The Battle of Mosul in Iraq is beginning. Iraqi Armed Forces and Shia-Islamic militia’s are opening the assault on the Iraqi capital of the Islamic State. Mosul came under IS control in June 2014. Since then the city has suffered from a brutal terror regime. Ancient tombs and religious buildings have been destroyed by the criminal islamists. Should the offensive succeed it would be a huge defeat for IS who is already on the retreat on many fronts. But the humanitarian cost will be huge. It is estimated that over 1.000.000 Iraqi’s would flee the city when the fighting begins. These people have nowhere to go!
Iraq is a hellhole, created by the United States and its imperialist allies. The rise of Islamic State and other Islamist groups is the direct result of the March 2003 invasion. Americans never wanted to liberate the Iraqi working class, they wanted oil and Iraq has oil. After defeating their former ally; Saddam Hussein, puppet governments were installed. They all failed as different layers of the former Ba’ath bureaucracy competed for American favors. Then in 2006, the American installed a strongman. He was a Shia-Muslim called Nouri al-Maliki. His right-wing; Islamic Dawa Party, used to be part of the Shia-Islamic resistance to the (Sunni-Islamic) Ba’ath dictatorship!
Nouri al-Maliki favored Shia-Muslims and installed many on important positions after 2006. This angered the Sunni-Muslims who felt rejected. Malaki was also sectarian which in turn fueled sectarianism from the Sunni-Muslims. The Islamic Dawa Party is part of a much larger coalition called the National Iraqi Alliance. This alliance is uniting all Shia-Islamic parties. In Iraq, people behave and think more on ethnic/religious lines. For example, there are few Iraqi’s who think of themselves are Iraqi’s. Many either see themselves as Arabic Sunni-Muslims or Arabic Shia-Muslims. The Shia’s made up the majority of the total population and the Kurdish people are a strong minority. In politics, the National Iraqi Alliance is the party of Shia’s, while the Sunni-Muslims do not really have a united political party. The Kurds are represented by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, although both parties favor capitalism!
Revolutionary leftists are marginal and almost no existing. This has to do with the sectarian religious atmosphere and the betrayal of socialist ideas by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). In the 1950’s, the party was mostly run from Iraqi Kurdistan and few Arabs were members. After the rise of Abd al-Karim Qasim (1958-1963), the ICP was respected and even supported. Qasim was very sympathetic to the ideas of communism, which was a rarity among Arab leaders. Still the Iraqi government turned into a autocracy that jailed anybody who criticized ”The Leader” as Qasim called himself!
In February 1963, his regime was overthrown by the military, led by officers loyal to the Ba’ath Party and Nasser of Egypt. This was the first time the Arab-Socialist Ba’ath Party had taken political power by force. After they removed and murdered Qasim, a conflict rose between the supporters of Nasser and prime minister: Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Ba’ath. In November 1963, pro-Nasser officers staged another coup. Al-Bakr lost power and had to wait until 1968, before the Ba’ath Party was able to reconquer political power!
Again the Iraqi Communist Party was banned until it accepted the rule of the Ba’ath Party in 1973. By accepting the rule of Al-Bakr, the ICP was legalized. Six years the communist party was more or less a tool, as it was not allowed to criticize the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Then president Al-Bakr was removed from power by his vice president; Saddam Hussein. The new president was an anticommunist and more in line with the conservative wing of the party. In Stalinist style, Hussein carried out major purges which killed thousands of loyal members. By 1980, Saddam Hussein was the absolute leader of Iraq and the ICP was banned again!
After the American invasion the communist party was legalized. By now there was nothing left of the once revolutionary party. The Iraqi Communist Party today is very moderate leftist and stands in secular bourgeois-democratic coalitions. Unfortunate for them, these coalitions have no clear socialist alternative beside their commitment to peace, democracy and secularism. Revolutionary socialists criticize the ICP for their lack of revolutionary thinking. Especially since their party leader; Hamid Majid Mousa, was part of the committee that wrote the 2005 Constitution. A piece of paper that is not secular nor democratic as no law may contradict the established provisions of Islam.
A genuine communist should never participate in building a bourgeois-democracy. But since the ICP is still loyal to stalinism, they follow Stalin’s two stage theory. This means that a communist party must first work to build a stable capitalist democracy, before advancing to socialism. This is the justification from many stalinists why their communist parties participate in capitalist governments around the world. Revolutionary socialists disagree with the two stage theory, we call for a socialist republic of workers councils to be build in Iraq. However the Iraqi Communist Party does not call for a democracy based on workers councils (soviets), therefore they are not a force for revolutionary socialism!
Political work became more or less impossible after Nouri al-Maliki came to power. His autocratic government would jail anybody who was rejecting his rule. The right-wing Sunni-Islamic movement abused the anger of millions as Al-Maliki turned on former Ba’ath officials and Sunni-Muslims. One fundamentalist Sunni-Islamist group was called; The Islamic State in Iraq and they were led by a man called Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. This Abu Omar soon called himself the ”Emir of Iraq” and was also the official leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In 2010, the American and Iraqi forces were able to kill him during a raid. With his confirmed death, the leadership of the Islamic State of Iraq went to Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri who started to call himself: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!
The Iraqi Armed Forces were completely unprepared for the Islamist offensive. In the summer of 2014, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were able to capture the city of Mosul. Soldiers and police officers fled in panic as many Sunni-Muslims welcomed the terrorists. Most had suffered for nine years under the autocratic sectarian regime of Al-Maliki. There was this thought that the Islamist fighters would care for the people. Reality however soon kicked in. Mosul became the center of brutal executions as IS fighters publicly kill anybody who they see as ”guilty of braking Islamic Law”. This includes beheading, drowning, using a tank to crush victims or shoot at a car filled with prisoners!
Will the Iraqi Army be able to liberate the city of Mosul? Maybe, but the humanitarian cost will be huge. It is estimated that over 1.000.000 people will flee the city once the fighting has begun. These people have nowhere to go and the refugee camps outside Mosul can only handle 300.000 at max. Both civil wars in Iraq and Syria have resulted in a wave of refugees fleeing war and poverty. Iraq has been a relative poor country because of wars. Saddam Hussein is to blame for this fact. In September 1980, he launched an invasion of Iran and wasted the Iraqi wealth on buying planes, guns and loans to fight an unwinnable war. When the conflict finally ended in 1988, Iraq was bankrupt. Therefore Hussein tried to invade Kuwait and we all knew how that adventure ended!
Many hoped that the Americans would restore freedom and the wealth of Iraq. In reality this never happened. The Iraqi economy was privatized, but the wealth ended up in the hands of corrupt officials and the new capitalist class. Iraqi workers are suffering from a lack of basic human needs. Clean drinking-water is only available for a selected few as the water systems of Iraq were never fully repaired. This forces many to use water from polluted rivers. In 2014 it was estimated that 28% of all Iraqi’s were living in absolute poverty. However relative poverty must be close to 70% of the total population. The average income in Iraq is between 50 to 100 U.S dollars a month, which is not enough to meet the rising prices of basic products. Because of the very low incomes, IS recruiters have been able to lure many young males into joining Islamic State. They are paid almost 400 dollars a month, which is four times the average income!
Even with a victory for the government and Shia-Islamic militia’s, we revolutionary socialists see no improvement. Many Shia-Muslims may want to take revenge as some Mosul citizens celebrated the capture of the city in June 2014. Islamic State terrorists destroyed many historic buildings, including Shia Mosques and holy tombs. The Shia-Islamic militia’s have a sectarian reputation and also wish for Iraq to become a fully Shia-Islamic republic like Iran. This is why it is very possible that when IS is driven out of Mosul, the militia’s linked to the Iraqi Armed Forces could seek revenge. The army would be powerless to protect the Sunni-Muslim population, as the Shia militias are what keeps the Iraqi government in power!
Government forces and Shia-Islamic militia’s are supported by 10.000 Kurdish forces from the Peshmerga. Together the armed groups of the government have 36.000 troops available. Islamic State has about 10.000 soldiers in the main city and another 5.000 dug in around the suburbs. The battle for Mosul will be a city battle with government troops have to take house by house. A costly and long battle awaits and Islamic State will be ready with booby-traps. Revolutionary socialists call on workers of Mosul to build independent councils of working class people. These councils are to take control and manage the city. Government and Shia-militia’s will attempt to take control, which is why unified class struggle is the only way forward!
Iraq needs a party of working class. A proletarian party that fights for genuine socialism based on common ownership of the means of production. A planned economy under workers self management must be the goal of this new workers party. No compromises with capitalist forces or religious fundamentalists. A future Iraqi Socialist Republic must be build on a secular socialist democracy that promotes woman rights, workers rights, tolerance for minorities and a democratic planned economy. But for that Iraqi workers need a party of themselves. All the current political parties either represent a minority group or a religion. The Communist Party of Kurdistan – Iraq (which was separated from the ICP in 1993) is part of a bourgeois Kurdish nationalist coalition led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party. In this coalition you also find islamists, liberals, social democrats and nationalists. Revolutionary socialists believe that the Kurdish and Arabic communists should not join coalitions based on ethnic nationalism and capitalism!
The war in Iraq and Syria is entering a new era. Islamic State could be pushed back and maybe suffer more defeats. However as long as there is poverty and discrimination based on religion, Sunni-Muslims may be mislead into supporting another terrorist group. If the Shia-militia’s carry out revenge killings in Mosul, a new Islamic State may rise. This is why revolutionary socialists call for massive rejection of the government and their Shia-allies. Islamism from either Sunni or Shia side is reactionary and genuine socialists reject it. As shown by IS and Iran, political Islam is hostile towards those who reject theocracy and rule of ”God”. Our alternative is based on class struggle, rejection of fundamentalism and capitalism. Workers of Iraq have the potential of building a wealthy nation as oil profits could be use to benefit all. Before the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, the country was among the most developed of the middle east. Iraq even surpassed absolute monarchies like Saudi-Arabia, Qatar and Oman in therms of living-standards!
Mosul is the next step in the war against IS. The city was captured intact in June 2014, but many fear it might end up like Aleppo in Syria. This Syrian city has been largely destroyed by the five years of civil war, between the dictatorial Ba’ath government and Islamist rebels. Syria also has a Arab-Socialist Ba’ath Party as ruling party. The Syrian Ba’ath came to power in March 1963. Three years later the once unified Ba’ath Party split, creating a separate Syrian party and a separate Iraqi party. With Saddam Hussein and Hafez Al-Assad taking control over their parties in the 1970’s, ba’athism as a unified pan-Arabist idea disappeared!