THE US-British occupation of Iraq is poisoning all political processes in my country and across the Middle East. The elections held under the control of the occupying forces in January were neither free nor fair. Instead of being a step towards solving Iraq’s problems, they have been used to prolong foreign rule over the Iraqi people.

Only when the occupiers withdraw from the country can Iraq take the first secure steps towards peace and stability. Once a strict timetable for withdrawal is set, Iraq’s political forces could freely agree and set in motion a process of genuinely free and fair democratic elections, a permanent constitution, and a programme that meets the demands of all the Iraqi people.

The occupying powers are now following a policy of divide and rule, encouraging sectarian and ethnic divisions and imposing them on all the institutions they have created. Incidents such as the recent kidnapping of an Italian journalist, released only to be received by a hail of bullets from the US liberators, have fuelled widespread suspicions in Iraq as to who is in fact responsible for many of the terrorist acts — kidnappings, assassinations, and indiscriminate bombing and killing — that are engulfing the whole of Iraq. These have coincided with a cover-up of significant military operations being conducted against the occupation forces across the country.

Not one of the terrorist crimes has been solved and not a single perpetrator put on trial. After each major terrorist crime, the arrest of perpetrators is proclaimed, using names and personalities spread by the US-controlled media. This media effort — which also seeks to bury the news of the destruction of entire towns, brutal night raids, kidnappings, curfews, and the detention and torture of thousands of prisoners — is overseen by the information department of the US forces, who earned the US defence secretary’s special thanks during his visit to Iraq.

These crimes are a taste of the hell created by the US project in the Middle East. And now this hell is beginning to be visited on Lebanon, opening the prospect of endless wars of unimaginable consequences.

Syria is now withdrawing its forces from Lebanon and laying the responsibility of what happens next squarely on the other side. But what will happen next? Will the Lebanese resistance (led by Hezbollah) be disarmed? And if it refuses to surrender its weapons, how will it be disarmed? Will it be by landing new occupation forces in the country?

This was tried in the early 80s and led to the defeat of the US and the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. This could occur again, but on a wider scale across the whole region, which can no longer tolerate this endless US pressure, regarded by the peoples of the area as the implementation of Israeli demands.

Efforts must be directed at resolving the problems of the Palestinian people, who Israel refuses to allow to return to their lands, despite UN resolutions and all precepts of right and justice. The Palestinian problem cannot be resolved with exhibitionist gatherings such as Tony Blair’s recent London conference. The big powers — particularly Britain, which helped create the problem in the first place — have a moral responsibility to resolve it.

In the same way, the Iraq crisis cannot be resolved by patching up a detested occupation with fraudulent elections and sectarian and ethnic caucuses supported by the occupiers. The only solution is the immediate withdrawal of occupation forces — or as a minimum, a strict internationally guaranteed timetable for withdrawal. Talk about freedom and democracy is seen as an endlessly repeated sham by our peoples because these words are being uttered by the very powers that have stood behind the corrupt dictatorial regimes. The US today is still the ally and backer of many such tyrannical regimes in our region and elsewhere.

We do not believe that the aggressive US stance towards Syria and Iran is intended to uphold freedom and democracy either, but to get rid of states that are refusing to go along with US and Israeli plans for the region. Today, Syria is being held to account in Lebanon because it is refusing to back the occupation of Iraq, and Iran is facing threats over its nuclear programme because the US is worried about its role in relation to Iraq and its rejection of the status quo in Palestine.

Public opinion in the occupying countries, such as the US and Britain, needs to understand that the continuation of this unjust and dangerous situation will create the conditions for a new and more general uprising which threatens truly to open the gates of hell in the region and beyond.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.

(The writer is secretary general of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, an alliance of secular and religious organizations covering all religious and ethnic groups in Iraq)

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