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Iraq's elections: Hope in a land wrecked by imperialism

By Sean Orr |
May 10, 2018
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Milwaukee, WI - On May 12, the people of Iraq will be casting ballots for the Council of Representatives, their national legislature, for the third time since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Recent events have further proved that the U.S. failed to establish a new, pro-American order, and instead have emboldened the Iraqi masses to drive imperialism from their land.

The masses rise up against the Islamic State

The election is happening in the midst of victory against the Islamic State, which at one point controlled over a third of the country and subjected the people within that area to the most brutal reactionary regime. The Islamic State sought to build a Saudi-style state in Iraq and Syria, and it was backed to the hilt by the Turkish and Saudi governments to achieve this.

Within two weeks of their invasion in June 2014, the Islamic State had routed the U.S.-created Iraqi army and taken control of Mosul, a city of millions. Assyrians, Shi’a and Yazidis were massacred, women were pressed into slavery, and cultural sites not in line with their Saudi-style world outlook Islam were bulldozed. The world was stunned by their brutality. The Islamic State seemed unstoppable, and the national situation spiraled out of control. Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to resign, handing power over to fellow Dawa Party member Haidar al-Abadi.

A call went out across the country for the people to take up arms and save Iraq. The numerous patriotic forces that fought the U.S. occupation were now mobilized against the Islamic State. Militias from every sector of Iraqi society marched westward under the leadership of the Popular Mobilization Committee, with full support from the Iranian military. They were the decisive force in driving out the Islamic State, village by village, street by street.

While the war against the Islamic State raged on, anger at the government’s absolute failure at defending the Iraqi people spurred a mass movement on a level not seen in years. The people demanded an end to sectarian practices that kept the same elites in power and created the conditions for an Islamic State to rise up. They also demanded action against the corrupt officials that kept the government inept, and guaranteed access to public services for all Iraqis.

This movement included students and intellectuals and included a section of the working class, guided by the Communist Party and the Sadrist Movement, a Shi’a anti-imperialist group led by Muqtada al-Sadr. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Baghdad under their leadership, and on April 16 they stormed the infamous Green Zone and occupied the Iraqi parliament.

By the end of 2017, the Islamic State was driven from Mosul and Iraq was declared free. It was only because of the fierce resistance of the Iraqi people - who have not known peace in decades because of the cruelty of U.S. imperialism. Now there is hope for a better future independent of outside influence.

What to watch for the elections

The frontrunner in the May 12 polls is the Victory of Iraq coalition, led by incumbent Haidar al-Abadi. He enjoys widespread popular support because of the military victory and is the first leading political figure since the 2003 invasion to enjoy support across all religious groups. Nouri al-Maliki is trying to come back to power at the head of the State of Law coalition, and still enjoys support among sectors of the Shi’a elite, but his appeal ends there, and he is not expected to win.

Al-Abadi and al-Maliki are the only establishment politicians with any popular support. They seek closer relations with Iran and the Arab world and ignore the demands of the U.S. All the puppets of imperialism have been discredited and stand no chance of returning to government.

A decisive role in the election will be played by the communists and Sadrists. Their united front in practice has translated into a political alliance, the Marchers, and they hope to win the popular movement’s demands through the next government. Among their candidates is Muntader al-Zaidi, a journalist who is famous around the world for hurling his shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference in 2008, while shouting, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog.”

The Popular Mobilization Committee is also fielding candidates as well - veterans of the wars against the U.S. and the Islamic State - and they are expected to win a number of seats.

No coalition has majority support, meaning that a coalition government will need to be made. Many political analysts expect the Marchers to play the role of kingmaker, meaning they will be the deciding factor in whatever coalition government comes out of May 12.

Iraq’s future

Iraq is a country ruined by imperialism. In the 1950s the Iraqi people threw off the British empire and their local pawns and established a republic dedicated to national self-determination. The revolutionary and progressive forces that led Iraq at the time had their eyes set on a modern and free nation. In the decades that followed, the U.S., Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia did everything they could to break this dream. But despite all the horrors inflicted upon them, the Iraqi people resisted and fought back.

All blame for the suffering in Iraq lies at the feet of the Bush family, the Clintons, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, and ultimately the monopoly capitalists who the U.S. government dutifully serves. We should never forget their crimes, and when the time comes we must do what we can to ensure that these monsters face justice.

In the meantime, it is our duty to cheer for the Iraqi people every time they strike a blow against imperialism and as they make another step towards self-determination and freedom.