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REVENGEAND RECONCILIATIONINSIERRA LEONE:PAGE 8
WHOEVER’SWINNING,IT ISN’TTHE IRAQIS Iraq: did the surge work?
GALERIE MAEGHT, P ARIS
PAUL REBEYROLLE – ‘The powers-that-be will take care of you’ (1976)
What part of ‘no’ don’t they understand?
Some of the 27 member states of the European Union may soon find themselves subject to institutions their people have rejected: 1 January 2009 is the final date for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, signed by the heads of state and government in December 2007 and already ratified by Hungary, Malta, Slovenia, Romania and France. Nicolas Sarkozy once said that no true European and responsible politician could carry on as if nothing had happened after the French said no to the European constitution, that it was a message from the French people and must be heeded. But that was back in June 2006. Once he was president, he felt entitled to disregard this expression of the people’s will. He has just persuaded more than 75% of French MPs to adopt a treaty that is almost identical to the Constitutional Treaty that 54.68% of French voters rejected on 29 May 2005. The Socialist Party could have demanded another referendum; it had undertaken to do so, but abandoned the idea. In an attempt to outmanoeuvre the many British eurosceptics before the 2004 European elections, Tony Blair also promised that the people would have an opportunity to vote directly on the new basic law for the EU. But his successor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, preferred to leave it to parliament to ratify the Lisbon Treaty (1). The Constitutional Treaty was rejected by 62% of the Netherlands electorate in June 2005. Here too the task of ratifying the treaty approved by the European Council in December is to be entrusted to parliament, to avoid the danger of consulting voters who may not come up with the right answer. In Portugal, the Socialist Party announced during the parliamentary elections in February 2005 that the people would have a chance to vote on the draft
Constitutional Treaty. But the prime minister, Joséé Socrates, has now changed tack, on the pretext that circumstances have changed. This is a different treaty. A simplified one (2). This casual brush-off is surprising when, in France, Valééry Giscard d’Estaing admits that the Lisbon Treaty is based entirely on the draft Constitutional Treaty rejected in 2005: “The tools are largely the same. Only the order in which they are arranged in the tool-box has been changed” (3). A view confirmed in Britain where the Labour-dominated Foreign Affairs Committee noted that “there is no material difference between the two texts”. Only the Irish will be allowed a referendum, in May or June. Franççois Mitterrand said in 1983 that he had two ambitions, the construction of Europe and social justice. Is democracy preventing us from achieving the first ambition? The members of parliament who voted against the decision taken by universal suffrage are drawn more and more from privileged social classes, but the message from ordinary voters in France and the Netherlands was a resounding no. Is this significant? Jack Lang, former minister and expert in public law, may have the answer. In his view, there is no point in getting agitated about legal provisions that even the lawyers don’t understand. After all, he said, a treaty is only a treaty. SERGE HALIMI TRANSLATED BY BARBARA WILSON
(1) The House of Commons voted on ratification on 21 January 2008 and the motion was carried by 362 votes to 224. The House of Lords has not yet taken a position. (2) Sarkozy used the term “simplified” five times in his speech on 10 February. But the treaty is 287 pages long, contains 356 amendments of earlier treaties, and is accompanied by 13 protocols, 65 declarations and an annexe. (3) Valééry Giscard d’Estaing, “The EU Treaty is the same as the Constitution”, The Independent , London, 30 October 2007.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Wage earners and savers pay the price for the markets’ greed page 2
Iran’s rulers rig the electoral process before the voters have their say page 4
The Darfur conflict drags Chad and Sudan to the brink of war page 7
Bolivia’s rich use the protest tactics of the poor to block reform page 10
High-rise hell:time to create a new urban geography page 11
Security:in our name,but not always in our interest page 12
Could Turkey’s historic city of Izmir host expo 2015? page 14
Dead and loving it:in celebration of zombie movies page 16
Although totals of deaths in Iraq during,and because of,the occupation are catastrophic,the number of military and civilian deaths really has fallen over the past year. And there has been some improvement in security and order. Will US politicians and public,who have been clamouring for withdrawal,now change their minds?
BY ALAIN GRESH
“While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down... When we met last year, al-Qaida had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today, it is al-Qaida that is searching for safe passage.” This was President George Bush’s presentation of the war in Iraq in his final State of the Union address to Congress on 28 January. It is tempting to dismiss his conclusions: a recent study confirmed that between 11 September 2001 and the beginning of the war in 2003, Bush and six close collaborators lied on 935 occasions about Iraq’s threat to the US (1). But this time his claims, taken up by the media and even by some Democrats, seem to have basis in fact. According to a US report, the number of Iraqi civilians who died violently fell from a high of 3,000 during November 2006 to 700 during December 2007. Deaths among coalition troops, an average of 100 a month at the end of 2006, peaked at 130 in May 2007 before falling to 20 by the end of the year. Serious attacks (booby-trapped vehicles, suicide bombings) fell from 130 in June 2007 to 40 in December. Those killed in sectarian violence (mostly between Sunni and Shia) fell from 2,200 in December 2006 to about 200 in November 2007. These improvements prompted the US administration to announce a phased withdrawal of 5,000 troops a month: this process has begun. US forces are expected to fall from a peak of 170,000 to 130,000 by this summer (2). At the end of 2006 the US position in Iraq was seriously compromised and the Democrat victory in the congressional elections in November reflected strong public support for a rapid withdrawal. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), led by former secretary of state James Baker and the former chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Lee Hamilton, fiercely criticised government policy and proposed the phased withdrawal of US forces, direct talks with Syria and Iran, and an attempt to address the Palestinian issue. But Bush preferred to go with a report, “Choosing Victory: a Plan for Success in Iraq”, produced by the rightwing American Enterprise Institute. Its authors, the influential neo-conservative historian Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, recommended sending more troops and concentrating them around Baghdad to re-establish order. So was this, as Bush claimed in his State of the Union address, the right decision? The arrival of 30,000 troops led to an undeniable improvement in security in the capital. Walls between Sunni and Shia
areas eased sectarian tensions, and the proliferation of control points (there are now 100,000 concrete blocks scattered on roads in and around Baghdad) reduced attacks. But although France won the battle for Algiers in 1957 by mobilising its forces, it lost the war. Two other factors helped reduce violence in Iraq. The first was the unilateral ceasefire announced by Moqtada al-Sadr last August (3). The Mahdi Army is Iraq’s most powerful militia and represents the poorest Shia. It is nationalistic, distrustful of Iranian leaders and hostile to the occupation. Although the ceasefire was recently extended for a further six months, the irreconcilable goals of al-Sadr and the US make it unstable. The second, even more significant, factor in the decline of violence was an improvement in relations with the Sunni community, particularly during the spring of 2007. As well as buying tribal loyalty, the US recruited more than 60,000 former resistance fighters into a new force, Sahwa (awakening) (4). Motives for joining vary. The most important is the rejection of al-Qaida’s extremism, its determination to impose a hardline Islamic state and its global ambitions. The tactical alliance with the US also reflects the desire to find a counterweight to the “Shia peril”. And money is a major incentive for tribal leaders. As the journalist Patrick Cockburn noted, the results of the turnabout are plain: “The city of Fallujah, many of its buildings still in ruins since the US Marines stormed it in November 2004, is peaceful compared with six months ago. Al-Qaida fighters, who once dominated it, have either gone or are keeping a low profile” (5). But the new alliance is fragile. Sahwa members remain deeply hostile to US goals and to the longterm presence of its troops. And their resentment of the Shia-dominated central government has been demonstrated by the increasing number of confrontations in Baghdad and other Sunni areas with the mainly Shia Iraqi police and army (6). No central authority exists, able to take advantage of the US successes. The pact between the US and the Sunni militias has aggravated the fragmentation of power. In many areas, including the capital, religious cleansing has contributed, along with the weakening of al-Qaida, the rallying of Sunni armed groups and the separation of different areas by walls, to a reduction in sectarian violence. But this separation has not brought greater regional or local stability. None of the three major communities, Shia, Sunni or Kurdish, are homogeneous wholes. Kurdistan maintains its autonomy, but there is a deep split between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both of which are challenged by rising Islamist Kurdish groups. In the south of Iraq, there is fierce rivalry between the Mahdi Army and Abdul Aziz alHakim’s Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. At local
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