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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 80/No. 22      June 6, 2016



Available Online
(lead article)

Washington’s Mideast crisis result of losing Cold War

The U.S. military assassinated the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in a drone strike on a Pakistani highway May 21. Like the cold-blooded killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, which led to the splintering and spread of al-Qaeda forces — it’s the kind of operation that’s been a hallmark of Barack Obama’s administration, with the potential for similarly destabilizing repercussions.

The drone killing is the latest example of how Washington’s course to try to stabilize the Mideast and beyond in its imperialist interests is fraught with obstacles, the unintended consequences of U.S. imperialism’s actions in the region since the implosion of the Soviet Union.

This can be seen in Iraq, where the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is wracked by crisis. Plummeting oil prices and the costly and destructive war against Islamic State have crippled the economy. Some 4 million Iraqis are displaced.

Since last summer, reacting against deteriorating electricity and water services and widespread corruption, protesters have called for replacing the cabinet and ending the sectarian patronage system — with Shia, Sunni and Kurdish quotas — that Washington imposed in 2003 as part of “nation building” during its occupation of the country.

The protests have been led by Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads an anti-working-class bourgeois nationalist current similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza. His base is in the poverty-stricken, majority-Shia Sadr City district of Baghdad.

The International Monetary Fund, representing the interests of U.S. finance capital, proffered another $5.4 billion “bailout” to the Iraqi regime, with conditions: cuts in social spending, higher taxes and other “reforms” that will doubtless spark more protests.

Washington’s difficulties imposing a new order in Iraq and the region dates back to the late 1980s. As the repressive Stalinist government in the Soviet Union came apart, the “imperialist rulers had begun to loudly proclaim the defeat of communism and the birth of a ‘new world order’ — even the end of history itself — with themselves supposedly heading toward undisputed control,” wrote Socialist Workers Party leaders Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters in the 1998 introduction to New International no. 11, a magazine of Marxist politics and theory.

In 1991 Washington and its allies, using the pretext of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait, carried out six weeks of massive bombing and a 100-hour invasion of Iraq that resulted in the slaughter of some 150,000 men, women and children.

But U.S. imperialism’s war coalition came apart and it failed to set up the stable protectorate it sought. “The outcome of the Gulf War was among the first striking confirmations of the sharpening interimperialist conflict that would mark the post-Cold War world,” Barnes and Waters wrote.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda-organized attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, President George W. Bush launched a war against Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda was extended sanctuary in areas dominated by the Islamist Taliban. In 2003 Washington invaded Iraq again, toppled Hussein and set up a new government. About half a million Iraqis died as a result of that war.

US lost Cold War

U.S. imperialism is paying the price in the Mideast for acting as if it had won the Cold War. The fall of the Stalinist regimes, far from opening up the world for U.S. domination, robbed Washington of its most reliable instrument for keeping a lid on working-class struggles.

Decades of Stalinist counterrevolutionary activity in the Middle East and elsewhere, directed from Moscow, helped pave the way for the hated repressive Baath Party regimes in Iraq and Syria, which dealt crushing blows to the working class while projecting themselves as the progressive, secular alternative to Islamist currents.

The Baath Party in Iraq, which called itself socialist, came to power by beheading the vanguard of the revolution that ended British domination in 1958. In the 1970s Saddam Hussein consolidated a regime based on the country’s Sunni minority and repressing the Shia and Kurdish populations. Moscow sent arms and advisors to Hussein. The Iraqi Communist Party’s sorry history includes taking part in the Baathist-dominated National Progressive Front from 1973 to 1979, and supporting the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Hussein, despite his anti-imperialist demagogy, also found favor with U.S. imperialism for some time, particularly when he launched a bloody war against Iran in 1980, the year after Iranian workers and farmers overthrew Washington’s ally the Shah.

In Syria the Communist Party (Unified) was part of Bashar al-Assad’s National Progressive Front, and while calling for reforms during mass protests against Assad that began in 2011, insisted “national unity must be ensured.”

For now, bourgeois formations such as al-Sadr’s fill the void left by Stalinist betrayals. But capitalism’s unfolding economic nightmare generates resistance to its effects among workers and farmers around the world. Given time and political space, revolutionary proletarian currents are certain to develop in the Mideast.

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