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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a democratic Iraq? « Previous | |Next »
April 11, 2003

Gareth Parker says the anti-left find it hard to admit the fall of Baghdad. And Tim Dunlop reinforces this when he says that there is:

"...a fair bit churlishness in some of the leftist/anti-war responses to what has happened, an unwillingness to enjoy the moment even as they despair at the path that got us here and the unknown one ahead."

Let me speak simple. Its good a dictatorial regime that oppressed the Iraqi people has gone. Now the Iraqi people have a chance to self-determine their freedom. I hope that the old Iraqi regime is not able to continue a guerilla-style war to undermine the attempts by the Iraqi people to create their own democratic society.

So why the reservations noted by Gareth and Tim? On my side it lies with concerns I've raised before here and here. My concerns are similar to those raised by Robert Weaver and duly noted by Gummo Trotsky. This is a war fought for political ends. Its the politics that has always been my central concern. The military invasion was an instrument to further the politics.

Will the US empire deliver on its promise to deliver Iraqi democracy? Let us speak simply. It won't deliver substantially. It is not in its strategic interests to do so.

My argument? A democratic Iraq is an instrument to achieve its strategic goals in the region. The old dictatorial regimes cannot be trusted to act in terms of US interest because they are only to willing to harbor Islamic terrorist organization. Hence regime chance.

You canot have a democratic Iraq because the Shi'ite Muslims are the majority and they are aligned with Iran which ahas been declared a member of the axis if evil. The US did not fight a war to increase the power of Iran. Iran and Syria are its enemies and they are targeted to be taken out if they make moves to challenge the empire.

So democracy in Iraq will be very limited. Iraq will be liberal not democratic. It will be designed by the US occupation authority to prevent the majority Shi'ites from gaining power and running the new Iraq. So mechanisms will have to be put into place to prevent/constrain, deny the Shi'ites their rightful claim to power. Its the ethnic faultines that are the worry.

So who then is going to run the new Iraq? The Kurds? Turkey will not allow that. its troops are already massed on the border. The Kurds too will be constrained from exercising the power that is rightfully theirs. So we come to the Sunni Muslims. The same ethnic group that ruled Iraq under the dictatorship of Sadam Hussein.

That's the argument for my reservation. The Empire's strategic interests will determine the form of the regime in Iraq. That new regime must identify its national interests with those of the US.

Alerion over at Southerly Bluster says it well:

"In short, we've been here before. If the Bush project for Iraq as a beacon of democracy is to succeed [then] they need to avoid the mistakes made by the British empire. British policy created an authoritarian state built on a narrow Sunni Úlite dominating the Shi'te majority and the Kurdish minority. Imposing Chalabi, (formally Shi'ite but actually so Westernised that his Shi'ite credential are in doubt) would just repeat the British error. If Bush actually wants this imperial project to succeed he needs the UN and he needs advice from people who know something about Iraq. Seeing everything through an Israeli filter will not work."

Of course, I may be wrong. The Empire's pro-consul and his administration may set up a federal political structure within a nation state to enable autonomous regions based on ethnic groups.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:32 PM | | Comments (10)



So basically Democracy won't work in Iraq because most Iraqis are Shi'ites (like Iranians)?

I find this argument flawed on two main levels.

1. Iraqi Shi'ites are not the same as Iranian Shi'ites.

2. Iranian opinions are not represented by the mullahs.

I've expanded on this in more depth in a post here

Well, I go a fair bit beyond that one quote you extract. I was just trying to acknowledge some good as I saw it while poiting out it was a little early (and late) for too much glee from the war party. Gareth's pieces was silly and well below his usual standards of fairness. The account he gives of what I wrote, for instance, is simply wrong.

oddly enough I was reading your reading weblog when you were making the comments.

Not quite. It will be more liberal than democratic because of the need to prevent the Shi'ite majority within Iraq from gaining control of the control of the council through democractic means.

Shi'ites running the show will not coincide with the strategic interests of the US. One of these is to contain Iran as a rogue state.

I read your excellent post. It ignores that the US has defined Iran as a part of the axis of evil and so needing to be dealt with.

I think a federal structure is almost certain, although the Kurds will probably use it as a power base to push for "Greater Kurdistan".

Of course you went a lot further than just raising the problem in your very fine post.

You addressed it in an sophisticated and even handed manner.

Me I was just scratching the surface in order to establish a bit of common ground between left and right.

If left and right agree on a democratic Iraq then where are trhe fracture lines? Where do left and right part company?


I'm actually more pessimistic. I reckon the US will be respond tro the threat of anarchy through an authoritarian regime based on the Sunni Muslims.

I don't think there's a hope in hell of the Bush administration permitting a democratic iraq. Turkey is a much more important ally than the Kurds and the Turks have vetoed a federal system just as strongly as they've vetoed an independent Kurdistan.

The problem, from Ankara's perspective, is that a majority of all Kurds live in southwest Turkey. An autonomous Kurdish state in Iraq would threaten the whole Turkish political structure.

As it is, the PKK, the Kurdish guerillas on the Turkish side, regard the KDP/PUK autonomy on the Iraqi side as a betrayal of the principle of independence.

The US will set up Chalabi as a toy Shi'ite with Western politics and then go home.

The Chalabi government will then last about 24 hours once his US protectors are gone. He will make Hamid Karzai look like a major success.


Good point on the divergence in strategic goals. I agree.

I also alluded to that point in my post that anti-mullah feeling in iran does not automatically translate into support for the US - history and religion determines that the truth lies in the middle.

As to Iran remaining in the Axis of Evil, I think the US would be best served by taking a wait and see approach. If democracy is seen to work in Iraq, the pressures for more reform on the mullahs from their own population will be enormous. As I noted, Iranians do have access to news and don't trust their state controlled media. Their awareness of events across the border is increasing. The religious ties we've discussed may even increase the cross fertilisation of ideas.

Already there are reports of blowback against radical Palestinean groups in iraq - they were the beneficiaries of Saddam's support and are seen as complicit in supporting his regime.

Iran does support groups like Hizbollah et al but that largesse is driven by the mullahs. Support for those groups amongst ordinary Iranians is dropping becasue they are seen as tainted by their symbiotic relationship with the clergy.

I would not be surprised that as reform gathers pace, groups like Hizbollah will find themselves more unwelcome. I'd also hazard a prediction by saying that as Iraq improves, Iran will find itself importing dangerous ideas rather than exporting them to the region.

The US wins by concentrating on making Iraq work and I hope that's what they'll do.

Whoops. Forgot to mention there is slightly more detail in my updated post.

Its well argued and plausible re Iran and I hope that you are right.

But I am not sure that the US neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute are simply concentating on making Iraq the beacon light of democracy in the Middle East. The eagle eye is being turned onto regime change in Syrian and Iran.