Progressive forces in Iraq, among which the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) plays a key role, suffered immense losses in dead and imprisoned under the right-wing Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Yet they always opposed any outside intervention that would harm the Iraqi people, especially an armed attack by the U.S. They knew it would benefit U.S. imperialism, result in tens of thousands of casualties, primarily Iraqi non-combatants and U.S. soldiers, and leave the country devastated. When Saddam seized power the ICP was the largest political party.

The situation is complex in terms of class, national and religious forces and political tendencies. In working out the tactics of U.S. peace forces to end the U.S. aggression, it is important to take into account the assessment of the Iraqi situation by the ICP. The ICP has concluded its tasks are: build the broadest democratic, patriotic unity to win an end to the occupation; prevent restoration of the Baathists or another reactionary regime; meet the pressing living needs of the people; and restore the economy and security for the population.

The ICP is opposed to the present armed actions. It estimates that political struggle can end the occupation and armed struggle cannot. Those conducting the armed attacks, the ICP says, consist of Baathists trying to restore the dictatorship, international groups the ICP characterizes as “terrorist” seeking a new reactionary dictatorship, and criminal elements released from prison by Saddam. The attackers have no significant popular support. They are causing more civilian casualties than U.S. military casualties. They have attacked the leadership of the two Kurdish popular parties and have bombed offices of the ICP. The ICP says these activities give U.S. imperialism an excuse for continuing the occupation and make it more difficult to achieve a U.S. withdrawal even when political pressure requires it.

The ICP recognizes the need for a federal state providing full protection for each of the country’s ethnic groups. Iraq consists of 60 percent Shiite Arab Muslims, a very large Kurdish population, many Sunni Arab Muslims, Turks, and others. The Bush administration opposes a semi-autonomous Kurdish area. One reason for this is the U.S. military alliance with Turkey, which suppresses its large Kurdish population and fears a linking up of the Turkish and Iraqi Kurds.

The ICP treats Ayatollah Ali Sistani with respect and agrees there needs to be popular elections, but argues the conditions are not yet ripe for truly democratic elections. Democratic life is still being interfered with by contending armed groups. And a democratic vote has to be organized to establish a federal state protecting the rights of each ethnic group. The Party believes that through dialogue agreement can still be reached. In the meantime, the ICP supports “regional assemblies” electing a body to legislate, write the new constitution and take power on June 30. Its estimate is the existing Governing Council is increasingly challenging U.S. decisions and is not the rubber stamp the Bush administration wanted. Because of pressure, the U.S. recognized the council had to have considerable popular support and at the last moment gave in to demands to include the ICP.

The ICP considers the United Nations resolutions since the defeat of Saddam’s army were “steps forward” but says they left important questions unsettled. Chief among these is whether the U.S. command of the military, political and economic situation would be replaced by that of the UN, which it preferred over the U.S. military, while democratic Iraqi forces assumed real power.

Today, the policy of the Bush administration in Iraq is increasingly bankrupt. Bush & Co. planned to pacify and secure the country in short order, establish the Governing Council as a puppet regime, pay for the occupation with Iraqi oil and contributions from other countries, replace most of the U.S. military with forces from other countries, while still calling all the shots without interference.

None of this worked out, as the casualties have mounted and the costs soared – already about $167 billion – and the U.S. public has become more questioning of whether it was all necessary and just.

With the elections approaching and most Democratic Party candidates becoming more critical, the Bush administration has sought a way out. It tried to get other countries and the UN to bail it out without giving up real control. So far this gambit has not succeeded. The U.S. was compelled to set a date, June 30, by which it is to return sovereignty and political control to Iraqis. Its new subterfuge was to hand over “power” to an assembly of provincial caucuses picked in a controlled manner.

The UN mission making recommendations is likely to oppose both Sistani’s proposal for immediate elections and the hand-picked caucuses of the U.S. Whether its recommendations will meet the demands of the Iraqi democratic forces and end the occupation and return power before the U.S. elections, including in the economic sphere, remains to be seen. What we in the U.S. do will have a large bearing.

Danny Rubin is a member of the Education Commission of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at pww@pww.org.