Imperialism, Middle East

“We Want Them Out!”

Today will see many demonstration in the U.S. and elsewhere as part of the “No War With Iran” International Day of Action. Yesterday saw 250,000 rally in Iraq against US troops there, coming after months of people’s demonstrations against unemployment, government corruption and sectarianism. Solidarity with the peoples of Iraq and Iran starts with opposition to the deadly military and economic interventions of our own government. But it also, argues Eric Fred, includes standing with the people against the inequality, exploitation, and oppression they face from their own governments, one which all imperialisms in the region are making worse. As we march today, we should be clear, no one should be asked to choose between these struggles.

We Want Them Out!” shouted the crowds. This Friday morning hundreds of thousands rallied in Iraq, demanding the a withdrawal of U.S. Troops. Estimates say from 200,000 to 250,000 rallied, in Baghdad, many bused in from around the country in an effort organized by Moqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr had previously called for a “million-man march” to “condemn the American presence and its violations.” (In fact, the peaceful rally included women, men, and children.) The protest was outwardly supported by the mainstream Fatah bloc in Parliament. Several Iraqi militia groups close to Iran also helped build the demonstration, but it fed into a broader feeling against foreign interference. This feeling has been especially focused on the US after the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasim Soleimani and the leader of the Kata’ib Hizbollah militia of the Iraqi popular mobilization forces. This was followed by the symbolic vote by Iraqi Parliament to expel US troops. 

Many of those demonstrating were against Iranian and US influence, but noted that Iran works through supporting Iraqi groups, not occupying the country with a foreign military, as does the U.S. “We don’t want Americans to leave, we want the troops to leave” Hoda Hashimi, an employee in the Ministry of Trade in Baghdad present at the demonstration, told theNew York Times. Aliya al-Ajeel, a mother from the poor Shia Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, told Al Jazeera, “US occupation has taken everything from us. We have nothing left.”

The march takes place just five days after a new round of anti-government protest broke out in Baghdad on Sunday, blocking roads and burning tires. Since October first, poor, unemployed and working-class Iraqi’s have been taking part in waves of mass demonstrations against corruption and inequality. After being violently repressed by state security forces and allied militias, they took on more radical demands against the entire sectarian-based political system set up by the U.S. after occupation and played by the Iranian government. The protests forced the resignation of Prime Minister Mahdi in November and rocked the political establishment. But, despite several missed deadlines, a new Prime Minister has not been chosen, and token reforms have not appeased the demonstrators. The anti-government demonstrations took a break after the US drone strike in Iraq. But the underlying economic and political problems are still there, and it should not be a surprise they started up again.

Those in the West joining the international protests against U.S. war on Iran on January 25th are standing in solidarity with the Iraqi and Iranian people. This means not just opposing the outbreak of new war in the region, but condemning the targeted assassinations, demanding an end to the crippling sanctions on Iran, and standing with Iraqi’s demonstrating for the withdrawal of US troops. 

We can also learn from the months of demonstrations in Iraq and Iran that is it possible for the people there to be against the corruption and inequalities in their own governments as well as against foreign interference.

We stand unequivocally against US imperialism whatever the nature of the countries targeted.It follows,there is no need to paint the leaders of these countries with socialist colors just because they are the temporary enemies of the US. The left in the US must not play the same cynical realpolitik that the US government has been playing, making alliances with repressive forces under the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The past year has seen a remarkable series up uprisings around the world. The mass demonstrations in Chile, Haiti, Hong Kong, all have their own causes and characters, but share certain dynamics with the protests in Lebanon, Iraq, and now Iran. They have been learning from each other, and they offer lessons to a new generation of socialists in the U.S. on the nature of the state, reform and revolution. If the current outbreak of strikes in France (recently joined by the Yellow Vests on mass demonstrations) win and push back Macron’s draconian plans, this could still provide an important example of working-class power for Chile, Lebanon, and Iraq and Iran. But we cannot offer a credible international working-class solidarity without first and foremost opposing the drive to war and other interventions of our own country, the ailing but still largest imperialism in the world.