By ERNIE GOTTA
Flames rose from the Iranian consulate in Najaf, Iraq, on Wednesday Nov. 27 as protesters attempted for the second time to burn it to the ground. On Thursday, 40 protesters had been murdered in 24 hours, and on Friday Nov. 29, preceding a steep drop in oil prices, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi stepped down from power.
The uprising in Iraq is continuing for the second straight month, with over 350 protesters killed and nearly 15,000 wounded by police and army troops. Yet Iraqis have mobilize in the streets day after day without regard for the intense repression. Oil workers have gone on strike, and protesters have occupied ports in the Gulf, crippling productivity to half.
A number of articles are advancing an anti-Iranian narrative to characterize these protests. While this scenario has a kernel of truth, a much more complex process is unfolding. The rebellion has included a deep disdain for the corrupt and repressive government headed by Abdul-Mahdi. The deposed prime minister had returned to Iraq from exile in Iran, a former Ba’athist turned Khomeini devotee. He was selected as prime minister in 2018 following elections by the current coalition government.
Anti-Iranian sentiment has been stirred by the corrupt Shia politicians who are perceived to have a close relationship with Iran. But in reality, these people have a relationship with U.S. imperialism too.
The current uprising can be easily connected to the vicious legacy of the U.S. war and occupation even more than it can be traced to the growing influence of Iran in Iraq. The U.S. has systematically destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq, which at one time was considered one of the more industrially advanced countries in the Middle East. For decades, the Iraqi people have lived under the brutality of war and sanctions that are largely the responsibility of U.S. imperialism’s need to control resources in the Middle East.
The U.S.-led war and occupation from 2003-2011 alone killed more than 500,000 civilians and displaced one out every 25 Iraqis, sending more than a quarter of a million abroad. Other U.S. transgressions include its imposing sanctions on Iraq from 1990 to 2003 and the Gulf War in 1990-1991. Moreover, the U.S. supplied arms to both sides in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, in which about a million people lost their lives.
Despite having massive reserves of oil, Iraqi leaders have been unwilling to lessen the economic burden they’ve imposed on the country. Hundreds of thousands of young Iraqis are demanding jobs, better government services, and regime change.
It’s possible that the brief repositioning of American troops to Iraq following the partial withdrawal from Syria was an attempt to intimidate protesters. Protest mobilizations have not taken place in cities and towns of northern Iraq, an area that was decimated by bombing during the U.S. campaign against ISIS.
The young Iraqis in the heart of Baghdad, Najaf, and other cities continue undeterred. There’s no doubt they have more in common with their counter-parts demonstrating in Iran and Lebanon then they do with their own government and would benefit from connecting their struggles just like youth have done in Latin America. The renewal of an “Arab Spring,” coinciding with the uprisings in Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, and elsewhere are a significant development in the class struggle that cannot all be easily painted as merely a “color revolution” orchestrated by CIA operatives.
Instead, a real international challenge to neo-colonial measures and wars is underway. Working-class forces are in motion, responding to austerity and repression, and inspired by grassroots movements in the streets around the world. Imagine, a revolution in Iraq!
For a revolution to be realized, the most advanced working-class and youth forces would have to coalesce into an independent working-class political organization and develop a program for socialist revolution. This revolution, armed with a program for socialism and bolstered by one, two, many uprisings around the world (to paraphrase Che Guevara) could put power in the hands of working-class Iraqis. The revolution then could extend solidarity to other countries in the same way that Cuba sent troops to Angola or has sent doctors again and again around the world to train medical professionals and assist during natural disasters.