Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Achcar's Most Recent on Iraq

Gilbert Achcar has been one of the best commentators on Iraq since the occupation began. This is an interview done shortly before the December elections [Gilbert Achcar interviewed by Bill Weinberg, "IRAQ: THE CASE FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL," World War 4 Report, January 07, 2006] and is worth checking out for an update on the situation in our latest imperial venture. A few key excerpts I found interesting:

If we consider the fact that the main constituency for what is called the insurgency in Iraq is the Arab Sunni areas of the country, and since we know quite well that Arab Sunnis in Iraq are a minority of the population and the Arab Shi'ites are three times their number, and the Kurds are more or less equivalent to the Arab Sunnis in number, but much more powerful in organized military force, I think that, except for a tiny minority of lunatics, the wide majority of the Arab Sunnis will understand that it will be in their interest to negotiate and reach a deal on some compromise. Otherwise, the option of civil war would be disastrous for the Arab Sunnis because they would be caught between the might and military force of the Kurds on the one hand and the overwhelming majority of Shi'ites on the other side, and that would be a very, very precarious and dangerous situation.

BW: And yet that does not seem to be having a restraining effect on them now.

GA: Precisely. It has no restraining effect on them now. The very presence of the occupation troops prevents this -- any direct clash between the three major components of the Iraqi population. And on the other hand, the very presence of the occupation troops gives a real legitimacy to at least the anti-occupation actions waged by the various armed groups in Iraq.

There's no important group as such which could be described non-Islamic, non-fundamentalist, non-Ba'athist, nationalist. What I would call the nationalist component of the resistance to the occupation, would be these local, spontaneous actions by people completely fed up with the occupation and the way the U.S. troops behave with the people, and the way they search houses and all that. So this leads to people taking arms and attacking U.S. troops without adhering to any ideology like Islamic fundamentalism or Ba'athism. So these would be, you know, nationalist patriots or whatever the label you want to use...

BW: But without any real organizational capacity...

GA: There's no major network representing that element -- unfortunately, I would say, because that would be something better than the two other components: Ba'athists on the one hand, the Islamic fundamentalists on the other. The tragedy is that the organized networks, with the real means, are of the two other kinds.

My prognosis for next year is that it will be very tough for Washington. The Shi'ite alliance is renewing its demand of a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops -- a central demand which was put aside after they had to cut a deal with the Kurdish alliance in order to form a government. And that compromise was opposed vehemently by the partisans of al-Sadr, who are now part of the alliance, and even in the government. They petitioned in the national assembly, and collected a very significant number of signatures of MP's -- over 120 -- demanding the government place a timetable for the withdrawal of occupation troops... And I think the Sadrists can be expected to be still more active than what they have been until now, on this issue... You remember on April 9 of this year, there was a huge demonstration in Baghdad against the occupation, where they burned puppets representing George Bush, Tony Blair...and Saddam Hussein.

But at the same time, they [the al-Sadrcan consider that it's in their interest not to split their constituency and try to find some kind of agreement. Because actually they have more in common than what separates them. Both are Islamic fundamentalist, both are Shi'ite organizations. One is more radical than the other in its attitude toward the occupation, but the Supreme Council views the U.S. presence in a tactical way, believing, as Iran does also, that they are making use of the U.S. -- they made use of the U.S., to topple Saddam Hussein, their arch-enemy, and they are now taking advantage of the presence of U.S. troops to build up their forces, to build an Iraqi state under their control, until they reach time when they will ask the occupation to leave the country...

Washington will be very strongly backing Allawi; the Kurds don't need backing in the election because their constituency will vote for them anyhow. But Washington wishes that Allawi this time -- contrary to his defeat in January, when he only had 14% of the vote -- will be able to lead a more significant faction in the Parliament, powerful enough to be able to exert some kind of veto power, with the Kurds. So we'll see what the December election brings -- one never knows in Iraq. But it's very likely that we are heading towards even tougher times for Washington in Iraq than what we've seen until now. And with the kind of administration we've got in Washington, the worst is possible; facing adversity, they might react in a very violent, vicious manner...

Washington went into this war at a huge cost for the United States -- whether in human lives or economically, the cost has been huge, absolutely huge. To withdraw from Iraq and lose everything would be a terrible defeat of strategic proportions, for the United States. So, this administration could very well be tempted, faced with adversity, to react very wildly...

BW: Meaning what?

GA: I mean, everything is possible. Military action against Iran. Turning their weapons also against the Shi'ites, if the Shi'ites radicalize against the occupation. And therefore you could have a much greater bloodbath in Iraq than what we have seen until now, which is already something.

And this is where the U.S. anti-war movement comes into the picture. I can refer you to the example of Vietnam. When Washington was faced with great difficulty in coping with Vietnamese resistance to the occupation, there was a temptation at some point to use nuclear arms. And a study was commissioned from the CIA about what it would entail. And the main argument that was published recently in the archives, was that the use of nuclear arms would not be accepted by the U.S. population.

So the anti-war movement in the United States, the anti-war feeling that was building up at that time, were instrumental in preventing the worst in Vietnam -- the use of nuclear arms, or those threats by Nixon to inundate North Vietnam at one point.

So, if we want to avoid seeing this administration trying to remain in control of Iraq by resorting to disastrous type of measures, it is definitely crucial that there is a strong, powerful anti-war movement in this country. And already it is very much encouraging to see the level of the polls, the radical shift in public opinion in the United States, but the shift in the polls is not enough. You need to translate that into a powerful, grassroots, autonomous movement, and maintain the pressure very strongly.

And of course Achcar turned out to be right in predicting a poor showing for the U.S's great white hope, Allawi.


Post a Comment

<< Home