Despite the massacres committed by the occupants, the US completely failed in setting up a reliable puppet regime with a significant domestic support base. Eventually they learned their lesson and understood that the growing popular resistance can not be subdued only by brute military force. Political steps are necessary to overcome the isolation of their puppet regime in Baghdad. As the last remaining remedy appeared the elections which Washington originally intended to avoid fearing the ascendancy of forces not under their full control.
Elections have been demanded from the very beginning of the occupation by Ayatollah Sistani, the leading figure of the Shia clergy and patron of the Shiite middle classes ready to come at terms with the US. However, the price of a settlement would be elections most probably bringing forces into office which would not be full-fledged puppets of the US. The interests of this clergy-led middle classes coincide with those of Tehran which wants to avoid the conflict with Washington while averting a total puppet regime and even gaining some leverage over Baghdad.
This appeasement with Washington operated by Tehran is not only an illusion but also reactionary. It is based on the idea that the US will accept and stick to promises and compromises. It is the same illusion which led the Yugoslav president Milosevic to accept the Dayton agreement handing over big parts of Bosnia to imperialist control – in return Yugoslavia was not reinstated as part of the “international community” but one the contrary frontally attacked. The Iranian ruling clergy uses all its influence for a negotiated settlement ending the Resistance. In return they hope for the US non aggression. Actually the dynamics of the situations indicate the exact contrary. If Iraq is stabilised in an imperialist sense the US appetite on Iran will increase dramatically. The very victory of the Iraqi Resistance is in fact the best guarantee to prevent an US aggression on Iran. But in the final instance the Iranian cleric regime fears the revolutionary consequences of such a popular victory more than the US threat.
The fact that the holding of elections is a kind of concession to the social block politically represented by the collaborationist part of the Shiite clergy, does in no way alter the illegal and illegitimate character of the elections. However, it is important to evaluate whether or not the polls will serve the occupation to stabilise a servile regime and provide sufficient support for it.
It was clear from the very beginning that the elections would be a global media show whose script has been prefabricated in Washington. The first and most important thing the news agencies had to wire across the globe was the alleged high turn-out belittling the boycott campaign engulfing not only the Sunni but also important forces within the Shia environment. So the electoral commission, ridiculously ennobled with the epithet independent, announced 72% participation. (Understandably they did not mention that they did not refer to the eligible voters but those registered according to the completely unreliable lists of the US oil for food programme.) Later they had to backtrack to 60 and further down to 50%. We will never know the real figures but that actually does not matter. Important were only the first news which were hammered into the minds of the world public opinion.
The first success the US could reap was, however, not in Iraq but within the so-called international community and namely those European powers which did not support the war of aggression. All of them celebrated the elections as a significant step towards democracy paving the way for the recognition of the puppet regime thus retroactively legitimising war and occupation. They were happy to have found an excuse to close the gap their toothless opposition to the US has created. Especially in Germany the bourgeoisie and their press outlets were eased to be able to announce their return underneath the US umbrella. Actually the main driving force not to cheer the US belligerent machine was not the often-evoked imperialist rivalry with the US but first of all the pressure from the big majority of the European population who opposed the war drive. The ruling classes attempt at best not to be humiliated by Washington’s imperial arrogance.
With regard to Iraq the picture changes dramatically. First of all there was the virtually total boycott of the Sunni areas north and west of Baghdad. Secondly the already weak turnout was supported by covert and overt force. The most significant measure applied was to link the cast of ballots to the issuance of meal voucher which a big part of the Iraqi people depend on for their very daily survival.
However, despite the fact that there were important forces with following in the Shiite community calling to boycott the elections, one can not neglect the solid Shiite block of the clergy and the middle classes backed by Iran who pressed for participation. The influence of there position is indirectly confirmed by the passive stance with regard to the elections adopted by the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr. If he would have called for an active boycott, he had spoiled the US endeavour from the very beginning. Instead representatives of his movement ran on Sistani’s list, while the movement at the same time did not actively campaign for participation. The continued ambiguity of the Sadr leadership – half resisting, half collaborating – shows that they are not ready to decisively break with the Iranian-backed Shiite clergy. While without their social base – the urban poor – a sustainable anti-imperialist liberation struggle is impossible, it will not be under Muqtada’s leadership that the masses will be led into such a struggle. It is him to carry an important part of the responsibility that a political front of the Resistance could not be formed yet.
This does not mean that the Sadrist movement and all those who voted passed over to collaboration. When Muqtata was attacked by the US in April 2004 and responded with an uprising in concomitance with the defence of Falluja he definitely drew big part of the Shiite population behind him. It was not only his core support force from the urban poor but also large sections of the middle classes who followed him marginalising the collaborationist clergy. Now the latter played their one and only card. Most of those who voted for the list supervised by Sistani wished to express their refusal of the occupation and their support for national sovereignty – not for collaboration which the leaders stand for.
It is all too clear that the government emanating from the elections will once again be a complete and total puppet of the US. The occupants will accept nothing short of this. They have no margin to move as they otherwise would endanger their imperial designs including their aggression against Iran. Thus all popular hopes in the elected institutions are to evaporate soon. It is unlikely that Sistani’s list, which from the very beginning has been heterogeneous, can provide the popular support to a servile regime the US longs for. On the contrary sooner than later the list will break apart and further marginalise the collaborationist forces. But then there will be no further floating tire to stop the push also of the Shia popular masses towards active resistance. Another round of US-sponsored elections will not do it any more.
Only a few days after the elections Muqtada al-Sadr called upon the parties having participated in the spectacle to ensure the swift withdrawal of the occupation force – something they have no influence on as they can either play the role of US puppets or accept their institutional marginalisation.
All depends therefore on the capacity of the Resistance to form an inclusive political front. But there are important obstacles. There is the exclusive claim for leadership of the national Islamic and Baathist forces operating mainly in the Sunni environment. Given their military strength and also for historic reasons they are inclined towards a militarist approach, i.e. to hope to solve political problems by military means. The prime political problem is actually that the leadership of the urban poor, the Sadrist movement, repeatedly showed its reluctance to join the Resistance. The ultimatist and militarist response of the Resistance does only exacerbate the gap instead of building the necessary bridge to the urban poor. What is needed is a national liberation front being able to overcome the historic splits, contradictions and fragmentations. This is only possible by putting forward the project of a democratic constituent assembly giving the popular masses and their most diverse representations a voice. Only in this way the collaborationist secular and cleric leaders can be isolated and those hesitating forced to join the Resistance.
At the same time the Resistance must intensify its appeal to the Arab masses to step up their struggle against their pro-imperialist regimes, for it is not only Iran who wants to see the Resistance defeated but also the Arab regimes that fear even more the impetus of a popular victory. The Iraqi agenda is directly linked to the Arab and especially the Palestinian one. The collaborator Abu Mazen is continuing the sell-offs of the Oslo period but he will not even get a single Bantustan in return. Thus he is not only doing the dirty work of Israel by attempting to suppress the persevering resistance forces, but he is also betraying the Iraqi Resistance.
So all eyes remain set on Iraq where to outcome is still open. The occupation employed its most powerful asset. Some time will have to elapse to see its results deflagrate. Then it is again the turn of the Resistance.