Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Fukuyama treading carefully

An article that’s worth discussing is Fukuyama’s  What Became of the Freedom Agenda?.  It’s based on a United States Institute of Peace working paper which was released on January 21.

Fukuyama withdrew his support for the war in Iraq as soon as things became difficult,  yet at the same time he continues to  acknowledge  the reality that the  US can’t afford to keep cozying up to the autocratic regimes   in the Middle East.

He manages to quote Bush (2003) with approval:

“Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom . . . did nothing to make us safe. . . . As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.”

But he continues to oppose what he calls ” return(ing) to the loud trumpeting of promises for support of regional democracy that we cannot keep” and    ignores the fact that in Iraq, the US has kept exactly that promise. Instead  he tries to argue that the overhrow of Baathism in Iraq can only be seen as a setback for “democracy promotion”  because it “undercut (the) credibility” of that policy, and in his view increased Arab hostility toward America.

He rightly points to the way in which the autocrats of the region continue to get away with justifying the repression of opposition groups by saying that this is necessary to keep militant Islamists out of power and then goes on to call on Obama to “recommit the United States to peaceful democratic change”

What he wants the US to do now is to follow a policy of  “working quietly behind the scenes to push friendly authoritarians towards a genuine broadening of political space in their countries through the repeal of countless exceptional laws, defamation codes, party registration statutes and the like that hinder the emergence of real democratic contestation.”

The article is quite extraordinary in the way it makes no attempt to analyse the impact of the changes in Iraq, apart from maintaining that it damaged US credibility in the region.  I don’t know how anyone can purport to be writing a serious article about the prospects for democratic change in the Middle East, without writing in some detail about the one country in which democratic change has actually happened!  The thing which will do most to force (not gently “push”) the autocrats of the region out of power, is the move from fascism to democracy in Iraq. Fukuyama may disagree with that, but he doesn’t even address the issue.

Continue reading ‘Fukuyama treading carefully’

“The Guardian” links anti-Western terrorism to the West’s support of dictators

Writing in the The Guardian last Thursday, Seamus Milne explicitly linked the rise of anti-Western terrorism to US policy in South-West Asia:

Decades of oil-hungry backing for despots, from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia, along with the failure of Arab nationalism to complete the decolonisation of the region, fuelled first the rise of Islamism and then the eruption of al-Qaida-style terror more than a decade ago.

The article was based on the Egyptian Government’s continued co-operation with Israel to keep the people of the Gaza strip oppressed.

From the wider international perspective, it is precisely this western embrace of repressive and unrepresentative regimes such as Egypt’s, along with unwavering backing for Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, that is at the heart of the crisis in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Of course, The Guardian can’t break away from its oppostion to the overthrow of the fascist dictator Sadaam Hussein, even though that overthrow has led to a representative democracy being set up in Iraq:

the disastrous US-led response was to expand the western presence still further, with new and yet more destructive invasions and occupations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

However, this might not be important. Milne immediately goes on to say:

the Bush administration’s brief flirtation with democratisation in client states such as Egypt was quickly abandoned once it became clear who was likely to be elected.

The fact that plenty of pseudo-left liberals adopted Kissingerite language and attitudes, claiming that Bush’s destabilisation of Iraq was a shameful failure of US policy, means that it’s not just Bush who’s to blame here. However, if liberals are now going to start demanding democracy in places like Egypt, there’s a chance to agitate for democratic revolutions again. If the liberals can get over the fact that this means – as Milne points out – that the Islamic Brotherhood would almost certainly win a free election in Egypt, then maybe some progress can be made in getting Westerners to support democracy again.

The Arab world waking from its sleep

The current (July 26) edition of the Economist has a special report called “Waking from its sleep, a report on the Arab world”.

Also check out the leader article.

I have only had a glance but it looks rather informative and seems to get some things right.

Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)

it's all about our new beginning...

In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future — to a future that Egyptians can lead and can define.

Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty. And as these people gain the power to choose, they are creating democratic governments in order to protect their natural rights. We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal.

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.  Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

….. We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect
certain basic rights for all their citizens — among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate.
The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children — boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.

Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.

After all, America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings — and the governments they create — are inherently imperfect. And the United States was  born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people.

Whoops, wrong speech!!  That was Condi Rice speaking in Cairo,  back in 2005.   condi2

Obama’s speech was so much more..well,  nuanced.  Whereas Condi chose to focus on the struggle for democracy in the Middle East, Obama preferred to talk about “relationships”and  in particular what he called “the tension between the USA and Muslims around the world”. What is central, according to Obama, is to understand difference, find what we share, discover our common humanity (etc etc..).

As I said in a previous post,  I think that Obama will have to continue what the Bush regime started, no other policy would make any sense..The biggest sign of this was that he spoke quite firmly about the need for a Palestinian State, and was prepared to arouse the wrath of the most militant Zionists.

Continue reading ‘Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)’

Iraqis embrace democracy

The Iraqi Provincial Election is now in progress. News reports so far, indicate a huge turn out from the 14 million registered voters, following a very active campaign process.   This time around, the Sunni population is participating, which is a huge breakthrough.

As mandated by the Iraqi constitution 25% of the candidates are women.

The significance of this for the entire region, just can’t be underestimated. The entire Arab world is looking on, as well as the people of Iran.  Indeed it is of enormous significance for the entire Muslim world.

Obama (who voted against the surge) will now be able to preside over a gradual US troop withdrawal. I guess he can just ignore his previous statements about the situation in Iraq being hopeless, along wth  his proud record of having voted against the war.

End-game in the war for Greater Israel

The current attack on Palestinians in Gaza is a display of brutal military might, but ought not to be construed as evidence of Israeli strength because the War for Greater Israel really has been lost.  Despite the delays, the outcome must be a viable Palestinian State in the short term future. The killing continues, not because Israeli leaders believe that they have any chance of preventing that short term outcome, but because the racism inherent in Zionism  means that the lives of Palestinians are still expendable in the lead-up to the Israeli elections.

Since 2002, we at Strange Times/LastSuperpower have argued that supporting the Zionist war for greater Israel has become untenable for the USA and that we should therefore expect to see a Palestinian State within the next few years. Five years have passed since we first made that prediction and yet the Palestinians remain not only stateless and  now split between HAMAS controlled Gaza and a Fatah ‘controlled’,  but still occupied West Bank. Nevertheless, I think we are right to  remain confident and that our detractors will scoff less as events unfold in 2009. It is very clear that neither  Livni or Netanyahu have any realistic alternatives to acccepting that 40 years on, they have lost the war for greater Israel.  The attack on Gaza is designed to show just that. When it  is over and the elections have been contested and won,  the next step will have to be a comprehensive settlement.

Continue reading ‘End-game in the war for Greater Israel’

Iraq rocks on!

The Iraqi parliament has approved by a vote of a substantial majority of members the accord providing a legal basis for the continuing US military presence and a timetable for a US withdrawal. This is great news and puts another nail in the coffin of those who opposed the war. After the first federal election was held in Iraq, the numbers attending the anti-war demonstrations dropped dramatically. It went to show that the great majority were angry at having been lied to about the reasons for the war – WMDs rather than to overthrow a tyrant and create the foundations for democracy – but also had the best interests of the Iraqis at heart. They weren’t willing to march against a democratically elected government after the overthrow of a fascist regime. Only the die-hard pseudo-left leaders hung around to try and keep the movement going.

Where can they go from here? I think they have two options, both bizarre: first, some will try to turn it into their victory and, secondly, others will continue to beat their hollow chests from the sidelines calling the accord a sell-out and continuing the demand for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

And how wrong they were? Can anyone be more wrong? Just recall a few key items from what they said and let’s pat ourselves on the back for our left-wing pro-war position adopted back in 2002.

THEY said:

1. The national liberation movement – “embryonic” of course! – would grow and force the US out.

2. Democracy could not be established in Iraq because of tribal and ethnic differences.

3. The US would overthrow Saddam but install a new dictator.

4. The US would permanently occupy Iraq.

5. The Iraqi parliament and government are essentially puppets of US imperialism.

6. The war is about oil and the US will not leave until it secures control of Iraq’s oil resource through the draft national oil law that it (the US) framed.

7. Iraq had been plunged into civil war.

Perhaps not since the infamous Oxford University Union debate on appeasement in 1933 has a pseudo-left position been so delightfully exposed.

The ‘national liberation movement’ remains a joke, about as non-existent as something can be.

The main ethno-religious groups resolve their differences politically rather than by force, in the main, and the sectarian violence has diminished greatly as more and more Sunnis enter the political process. Armed attacks on the occupying forces have also declined greatly (as we said they would). The accord allowing for the US military presence to continue until the end of 2011 was supported across the ethnic divisions and expresses their united view that the time is not yet right for a complete and immediate withdrawal of foreign troops. In keeping with the spirit of the new democracy, the parliament voted for a national referendum to be held before 30th July to allow the people to express their view directly on the accord.

The accord has been applauded by President George W Bush and the Iraqi government and represents the long-stated policy of the US leaving only when the Iraqis ask them to, when the internal security situation and external threats are able to be dealt with by the new Iraqi forces.

That the Iraqi parliament and government are sovereign and not puppets to anyone has been demonstrated by the stridency with which the government negotiated with the US over this accord, over many months.

Remember all the talk by Fisk et al about how Iraq had plunged into civil war? I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase on Australia’s public broadcaster. Hey, what happened?! Maybe the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will let us know when the civil war ended and why its end went unannounced. Of course, it never ended because it never happened.

The US has agreed to a timetable for withdrawal under conditions of democratic progress. The oil issue remains unresolved for Iraqis, as the draft national oil law is still held up by factional wrangling. If it was a puppet government, it would have done what the ‘blood for oil’ brigade asserted throughout 2006 and 2007 and jumped to its supposed master’s alleged orders to pass the law.

It will be fun to see how the diehards try to make sense of this new development. No doubt it will be seen as some sort of victory for them: a victory for the (largely non-existent) anti-war movement around the world and for the (largely non-existent) Iraqi armed resistance. It has been, in reality, a victory thus far for the Iraqi people and their allies.

The accord will further isolate the enemies of Iraqi democracy. They too will be increasingly drawn into the political process as the prospect of the national referendum scheduled to take place prior to 30 July draws nearer.


What we’re up against – reporting on Iraq’s oil situation

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen factually false claims made in the mainstream media about the oil situation in Iraq. A lot of the mythology is being created with a view to justifying the discredited analysis that saw the US motivation for the war in terms of oil.

More than five years on since the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, a democratically elected federal government has so far failed to have a draft national oil law passed by parliament and, in light of the increases in the price of oil on the world market of a couple of mnoths ago, the Iraqi government decided to offer short term no-bid service contracts to Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, Total, BP and a consortium of smaller companies with a view to boosting production. These technical service agreements were to be undertaken on a fee (rather than product share) basis but the Iraqi government has recently decided not to proceed with them, and the targetted increases in production cannot now be met.

Continue reading ‘What we’re up against — reporting on Iraq’s oil situation’

More great news from Iraq!!

“Negotiators have finalised a deal which will see the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by 2011, ending an eight-year occupation, the top Iraqi heading the team said today.”  (from today’s “Age” newspaper)

This is a victory for the Iraqi people, the US, and for democratic forces throughout the Middle East.

The negotiations which led to this deal took some time and are yet another indication that Iraq is ruled by its own sovereign,  democratically elected government.  This is exactly what we wanted (and predicted). Now  we are seeing it.

I guess the full import will still take a while to sink in among those who opposed the war and predicted initially that its purpose was to install a US puppet government and then  sometime later, that Iraq had been tipped into an unwinnable civil war.   They were wrong on both counts.

Continue reading ‘More great news from Iraq!!’

A democratic Iraq! The anti-war camp really needs to do some thinking now…

Iraqi woman voter

Now that Iraq has not disintegrated into ‘endless civil war ‘, the anti-war camp should be feeling some confusion, at the very least. A year ago, the received view was that the situation in Iraq was hopeless. However the news coming out of Iraq over the past 6 months runs directly counter to this. It really is very clear now that the overthrow of Saddam will result in a democratic Iraq. And that’s something to celebrate! The first democracy in the Arab heartland! Wonderful for the Iraqis, and potentially something which can change the dynamic of the entire region. Hardly something to sniff at!

I’m wondering where the anti-war movement will go with this. Surely those who regard themselves as “on the left” will need to do some real thinking? It’s now undeniable that a fascist dictaorship has been overthrown and that its replacement has been an increasingly stable elected Iraqi government rather than an American puppet. Continue reading ‘A democratic Iraq! The anti-war camp really needs to do some thinking now…’

He’s not the messiah, just a very lucky boy

All sorts of good things have been happening in Iraq.

Just the other day, the Sunni bloc formally ended its twelve month boycott of the Maliki government and has been given 6 ministeries including the Deputy Prime Minister post. In other news, coalitions of tribes in both Anbar and Najaf have taken the decision to participate in the upcoming elections on platforms independent of the existing religious parties. These events are just two of many events indicating a realignment of forces which has been occurring over a much longer time period. Central to this has been the decision of the Sunni population to choose the rational option of working with (and seeking the protection of) the US. At the same time, the Maliki government has shown that it is prepared to stand up to the lawlessness of the Sadrist militias. Across the entire country, the Iraqi Security Forces are showing increasing capacity to maintain internal discipline, subordinate sectarian and personal interests, and operate as an arm of the State. Overall, sectarian violence has been reduced by about 80%.

So much for the idea that the situation in Iraq was one of hopeless civil war.

Confronted with the dramatic improvement in Iraq since the Surge began, Obama still maintains that he was correct to vote against it. He now says that the Surge was never necessary because the Iraqis were already on the way to reconciliation before it began! This contradicts the entire basis of his campaign against the war.

Everybody surely knows that Obama’s expressed reason for voting against the Surge was that he believed that the war was hopeless. He’s on the record all over the place as taking the position that Iraq had descended into a severe civil war and that the only chance of improving the situation was to put pressure on the Iraqis to “stand up”and “take responsibility” by withdrawing American support. According to Obama , the Surge was bound to worsen the situation. Continue reading ‘He’s not the messiah, just a very lucky boy’

Iraq and oil – the good oil

Sweeping away the moribund

Tyranny, in addition to suppressing people’s freedoms, also holds back long-term economic growth and development. When tyrants are overthrown and replaced by something better, an opportunity presents itself for the unleashing of people’s creativity and for the rapid development and exploitation of natural resources as a way of improving living conditions and opening up new opportunities. We see this today, most notably, in Iraq and in Nepal.

In Iraq, the former fascistic regime engaged in devastating military adventures and a nepotistic and bureaucratic centralized control over economic life that held back production. During the decades of Ba’ath dictatorship only 17 oil fields were developed out of a potential 80 fields. Oil production, Iraq’s principal source of revenue, reached at its peak only 3.5 million bpd (barrels per day).

In Nepal, the feudal monarchical system did nothing to develop and exploit nature for the benefit of the people, yet Nepal has incredible hydro-power potential. It could provide cheap and reliable energy from this source for its own people as well as earn vast revenue through the export of power. Nepal’s hydropower potential has been estimated at 84,000 megawatts (84,000 million watts), yet only a tiny fraction has been tapped.

The overthrow of tyranny in both countries, and its replacement with constitutional democracy, is an example of how old realities give rise to new ones, when the old becomes unnecessary and irrational. Continue reading ‘Iraq and oil — the good oil’

Zimbabwe reflections

A recent debate at Larvatus Prodeo brought to mind the exposure of Lemingist sects in The Life of Brian: “What did the Romans ever do for us?” The enlarging mirror at LP took the form of a well mannered pseudo-leftist, articulately holding to a consistently reactionary position with regard to Zimbabwe. Basically this fellow (John Tracey) supports Mugabe. The LP bloggers took him to task. But did they actually see their own features in that mirror?

‘No Mark, the developed nations standard of living is obscene and the root cause of African poverty.’ Oh dear.

When John Tracey didn’t stun people into silence he often forced them into distorting his position because much of what he bases his views on is what they themselves have argued for on LP. ( ie support for ‘small is beautiful’ right-wing green policies such as Perma-culture, rather than modern industrialized farming; defence of reactionary sovereignty rather than a developing internationalism; promoting ‘cultural exceptional-ism’ rather than being unequivocally in favour of universal human rights)

But on the issue of Zimbabwe, the regular bloggers at LP cannot stoop so low as to abandon the people of Zimbabwe and their struggle for democracy (nothing more than bourgeois democracy). In the crystallized situation that we see in Zimbabwe, LP regulars have chosen the correct side. They want the tyranny there to be brought to an end.Theoretically, John Tracey must also oppose tyranny, however his blinkered incapacity to see any progressive features in the bourgeois revolution that is required at this time and place puts him objectively on the side of a tyrant. Continue reading ‘Zimbabwe reflections’