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Just Get the Hell Out

Despite conflicting reports about US forces leaving Iraq, as of January 4, 2020, about four thousand US troops, Marines and Air Force personnel are preparing to ship out to Iraq.  A Pentagon spokesmen has told the world that the US feels free to stage “preventive attacks” against Iraqi anti-occupation groups they believe to be Iranian-supported. In a brazen and illegal attack, US forces killed a top Iranian general and the leader of Iran’s Quds force. At least five thousand US troops were already in country. So are hundreds if not thousands of mercenaries and spies. The reason provided by the Pentagon for this most recent deployment is the recent uptick in popular protest against the US occupation of that country. There have also been a few rocket attacks on US military bases during this time. One such attack killed a US mercenary. The Pentagon and other elements of the US war making establishment are attempting to link the rocket attacks to the protests and the protests to the government in Tehran. While Tehran is certainly influencing events in Iraq, the attempt by Washington to dump the responsibility for the unrest in Iraq on Tehran is both false and foolish.

The reason there is unrest in Iraq is simple. It is because the United States has used the territory and people of Iraq both as bait and as targets in their ongoing battle to secure the Middle East. Beginning with the January 1991 attack on Baghdad, US forces and their client armies have waged a twenty-nine-year war on that nation. A once thriving land has been subjected to economic sanctions and sabotage, massive bombing, military invasion, sectarian warfare, and the theft of its resources; and that’s just the tip of it. Hundreds of thousands of its residents have died from this relentless destruction and millions more remain impoverished and with minimal hope for a better future. The ongoing occupation by the United States is both a reminder and the cause of the situation the Iraqi people are rebelling against.

Naturally, at least in terms of the politics of the region, Tehran is involved in the fate of Iraq. It was the war between the two nations during the 1980s—a war which found Washington supporting the Baghdad government—that helped set the stage for the next military disaster in the region: the 1991 US invasion of Iraq known to US residents as Desert Storm. Since that murderous adventure, the people of Iraq have endured economic sanctions that killed an estimated half million Iraqis, aerial bombardment, a second military invasion, military occupation, massive theft of their resources, and sectarian warfare encouraged and manipulated by outside forces, primarily the United States. Iran’s interest is often portrayed as some kind of regional imperialism. A more accurate description would be self-preservation. One does not have to be a supporter of the theocratic/capitalist class that comprises the government in Tehran to admit that it is a country surrounded by enemies and potential enemies. From the US to Israel, with the Saudis and Emirates in between, there are many who want to see the government in Tehran replaced. Short of actual regime change, one assumes that the destruction of the Islamic Republic’s government accompanied by a descent into chaos like that seen after the 2003 invasion of Iraq would suffice for the real imperialists in Washington, DC.

The United States has no legitimate business in Iraq. Its 2003 invasion was immoral, illegal and a disaster for the majority of the Iraqi people and the families of those who died on all sides of the conflict. The same is true for the US invasion in 1991 and the sanctions regime that followed. The institution of production sharing agreements with foreign oil companies in Iraq beginning in 2007 has resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from the Iraqi people. Furthermore, the privatization of many services and functions previously controlled by the Iraqi government continues unabated. It is reasonable to assume that this robbery adds to the poverty among Iraq’s people and the enrichment of some members of its government. These phenomena are just a couple of the reasons for the ongoing protests—protests which have grown larger and more militant the past few months. The protesters seem to be non-sectarian and from the street, so to speak. Different organizations—from the Iraq Communist Party to various Shia groups aligned and not-aligned with groups in Tehran—have distributed press kits to the media and flown their banners at the protests. In other words, the protests are like protests around the world; they feature members and cadre from numerous organizations and groupings together with even more individuals hoping for everything from reform to revolution.

It is fairly clear from the reports in western media that the US Embassy is attempting to portray any involvement by the Iranian government as being equivalent to the US occupation. This is nonsense on a practical and political level. The sheer presence of the massive US Embassy compound in Baghdad together with US military installations, the US armada in the Persian Gulf, and the potential to put thousands of deadly bombs and missiles in the air above Iraq within hours makes such a comparison out as the joke it is. Politically speaking, the Baghdad government survives because of US funding. According to the US State department website, Washington has provided billions of dollars to the Iraqi government in “humanitarian” and military aid. While it is true that there are elements of the Iraqi government and in the population that are either independent or aligned with government-sponsored and religious organizations in Iran, the fact remains that Washington controls the bulk of the political decisions made in Baghdad. To put it plainly, the relationship between Washington and Baghdad is imperial in its very essence. This cannot be said about any relationship between Tehran and Baghdad.

Donald Trump has been impeached. Whether one agrees with this action or not, they have to wonder how he will react should the articles of impeachment make it to the floor of the US Senate. While it has been clear since the Trump administration abrogated the Iran Agreement that war with Iran is a real possibility, it is possible that the impeachment process might provide those who want war with the excuse they have needed to get Trump fully on board. Or maybe the recent air raid on the so-called Iraqi militia camp and assassination of the Iranian general will be all that takes place. However, the troop deployments and military actions do not quell any such fears of war. Indeed, they intensify those fears. As the vote by the Iraq parliament to expel US forces from there country clarifies, it is well past time for the US to completely withdraw all of its forces from Iraq, its ships from the Persian Gulf, and end all military support for Israel, Saudi Arabia and other client states in the region. For what remains of the antiwar movement in the US, our demand is simple and clear. US Out of the Middle East and South Asia.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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