"No military solution", says US commander in Iraq

Submitted by martin on 12 March, 2007 - 9:51

The new US commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, said on 8 March that "the solution in Iraq would have to be a political one".

"Any student of history recognises that there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq," he said. "Military action is necessary to help improve security ... but it is not sufficient."

In fact the only viable political solution is one shaped by an upsurge of the Iraqi labour movement, the strongest democratic, secular, and non-sectarian force in the country.

That is not conceivably what Petraeus had in mind. Less than two weeks earlier, on 23 February, US troops had joined Iraqi soldiers in raiding the offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, one of the main union federations; and all the unions still labour under Decree 875, asserting government control over their funds..

Union activity continues in Iraq. On 3 and 4 March, workers at the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad struck successively to secure unpaid wages. Teachers in more than 21 high schools in Sadr City (Baghdad) have struck over safety, wages and inflation.

All the union federations are campaigning against the new law to open Iraqi oil to privatisation and foreign ownership, approved by the cabinet on 26 February.

But life in Iraq is still dominated by the US forces and the sectarian militias.

President George W Bush is already calling for yet more troops for his "surge" in Iraq. With the "surge" have come a series of attacks by Sunni-sectarian "resistance" forces on Shia pilgrims, killing hundreds of them.

Some Iraqis, plausibly, blame the attacks on the US troops forcing Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to withdraw from the streets. Shia-sectarian bigots though the Sadrists may be, they know the terrain and how to identify and deal with the rival Sunni-sectarian bigots. The US troops do not.

Some pointers suggest that the US may be trying to provoke a full-scale clash with the Mahdi Army. So far the Mahdi Army has responded to the US "surge" by lying low and letting the US troops enter its stronghold of Sadr City with impunity. Its leaders calculate that by doing this they can ensure the increased US firepower is aimed against their Sunni-sectarian rivals, and emerge strengthened at the end of the "surge".

Now, under US pressure, Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki talks of sacking five out of the six Sadrist members of his government. Iyad Allawi, who led the appointed Interim Government between June 2004 and April 2005, is manoeuvring (with what chance of success I can't say, but presumably with US backing) to oust Maliki altogether and to construct, around his own very small parliamentary group, a rival ruling coalition.

Full-scale war between the US and the Sadrists, alongside the continuing battle between the US and the Sunni "resistance", would ratchet up the bloodshed enormously. And it is hard to see how it could end well for the US: even if the US military blitzed Sadr city as they blitzed Fallujah, the Shia sectarians would still retain their hegemony there as the Sunni sectarians do in Fallujah.

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