Saturday, March 14, 2009

Iraq's Post-December 1963 History Revisited: Part 5

(See parts 1-4 below)

The history of Iraq is still being influenced by 150,000 U.S. occupation troops and 200,000 private contractors. Yet the mainstream "educational television" stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) often appear more eager to broadcast programs about the history of rock music since 1960 than programs about the history of Iraq.

But as Rashid Khalidi observed in the introduction to the 2005 edition of his Resurrecting Empire, "the hubris that allowed Pentagon planners to think that they were somehow immune to the lessons of history produced a grossly mismanaged occupation that has become hated by most Iraqis and has engendered fierce resistance." U.S. anti-war activists, however, may find some knowledge of post-December 1963 Iraqi people's history of use in debating with U.S. opponents of an immediate U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in 2009.

After the U.S. government and Israeli government-backed Shah of Iran's regime seized the Arab island of Abu Musa in November 1971, the post-1968 Ba'th regime in Iraq decided to sign a 15-year treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union.

So at the request of the Shah of Iran (who was later overthrown in early 1979), the Republican Nixon Administration's CIA then began to provide $16 million in covert military aid between 1972 and 1975 to the leaders of the Kurdish campaign for self-determination within Iraq. By providing covert military aid to the Kurdish leaders, U.S. State Department officials like Henry Kissinger apparently also hoped to de-stabilize a Ba'th regime which it now felt was becoming too friendly with the Soviet Union.

Despite the Ba'th Party leadership's previous history of executing Iraqi communist activists, the post-1968 Ba'th regime's domestic policy of social democratic economic reforms and foreign policy shift towards friendship with the Soviet Union, apparently persuaded the surviving Iraq Communist Party leaders to temporarily become supporters of the Ba'th regime. On May 14, 1972, for example, some Iraqi communist activists, as individuals, agreed to take positions within the Ba'th government; and, the following month, Iraqi communist activists were pleased by the June 1, 1972 nationalization by the Ba'th regime of the Iraq Petroleum Company that had previously been owned by UK and U.S. oil companies. Support for the post-1968 Ba'th regime by the surviving Iraqi communist activists continued to increase after September 1973, when the Iraq Communist Party was legalized by this Ba'th regime and allowed to publish its party newspaper openly.

Between 1972 and 1976, however, Ba'th Party activists gained control of the Iraqi trade unions, peasant unions and other mass organizations which had, historically, tended to be led by activists who were sympathetic to the Iraq Communist Party. An agreement with the Shah of Iran in 1975 also made it easier for the Ba'th regime to suppress the Kurdish campaign for self-determination in Iraq in the late 1970s.

Although the Soviet Union shipped $4.9 billion in weapons to the Ba'th regime between 1975 and 1979, by 1978 the anti-communist Ba'th regime leaders, however, were again repressing the surviving Iraqi communist activists. In March 1978, for example, twelve Iraqi communist activists were executed for "conducting non-Ba’thist political activity within the armed forces," according to the Haymarket Books' A People's History of Iraq book by Ilario Salucci. Mass arrests of Iraqi communist activists by the Ba'th regime were also made during the summer and fall of 1978. (end of part 5)