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STRIKES IN IRAQ
by our Arab Affairs Correspondent
sent its forces into northern Iraq this week to hit
bases of the guerrilla wing of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) which
is fighting for independence in Turkish Kurdistan. The Americans claim
they had no prior knowledge of the raid which coincided with a visit to
Baghdad by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Turkish forces claim they have inflicted heavy losses on PKK guerrillas
in northern Iraq in punitive attacks and air-raids over the past few
days. The Turks says their troops crossed into northern Iraq on Tuesday
and that the military had dealt a “heavy blow” to Kurdish rebels based
there. They have now withdrawn but Turkish guns are continuing to pound
Kurdish villages across the border and their air force is repeatedly
targeting alleged PKK bases in the northern Iraqi autonomous Kurdish
region. The Turks deny PKK claims of civilian casualties and say their
forces are operating in sparsely-populated areas. But the UN refugee
agency (UNHCR) says some 1,800 people have fled because of the
The PKK confirmed that their positions were bombed by the Turkish air
force on Sunday. “An air strike by scores of warplanes and artillery
attacks took place against PKK positions,” the rebel movement said in a
statement, adding that the raid followed a month of reconnaissance
flights by US planes.
The Iraqi puppet regime issued a mealy-mouthed statement saying it
understood Turkey’s security concerns but unilateral action was
unacceptable. But Masoud Barzani, the head of the Iraqi Kurdish
autonomous region, was furious and he cancelled a meeting with Rice in
protest at the incursion, which he said could only have taken place
with US approval because the Americans control Iraq’s air-space. This
is the first time the US-backed Kurdish leader has refused an audience
with a top American emissary.
“The Kurdish people are angry with the American administration because
protecting the sky of Kurdistan is their responsibility,” Barzani said.
“If Turkey had not received a green light from the United States, it
would not have been able to commit these crimes. It would not have been
able to kill those civilians”.
The rebel Kurdish Workers‘ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly
insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, maintains a network of
rear-bases in the rugged Qandil mountains near where the borders of
Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. Over 37,000 people have died in the
conflict, mainly Kurdish victims of Turkish punitive raids in the
1990s, which destroyed thousands of village in largely Kurdish eastern
Turkey has long accused the feudal Kurdish chiefs, who run Iraqi
Kurdistan under American protection, of providing a safe-haven for PKK
bases. There is, indeed, considerable support in Iraqi Kurdistan for
their Turkish cousins. The two big Iraqi Kurdish factions, led by the
Talabani family and the Barzani clan, don’t deny it. But they say the
PKK camps in their areas are not used for cross-border operations and
the PKK maintain that all attacks against the Turkish military are
carried out by underground units inside Turkey.
In Baghdad Rice said the United States, Turkey and Iraq shared a common
interest in stopping Kurdish rebel activities though also cautioned the
parties against actions that could destabilise northern Iraq — the only
part of the country that isn’t under direct American occupation.
It doesn’t look good in the rest of Iraq either. The puppet regime
plans to cut food rations and subsidies by almost 50 per cent because
of insufficient funds and spiraling inflation. Almost 10 million Iraqis
rely on rationing which allowed Iraqis to buy subsidised sugar, flour,
rice, powdered milk, cooking oil, tea, beans, baby milk, soap and
The puppet regime now plans to reduce the list of subsidised items to
just five basic food items, flour, sugar, rice, oil, and infant milk.
Up to eight million Iraqis still require immediate emergency aid, with
nearly half this number living in “absolute poverty” according to
Oxfam. Unemployment hovers around 70 per cent and all the regime can
offer posts are jobs in the puppet army or the local police. And even
that has back-fired as the results of training have not turned out as
the occupiers hoped.
Another year older
and deeper in debt
seriously worried about the prospects of a worldwide capitalist
recession. They are terrified that people will stop spending because
interest rates are too high so they are trying to bring down interest
rates paid by consumers by making vast sums of taxpayers’ money
available to banks to “ease the credit crunch”.
The main cause of the credit crunch has been the American sub-prime
lending catastrophe, which saw banks from all around the world drawn
into backing a scheme to persuade low-paid American workers to take out
mortgages they could not afford to buy their own homes. It went wrong
because there were thousands and thousands of defaulters – who are now
homeless – and so many repossessed houses that the bottom fell out of
the market and they could not be resold except at a huge loss.
This hit so many world banks so hard they became much more cautious
about lending to each other and raised the interest rates on loans
between banks. This in turn raised the rates that high street banks and
finance companies charged to consumers.
In their turn the consumers were deterred from taking out new debts and
cut back on spending – resulting in lower house prices and less high
Reduced demand threateneds to put high street shop chains out of
business and the factories and farms that supply their goods.
But what happened with the sub-prime crash is only an extreme example
of what has been going on more slowly in most western countries. It was
a couple of years ago that personal debt in Britain rose above the one
trillion pounds mark; there are similar patterns of debt in Australia,
Canada and, to a lesser but growing extent, Europe.
The Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve made small cuts to their
interest rates to try to loosen up the inter-bank loan rates – but with
no impact at all.
Then last Wednesday 12th December a group of major western national
banks – the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve, the European
Central Bank and the national banks of Canada and Switzerland – got
together and injected £50 billion worth of credit into the
international banking system in an effort to get high street banks to
ease their credit terms and get consumers buying again.
In global terms £50 billion was not so much – a couple of months
ago we heard that the Bank of England had put up over £40 billion
to bale out Northern Rock – just one deeply troubled bank among many.
But the move was a precedent and an indication of just how worried
western governments are about a possible recession. Then the European
Central Bank added 348.67 billion euros (£249 billion) to the pot.
Western capitalism has been using consumer deficit spending –
persuading workers to part with wages that have not yet been paid and
go into debt – to keep the wheels of western capitalism turning for a
couple of decades now. It has been a deliberate policy to encourage and
pressure workers to take on more and more debt. It has benefited
capitalists by ensuring a market for their commodities and by ensuring
workers willingly undertake longer hours to pay off the debts – and so
generate more surplus value.
It has made workers’ lives hell. Debt brings stress and anxiety along
with embarrassment, long working hours and children left to look after
And the western governments want us even more in debt. They also want
house prices to continue rising, even though most workers now have
little hope of ever buying one. The best they can hope for is to rent a
place from one of the buy-to-let private speculators – back to the
worst of Victorian landlordism.
But there are limits; we cannot cope with further debt. By pressuring
us into more debt they are creating the conditions for more bad debts
collapses like the US sub-prime crash.
One way or another, capitalism cannot escape a crash – it is in the
nature of the system. The only alternative is socialism.
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