In the event the American forces met less resistance than they expected from the political Islamist “insurgents” in Fallujah.
Although pockets of fighting continue, operation Phantom Fury was over much quicker than we (or they), expected. Many of the Islamist/Ba’athist fighters seem to have deserted their “stronghold” before the attack. They will regroup and may fight in other Sunni cities. Right now the US forces are in Mosul “clearing” what they call “pockets of resistance”.
The fact that less damage was done than might have been will be very little comfort to the people of Fallujah when they return to their bullet-ridden homes and a city devastated by the Americans and the “resistance”. Or who stayed inside the city, who are living with dead bodies in the streets, the threat of snipers, and the lack of food and water.
Reports of civilian casualties are only just beginning to come out. In true Ba’thist fashion Prime Minister Iyad Allawi claimed that no civilians had been killed in Fallujah!
The Fallujah operation is part of a two month drive by Americans and Iraqi government troops, newly recruited and trained, against the Sunni “resistance” to make Iraq “safe” for January elections. But the battle of Fallujah is likely to win new recruits for the Sunni Islamist and Ba’thist militias.
As elections approach an increased Sunni rebellion, led by the most reactionary communal elements in Iraqi society — the jihadi Islamists, the Ba’thists — is very likely.
One effect of Fallujah was the resignation of the Iraqi Islamic Party from the interim government (although they left one of their members behind). The Association of Muslim Clerics, whose leader, Harith Sulayman al-Dhari, is one of the more popular figures in Iraq, is boycotting the elections.
Meanwhile Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is trying to build a coalition for the election among the Islamist Shi’ite parties and politicians, including Moqtada al-Sadr.
On Sunday 14 November Iraq’s deputy prime minister Barham Salih said that the elections may be called off if the security situation worsens.
Yet the elections have become a big point of prestige for the occupation powers. It may be their last best hope of setting up a US-friendly government in Baghdad which has some glimmer of popular legitimacy. An international conference will be held in Egypt on 22-23 November to discuss the what will happen in Iraq beyond the January elections.
Representatives of such dictatorship as China and Syria will come together to discuss... democracy!
If the January elections do bring some stability to Iraq that could only be good for the prospects of the new Iraqi trade unions. On the other hand the US and UK and Iraqi government forces probably face a long drawn out confrontation with Sunni forces. Many of the Sunni minorities who ruled under Saddam Hussein over the non-Sunni majority of Iraqis, are doubly embittered. If that confrontation draws in elements of the Shi’ite militias the future for the ordinary people of Iraq will be very bleak.
What do those on the left who back the occupation, who put their faith in the big powers, think now? No matter how much we want to see reactionary militias marginalised — forces that would annihilate the fledging workers’ organisations — we cannot rely on, trust or back forces with such a lack of care for civilian life, those who are concerned essentially with their own “big power” strategy to secure Iraq for “normal” capitalist plunder and not with the needs of the Iraqi people.
The US and British are trying to bring into their fold “mainstream” Islamism in the form of Sistani and SCIRI (the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq). Moqtada al-Sadr could be part of a Sistani-led grand coalition. These are not friends of the working class.
As to those on the left, the SWP and others, who back the “resistance” — the events of the last weeks flatly contradict their position. The people of Fallujah did not “resist”.
By and large they fled the city or stayed in their homes. There is probably a lot of passive support for the armed resistance and much misery and discontent, but most of the people of Fallujah seem to have regarded themselves as victims of the Islamic militants.
And the people of Iraq are not actively participating in the armed resistance — relatively small sections of society, with limited (and conflicting) social bases, are.
The “left” which backs such resistance is not interested in representing reality, still less in the political character of the militias — reactionary, through and through. They are only interested in giving “imperialism” a bloody nose — even if that leaves the armed Islamist/Ba’thist reactionaries in control of Iraq. One of their first acts would be to destroy the labour movement, kill and jail its activists. And to deprive women of any chance of liberty.
The left should back neither the US and Britain, nor their Iraqi allies. We should oppose the ultra-reactionary bigots of the “resistance”. Instead we should help Iraq’s organised working class — the unions and socialists who, against the odds, are building a independent working class alternative in Iraq.