appears to be no truth in it.

Abu Sabah, a grocery stall owner near the Karrada district of Baghdad says he is simply confused about the election. The elections feel rushed and a list of at least 83 coalitions of political parties with mostly anonymous candidates makes no sense, he says.

"Who says we should have elections for people we don't even know during occupation, martial law and in a war zone," he said. "And why vote when we're expected to vote for an entire list of candidates when we only know, if we're lucky, one or two of their names?"

Article Index

Iraqi Elections are Illegal, According to Geneva Convention

Jan 24 (Prensa Latina)

Foreign occupation forces in Iraq have no legal authority to restructure the politics, society and economy of this Arab country and even less to call for elections, the London BBC radio station said Monday.

In an interview with the BBC, the president of the Arab Lawyer Association in Great Britain, Sabah Mokhtar, stressed that Geneva and Vienna Conventions stipulate that occupation troops of a state have no legal power to restructure it.

"Iraq is not currently a sovereign nation, but an occupied one, in which foreign forces have proclaimed a Constitution and legislation for elections and the creation of political parties," said Mokhtar when answering a BBC question about the motive of the Iraqi resistance to oppose the US-led elections scheduled for January 30.

The Arab leader added that the Iraq had 300 laws when the US-British forces launched their aggression in March 2003, most established in the 1920´s. He admitted some of those needed to be reformed, but they can only be changed by a legal authority.

Mokhtar also emphasised that a State in war can not legally call for elections, even less when at least 100 insurgent attacks are reported in Iraq daily.

Iraqi citizens fear to go to the polls, are unable to vote and there is no information about election candidates.

Addressing US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld´s recent statements, Mokthar said that elections should be properly held, despite irregularities prevailing in the Arab country.

If elections take place now it will only be because US President George W. Bush has made an incorrect decision, concluded Mokhtar.

Article Index

Iraq: Closed Door Elections and Clandestine Candidates

Radio Havana Cuba Editorial: January 18, 2005

The US president, now nearly bereft of arguments, continues insisting that his country invaded and destroyed Iraq to install western style democracy there and to hold presidential elections on January 30, to demonstrate that the system is capable of doing so.

The evidence, however, indicates that we are about to see the holding of the least democratic and least participatory elections ever. Iraq's interim government, installed by the invaders to soften their image, has already announced that two days before the elections, all ground, air and sea access will be totally sealed off until Monday, January 31. What's more, no vehicles will be allowed on Iraqi streets without special authorization, which will be granted to occupation forces and interim government on the pretext of avoiding attacks during the balloting.

So practically speaking no one will be able to enter or leave the country, or even their homes, without previous permission, which means that the only voters will be those authorized by the occupation forces.

On the other hand, the occupiers have admitted that in a full quarter of Iraqi territory it will be difficult to hold elections. That includes the cities of Baghdad and Mosul, which are among the country's most populated.

It would be funny if it weren't so tragically true, but when presidential candidate, Hussein Ali was asked why he hadn't waged an electoral campaign, he replied simply that he had to keep his candidacy "a secret", in order to protect his life. In fact, most of the candidates have been unable to campaign because that would require costly bodyguards and armoured cars or helicopters in which to travel throughout the country and those privileges are reserved for Washington's candidate, Iyad Alawi.

For the rest, the campaign is strictly "inter-mural". Everyone already knows who will win the masquerade disguised as elections. The organizers themselves say that 17 million Iraqis have been convened, a million of whom will vote abroad, fundamentally in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

The truth is that after the great destruction caused by the war and occupation no public electoral lists exist, it is difficult if not impossible, to establish who is who and who is alive, especially in cities which were raised, like Fallujah and entire neighbourhoods of Baghdad.

If despite all this, the United States insists on holding elections, they won't change the situation of a country at war, with its economy destroyed and its social fabric at the edge of collapse. A country in which 70 percent are unemployed, thousands of families are without electricity and drinking water and the lack of services is proportional to the rise in disease, hunger and poverty.

After what we have seen in the last presidential elections in the United States nothing should come as a surprise. But to try and call what is now being mounted in Iraq an "exercise in democracy", is truly beyond the pale.

Article Index

Iraq and its Resistance

Stephen Gowans, What's Left, January 27, 2005

The question of whether Iraqis have a right to resist the occupation of their country by US-led forces is clear: they do. The question of whether they have a right to resist occupation by any means is academic.

The fact of the matter is that occupied people will, and always have, resisted occupations. And since poor people do not have access to helicopter gunships, tanks and bombers -- the tools of the occupiers -- they resort to the means at their disposal.

Those means are often gruesome. Some say they’re barbaric and uncivilised. The US government calls them terrorist, as it does any violent or armed challenge to exploitation by US corporations, the US military and its proxies. (Not surprisingly, Washington has a far more relaxed attitude toward armed challenges to exploitation by its rivals, evidenced recently in members of the US foreign policy establishment importuning Russia to hold talks with Chechen guerrillas.)

That the methods of the occupiers are equally, if not more, barbaric, is granted, including by those who deplore the methods of the resistance, and wish a pox on both houses. This is a position regularly taken by moralists in the West, whose purpose in washing their hands of both sides, other than to make a show of their piety, is never clear. Uncivilised and barbaric things happen, in a regular, ineluctable, law-like, fashion, and deploring them doesn’t change the conditions that give rise to them or make them any less likely to happen tomorrow.

It is also ineluctable that the Iraqi government formed after the elections on Sunday will be an agent of US policy.

The electoral arena invariably favours groups with access to substantial resources -- in this case, the resources provided by the US-led occupation and such US-funded agencies as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, which operate to funnel money to pro-US political parties and organisations. The money is funnelled to these groups for one purpose: So they’ll get elected to implement US policy.

If it happens that the outcome of the election is not entirely favourable to the pursuit of US aims, the victor will be forced to step aside in favour of a reliable pro-US operative. In any election, the outcome – whether in the final vote tally or in subsequent actions to overturn the election, if necessary -- is ultimately determined by whoever effectively holds power, and in Iraq, that party is the United States.

Indeed, it is almost axiomatic to say that the only kind of government that could possibly be elected under a US-led military occupation, and allowed to stand, is a pro-US one. To think otherwise is terribly naïve and ignorant of the regular, historical pattern of the United States and Britain bringing conservative, pro-capitalist, pro-Anglo-American leaders to power in countries they claimed to have "liberated." This happened in Greece, France, Belgium and Korea during World War II, and in Vietnam later.

The purpose of Sunday’s election is to establish a legitimate basis in law for the transfer of Iraqi assets to US corporations, including the oil majors. Up to now, there has been no legitimate (hence, elected) Iraqi government in place to ratify the sell-off of state-owned enterprises and oil rights to US and British companies, and therefore no legal basis on which to carry out the annexation of the Iraqi economy.

True, Washington had no legal authority to invade the country either, but the question of title to property, and the resolution of conflicting property claims, is only resolvable by the authority of an Iraqi government which is recognised as sovereign in law.

So, with an election furnishing their legal bona fides, the authorities in Baghdad can pose as the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people, while acting as agents of US investors and shareholders.

Far from restoring de facto sovereignty to Iraqis, this guarantees they will be plunged into an abyss of perpetual dependency. If all goes according to plan, Iraq’s natural resources and economic infrastructure – its public transportation, electricity, telecommunications, water and oil industries – will be transferred to private American and British hands before the occupation comes to a close.

At that point, the country will be nothing more than an economic colony of the United States, disgorging its resources and wealth for the benefit of US investors and shareholders, while settling into the usual pattern characteristic of exploited, dependent countries. There will be a small, affluent comprador stratum, a teeming surplus population, and a bevy of sweatshops dotting the banks of the Euphrates owned by contractors employed by foreign, mainly US, corporate titans.

The resistance is the only force capable of disrupting this plan.

Article Index

US-Made Election Schemes In Iraq and Palestine

Amer Jubran*, January 25, 2005

George Bush mentioned the word 'freedom' over 30 times in his inauguration speech, which lasted for over twenty minutes. The timing of the speech came after the Palestinian "elections" and before the Iraqi "elections." Bush concluded his speech by saying, "Democracy is coming whether you are ready or not."

As a result of the so-called elections in Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas became the president of the Palestinian Authority as of January 12. The election was called as a result of Yaser Arafat's death less than two months before. Declaring and registering candidates, allocating funds, deciding on and inviting international monitors, setting up voting centres, putting forth political agendas for the candidates, and running various election campaigns, all took place in less than fifty days. Impediments, such as pre-registering voters, appointing qualified election committees and commissioners, the Israeli military occupation with its stiff security measures in the areas where the elections were to take place, and the inability of over six million exiled Palestinians to participate and vote - all this was totally ignored. Abbas became the new Palestinian president with less than 400,000 votes out of a total of ten million Palestinians. The election was called by the US and approved by the Israelis. They were tailored to shoe in Mr. Abbas. There was never any doubt that Abbas would come out the winner.

On January 30 Iraq will have its turn in another election chosen by the White House. Interestingly, Eyad Allawi - the US-appointed prime minister in Iraq - announced this week during a press conference that tough security measures would be imposed during the elections between the 29th and 31st of the month. Such measures will include a curfew on all cities that have tense security conditions (no lists of these cities were provided, which meant all Iraqi cities qualify for the curfew) and traffic will not be allowed on those days. Allawi advised members of the media not to cover the elections since his government cannot guarantee their safety. He told the press that even international monitors such as the UN will not be on hand.

However, Allawi did invite all Iraqis to vote, assuring them that US forces and their collaborating police will be there to ensure that the Iraqi people can fulfil their long-awaited dream of an open election. He added that his men will not hesitate to shoot at any suspected saboteurs and then concluded by asking everyone to choose him for office.

The most bizarre aspect of the Iraqi elections is that the individuals who are running for Parliament are keeping their identities and programs secret until the end of the election day. This means Iraqi voters will not know who they are voting for. Votes cast will be for numbers rather than names. Each candidate will have a number that voters will write down to indicate their choice. When voting is over, US airplanes will transport the "sealed ballots" from all over Iraq to the Green Zone in Baghdad to be counted. Who will do the counting and who will observe the counting has not been announced.

Why is the US so determined to have the elections in Palestine and Iraq? Especially when the outcome is so predictable, why does the US carry on with the charade of presidents having any authority in either country?

Noah Fieldsman, a consultant appointed to the Iraqi government by the US occupation, is considered the mastermind behind the Iraqi elections. He advised - or rather, imposed - on the Iraqi puppet regime the idea of a coalition following the Israeli model of government. In this model the president plays a very limited role in deciding or executing polices. The prime minister, head of the largest party in the Parliament, is the man who runs the show.

A document seized by the Iraqi resistance in one government centre in the northern city of Kirkuk revealed the predetermined outcome of the elections in Iraq. The cast is as follows:

- Adnan Pachachi playing the part of President - Eyad Allawi as a Prime Minister who chooses a coalition government from a Parliament to consist of: A National Coalition sponsored by Sistani, with 30 seats The Iraqi List of Eyad Allawi with 40 seats The Kurdish Coalition composed of three parties, with 45 seats. Adnan Pachachi, with 24 seats. Ghazi Al-Yawer, the current transitional president, with 16-20 seats. The Turkoman list, with 15 seats The Christian List, with 10 seats The Iraqi Communist Party, with 12 seats And 105 other lists to share the last 20 or fewer remaining seats

The biggest challenge facing these elections is how do you explain elections under foreign military occupation?

In deciding to have elections in Palestine, the US thought that Palestinian geopolitics clearly sees Israelis as an occupation, as aggressors. Also, there is the Palestinian Authority, which lives in a political grey area: it advocates the Palestinian agenda publicly but works within guidelines set by the US and Israel under the Oslo Accords. The PA's funding, mobility, and political conduct are approved by the Israelis.

The Palestinian Authority which, after Oslo, became a police force for the Israeli occupation, was created in order to replace the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which called for the liberation of Palestine by armed struggle. The switch was not obvious to many people. Furthermore, large propaganda efforts were used to conceal the PA under the cloak of the former PLO. This resulted in the PA gaining recognition as a legitimate sovereign political entity working for the Palestinians' best interests. Unlike the Iraqi resistance, which directly attacks the puppet police and US occupying army, it was hard for the resistance in Palestine to strike the PA. The small Palestinian population and the poorly funded and poorly armed Palestinian resistance could not meet the expense of a civil war.

The US decided that a show of elections in Palestine under the Israeli occupation could sway Iraqis into thinking that elections in Iraq under US occupation might be legitimate. Many pro-election Iraqis, press, and politicians today use the Palestinian elections in their arguments to explain how elections can be conducted under military occupation.

In addition, the Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978, the Oslo Accord between Israel and the Arafat in 1993, the Wadi-Araba treaty between Jordan and Israel in 1994, and the Israeli peace offer to the Syrians in 1998, introduced a new concept with regard to occupied lands: the occupied have an abstract "national sovereignty" while Israel has actual control on the ground. The US occupation decided to use this concept in Iraq.

Another model is that of Afghanistan - a national sovereign government supposedly led by Karzai, but entirely under the control of US occupying forces.

Elections normally mean rivalry and a struggle for power. Under the occupation, elections in Iraq have been a decisive help in controlling a population hostile to the military presence of the occupier. The Iraqi people are divided today between those who support the resistance - mainly Sunnis - and those who do not - mainly Shiites. As a result, both groups differ in their opinion about the elections. Uncle Sam used the elections to create competing interests for the different ethnic groups in Iraq. The US focused its efforts on the Shiites, who were repressed during the Saddam era, for two reasons:

1) Shiites are a majority in Iraq who are not objecting to the presence of the foreign military occupation. For them, elections mean that they would have the largest numbers of voters; winning the elections means winning power.

2) If there are plans by the US to invade or attack the Shiites in Iran, the Shiites in Iraq must be neutralised by being given power in Iraq. Moreover, buying off the Shiites in Iraq means a less influential role for Shiites from Iran.

Many Shiites today believe that they need to defend their political future and rights against the Sunnis as an ethnic group that ran Iraq prior to the occupation, and not as a group that leads the resistance. The view that all players in Iraq's political arena are equal is false. Sadly, divisions along ethnic lines in Iraq do exist: Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkoman, Christian, and so on.

Ex-Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz suggested in a joint article recently published in the US media that elections in Iraq could lead to another kind of civil war. This was a warning that Shiites who approve of the elections, and disapprove of the US winning a share in the "New Iraq," could mean an Iraq allied with Iran. According to the famous Iraqi journalist, Sameer Obaid, the election list endorsed by Sistani suffers from internal conflicts that most likely would lead to this list not winning a majority of votes. The list supposedly represents Shiites, but the big names known to be on list are divided in their loyalty between Iran and the US. Shifting loyalty back from Iran to the US could be accomplished by creating internal divisions to weaken the Shiites loyal to Iran.

On a parallel track, the US has worked quietly to persuade neighbouring countries not to dare influence the outcome of the Iraqi elections by providing political, material, or logistical support to any candidate. A conference of the neighbouring countries was called by Jordan about a month ago. The US, who was absent physically, but heavily present, warned Iran, Syria, and Turkey against messing with the elections in any way. It is not a coincidence that the US has launched numerous threats against Iran. This is all part of a campaign to keep Iran from having any effect in the Iraqi theatre.

The Palestinian election performance is now concluded. Sharon is now enjoying some peace in Gaza, thanks to the political manoeuvres of the Abbas collaborator regime. But nothing has changed in terms of the suffering of the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation remains. Mahmoud Abbas, the new broker of peace elected by Israel and the USA, will need to somehow make the Palestinians ignore the Israeli occupation. With all the closures, military operations, killings by the Israeli army, and confiscating of land to build the so-called security fence of Israel, this will be a tough mission to accomplish. The inevitable failure to hide what everyone can plainly see will only enforce the strength of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance.

Likewise, the newly elected US government in Iraq must convince Iraqis that the occupation is an illusion - that the tanks they see are only mirage resulting from the heat. A US-manufactured government in Iraq must be able to put food on tables, restore electricity, and end violence. That too will be a tough mission to accomplish.

The US may have its election day on January 30, but it will not be enough to change things in Iraq. The most important player on the Iraqi political scene will not be participating in these elections. This player is the Iraqi resistance, which keeps its eyes focused like a laser on only one thing: the hated presence of the US occupying forces in Iraq.

* Amer Jubran is a Palestinian living in Jordan. He left the United States one year ago after being jailed and harassed by the Department of Homeland Security for speaking and organising in the Boston area in defence of Palestinian rights.

Article Index

The Streets of Baghdad are Empty. It Feels Like A City Preparing For War.

Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, Baghdad, 29 January 2005

In the hours before tomorrow's election, Baghdad feels like a city preparing for war. American helicopters roar noisily overhead just above the roof- tops, setting off car alarms. Iraqi police nervously finger their assault rifles. Most people are taking no risks and stay at home, so streets are eerily empty.

The government's security measures for the election sound impressive. The Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, announced that the military adviser to the most-wanted Islamic militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Iraqi named Anad Mohammed Qais, had been arrested. The National Security minister said two of the Jordanian militant's other aides had been captured, including his alleged chief of operations in Baghdad. There was, however, scepticism about the claims coming on the eve of polling.

As Iraqis outside the country began voting yesterday, the country's land borders were closed and travel between Iraq's 18 provinces was banned. A curfew is in force from 7pm to 6am. The interior ministry has issued contradictory and confusing instructions about its ban on cars tomorrow. But given that the US troops and Iraqi security forces are trigger-happy at the best of times, most Iraqis will err on the side of caution and keep off the streets.

Despite the security measures, insurgents killed 10 Iraqis and five US troops yesterday. In southern Baghdad, a car bomb exploded next to a police station, killing four civilians. A second bomb detonated nearby, close to a school that will be used as a polling station. In the western city of Ramadi, a guerrilla stronghold, six Iraqi soldiers were killed in ambushes.

The US military said a soldier was shot dead in northern Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed another and wounded two others in the south of the capital, and later another bomb killed three US soldiers in western Baghdad. A Kiowa observation helicopter crashed in southwest Baghdad, but there was no immediate information on casualties.

One group of people who are refusing to go home are the drivers of cars stuck in queues, sometimes as long as two miles, waiting to buy petrol. "I have been waiting in my car since 4.30pm yesterday and I have not moved a metre," said Abu Ali Anwar. He opened the door of his car to show the heap of blankets on which he had been sleeping overnight.

He added furiously: "We are not moving because the police at the petrol station are taking bribes of 25,000 dinars (£9) to let other drivers jump the queue."

Most Iraqis talk more about the problems of survival than the election. "We are suffering from many crises: lack of food, electricity and fuel," Mr Anwar said. "It was bad enough under Saddam but now it is 10 times worse. I graduated from college but I have to work as a taxi driver and I do not have enough money even to buy shoes."

Several Iraqis interviewed yesterday said that they saw the election as a movie directed by the Americans to impress the outside world. "It is like a film," said Abu Draid, an unemployed carpenter. "It is the Americans who will control the next government whatever happens."

Not everybody agrees. In Jadriyah district a group of Shia Muslim men were unloading bottles of gas, which Iraqis use for cooking, from a battered pick-up. Their mood was bitter and cynical. They pointed out that the bottles which once sold for the equivalent of 16p now cost more than £3. But several said they did not think the election was a waste of time and they would vote for the Shia slate of candidates put together under the auspices of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Probably a majority of Iraqis think that the elections are a step forward but few believe it will solve the permanent crisis in which they live. The insurgents denounce the election as a US plot to legitimise the government, but in reality Washington had long rejected elections, fearing that it would bring the Shias to power under clerical leaders.

It was only as guerrilla attacks in Sunni districts escalated at the end of 2003 that the US realised that direct American rule was impossible. It could not afford to alienate the Shias as well as the Sunnis. The American administration had to agree to Ayatollah Sistani's demand for an election in which the Shias hope to show that they are the majority.

The election therefore serves as a referendum in which the Shias demonstrate their strength. But Iyad Allawi has done better than might have been expected given the state of the country, because he is presenting himself as a Shia secular candidate. In Baghdad and Basra in particular, the clerical parties are not popular. Moderate Sunnis may also be attracted by Mr Allawi's Baathist past.

All the Iraqis we spoke to in the street yesterday blamed the US for their troubles, voters and non-voters, Sunnis and Shias alike. Even Mr Allawi's party website in Arabic said that that the interim Prime Minister wanted a staged withdrawal of the US forces. When the Americans protested he rapidly backtracked, giving interviews in English saying they should stay.

• British troops have killed three Shia militia fighters in southern Iraq. An Italian soldier was shot dead during a series of attacks that culminated in the deaths of three militiamen during an intensive exchange of fire with the British soldiers.

Article Index

The Iraq election:

A Travesty of Democracy

By James Cogan, 27 January 2005, World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org

The January 30 elections in Iraq have nothing to do with democracy. To claim a "free" election can take place in Iraq is no different to asserting that the French, Yugoslav or Greek people could have elected a representative government in 1942 while living under the jackboot of Nazi rule.

Over the past two years, Iraq has been subjected to invasion and a military occupation that has plunged the country into a social and political catastrophe. The Bush administration has brought the Iraqi people 50 to 70 percent unemployment, food and fuel shortages, a breakdown in essential services such as electricity, a collapse in basic law-and-order and dictatorial forms of rule little changed from those of the Baathist regime.

The US invasion of 2003 was launched not to bring "liberation", but to establish US dominance over the country’s oil resources and transform it into an American client state and military base in the Middle East. Legitimate resistance to the country’s takeover is the main factor behind the guerrilla war that has been fought against US forces for close to two years. Due to both Iraq’s experience with colonialism in the twentieth century and the reality of the occupation, millions of Iraqis bitterly oppose the US presence in the country.

The US military and its local collaborators are using the most brutal and indiscriminate methods to crush the Iraqi resistance. Millions of Iraqis daily confront the ordeal of vehicle or personal searches, restrictions on their movement and, in many cities and towns, what amount to dusk-to-dawn curfews. A large percentage of the Iraqi population have had family members or close friends killed, wounded, detained or abused. Thousands have had their homes and property destroyed or damaged.

The high point of the US reign of terror, thus far, was the destruction of the city of Fallujah in November, at the cost of an estimated 6,000 Iraqi lives. Over 250,000 Fallujah residents have been turned into refugees. While the exact number is unknown, over 100,000 Iraqis are estimated to have died since the March 2003 invasion, as well as some 1,500 US and allied occupation troops.

A Human Rights Watch report issued this week provides a timely refutation of claims that a democratic state is in the process of formation in Iraq. The report explains that "abuse of detainees by the [US-recruited] Iraqi police and intelligence forces has become routine and commonplace". It documents cases of arbitrary arrest and torture, and accuses the US and British governments and the US-installed interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of "actively taking part", or being "at least complicit".

Over 160,000 US and allied troops, along with thousands of locally recruited security forces and more than 20,000 mercenaries – described as "private security contractors" – have maintained martial law. The past two weeks have been marked by an intensification of the repression, aimed at ensuring the election takes place under conditions of intimidation and fear. Curfews have been imposed across the country, the borders will be closed for three days before the ballot and all vehicles banned from the vicinity of polling booths. Last weekend, large-scale round-ups of alleged resistance fighters took place in Mosul.

The American terror has only served to heighten the determination of Iraqis to fight the occupation. While the resistance is made up of disparate forces, including reactionary Islamic extremist elements, those calling for armed struggle to expel the invaders can justifiably claim to represent the views of a clear majority of Iraqis. The predominantly Sunni Muslim regions of western and central Iraq are effectively war zones. The relative calm in the predominantly Shiite south has only prevailed since September, when a truce ended the popular Shia uprising led by the Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Given the sentiments of the Iraqi population and the actual state of affairs in the country, it is uncertain how many people will vote. The low turnout among émigré Iraqis living in North America, Europe and other Middle Eastern countries – who were able to cast ballots over the past week – testifies to the broad hostility, distrust and contempt toward the election. Just 237,000 émigrés registered to vote in 14 countries, out of an estimated one million eligible voters.

The Bush administration claims that any abstention on Sunday will be due, not to political opposition, but to fear of insurgent attacks on polling stations. This clearly did not apply outside Iraq. The fact that before 2003 many émigrés were under the illusion that a US invasion would bring democratic change to Iraq makes their repudiation of the ballot all the more significant.

Pro-occupation candidates

A major factor in the rejection of the election is the nature of the parties and candidates who are contesting seats in the 275-member Transitional Assembly. Most Iraqis know little about them and what they represent, except that they have the following characteristic in common: they either directly supported the US invasion or have accommodated themselves to the illegal occupation. These tendencies have set themselves in direct opposition to the aspirations of the Iraqi people and collaborated in their repression.

Iyad Allawi and his US-funded Iraqi National Accord (INA) head an electoral alliance known as the Iraqi List. The List has drawn together émigré and local businessmen, tribal leaders and other sections of the Iraqi elite who see collaboration with US imperialism as the means of securing wealth, power and privilege. It appeals to those who believe that the occupation cannot be defeated, by claiming Allawi is a "strongman" who can work with the US military to crush the resistance and bring stability.

The INA has received tens of millions of dollars in financing and assistance from US National Endowment for Democracy affiliates, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute, which have also been involved in financing pro-US candidates in Haiti, the Ukraine and Venezuela.

The most prominent electoral bloc is the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA). While it includes Kurdish, Turkomen and Sunni groups, it is popularly known as the Shia List. Its main components are the sectarian Shiite fundamentalist parties – the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Da’wa Party – which supported the US invasion. It also includes the Iraqi National Congress of one-time US favourite, Ahmed Chalabi, who played a key role in fabricating the claims that Iraq possessed "weapons of mass destruction".

Under the Baathist regime, which rested primarily on the Sunni-based elite, the Shiite religious hierarchy was largely sidelined from political power and economic privilege. The UIA aims to harness its influence among the majority Shiite population to dominate the Transitional Assembly and assert the interests of the Shiite establishment within a US-dominated Iraq. It has been tacitly endorsed by Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, who has issued a religious edict ordering Shiites to vote.

As many as 60 percent of Iraqis adhere, to some degree, to the Shiite branch of Islam. Even among deeply religious Iraqi Shiites, however, support for Sistani and the UIA is far from solid. Many Shiites regard Sistani and the parties in the Shia List as traitors and American collaborators. None of these parties, for example, supported the uprising led by Sadr last year, even as the US military was bombarding the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf. Moreover, millions of Shia Iraqis, particularly in the urban working and middle class, have long secular traditions. They are hostile to any suggestion of the clergy having a political role and deeply suspicious of SCIRI’s links to the Iranian theocracy.

Having endorsed the US invasion, the parties of the UIA are cynically attempting to adapt themselves to the anti-occupation sentiment. Its election platform declares that a date should be set for the withdrawal of US troops – but only when Iraqi forces can replace them. While its platform declares it wants Islamic law to be at centre of Iraq’s legal code, UIA spokesmen have been forced to issue repeated reassurances that it opposes an Iranian-style state. Nevertheless, the popular distrust is such that the UIA’s claim to overwhelming Shiite support is not credible. A representative of Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement in Basra told the New York Times: "The other Shiite parties are taking positions that are good for their interests but not for the people. Their actual popularity with the people is almost zero."

In the three predominantly Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq, the Kurdish bourgeois nationalist parties, which have effectively ruled the region under US protection since 1991, have formed a joint electoral bloc called the Kurdistan Alliance. While not explicitly stated, its perspective is the separatist agenda of gaining American backing for a de facto Kurdish state that controls Iraq’s lucrative northern oilfields. The Alliance is campaigning for votes almost exclusively among Kurds. Its main platform is to incorporate the region around the city of Kirkuk into the Kurdish sphere and limit the influence of a central Iraqi government in the north.

Kurdish separatism has the potential to trigger ethnic fighting throughout northern Iraq. Clashes have erupted already over accusations that Kurdish militias are attempting to ethnically cleanse Kirkuk of the Arab and Turkomen communities. The International Crisis Group this week warned that tensions between Kurdish armed groups and the non-Kurdish population in Kirkuk have reached the point where "it may take only a minor provocation for open conflict to break out".

The electoral bloc standing the largest slate of candidates is the Peoples Union – an alliance headed by the Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Far from being socialist or communist, the history of the ICP is one of political subservience to various bourgeois regimes, including the Baathists. The consequences for the Iraqi working class have invariably been disastrous.

The ICP and the Peoples Union are cynically appealing to voters with calls for the removal of US troops from Iraq and demands to assist Iraq’s workers and poor. But like the Shiite parties, the ICP slavishly supported and justified the 2003 invasion. At the same time, it is using its lingering influence among sections of the Iraqi working class to promote collaboration with the occupation, denouncing all resistance as the work of "Islamic fascists".

The ICP sat on both the interim government and its predecessor, the Governing Council. It has endorsed policies that have produced mass unemployment and the US agenda for the wholesale privatisation of the country’s major resources – the oil industry in particular. The utter perfidy of the ICP is underscored by the fact that it is most likely, in the election’s aftermath, to volunteer again to operate as a coalition partner for Allawi’s INA.

Numerous other electoral blocs are standing, ranging from advocates of bringing back the monarchy to pro- occupation Sunni groups. In all, as many as 7,200 candidates, organised into 83 electoral blocs, have placed themselves on the ballot.

In many areas of the country, however, particularly where resistance is strongest, little campaigning has been carried out. In four provinces in central and western Iraq with a high proportion of Sunni Muslims, voter turnout may be as low as 20 percent. The provinces include about half Iraq’s population and some of the country’s major cities – Baghdad province, with the capital; Anbar province, with Ramadi and Fallujah; Ninevah; which includes Mosul, the country’s third largest city; and Salahidin, which is centred on Tikrit. In the predominantly Sunni suburbs of Baghdad, just 24 percent of people interviewed in a recent poll said they intended to vote.

Reflecting the mass sentiment against the occupation, dozens of leading Sunni organisations, Shiite leaders such as Sheik Jawad Khalissi, secular associations and groups representing ethnic minorities called last year for a boycott of the ballot.

The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), consisting of some 3,000 Sunni clerics, as well the largest Sunni-based party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, are advocating a boycott on the principled grounds that no expression of the will of the Iraqi people can take place under occupation. Both organisations are insisting that the prerequisite for a genuinely democratic vote is the withdrawal of all US and foreign troops.

Iraqi Islamic Party secretary-general Tariq al-Hashimi spoke this month in support of his party’s boycott call. He stated: "A situation marked by chaos and violence does not favour holding elections that will create a national assembly and even draw up a constitution. This assembly will not be representative of all categories of Iraqi society."

A leading Sunni cleric, Mahmud al-Sumaydi, told his congregation in Baghdad in mid-January: "Everyone looks forward to the day when all Iraqis come out to vote, for elections are an Iraqi matter. But the elections cannot be held on the basis of the marginalisation of one community."

Sadr’s movement, while not formally associating with the boycott coalition, is linking itself with the anti- election sentiment with the slogan "no boycott, no participation". Sadr stated this month: "I personally will stay away from the election until the occupiers stay away from them and until our beloved Sunnis participate in them. Otherwise they will lack legitimacy and democracy."

Renewed conflict is inevitable between the occupation and the Shiite working class and urban poor who form the social base of the Sadr movement. In the past two weeks, the Sadrists have sought to keep their influence among the increasingly restive urban poor by organising demonstrations in Baghdad, Karbala, Amarra and other southern Shiite cities. Avoiding any direct opposition to the election, the Sadrists insisted that action against deteriorating social conditions was the main political issue, not the January 30 ballot. The US response was a raid this week on a Sadr-aligned Baghdad mosque and the arrest of dozens of his supporters.

Regardless of the voter turnout, the Bush administration has made clear it will declare the election result an endorsement by the Iraqi people of the US invasion and occupation – just as it claimed the 2004 US elections constituted the American people’s endorsement of its criminal actions. Bush stated Thursday the vote would be a "grand moment in Iraqi history".

The reality is that millions of Iraqis will refuse to vote on Sunday, not because of fear, but because they understand the election to be a sham designed to give a "democratic" gloss to an illegal neo-colonial occupation. While paying lip-service to the Iraqi people electing their own government and formulating a new constitution, the actual decisions about the country’s future have already been made in Washington. At the top of the list is the dismantling of state control of the oil industry and the establishment of permanent US military bases.

This week, the Bush administration has gone to Congress for a further $80 billion to fund the occupation, while the Pentagon has declared that 120,000 US troops will remain in Iraq for at least the next two years. The announcements, made before Iraqis even vote, only underscore the fact that the election results are irrelevant to Washington’s plans and will produce nothing more than a puppet regime.

The transitional government that takes office in Baghdad in the aftermath of the ballot should be rejected as illegitimate both in Iraq and throughout the world.

Article Index

Iraqi Elections:

Farce of the Century

by Felicity Arbuthnot, CommonDreams.org, 18 January 2005

Registration for expatriate Iraqis to vote in the Iraq elections began on Monday in fourteen countries – Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, and runs until January 23. However, according to a renowned expert on international law, Sabah Al Mukhtar, the London based President of the League of Arab Lawyers, the election is not alone fatally flawed, it is illegal.

"Under the Vienna Convention, an occupying force has no right to change composition of occupied territories socially, culturally, educationally or politically. This election was based on the laws laid down by former ‘Viceroy’ American Paul Bremer and is entirely unconstitutional. Bremer personally appointed the overseers for the election," says Al Mukhtar, thus, far from "free and fair" and heralding Iraqi "democracy" they are entirely engineered by Bush's man.

Further, says Al Mukhtar the names of those standing for election are not widely publicised, many names are indeed unknown and little or no manifestos have been published. However, what is publicised are the names and addresses of all who register to vote, they are displayed – in Iraq and all voting centres abroad – at all polling centres. This is simply and purely "intimidation" says Al Mukhtar, it will "encourage some and discourage others – disclosing names and addresses is highly dangerous, no one will be safe within or without polling stations, now or later", he contends. Intimidation needs no encouragement. Nadia Selim, from Notholt, Middlesex recounts in the Independent how her family in Hay Al Jamia in west Baghdad a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite neighbourhood were planning to vote in spite of the dangers – until they were visited by their local shopkeeper. He requested they hand over their ration books for "safe keeping". The ration books are the means of identity for voters. Gunmen had visited him and ordered him to collect all ration books in the neighbourhood. The family refused his request. Later he returned sobbing and begged them not to condemn his children to death, reluctantly they gave in. One can only speculate how widely similarly intimidating actions are being replicated throughout Iraq.

Further says Al Mukhtar no one knows who has drawn up the electoral lists and on what they are based. "I am an Iraqi and entitled to vote, but no one has contacted me." As a prominent and internationally well-known Iraqi he can hardly have been overlooked one wonders how many other Iraqis who are hardly likely to have voted for puppet "Prime Minister" Allawi and his gang have been similarly "overlooked". Further, allegation of intimidation of Iraqi expatriates abroad seems to be borne out by the fact that of an estimated seventy thousand Iraqis living in the north of England, just three hundred and fifty have so far registered to vote, according the Chair of the Manchester based Iraq Solidarity Campaign Hussein Al Alak. A strange reluctance in some cities to hold the elections in public building also appears to have crept in. Manchester Town Hall declined as a venue on the basis that there were too many weddings being held there on polling day. When the wily Al Alak checked, there was, in fact just one booked. 371 Oldham Road has now been designated in an area entirely dominated by the BNP. In Glasgow polling is inexplicably listed at two private houses, 71 Holland Street and 94 Elmbank Street.

Where the external votes will be counted and by whom and under what independent monitoring body is unannounced and unknown says Al Mukhtar. Further he adds that legally election must be "possible, fair and reasonable" – none of which apply in the chaos of occupied Iraq where votes are also being bought and even Iyad Allawi – who recently tried to buy favours from journalists with hundred dollar bills in brown envelopes – is complaining of being intimidated in spite of being surrounded by US soldiers and tanks. Oh, and the only "independent" monitoring of the elections within Iraq are being carried out from Jordan – twelve hundred kilometres away. No wonder Allawi has kept his British passport and his mansion in leafy Surrey as insurance.

Further, it is not, as widely reported, just the Sunnis who have boycotted the elections. The Iraq National Foundation Conference comprises of prominent Shi'ite, Sunni, Pan-Arabists and Marxists. They have turned their back on the whole process due to the absence of an international body to oversee the proceedings.

Further trouble in Paradise has broken out in the Jordanian capitol, Amman, between the International Organisation for Migration – who control overseas voting on behalf of Out of Country Voters. The IOM has stated that Israelis of Iraqi origin are eligible to vote. Asma Khader, Jordan Government spokeswoman and Minister for Culture says Israel based Iraqis voting in Jordan is quite simply "out of the question". In Baghdad the Independent Electoral Commission's Farid Ayar also stated that those with Israeli papers would be barred from voting. Jordan is the nearest country designated as a voting point, to Israel. Further, looking at the list of countries where Iraqis can vote and the vastness of say, America, Canada and the US, many Iraqis will have to invest in an airline ticket to vote – even those resident in Ireland will have to travel to the UK.

Intimidation is not alone rife for voters, from Basra, Iraq's beautiful battered southern city, to Mosul in the north and at virtually every designated polling station in Iraq, electoral committees have fled in terror – in Mosul the entire seven hundred left – polling stations have been bombed, burned and officials murdered. In Allawi's Alice in Wonderland world, he has, he says, devised the most stringent security tactics to ensure safety on polling day. He'd be wise to implement them forthwith – if they exist.

To add to the joy of Iraqis liberated from electricity, clean water, largely too scared to venture out, they are also to become a nation of hostages for three days before and during polling day. Borders will be closed, phones disconnected, mobiles rendered useless – and US other forces already murderous and unaccountable will be able to run riot and spill blood at will with not the slightest chance of the world knowing in this four day suspension of any semblance of "freedom and democracy". Cars will not be allowed near any polling stations so even those prepared to risk queuing to be blown up will certainly not risk walking to do so. "Possible, fair and reasonable" the elections are not. A farce of historic proportions they certainly are.

Article Index

Not Even Saddam Could Achieve the Divisions this Election Will Bring

by Robert Fisk; The Independent; January 22, 2005

Sunday 30 January will be the day when myth and reality come together with – I fear – an all too literal bang. The magic date upon which Iraq is supposed to transform itself into a democracy will no doubt be greeted as another milestone in America's adventure and, I suspect, another "great day for Iraq" by Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara. He, of course, doesn't have to be blown up in the polling stations or torn to pieces by suicide bombers on the way home. The "martyrs of democracy", as I am sure the dead will be feted, will be those Iraqis who have decided to go along with an election so physically dangerous that the international observers will be "observing" the poll from Amman.

The real trouble with this election, however, is not so much the violence that will take place before, during and, rest assured, after 30 January. The greatest threat to "democracy" is that with four provinces containing around half the population of Iraq in a state of insurgency and many of its towns under rebel control, this election is going to widen the differences between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds in a way that not even Saddam Hussein was able to achieve. If the Sunnis don't vote – save for those living in America, Syria and other exotic locations – then the Shia community, perhaps 60 per cent of the population, will take an overwhelming number of seats in the "Transitional National Assembly".

In other words, the Shias, who are not fighting the U.S. occupation of Iraq, will be voting under American auspices while the Sunnis, who are fighting, will refuse to participate in what the insurgents have already labelled a "quisling" election. The four million Kurds will vote. But however many seats they gain, they are not going to abandon their quasi-independence after the election. Thus the dangers of civil war – so trumpeted by the Americans and British – may be increased rather than suppressed by this much-touted experiment in democracy. In fact, Iraq is a tribal – not a religious – society and the real war, which some in the West might like to be replaced by the civil variety, will continue to be between Sunni insurgents and the United States military.

Nevertheless, nobody could miss the significance of last week's assassination of Mahmoud al-Madaen, along with his son and four bodyguards, at Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. Al-Madaen was the personal representative in the town of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shia prelate in Iraq. On the same day, another of Ayatollah Sistani's aides, Halim al-Moaqaq was found "drowned in his own blood", according to a spokesman, in Najaf. The ayatollah has given his blessing to the elections which will, theoretically at least, give Shias power for the first time after being marginalised and crushed by the Ottomans, the British, the kings and then the Sunni dictators of Iraq.

The Shias have been repeatedly told by their leaders to take no revenge for these attacks and have behaved with remarkable restraint. Even when Mohamed Baqr al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was blown up by a car bomb last year there was not a single act of vengeance committed by the Shias. Yet they well understand the threat uttered by Osama bin Laden, that participation in the elections is an act of apostasy because the Iraqi constitution "is a Jahaliyya constitution that is made by man". Literally meaning "ignorant", Bin Laden's expression refers to the Arabs of pre-Islamic times, who lived in "ignorance" of God before the birth of the Prophet. Of one thing we can be sure: those Iraqis who vote will be brave men and women. Whether they are wise is another matter.

Yet even if the Shias win the largest share of seats in the 275-member parliament, the war will go on and the Sunnis will have nothing to lose by supporting it. Besides, the election is of such complexity that even those who dare to visit polling stations in Sunni areas may be perplexed by the ballot. There are 75 parties and nine coalitions standing – in all, 7,471 candidates for the 275 seats – and all will be elected by proportional representation. Any candidate who receives 1/275th of the vote will get a seat. A party with 20 per cent of the vote would get 20 per cent of the seats, its 55 top-scoring candidates going to parliament. The parliament's job is to propose a constitution which will then be put before a referendum – another dangerous poll that is supposed to be held before 15 October and then – wait for it – there will be elections by 15 December to choose a new government.

This divinely optimistic schedule has been put together by the Americans and Iraqis inside the Green Zone, the much-mortared fortress in central Baghdad from which few emerge to visit the real world of open sewers and power-cut suburbs and destitution beyond their gates.

Of course, with all those observers sipping their gin and tonics in Amman, there's no way of ensuring that the voting figures for these elections cannot be massaged. That the electoral group headed by the current "interim" Prime Minister, ex-CIA agent Iyad Allawi, should have been caught handing out $100 bills in plain envelopes to Iraqi journalists last week did not suggest that the poll will be free of corruption. The Americans and British will make great play, of course, of the thousands of Iraqis who vote abroad as well as the turn-out in Shia cities and in the Kurdish north. We'll be told repeatedly that the Iraqi people have expressed their democratic wishes, that freedom really has arrived in Iraq, that the bombers could not defeat the march of democracy, etc.

All well and good. But without the Sunni vote the parliament will be as unrepresentative of the nation as those glorious elections of old. And there is other cause for worry. While the insurgency has continued, the number of suicide bombings over the past few days has noticeably dropped. I wonder why. Have the volunteers dried up? Or are the suicide squads being saved up and collected in preparation for the big day?

Article Index

What Iraqis Are Saying About the Elections

Occupation Watch Bulletin, January 25, 2005, By Andrea Buffa

Just days from going to the polls, Iraqis are frightened. One potential voter said fearfully: "Baghdad will surely burn during the election days. I think more about my own survival than I do about the election campaign."

Many in Baghdad have already left for Jordan, Syria and Dubai. Others away on business or the haj pilgrimage are delaying their return.

University students in the capital say they will stay at home until after the election. Some Government officials are refusing to go to work.

The election on Sunday is portrayed as a turning point for Iraq but few in Baghdad believe there will be any diminution of violence. Many say the poll will serve only to crystallise differences among the three main Iraqi communities: the Shiite, Sunni and Kurds.

Dalal is not happy with the meal she has prepared. She has not been able to go out shopping because of a mortar attack on the market and her house has been without water for two days.

But when Dalal was asked to name the most important thing missing from her dinner table, and from those of other middle-class families, she answered with one word: "Hope."

It is a grim indictment of conditions in Iraq that the prospect of national elections in a little over a week has failed to lift the mood of pessimism. Most Iraqis say they want to vote, but few believe an elected government will make any improvement to the security situation, which dominates their lives. …

Abu Mohammed, her husband, a retired military officer, said: "This country is getting worse. No one used to make a difference between Shia and Sunni. That's all we hear about now.

"The country is heading towards civil war."


"I will not be voting because it is a useless charade," says Salah Abrahim as he pushes his car towards a petrol station to get fuel in a bustling street in the Karrada district of Baghdad, a sector of the capital city populated primarily by Shia Muslims. …

Others on the same street are more sanguine about Iraq's first free elections in more than half a century and will obey the fatwa issued by the Shia spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered religious leader in Iraq and a supporter of the elections. As the majority of the Shia in Iraq live by his edicts, it is likely that his representatives will gain the most seats in the transitional parliament and that is a powerful spur for younger Shia voters like Alia Halaf who can only remember the oppression of the Saddam Hussein period and the hegemony of the Ba'ath Party. "I will vote no matter how many car bombs are used," he explains. "My 17-year-old neighbour was kidnapped, so I hope the elections will bring us more security. They simply must." …

As palm fronds blow in the breeze at the end of a grey day in Baghdad, a policeman who asks to be called Ali, pulls his black ski-mask further up his face as he articulates the conundrum facing his people. "I think most Iraqis just want security and jobs," he says. "I don't care which party wins, we just want peace and a better living situation. But I don't see how January 30 will change any of this."


At Friday prayers in prominent mosques, speakers were quick to denounce the morning attack on the Taf mosque in southwest Baghdad:

"We condemn the targeting of places of worship," Mahmoud Sumaidae, a Sunni prayer leader, said at the Um al-Qura mosque, known for its fierce anti-occupation rhetoric. "What happened this morning in targeting the mosque is sabotage aimed at dividing the nation and its unity."

At Baratha, a revered Shiite mosque, the preacher, Jalaledin Saghir, declared that the attacks "will not sway us from our path, nor will they break our will.

"Our Sunni brothers have distanced themselves from and condemned these acts because we have lived together side by side for centuries, and during this long history, families have been made and tribal ties forged and cemented by coexistence," Saghir said.

But even in the shared moment of denunciation of the attacks, a gulf persists between the two communities over the Jan. 30 elections. …

"Whatever [the insurgents] do, it will not change the outcome [of the election] because there are only 10 days separating us from the day when we will say, 'No to dictatorships!' " [Saghir] said. As Saghir spoke, worshipers chanted: "We will go to the ballot boxes even if we have to crawl."

At the Sunni mosque, Sumaidae said the violence was proof that the climate was too unsettled and too dangerous to hold the elections.


"The elections in Iraq scheduled to take place this month need to be postponed. Elections are needed, but the timing is wrong, with the insurgency growing with every passing moment and Iraqis bracing themselves for the worst. Few Iraqis feel safe enough to cast a vote and fewer still know who the candidates are or what they stand for.

"When I speak to relatives in Iraq, they seem far more concerned about the security of their families than the elections. They say the situation is quickly spiralling into chaos. Election officials are being killed, threatened and kidnapped daily and the entire Electoral Commission in Anbar province west and north of the capital has resigned." -Anas Shallal, Iraqi-American

"There hasn't been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. Six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We've been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. …

"Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It's maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don't function, the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water. …

"It's amazing how as things get worse, you begin to require less and less. We have a saying for that in Iraq, "Ili yishoof il mawt, yirdha bil iskhooneh." Which means, "If you see death, you settle for a fever." We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water." -Riverbend, Iraqi blogger

Article Index

US Keeps Iran in its Sights

By Syed Saleem Shahzad*, Asia Times Online,Jan 28, 2005

KARACHI – The US is committed to holding elections in Iraq on January 30, but whatever the results at the ballot box – given the Sunni boycott and security problems – the expected Shi'ite victory is likely to be a turning point in the region's geopolitical strategic dynamics that could further spread the flames of war to Iran, as well as to Syria.

As soon as the Iraqi heartland (Mesopotamia), characterised by three strategic lifelines in Ninawa, Babylon and al-Anbar, is completely under Ba'athist control, the United States and the government it supports in Baghdad will be under siege, while the oil-rich Tamim (which includes the city of Kirkuk) and Basra will continue to be isolated and under the control of private militias, rather than any US-backed authority.

The indications are that despite its military being dragged into a morass in Iraq, the US will remain committed to its cause and will continue to go after the "evil" it sees in nations like Iran. For this, war preparations are already in the pipeline in northern Iraq on the one side of the Iranian border, and in the southwestern parts of Pakistan on the other side. 

A British newspaper reported recently that the Pentagon was contemplating the infiltration of the Iranian rebel group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), to collect intelligence. Asia Times Online sources say that the group will remain at its traditional base in Iranian Balochistan adjacent to Pakistani Balochistan, from where it will attempt to play the role of a catalyst to organise an insurgency against the rule of Islamic hardliners in Tehran.

This strategy aims to deter Iran from striking back against any possible attack on its nuclear sites.

Intelligence sources based in Islamabad maintain that Pakistani interrogators have collected all details of Iran's nuclear sites from Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, confessed proliferator and father of Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program, and submitted them to the US. The information includes the location of 30 nuclear installations spread across the country. (Khan remains under informal house arrest in Pakistan.) These details would be critical in the event of an attack. Analysts believe that such an offensive could come from Israel, rather than the US, with Washington's blessing of course.

Nevertheless, the US would play an important role, using northern Iraq and southwestern Pakistan as its strategic back yard.

In a telephone conversation with Asia Times Online last year, the former director general of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, an expert on the region, pointed out that various strategic sites would be handed over to the US, including Qila Saifullah, Shila Bagh and Dalbandin in Balochistan.

Though he maintained that the sites would be developed for reconnaissance operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, considering that these places, especially Dalbandin, have traditionally been the best sites from which to cover Iran, it is certain that they will serve as important bases in the event that any operations are launched against Iran, whether directly by the US or indirectly with the help of Israel.

There is a consensus that an attack on Iran would most likely be a very limited war "from space" in which selected targets would be bombed with long-range missiles, and that any possible military backlash would be countered by internal insurgency, in which the MEK would play a lead role.

Targeting Syria
An identical strategy to that adopted for Iran is likely to be applied to the last Ba'athist regime in the region, Syria, which could still pose a serious strategic problem to US designs in Iraq.

Syria is host to the largest Iraqi expatriate community, about 400,000, which includes strong pro-Saddam Hussein Ba'athist elements who have formed strong pockets and relations with the Syrian Ba'ath Party, as well as with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, which supply them with arms and training. The Mosul-Syrian border is the main point of infiltration into Iraq.

Support of the Iraqi resistance movement is so deep-rooted and pervasive at the grassroots level that the Syrian government cannot afford to clash with this segment, whether it be Iraqi expatriates, their Syrian supporters, Syrian Ba'ath Party members or Islamist Palestinian groups. Therefore, limited air strikes on specific Syrian targets are highly tipped in the near future. And battered as it is with sanctions and with a possible Kurd uprising in its territory, Syria is unlikely to be able to respond in any meaningful way.

* Syed Saleem Shahzad is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online.

Article Index

Iran Approaches a Flashpoint

By Kam Zarrabi*, Jan 27, 2005, "Speaking Freely", Asia Times Online

For what might my draft-age son be fighting? For whom will the bells toll this time?

Seymour Hersh's article "The coming wars" in The New Yorker magazine should not have surprised anyone. Iran has been in the crosshairs, and remains there, ever since it was crowned as the biggest threat to international peace and security by the Bush administration soon after September 11, 2001.

President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as members of an "axis of evil", to be confronted in the United States' "war on international terrorism".

The real enemy, or the source of threat against the security of the United States, was reconfirmed to be the al-Qaeda camp, headed by Osama bin Laden, masterminding its operations from Afghanistan's mountain strongholds. However, the September 11 attacks provided an unexpected and highly welcomed opportunity for dormant power centres to come together and join forces with a common agenda. The target was broadened almost immediately to encompass the entire Middle East, and later Islam as a whole, called militant Islam, of course, for political correctness.

Organisations and think-tanks such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum, as well as many hardcore evangelicals, found in the national tragedy the catalyst that brought them together in a crusade against a common enemy. A true national tragedy was thus hijacked.

To summarise, this grand unified powerhouse consisted of three major vectors of influence, not all aligned in the same exact direction, but with enough in common to evolve into a united front.

First was the global projection of America's military and economic dominance, the stated agenda of PNAC (read "American Empire"). The big fish floating in this think-tank include Vice President Dick Cheney, Pentagon head Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams of the National Security Council, and several other high-profile people who bear heavily on our foreign-policy decisions.

Second was the promotion and implementation of policies that, first and foremost, served the interests of the Israeli government at whatever cost to whomever, friend or foe. AIPAC, the most powerful lobbying organisation in Washington, after AARP, is the only foreign lobby to become a favourite platform for America's top executives and opinion moulders, from the president on down to the influence-peddling journalists, whenever matters of foreign policy are the issue.

The hardcore Christian Right, whose evangelical vision of global salvation would, to follow biblical tradition, begin in the Middle East, was the largest horse in the troika, in numbers, as well as in appeal to the office of the commander in chief.

These unleashed forces found the American public, traditionally uninterested and blissfully naive in international affairs, and now in shock after September 11, ready and anxious to support a strong leader committed to bringing the wrongdoers to justice and to eradicating the global evil. These promises were given to the American people by the president, promptly and in no uncertain terms. The next step was targeting the wrongdoers, their supporters and the sources or the breeding grounds of evil.

Call for retaliation
The American people, indeed the whole world, expected immediate and massive retaliatory action against those who had committed such blatant and bold savagery against innocent civilians on America's own soil. The culprits were the same folks who were responsible for other attacks on US targets in the Middle East and East Africa - bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

But that was clearly not enough; terrorists had to have sanctuaries in areas where they could be sheltered and protected or tolerated by tribes or regimes. Furthermore, some governments in the region more than just sympathised with the terrorists' goals and objectives; these regimes might even have provided material and strategic support for such groups and facilitated their activities. It was, therefore, a necessary part of the unfolding strategic planning to chart out the states and regimes in the Middle East that could be regarded as safe havens for terror groups, or which might be active supporters of terrorists' agendas.
Each of the three main vectors of influence enumerated above promptly jumped on the bandwagon and produced their respective target lists. The so-called neo-conservatives, variously known as neo-cons, and alternatively described as neo-crazies or neo-goons, are best represented by the roster of the PNAC think-tank. The elite membership here includes some rather strange bedfellows, but all sharing in one basic principle: the global expansion of US hegemony by any means possible, including unilateralism, disregard for international law, and war.

The second phalanx, or the "Israel firsters", many of them neo-conservatives as well, wholeheartedly support the same thesis, as long as any action taken serves the Israeli regime's regional objectives, regardless of its costs to allies, including its benefactor, the United States, or catastrophic regional side-effects.

Finally, the religious right, whose power and influence have been steadily on the rise, provides the moral and ethical grounds in the public domain to portray the crusade against evil as exactly that, a Crusade with a capital "C". Strong religious underpinnings characterised the inaugural ceremonies of January 20. George W Bush was uncharacteristically eloquent as he waved his magic wand, promising once again to promote freedom and democracy and to fight tyranny throughout the world. His well-rehearsed speech was punctuated by references to god and divine justice, befitting a true crusader on a Messianic mission. As he stood there accepting the responsibility to lead the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, his sincerity, commitment and resolve were never in doubt.

The president's resolve and commitments were never in doubt the first time he took the oath of office, either. Neither were the determination and resolve of the power brokers behind the mask of power who could clearly see in the chief executive the perfect vehicle for success in their respective missions.

The public response to the tragedy of September 11 was understandably reactionary and volcanic. If 59 million voters indicated their preference for the Republicans' management of the tasks at hand last November, the numbers were far greater right after September 11, 2001, literally endorsing any measure the administration would choose to adopt against the perpetrators of that terrorist act.

The neo-cons and Israel-firsters and their cohorts and moles in the departments of Defence and State and the National Security Council, as well as among the personal advisors to the highest-ranking members of the administration, began to quickly rise and shine in the new atmosphere of fear and paranoia. It was time, they said, to seize the moment to hit them, and to hit them hard. But hit whom, where, with what, and in what order?

Targets identified
That answer was provided without delay: the enemy was militant Islam in the Middle East. And, of course, the United States had a close confidant and ally in that turbulent region that had always been portrayed and sold to the US public as a reliable monitoring station safeguarding America's strategic and security interests there - Israel, of course. This "trustworthy" monitoring station didn't waste any time to point to the various terrorist groups and regional states that sponsored terrorism. The Israeli lobby had worked long and hard to infiltrate the US Congress and every other agency or enterprise that had widespread influence over public opinion and public policy. It had been quite successful in establishing in the public mindset a sense of moral equivalency between the United States and Israel. Both nations were, according to the propaganda line, sharing in basic values and aspirations; two nations half a world apart, but with one soul.

So, selling the idea that those who opposed Israel's regional ambitions were at the same time opposed to America's interests was not a difficult task at all. The State Department's list of terrorist organisations includes Middle Eastern militant groups that have never initiated or posed a threat to Americans or US interests. The regional states who oppose Israel's policies and sympathise with the Palestinian or Lebanese militants who have been thorns on Israel's side have, by extension, been classified as sponsors of terrorism by the US.

This list conveniently excludes some governments that, although among the most blatant examples of tyranny and violation of human rights, are considered friendly or compliant for various strategic reasons. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are America's strategic allies in regulating the price and the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf. Jordan has always done as it has been told, and Egypt and Turkey have peace treaties with Israel.

The action begins
That left Iran, Iraq and Syria for Israel to contend with. Lebanon has been a de facto Syrian enclave, sharing Syria's fate, whatever it might turn out to be. Of these remaining Israel antagonists, Iraq was the most suitable target once the first logical target, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, was attacked and occupied. While the assault on Afghanistan received relatively wide international support, albeit for the wrong reasons, the premise for extending the "war on terror" into Iraq was quite shaky at the start.

The invasion of Iraq was, however, pre-ordained as the first step in a series of events that was to accomplish two major objectives: first and foremost was to eliminate any and all resistance or opposition to America's extended control over the region's vital resources; and second, to defuse any and all challenges, existing or potential, to Israel's security and military supremacy. The visionaries at PNAC had, in fact, already produced the blueprint for the transformation of the Middle East, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, some years in advance of George W Bush's presidency.

With the US public ready and anxious for action, some justifiable pretext had to be found to invade Iraq. However, the United Nations team in search of Iraq's suspected weapons programs and stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) came alarmingly close to refuting those allegations and defusing the tension. This didn't sit well with the hawks in the administration, who refused to be deterred from their long-awaited ambitious dreams.

It would be naive to believe that the US, British and particularly the Israeli intelligence services were actually mistaken in their findings regarding Iraq's nuclear and other weapons programs or stockpiles; there couldn't have been such a grand intelligence failure. It would be much more reasonable to assume that the facts about the non-existence of such WMD were clearly established, just as the United Nations team was about to report before their mission was suspiciously aborted.

If there were, in fact, any doubts about Saddam Hussein's WMD, it would have been militarily foolish to expose the US forces, or Israel's population centres, to potential nuclear or chemical attacks. The very real suspicions about North Korean nuclear-weapons capabilities have already demonstrated why in that case caution and diplomacy became the strategy of choice.

And now for Iran
This brings us to the current developments with regard to Iran and the heightened state of alert that has been saturating the media, especially since the president's inaugural address last week.

Accusations against the Iranian regime parallel those brought against Iraq shortly before the actual invasion of that country by US forces. These accusations can be split into three main categories: First is the threat that a nuclear-armed enemy state could potentially pose against the United States and its strategic interests elsewhere. Second is the issue of Iran's alleged support for terrorist groups in Middle East hotspots. Finally, it is the humanitarian concern over Iran's treatment of its own citizens, particularly women and minorities, and the general atmosphere of suppression of civil liberties.

These allegations constitute ample pretext for the Bush administration hawks to put Iran on notice, as verbalised by the president and his secretary of state-designate, Condoleezza Rice. She was not short for words when questioned by senators during her confirmation hearings about her views regarding the issue of US-Iran relations. In response to Senator Joe Biden, she resorted to her usual rhetorical style of stringing along a profusion of academically erudite yet contextually vague phrases, simply echoing unsupported charges that have been mouthed by her superiors. In her case, that is actually all that is expected of her, and that is exactly how she acted in her capacity as the president's national security adviser.

Here it is important to note that, just as was the case with Iraq, suspicions, allegations and accusations do not require verification and proof to justify action. When it comes to foreign policy, the philosophy of this administration has been quite simple: do what you want to do; rationalise it later. This has been a time-tested Israeli model, now openly and, unfortunately proudly, adopted by the US administration.

Those who mobilised anti-war demonstrations, gave speeches, wrote books and created websites to reflect the perspectives of reason, sanity and experience in world affairs did find a substantial nationwide audience. However, the voices of reason, as welcome as they were, had the same effect as singing to a chorus. Now it is Iran's turn to become the subject of brilliant news analyses and debates between pro-war and anti-war journalists and opinion gurus.

A well-intentioned scientist with vast experience in nuclear-weapons technology and proliferation issues has been writing articles for a prestigious anti-war website, pointing to the fact that Iran is far from being able to develop a nuclear bomb. There is an international consensus, outside of the US and Israel, that Iran, far from causing agitation in neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq, has been quite helpful in supporting the stability of those countries, even if for Iran's own sake.

Iran's alleged support for terror organisations such as Hezbollah is yet another guise, both in terms of what defines terrorism and what constitutes support, that seems to suit the agenda at hand. And when it comes to promoting democratic reforms and fighting tyranny, injustice and violations of human rights, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China, among many others, are, as Biden pointed out to Rice, far more deplorable than what we are accusing the Iranian regime of.

Are we forgetting that the invasion of Iraq was carried out with similar pretexts or excuses? Iran is, of course, a much larger country, with three times the population of Iraq and a terrain that is, unlike Iraq, nearly as difficult as Afghanistan's. Short of an all-out military attack from several flanks, followed by a massive invasion, no military action or insurgency can do to Iran what was done to Afghanistan or Iraq.

Surgical strikes at nuclear facilities by the Israelis, something that the US vice president has already hinted at, will not even effectively slow down any effort the Iranians might be making toward nuclear-weapons development. Any such attack will result in three outcomes: First, it will generate an even greater animosity toward the perpetrators and will strengthen the hardliners' grip on Iran, thus creating added obstacles for the reformists and pro-democracy movements to achieve their goals. Second, efforts would then be initiated or accelerated to acquire the ultimate weapon as a deterrent, if not to use in retaliation at an opportune time. Third, with its vast resources and great influence, the Iranian regime would do what it is already accused of doing - supporting insurgencies and creating as much trouble in the region against Israel and the US as possible.

So why Iran?
So, what is the logic, if any, behind all the recently intensified sabre rattling from Washington? To answer that, we can believe the official pronouncements that the administration is trying to sell to the public, or an alternative version that risks the chance of being labelled as too conspiratorial; make your own choice.

The official version:
1 The world cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
2 Iran harbours and supports international terror organisations.
3 Iran intends to disrupt our efforts to bring peace and democracy to the region.
4 Iran's mission is to destroy Israel.
5 Iran must go through a regime change, by military intervention if need be.

There are some who might question the method of approach to defusing the Iranian threat, but few in the United States would doubt that the Iranian threat is real and that it must be dealt with. This perception is not limited to political conservatives or Bush supporters; the Democrats share equally in this view, as was clearly demonstrated by their candidates during their presidential campaign speeches.

Nearly one-half of the US public is now aware, and to a degree surprised, that the invasion of Iraq was based on a less-than-honest appraisal of an Iraqi threat to America's security, and that it did not unfold as promised by the administration. Having learned from those mistakes, they now believe, the Iranian threat must surely have been much more clearly verified, and any military action will certainly be much better planned.

When the news of the death of talk-show host Johnny Carson occupies all headlines for days on end, and the major debate in the public domain is over which weight-loss diet works better, can we expect more?

Of course, if we accept certain conjectures as facts, the situation and the strategies to deal with it cannot be challenged. These pretexts, in addition to those enumerated above, include:
1 Iran is led by a group of turban-headed crazies.
2 Given the chance, they would not hesitate to destroy Israel, even if it meant an assured total devastation of their own country and people.
3 Iran is rapidly developing its weapons of mass destruction, including atomic bombs and long-range missiles, not for defensive purposes, but to attack Israel and to threaten Europe and North America.
4 Since they are lunatics, the Iranian Islamic leaders believe they will ultimately dominate the globe with their brand of fundamentalist Islam.

If such conjectures sound too stupid to be taken seriously, just listen to and read the same statements by some very high-profile national figures, from such journalists as Charles Krauthammer to the likes of House Majority Whip Tom Delay, or influential evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to the prolific conservative radio talk-show hosts who influence the minds of millions on a daily basis.

So, what might be an alternative view or interpretation of the current state of heightened anxiety between the US and Iran? But first, a list of facts on the ground that may illuminate some of Iran's concerns and objectives:
1 The average Iranian, as any other human being anywhere else, would prefer to live in a free and democratic society, in peace and with guaranteed security. However, just as is the case in the United States, when a nation is threatened by terrorism or military invasion, whether real or perceived, many social liberties and democratic aspirations or expectations may be put on hold, and in Iran's case, kept on hold indefinitely.
2 More than social liberties and democratic reforms, economic conditions play the most vital role in a nation's destiny. Sanctions and economic pressures imposed on Iran do no more than postpone the natural transition from a de facto theocracy to a more open civil society. The perpetuation and intensification of animosities toward Iran have been, and continue to be, the perfect recipe for further legitimising the position of the hardliners in Iran's socio-political affairs.
3 Again, just as is the case in the United States, ultra-conservatives, even radical religious fanatics, be it Tom Delay, Billy Graham, or Ayatollah X Y Z at any given Friday sermon, do not hate their own country, but see the best course for their respective nations, each in their own way, as misguided as they might be.
4 Iran stands to gain nothing by posing a threat to Israel, unless, of course, in self-defence. Any hostile act toward the West or the US would mean a catastrophic end to all of Iran's hopes and aspirations as a viable nation. Aggression has never been an Iranian agenda, and would serve absolutely no purpose now.
5 Iran is a large country with some of the richest natural resources, including the region's biggest natural-gas reserves - the energy source of the future - rich oilfields, ore deposits and a growing industrial infrastructure. The Iranians are a proud people, proud of their national history and cultural heritage. They have shown resolve and resiliency in the face of many historical upheavals, ancient and recent, both foreign and domestic. Iran rightly expects to be acknowledged as a consequential player in the affairs of the region. Attempts to isolate and exclude Iran from any future designs for the Middle East will inevitably result in an unstable imbalance.
6 Diplomacy between two nations, no matter how large or small in relative terms, must be based on mutual respect, not as a dialogue between a master and a subordinate.

Who stands to gain?
By perpetuating and intensifying the tension between the US and Iran, who stands to gain? It is certainly not Iran; even the staunchest hardliner or religious zealot would prefer to not rule over the dust of a devastated nation. And it is certainly not the US, whose interests can be much better assured through a rapprochement with a strategically positioned and energy-rich Iran. A friendly Iran would more than help secure the stability of the neighbouring states and, with certain security guarantees, would cease to be a concern as a military threat to Israel or anyone else.

Why is it, then, that while Iran has been trying so many times and in so many ways to demonstrate its openness toward a rapprochement with the US, the response has been suspiciously cold and negative? Who benefits from this arrogant defiance of common sense? It all started by the grand unified troika galloping ahead with the mask of power.

But this is not where the case ends. The neo-con gang is quickly coming to the realisation that their ambitious designs for the creation of a new American empire is neither good for the United States, nor tolerated by America's allies in the West, or the rising rival powers in the East.

Had the situation both in Afghanistan and in Iraq been resolved expeditiously, the grand design for the conquest of the Middle East would have followed without delay. The evangelical crusaders have already accomplished more than they could have bargained for right here at home. Both these sources of influence are looking at the next presidential term four years away that will, more than likely, put the damper on their dreams.

That leaves us with only one remaining culprit whose mission is seemingly never-ending, and who has historically had the support, sometimes covert and sometimes explicit, of Washington, regardless of which political party has come to power. Now, with even the faintest prospects for a mediated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the border issues, the settlements, and the Palestinian statehood, the Ariel Sharon government is finding things not going its way. Nothing would serve the Likud regime's ambitious agendas more than a continuation of strife and hostilities in the Middle East.

As long as the United States remains militarily engaged in the region, Israel will enjoy an unquestioned level of support on all fronts, financial, military and diplomatic. This is exactly why striking at Iran's nuclear facilities, although a militarily fruitless act, will be intended to provide added fuel for the regional turmoil to further involve Iran and the United States in protracted antagonism and threats.

Any assault on Iran or Iranian targets would only benefit Israel. Can the US escape this folly that promises to be the biggest quagmire it has ever encountered? Can the US curb the pit-bull and, instead, do for a change what is best for the United States?

Threatening to attack pre-emptively a sovereign nation the size and significance of Iran in violation of all international norms should be taken a lot more seriously by the US media than it seems to be. A nationwide poll taken by America Online or CNN, where the participants indicate their choice of whether or not to attack or invade Iran, just as they choose which colour car to buy next, brings the realities of life and death to the level of virtual realities of computer games.

Humans do suffer and die by the tens of thousands, as well as those American men and women sent to fight an enemy created in the domain of virtual reality by pundits with their own ulterior motives, those whose own blood or that of their children is never spilled in their pursuits of grandeur.

May reason prevail.

* Kam Zarrabi is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, in geology, exploration geophysics, advanced management, economics. He was director general, Ministry of Economy, Iran, and chief of the Bureau of Mines 1969-74. He undertakes research in humanities: philosophy, cultural anthropology, archaeology, comparative religion, cross-cultural studies and foreign policy issues, and is a consultant in exploration geology for various mining interests, as well as a freelance writer and lecturer on foreign affairs, with emphasis on the Middle East.

Article Index

US Urged to Abandon Anti-DPRK Policy

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released a statement on January 8 in connection with the delay in the settlement of the DPRK-US nuclear issue due to deadlock in the six-way talks. He said:

Recently the US is trying to shift the blame for the delay in the settlement of the nuclear issue to the DPRK, saying that it has honoured all of its commitments but the DPRK refused to make positive efforts.

Some countries are wrong in thinking that both sides are to blame.

The failure in resuming the six-party talks and the delay in the settlement of the DPRK-US nuclear issue are entirely due to the US.

The key to the solution of the nuclear issue, a product of the US policy of hostility towards the DPRK, consists in changing its hostile policy into a policy of peaceful coexistence with the DPRK.

Claiming that the US does neither pursue hostility towards the DPRK nor has any intention to invade it, the Americans, in actuality, set a goal of ultimately overthrowing the DPRK system and insist on the DPRK’s nuclear abandonment first and disarming it.

Such US anti-DPRK and anti-coexistence policy was graphically illustrated by the developments after the third round of the six-party talks.

In the third round of the six-party talks held in June last year all the participating nations reached a consensus on the principles of "words for words" and "action for action".

Immediately after the talks the US urged senior officials to demand the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the DPRK nuclear programme (CVID) stubbornly and declare its stance never to make any compensation to the DPRK until it gives up all of its nuclear programmes, boosting the anti-DPRK atmosphere to an unprecedented degree and destroying the groundwork for talks.

The US announced a US$ 13 billion plan for arms build-up under the pretext of filling up the vacuum of military force caused by the relocation of US troops in south Korea and piled military pressure on the DPRK by permanently deploying aircraft carriers around the Korean peninsula. It also escalated the moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK by staging DPRK-targeted military exercises in the name of the "proliferation security initiative" (PSI).

The US effectuated the north Korean human rights act and justified the abduction of the DPRK citizens by describing those who crossed the border as defectors and resorted to a psychological warfare to undermine and disrupt the DPRK from within by smuggling mobile phones and miniradios into it.

All facts tell that the US has tried to stifle the DPRK economically by means of isolation and blockade, stretching out the talks fruitlessly without any interest in solving the nuclear issue through the six-way talks, and eventually buy time to create an environment to mount collective pressure on it.

The US sinister design under the pretext of the nuclear issue was well evinced by the fact that it connived at the clandestine nuclear activities of south Korea which have proceeded according to a plan under its cover, while persistently calling the DPRK’s uranium enrichment programme into question.

The US talk about a negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue and the resumption of the six-way talks without making any effort to lay the groundwork for talks is none other than sleight of hand to evade its responsibility.

If the US really wants a negotiated solution to the DPRK-US nuclear issue it must rebuild the groundwork for talks which it unilaterally demolished and actually abandon its hostile policy geared to the system overthrow and seek co-existence with the DPRK.

This is the key to the solution of the nuclear issue.

The negotiations are necessary for both sides to put an end to hostility and co-exist.

It is obvious that if the US has no willingness to discard the anti-DPRK policy and co-exist with the DPRK, there is no need to hold talks, and no result will come from them.

The DPRK has so far displayed all sincerity and flexibility.

As it has reaffirmed, the DPRK will wait and see the redefinition of the DPRK policy of the second-term Bush administration and take corresponding measures.

This is understandable to everyone.

It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to make the Korean peninsula nuclear-free and find a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue.

The prospects for the settlement of the DPRK-US nuclear issue depend wholly on the US.

Article Index

Conspiracy Comes to Light

By Kim Hyok Myong, Pyongyang Times, January 15, 2005

Recently the Bush administration is talking noisily about the DPRK’s nuclear programme.

A deputy spokesman for the US State Department said that it is believed there is much evidence of north Korea’s uranium enrichment programme and that north Korea is involved in enrichment technology.

In fact, the Bush administration has been bent on isolating and stifling the DPRK politically and economically, militarily and diplomatically, circulating rumours about uranium enrichment and nuclear development in the DPRK.

Although the Bush administration is making an issue of the DPRK’s nuclear programme, Selig Harrison, chairman of the special committee for investigation on US policies towards north Korea in the US international politics centre, said in one of his articles that the US grossly exaggerated the information on the DPRK’s nuclear programme.

As an expert of north Korean affairs and researcher of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, he commented that the alleged DPRK’s nuclear development is groundless.

Adding that the Bush administration, on the basis of superficial materials, presented the worst scenario as if it were an irrefutable truth, he said that the US grossly exaggerated the danger of the situation—as they did against Iraq—as if the DPRK were building nuclear weapons by purifying uranium secretly, and that the US has given no convincing proof to the participant nations of the six-party talks.

The Bush administration has no intention to co-exist with the DPRK.

Since its advent the Bush administration has taken every opportunity to talk about the threat of north Korea’s missiles, WMDs and conventional weapons, invented material on the latter’s nuclear development and launched another false propaganda incitement to the alleged programme for purifying uranium.

But the falsehood of their argument has come to light due to the article.

It is the old trick of the US that it forces its allegations on weak nations and then resorts to high-handedness, no matter how the trick works.

Most recently, high-ranking officials of the Bush administration openly mouth that they should "disarm" the DPRK by mounting "collective pressure" on it, the voice which has been reserved for a while after the failure of their allegation.

The Bush administration must know what its counterpart is like, considering its dealings with the DPRK.

Their clinging to the hostile policy toward the DPRK by inventing information of little worth shows how foolishly they are daydreaming.

Article Index

"War Potential Build-up" Moves for Pre-emptive Strike Against DPRK

Korea Today, January 2005

The United States is now shipping various weapons and military equipment of the latest style into south Korea on a large scale. Owing to this the Korean peninsula is in the midst of a hair-trigger situation at present.

Prattling on about the "reduction and redeployment" of the US troops occupying south Korea, the US imperialists are moving toward the increase of the funds for the war potential build-up plan.

The US envisaged 11 billion dollars at first as the funds for the war potential build-up plan, but it is now trying to increase the funds to 13 billion dollars in three to four years in future.

The military aid the United States gave to south Korea free of charge for more than 40 years up to 1986 since its occupation of south Korea amounted in value to 10,483,710,000 dollars. The US Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld said that even if there was some change in the numerical strength of the US troops in south Korea in accordance with the GI reallocation plan, the US’s war potential would grow more powerful and that the United States would continue to offer a modernized war deterrent to south Korea. It can be said that this is a true confession of the fact that the quantitative "reduction" of the numerical strength of the US troops does not constitute in the least the weakening of war potential but is designed for its qualitative strengthening. The purpose pursued by the United States lies in realizing the absolute ascendancy of its strength over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by markedly increasing the funds for the war potential build-up plan of the US occupation troops in south Korea under the guise of the partial "reduction" and reallocation of the US troops.

Also worthy of note in the US imperialists’ manoeuvres is that military equipment of the latest style is being concentrated in south Korea on an enormous scale.

In less than a year after the publication of the war potential build-up plan the United States brought into south Korea various kinds of highly efficient weapons and military equipment of the latest style on a large scale, including armoured car "Striker", the pilotless tactic reconnaissance plane "Shadow 200", tank "M1-A1 Abrams", "F-117" stealth fighter bomber and "Patriot PAC-3" system.

The US air force deployed in the Kunsan air base in south Korea more than ten newly-produced "F-117" stealth fighter bombers which had participated in the US-south Korea RSOI exercise. And that is not all. The United States has already finished the development of a new type of underground piercing missiles for destroying the underground facilities of the DPRK and is now going to supply them first to the US troops in south Korea.

What is more serious is the fact that the US navy is trying to deploy a flotilla led by the new powerful nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the water area in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula. The stepping up of the war potential build-up of the US troops in south Korea is the very disturbing military moves. This hints that the US imperialists will make more frantic efforts to complete the preparations for unleashing another Korean war, exacerbate military tension on the Korean peninsula and put a new obstacle to the progress of the six-way talks.

Lethal weapons possessed by US troops in south Korea are qualitatively superior to those possessed by the US troops deployed in any other area of the world. However, the US imperialists are concentrating their efforts on arming the US troops in south Korea with more up-to-date lethal weapons.

What the United States is really after is to carry out a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK. In the event of an emergency the United States is going to make the military operational capacity of the DPRK very weak by carrying out a pre-emptive strike against it all of a sudden and bring to an end the second Korean war by a "blitzkrieg" with US reinforcements, including the US troops stationed in Japan and rapid mobile striking forces hurled into the Korean front from Guam, Hawaii and other places in the Pacific region and from the US mainland, as well as US troops in south Korea and the south Korean troops.

The deployment of a flotilla led by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and Aegis-class destroyer equipped with an ultramodern AMM system on the East Sea of Korea by the US imperialists is a dangerous military step for conducting the operation of pre-emptive strike against the DPRK.

The DPRK is making active efforts for peace and relocation of tension on the Korean peninsula and has made a proposal to the United States to actively respond to it on several occasions. However, the US is responding to it with new, provocative large-scale arms reinforcement against the DPRK.

Owing to the full-scale war potential build-up manoeuvres on the part of the United States, south Korea is being further converted into the breeding ground of a new war, a nuclear war and the situation on the Korean peninsula is being keyed up to the extreme.

In his recent letter to the UN Secretary-General the representative of the Panmunjom mission of the Korean People’s Army solemnly declared once again that the DPRK would not look unconcernedly on the desperate arms reinforcement machinations the United States was now resorting to and that in no case would the DPRK only wait with folded arms until the US side finished offensive preparations and took up the starting position, and until the US side launched an attack first. And he stressed that this was the unshakeable stand of the Korean People’s Army on the war and the enemy.

The United States must discontinue its reckless war potential build-up manoeuvres for carrying out a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK and get out of south Korea.

Article Index

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Index Page