The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #183 - 1 msg

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

This is an automated compilation of submissions to

Articles for inclusion in this daily news mailing should be sent to 
Please include a full reference to the source of the article.

Today's Topics:

   1. Iraq's elections - article to provoke your thoughts (John Smith)


Message: 1
Reply-To: <>
From: "John Smith" <>
To: <>
Subject: Iraq's elections - article to provoke your thoughts
Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2005 15:34:01 -0000

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Dear CASI list

Fine analysis of the Iraqi elections which cuts through the myths and
mystifications. Check out the editorial which follows it. The trio is
completed by an article on UK troops abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

best wishes


From The Militant (HYPERLINK

 Vol.   69/No. 6           February 14, 2005

Iraqi elections marked by relatively high turnout, little bloodshed


Officials of Iraq=92s interim government said an estimated 8 million people=
or 57 percent of the country=92s 14 million registered voters, took part in
the January 30 elections to pick a new national assembly. The armed attacks=
which forces loyal to the former Baathist party regime of Saddam Hussein an=
their allies had pledged would disrupt the vote, materialized only

The number of voters and the relative absence of disruptions were another
feather in the cap of Washington and its allies toward the goal of
establishing a government subservient to U.S. imperialist interests in the

As expected, turnout was largest in the Shiite-populated provinces in the
south and the Kurdish provinces in northeastern Iraq. Shiites make up some
60 percent of the Iraqi population and Kurds about 20 percent. Leaders from
both population groups were subjected historically to brutal repression by =
ruling caste that had been dominated by individuals among the Arab Sunni
minority. Wealthy Sunnis were the backbone of support for the Hussein

The turnout was reportedly low in Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad but higher
than expected in Mosul, which remains dominated by Sunnis.

One of the unforeseen results of the voting was the extent to which Iraqi
Kurds took advantage of the elections to advance their campaign for greater
autonomy for the Kurdish region. Kurdish groups set up tents near polling
stations in those areas and asked Kurds to cast a ballot in an unofficial
referendum on independence, with widespread success.

This turn of events did not please Washington, London, and most governments
in the region. Turkish government and military officials in Ankara had
charged that Kurds were using the election campaign to establish control
over Iraq=92s oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Turkey=92s foreign minister, Abdulla=
Gull, said Ankara would not sit idly by while Kurds took over Kirkuk,
according to Agence France-Press.

The 240 polling sites in Najaf, which is considered the capital of the
largely Shiite southern Iraq, swarmed with voters, according to a January 3=
Reuters dispatch. Iraqi election officials estimated the turnout among
Shiites would reach 85 percent, the January 31 New York Times reported. Mos=
voters in Najaf, as well as most other Shiite cities, cast their ballots fo=
the United Iraqi Alliance, a slate backed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the
country=92s leading Shiite cleric. The Financial Times placed the turnout i=
the majority-Shiite city of Basra at 70 percent.

The United Iraqi Alliance slate includes the Supreme Council for the Islami=
Revolution in Iraq. Leaders of the group, who returned from exile in Iran
following the overthrow of Hussein by the U.S. military, say the new
government in Iraq will be secular not =93Islamic.=94

Low turnout among Sunnis
Fareed Ayar, chairman of the Iraqi election commission, and Carlos
Valenzuela, the United Nations election advisor in the country, said voting
was higher than expected in Babil, Anbar, Diyala, and Nineveh provinces.
They also said there were lines in Baquba, Mosul, and Fallujah=97all part o=
the Sunni Triangle, reported the February 1 New York Times. The Chinese new=
agency Xinhua said voters turned out at eight polling stations in Fallujah
but the number of votes remained unknown.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, however, that there was little voting
in the Sunni Triangle with few polling stations open. The report described
the streets of Fallujah as =93desolate.=94 U.S. Marines along with British =
Iraqi troops routed Baathist irregulars from their stronghold in Fallujah
last November. Only a small portion of the city=92s former population of
250,000 has been allowed to return there since its takeover by U.S.
occupation forces. While the Iraqi government claimed 60,000 have returned,
the UN refugee agency says only 8,500 have come back and decided to stay.

According to the Washington Post, only six people voted in nearby Ramadi=97=
provincial governor, three of his deputies, the police chief, and a
representative of the Iraqi Communist Party.

In Samarra, which U.S. forces retook from the Baathists last October, the
head of the city council said there would be no voting out of concern for
security, AFP reported.

Ayar said voter turnout in Barquba, which has a mix of Sunnis and Shiites,
was 30 percent.

Turnout was higher than expected in Mosul, which has been the center of
Baathist attacks since those forces were routed from Fallujah. In the two
weeks before the elections, U.S. troop strength in and around the city was
increased from 8,000 to 12,000. Another 4,500 Iraqi policemen and military
personnel had been dispatched there too, according to the Washington Post.

The turnout in Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad was also higher than expected=
including in Adhamiyah where Hussein was last seen being cheered by crowds
just before he fled the presidential palace.

A CBS News report cited a =93steady stream=94 of voters in the =93Triangle =
Death=94 south of Baghdad. The area includes Shiites and Sunnis. But in Jur=
as Sakhr, a Sunni town in the area, voters were directed to cast their
ballots elsewhere as the government was not able to recruit any polling
workers and the U.S. military had difficulty finding Iraqi contractors who
would deliver bomb barriers.

Relatively minor bloodshed
A pledge by Baathists to =93wash the streets with the blood of voters=94 di=
d not
materialize. According to press reports, 45 people were killed, including
nine suicide bombers from the group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
called =93Al-Qaeda in Iraq.=94 This registered the growing isolation of the
Baathists and the progress the U.S. military is making in slowly dismantlin=
their forces. Two days before the elections, the Iraqi government announced
the capture of three alleged top aides to al-Zarqawi, bringing the total to
six leaders of the group reportedly captured in recent months.

In a crackdown leading up to the vote, security forces of the Iraqi interim
regime arrested 200 suspected Baathists and their supporters. The majority
of them, 129, were from the northern city of Tikrit, which is also Hussein=
hometown. Those arrested included two Saudis, an Egyptian, and a Yemeni,
reported Reuters, but most were Iraqis.

Bipartisan support for war solidifies
U.S. president George Bush and his new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice=
were measured in their descriptions of the election results. Recalling the
central theme of his inaugural address, Bush said, =93The world is hearing =
voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.=94

Speaking on ABC=92s =93This Week=94 TV show January 30 as early reports cam=
e in
from Iraq, Rice said the election is going =93better than could have been
expected.=94 Asked whether the election results would lead to the beginning=
a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, Rice said there is no timetable. She
added that Washington would focus now on training Iraqi troops and having
the =93right combination=94 of U.S. and Iraqi forces.

John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, downplayed the
importance of the impact of the Iraqi elections. =93I think it=92s gone as
expected,=94 he told the press. Asked by Tim Russert, the host of NBC TV=92=
=93Meet The Press,=94 whether he agreed with a call by Sen. Edward Kennedy =
for a
rapid timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, Kerry answered no, twice. He said
that =93security and stability=94 must be provided before turning Iraq over=
the Iraqis. Kerry said he would most likely vote in favor of the
administration=92s request for $80 billion in supplemental funding for the =
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid called the elections a =93milestone,=94 a=
that =93an exit strategy=94 is needed. In a joint press conference with Hou=
minority leader Nancy Pelosi, however, Reid took a stance similar to most
other Democratic Party politicians. =93As far as setting a timeline, as we
learned in the Balkans, that=92s not a wise decision, because it only empow=
those who don=92t want us there, and it doesn=92t work well to do that,=94 =

=93Even if things go extremely well, the next months will be fraught with
tensions, making this exactly the wrong moment for the United States to be
setting fixed troop-withdrawal targets, as some Democrats now propose,=94 s=
the lead editorial in the February 2 New York Times, a paper that campaigne=
vigorously for Kerry=92s presidential bid and has continued to criticize th=
Bush administration=92s course in Iraq. =93For the first time in this whole
sorry enterprise, it now seems possible to imagine an acceptable political

Britain=92s prime minister, Anthony Blair, said the elections were a =93blo=
w to
the heart of global terrorism,=94 reported the BBC. Just weeks before the
election, London dispatched a 600-strong battalion to reinforce its troops
in southern Iraq. As many as 10 British soldiers were killed in a crash of =
C-130 transport the day of the vote, which was seized by the British
government and press to advance their patriotic pro-war campaign. Al-Jazeer=
broadcast a video tape in which a group calling itself =93the 1920 Revoluti=
Brigade=94 of the National Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have shot
down the plane.

Approval of the outcome of the elections came from imperialist governments
and other regimes that have criticized the Bush administration=92s course i=
the region, including many regimes in the Middle East and Central Asia.

French president Jacques Chirac, German foreign minister Joschka Fischer,
and Russian president Vladimir Putin=97each of whom criticized the U.S.-led
assault on Iraq in 2003=97expressed satisfaction with the election results,
according to the January 31 New York Times.

Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, an Iranian government spokesperson, said the
elections were =93held freely=94 but under =93difficult circumstances,=94 t=
he Times

The day before the elections, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak said U.S.-le=
troops should remain in Iraq after the January 30 vote in order to prevent
the outbreak of civil war, the Associated Press reported.

Kurds press to bolster autonomy
At the same time, one development on election day worried Washington and it=
imperialist allies and most regimes in the region: what the Kurds did.

Turnout among Kurds in northeastern Iraq, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan, wa=
also high, about 80 percent, reported AFP. The main Kurdish parties=97the
Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan=97ran on a
single slate in order to maximize the number of Kurds elected to the
national assembly that will write the new constitution. Most Kurds are
seeking to bolster the limited autonomy they have enjoyed in Iraqi Kurdista=
since the early 1990s, under the protection of U.S. and British forces that
imposed a no-fly zone in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.

In tents set up outside polling centers=97with the approval of the Kurdish
regional government=97members of the Kurdish Referendum Movement conducted =
=93unofficial vote=94 on independence, reported the Washington Post. The gr=
handed out more than 2 million forms asking voters if they wanted an
independent Kurdistan, said AFP. Last December, the group handed the chief
UN elections official in Iraq a petition asking for a referendum on Kurdish
independence. It was signed by more than 1.7 million Kurds, almost half the
adult Kurdish population in northern Iraq.

A representative for the Kurdish slate said the electoral coalition was
leading the vote in Kirkuk. Leaders of the Kurdish regional government have
stated their desire to take over the city, which so far Washington has
opposed. Thousands of Kurds were forcibly removed from the town and
surrounding region by the Hussein regime, which settled Sunni Arabs in thei=
place in order to consolidate control of the oil-rich region. Thousands of
Kurds have resettled in the area, reportedly displacing more than 100,000

Turkey=92s foreign minister, Abdullah Gull, said the situation in Kirkuk =
reached dangerous proportions.=94 The chief of staff of Turkey=92s military=
Gen. Ilker Basburg, denounced =93hundreds of thousands of Kurds who have
migrated to Kirkuk to register to vote,=94 according to Al-Jazeera TV.

Together with another 20 million Kurds living in a territory that covers
parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Armenia, the Iraqi Kurds make up an
oppressed nation first subjugated by the Ottoman empire. Baghdad, Ankara,
Tehran, and Damascus fear that any move toward independence, or even formal
autonomy, by Iraqi Kurds could be a mortal threat to their regimes as it
would inspire national struggles among their Kurdish populations.

The unintended effects of the Iraq war

The January 30 national elections in Iraq are a victory for Washington and
its imperialist-dominated coalition that has occupied the country for nearl=
two years. For the U.S. rulers the Iraqi vote has solidified further
bipartisan support for the course the Bush administration has charted to
defend the interests of finance capital. The same is true for most of
Washington=92s imperialist allies, particularly London.

In his inaugural speech for a second term in the White House, Bush trumpete=
once again =93freedom=94 not =93stabilization,=94 and =93liberty=94 not the=
 =93balance of
power.=94 This registered not just a change in watchwords. It showed a
historic shift in world political strategy under this administration,
compared to Clinton and his predecessors. The =93Bush doctrine=94 is a reve=
following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, of what
most in the U.S. ruling class in both imperialist parties=97the Democrats a=
Republicans=97agree was 25 years of inadequate responses to =93terrorist=94
attacks on U.S. targets and belated action against states deemed capable of
developing weapons and delivery systems endangering U.S. imperial interests=

There was a high turnout in the elections among Shiites and Kurds, who
comprise about 80 percent of Iraq=92s population, and relatively little
disruption from the forces that had promised to turn the vote into a
bloodbath. As expected, the turnout among Sunni Arabs was minimal. This
outcome, with all its bumps, will make it slightly easier for Washington an=
its allies to pursue their =93war on terrorism.=94

The new regime that emerges from the elections will serve U.S. imperialism=
strategic interests in the region.

Whatever government is put together, however, will be an unstable regime. I=
will have to seek an equilibrium between the increasingly autonomous Kurdis=
region in the north and rival political forces from within the Shiite
majority and Sunni minority.

The Baathist regime was based among sectors of the Sunni population with a
vested class interest in preserving the minority privileges bestowed on the=
by British imperialism. Among the bloodiest dictatorships in Middle East
history, over their 40 years in power the Baathist rulers systematically
organized the wholesale slaughter of dissenting Baathist forces, Communist
Party members and those accused of being communists, and Shiite and Kurdish

Following the 1991 Gulf War, under the cover of U.S. and British
imperialism=92s no-fly zone, the Iraqi Kurdish region functioned more and m=
as a separate country. Leaders of the Kurdish area, which has its own
government and the best trained and most disciplined indigenous armed force
in Iraq=97the pesh merga=97are determined to claim a substantial share of
control over any revenues from the oilfields along the perimeter of the
region. And they are demanding reversal of the Baathists=92 =93Arabization=
=94 of
Kirkuk and other cities and towns in Kurdish areas.

With the U.S. presidential race safely behind it, the Bush administration i=
November relaunched the war in Iraq to consolidate power over the Baathist
strongholds in the center of the country, beginning with the swift and
brutal takeover of Fallujah. Washington had originally stopped short of
carrying through to the end this fight following the taking of Baghdad in
April 2003. Forces from Hussein=92s elite Republican Guard and secret polic=
used the time to regroup as well-financed Baathist irregulars and to link u=
with groups such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi=92s =93Al-Qaeda in Iraq.=94

U.S. forces conducted this stage in the war with little opposition among th=
Shiite population, who have themselves been targets of the Baathist terror,
bombings, and assassinations. Washington has also received substantial
support in the Kurdish regions.

Despite deep wells of hatred among the Iraqi toilers for the imperialist
occupiers, the detested Baathist forces and their allies who are waging the
war they didn=92t fight in 2003 are incapable of mobilizing and leading a
revolutionary national liberation struggle in Iraq. None has a class
interest or program to unite the workers and peasants of Iraq to advance
their national sovereignty.

A telling confirmation of this reality has been the stunning absence of any
broad outpouring of opposition to the imperialist invasion and occupation o=
Iraq anywhere in the Middle East, or in any predominantly Muslim country. T=
the contrary, governments from Morocco to Jordan and Indonesia have been
under little pressure at home to pull back from their course of lining up
behind Washington and Baghdad to legitimize, however =93critically,=94 the
U.S.-installed regime and the January 30 elections. Reactions to the recent
Iraqi elections from government officials and most media from Egypt to Saud=
Arabia and Lebanon are another affirmation of this fact.

The unintended effect of the imperialists=92 course, however, is to open up
space in Iraq and throughout the region for the working class and peasants
to organize and fight to advance their interests; to open up space for
oppressed nations such as the Kurds; to open up space for the fight to
advance women=92s equality; to open up space to advance the separation of
religious institutions from politics and the state; to open up space for th=
circulation of propaganda popularizing and explaining proletarian politics.

The bold move by Kurdish groups on election day to organize outside polling
stations in northern Iraq a mock referendum for the independence of Iraqi
Kurdistan=97which is opposed by virtually all other political forces in Ira=
Washington, London, and all the regimes in the region=97is a stunning
illustration of this reality.

The unintended consequences of U.S. imperialism=92s course throughout the
Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, and beyond will continue to unfold.
That is the future the imperialists can do nothing to avoid.

British soldiers tried for systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Basra

EDINBURGH, Scotland=97Court-martial proceedings began January 18 against th=
British soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners in a case that mirror=
the systematic humiliation and physical abuse by U.S. troops of Iraqis held
at the Abu Ghraib prison. A fourth British soldier has already been
convicted for offenses related to the photographing of Iraqi prisoners put
in humiliating positions.

In an attempt to limit any damage to the image of the UK rulers=92
participation in the U.S.-led =93coalition of the willing,=94 Prime Ministe=
Anthony Blair, Conservative leader Michael Howard, and army chief Gen.
Michael Jackson have all condemned the prisoner abuse in Iraq, but claimed
this case is an isolated incident. Within days of their statements the medi=
spotlight on the issue had faded significantly.

Damning photos revealed
Revelations of the actions of the three members of the Royal Regiment of
Fusiliers under court-martial=97Lance Cpl. Darren Larkin, Lance Cpl. Mark
Cooley, and Cpl. Daniel Kenyon=97came to a head when 22 photographs were
submitted as evidence against them when the trial began in Osnabruck,
Germany. The photos were taken May 15, 2003, at a British army-run supply
depot near Basra in southern Iraq known as Camp Bread Basket. They show
naked Iraqis=97accused of looting the depot=97being forced to simulate sex =
and a blindfolded Iraqi tied up and suspended high in the air from the
prongs of a fork lift truck.

Cooley has admitted to driving the fork lift, but said his purpose was only
=93to move the man out of the sun,=94 the Scotsman reported.

The court-martial was told the soldiers were acting under orders from Major
Dan Taylor. The three were ordered by Taylor to conduct an =93Operation Ali
Baba,=94 referring to the story =94Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,=94 to pu=
the prisoners. The soldiers were sent out with long sticks to hunt for the
alleged looters. Once caught, the Iraqis=92 were, in army language,
=93beasted=94=97made to run in searing heat with large heavy boxes of dried=
on their heads. According to a January 21 BBC news report, Taylor was talke=
to by senior officers in a process known in army slang as an =93interview
without coffee,=94 and the senior officers concluded he was guilty of no mo=
than =93misguided zeal.=94=92

The photos only came to light when an assistant in a photo developing shop
turned them over to the police. Fusilier Gary Bartlam has been convicted of
a series of offenses for taking the photos. Kenyon and Cooley have denied
all charges. Larkin admitted to the charge of battery, but denied committin=
any other offenses. The three each face terms of between four and 10 years
in prison if convicted of all charges.

Damage control by British rulers
As the photos were displayed across the media in the United Kingdom and
world wide, liberal columnists initially expressed concern that the role of
the 9,000 UK troops in Iraq would be tarnished in the way the U.S. forces
were after the brutality at Abu Ghraib came to light. For example, James
Kirkup, writing in the Edinburgh-published Scotsman, said =93The semi-myth =
the British squaddie as multi-cultural latter-day saint, part aid worker,
part diplomat and part muscular priest, is a comforting one, not least for
Mr. Blair. Time and again we have been assured that Our Boys are different:
they wear soft berets, not hard helmets; they befriend the local population=
not kill them; they observe the laws and rules of war and peace, not violat=
them. That battle was won, but yesterdays images will not be erased from th=
imagination so easily or so soon.=94

Reacting quickly to widespread coverage of the brutal treatment by British
soldiers in Basra, General Jackson stressed that only a =93small number=94 =
the 65,000 UK forces who have been deployed to Iraq were involved. Blair
said =93I hope we do not allow that [the photos] to tarnish the good name,
fully deserved, of the British armed forces.=94 Echoing Blair, Conservative
leader Michael Howard claimed the photos =93in no way reflect the true
character of Britain=92s armed forces.=94

Within a few days the court-martial slipped from its position as a major
news item. Despite this, its proceedings are revealing some of the breadth
of what occurred. Testifying at the court-martial, Lt.-Colonel Nicholas
Mercer said, =93Once we moved into an occupation role from a battlefield on=
the situation changed and numbers of allegations were made that Iraqis were
not being treated as properly as they should be.=94 Mercer is reported to h=
issued an order five days after the photographed abuses occurred that
=93detainees should not be abused.=94

In a further sign of London=92s determination to drive ahead with the =93wa=
r on
terror,=94 Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced new measures January 26 =
extend detention without trial in the United Kingdom. Clarke said that on
the basis of secret intelligence and decision by ministers, suspects could
be subjected to house arrest, curfews, and electronic tagging as well as a
ban on telephone and Internet use. Revealing the broad scope for this new
assault on democratic rights, Clarke=92s advisor, Stephen McCabe, told the
Scotsman, =93We can envisage this applying to animal rights extremists and =
far right.=94 The announcement was made the day after four British men were
released from Guant=E1namo Bay. Also, in December the Law Lords had ruled t=
detention of 12 men without trial in London=92s Belmarsh prison illegal. In
announcing the new measures on detention, Clarke suggested he =93should be
applauded for accepting the Law Lords=92 judgment and working on that basis=

Meanwhile, military prosecutors in Copenhagen have charged a Danish army
captain and four military police sergeants with the abuse of Iraqi prisoner=
at a military camp near Basra last year, according to the Associated Press.
Charges against them include denying prisoners food and water.

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.300 / Virus Database: 265.8.5 - Release Date: 03/02/2005

End of casi-news Digest

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]