National Sections of the L5I:

No to the imperialist swindle: for a revolutionary constituent assembly!

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Leading Sunni representative in the negotiations, Soha Allawi, said, “We will campaign among Sunnis and Shias to reject the constitution which has elements that will lead to the break-up of Iraq and civil war,” while his Shi’ite opposite number, Jalal al-Din Sagheer, rejoined, “The only possible change now is that the Sunnis become federalist.”

No one is in any doubt that the deadline will pass with no further change to the situation. There will be no agreement on its wording before it is put to a referendum.

George Bush ominously spelt out what this means in practice: “The Sunnis have a choice: do they want to live in a society that is free or do they want to live in violence?”

Presuming they will not agree to live under a US-sponsored “freedom”, the president has agreed to up the number of American troops in Iraq from 138,000 to 160,000, replacing the battle-torn National Guard (42 killed in the first three weeks of August alone) with the infamous 101st Airborne Division.

US forces have recommenced their policy of besieging and bombing major cities in central and western Iraq. Reports from Tel Affar, a sprawling city with half a million inhabitants once the suburbs are included, and Haditha say that the US has bombed schools and hospitals, and that the people, who have not already fled, are too scared to venture out or bury their dead. Just as Fallujah was razed to the ground in preparation for democracy US-style, so now other cities are being softened up for the ballot box.

In July US general George Casey was predicting a substantial reduction in US troops by spring or summer 2006. Now general peter Schoomaker estimates troop levels of 100,000 will remain in Iraq for at least four more years. So what has changed in the past month? The Sunni representatives, along with Moqtada al-Sadr’s Shia government officials, have refused to accept assurances that the draft constitution will not lead to the eventual break up of Iraq.

In fact, the draft constitution does not guarantee the right to secession for any of the country’s ethnic groups. Article 107 clearly states: “Federal authorities should preserve Iraq’s unity, security, independence and sovereignty and its democratic federal system.”

Indeed, anyone who thinks that the proposal is a step forward for the long oppressed people of Iraqi Kurdistan are doubly wrong. First, their democratic right to self-determination is again to be denied to them, not least because this would incur the wrath – and maybe military intervention – of US ally and Kurdish oppressor, Turkey.

Second, their autonomous status, which is in the draft constitution, is the result of and will in practice be dependent on an unprincipled alliance with US imperialism. This is in fact a trap, which the Kurdish nationalist leaders have willingly brokered, and which will last only so long as Kurdish oil reserves are used to serve, primarily, US and British interests. At worst it will pit Kurd against Arab for years to come. Kurdish workers and farmers must break from their leaders and seek an alliance with the anti-imperialist Iraqi resistance if they are to achieve real self-determination: no national group in Iraq can be free until the occupation is defeated.

US concerns for democratic rights are, in fact, paper-thin, as has been revealed by its promotion of the constitution’s Article 2:

“2.1. Islam is a main source for legislation.
a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.
b. No law may contradict democratic standards.
c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

2.2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

2.3. Iraq is part of the Islamic world, and the Arabs are part of the Arab nation.”

Liberal commentators and some women’s rights activists in Iraq have made much of the facts that this waters down Islam’s role from “the main source” to “a main source” and that there is a guarantee of at least 25 per cent of the parliament’s deputies being women. However, this is mere window-dressing; on the streets, the constitution, if established, will be an enormous blow to all Iraqi women. Already, secular freedoms have been eroded and more and more women are being forced to wear the veil for their own safety.

Last month, it was reported that the British occupation forces stood by while the reactionary Badr brigade, loyal to al-Sistani’s SCIRI and closely linked to the Iraqi police and army, marched onto Basra university campus and assaulted women not dressed according to their repressive code. Any notion, therefore, that the Western occupation forces are needed as a buffer against Islamist reaction should be dispelled immediately. They are the guarantors of the strategic defeat being prepared for Iraqi women, not their saviours.

Contrary to pro-occupation reports, the Iraqi resistance, however, remains both popular and largely united. It would be wrong to believe that the country is inevitably heading to civil war – though the draft constitution’s federalism is precisely designed to encourage such an outcome as the only alternative to continued imperialist domination.

Moqtada al-Sadr’s Dawa party, which has a mass following among the Shia poor in the south, has called for demonstrations against the constitution. Dawa’s Salam al-Maliki, transport minister, has become the first government minister to publicly condemn US troops. “Corruption, terror… and occupation are taking their daily toll on the life of Iraqi citizens.” The US, he added, divided power in Iraq along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines “and this division has been a factor leading to its destruction.”
Indeed, Moqtada’s forces were represented at the second Beirut conference of Iraqi anti-imperialist academics and activists, held at the end of July, as were former Ba’athists, jihadists and other representatives of the popular resistance. Over 100 delegates discussed how to create more effective military unity, as well as greater links with the non-military resistance among civil society, e.g. town committees, trade unions, students’ organisations, etc.

Although this was inevitably couched in the language of nationalism, it shows that imperialism’s aims – of shelling the resistance into submission and putting together a coalition puppet government of the most reactionary, pro-imperialist elements – still remain a pipe-dream. Indeed, the resistance killed 72 US troops in the first three weeks of August.

As the US and British occupation forces gear up for another round of terror, the anti-war movements need to continue the recent revival they have been enjoying, with a massive turn-out in London and Washington on 24th September:

Down with the fake constitution! For a revolutionary constituent assembly!
Troops out now! Victory to the Iraqi resistance!