Trojan Horse in the Antiwar Movement: Facts About the IFTU

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Trojan Horse in the Antiwar Movement: Facts About the IFTU
New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
Rev. June 20, 2005


U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) is sponsoring a northeast tour for the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU).

USLAW’s conveners describe the IFTU as “a legitimate force for a progressive democratic sovereign Iraq,” that is “organizing strikes and other militant actions against U.S. plans to privatize the economy” and “fighting for a future free from occupation.”[1]

These claims, however, are contradicted by widely-available evidence that the IFTU is a pro-occupation mouthpiece for the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord (INA),[2] and is bed with the same “AFL-CIA” alliance that has supported U.S. domination in Vietnam
(1960s), Chile (1973), Nicaragua (1980s), Venezuela (2000s) and many other countries.[3]

The IFTU’s president is Allawi’s second-in-command.[4] But the IFTU’s “left cover” is provided by the ICP, which is known for having been brutally crushed in a CIA-backed coup organized by Saddam Hussein in 1963.

It is less widely-known that from 1972-1978, the ICP belonged to Saddam’s cabinet;[5] that it is closely-aligned with CIA-operatives Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi;[6] that it is favored by the U.S. State Department, via Madeline Albright’s National Democratic Institute (NDI);[7] and that since July 2003 it has belonged to the U.S. occupation regime.[8]

Because of these sponsors, the IFTU has become Iraq’s only officially-recognized labor body (thereby inheriting frozen assets of the defunct Saddamist union federation);[9] receives State Department support through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a CIA-surrogate[10] – and AFL-CIO Solidarity Center (with the direct involvement of its notorious former director, Harry Kamberis);[11] and is a frequent resistance target.[12]

It also explains why – all doublespeak aside – the ICP/IFTU has consistently supported every major aspect of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq.


Shortly after the invasion, while U.S. troops began shooting Iraqi protesters, the ICP was horse-trading its way onto the widely-detested Iraq Governing Council. Once on the inside, it whitewashed the Council for “building democracy in Iraq,”[13] and enjoying “absolute legitimacy.”[14] In January 2004, it joined Allawi’s cabinet.[15]

Today, the ICP claims that sham elections on January 30, 2005 “represent[ed] a major historical event on the road toward establishing democracy,”[16] which gave Iraq “a legitimately elected government.”[17]


Although the ICP/IFTU claims to oppose privatization, it has not fought Bremer’s orders that permit foreign investment and slash workers’ salaries,[18] or the current regime’s plans to sell-off the Iraqi economy.[19]

The IFTU has sabotaged labor resistance to the occupation, including major strikes and protests by Basra oil workers in
2003.[20] It appears that, with few exceptions,[21] IFTU affiliates have struck only to demand that the occupation regime protect it from the resistance.[22]


The ICP/IFTU has taken the U.S. government’s position that U.S. troops must remain indefinitely to crush the resistance – which it denounces as “Saddamists,” “Islamic fascists” and “terrorists.”[23]

As a result, it has not opposed even the most brutal crimes of U.S. occupation: massacres in Fallujah and other cities;[24] routine detention and torture;[25] current military campaigns in Baghdad or western Iraq;[26] or El Salvador-style death squads jointly-operated by the U.S. and the puppet regime.[27]


Due to its collaboration with the occupation, the ICP/IFTU has little support in Iraq, and its slate won only .8 percent in the January 2005 elections.[28] But the IFTU’s charade as a genuine labor federation was effective at the British Labour Party conference in September 2004.

First, IFTU representative (and leading ICP member) Abdullah Muhsin supported Tony Blair’s unsuccessful attempt to invite Allawi, who Muhsin praised as an “Iraqi democrat.”[29]

Next, Muhsin helped Blair defeat a resolution for “speedy” withdrawal of British troops, telling Labour delegates that: “[A]n early date for the unilateral withdrawal of [occupation] troops . . . would be bad for my country, bad for the emerging progressive forces, a terrible blow for free trade unionism, and would play into the hands of extremists and terrorists.”[30]

When Muhsin came under severe criticism from the antiwar movement, he falsely denied his statement[31] and the IFTU’s receipt of British government funding.[32]

Confronted with this conduct, a touring IFTU representative now claims that Muhsin acted contrary to the IFTU’s actual position. But there is no evidence that the IFTU has ever disavowed Muhsin.

The Labour Party, Labour Friends of Iraq (the IFTU’s British support group), and pro-war pundits continue to cite the IFTU’s position to rationalize their support for the occupation and to split the Stop the War Coalition.[33]


*Hassan Juma’a Awad, General Secretary, Southern Oil Company Union (March 11, 2005): “[The IFTU] do[es] not organise workers on the ground. . . . They do not oppose the occupation but are linked to their stooge regime.”[34]

*Houzan Mahmoud, Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (August 20, 2004): “IFTU is this era’s version of state-made, anti-labour Ba’athist unions. . . . Any support or recognition offered to them will be a direct support for the government of Allawi and against the interests of the workers and people of Iraq.”[35]

*Sami Ramadani, Iraqi Trade Unionist and Antiwar Activist (October 22, 2004): “[T]he leaders of the IFTU and the ICP are part of a left-wing sounding, trade-union ‘friendly’ propaganda war designed to justify the ‘new war’ to crush the resistance of the Iraqi people by portraying entire cities towns and villages across Iraq as hideouts for mass murderers and terrorists such as Zarqawi.”[36]

*Hani Lazim, Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (October 9, (2004): “If you are part of a government that allows the US to bomb towns like Fallujah and the al-Sadr area of Baghdad, don’t tell me you oppose the occupation.”[37]

*Ardeshir Mehrdad, Editor, Iran Bulletin (November 2004): “The giving over of some executive positions to the leaders of the Communist party of Iraq, or the recognition of the trade union linked to this party (IFTU) is a price the Pentagon and CIA are prepared to pay for their support in repressing the resistance.”[38]

*Stop the War Coalition (U.K.) (October 11, 2004): “With regard to the IFTU, the StWC condemns its political collaboration with the British government, exemplified at the Labour Party conference, and its view that genuinely independent trade unionism in Iraq can develop under a regime of military occupation (including the daily bombardment of major Iraqi cities) by the USA and Britain.”[39]


Given the above facts, New York City Labor Against the War suggests support for genuine Iraqi trade union opponents of the occupation,[40] who can be reached at: The General Union of Oil Employees, Iraq Occupation Focus 0044 7749 421 576.


1. “USLAW Statement on the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Tour of U.S.,” (USLAW, May 31, 2005),

2. Hassan Juma’a Awad, “Leave our country now,” Guardian, February 18, 2005,,3604,1417222,00.html (“The IFTU’s leadership is carved up between the pro-government Communist party, Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord, and their satellites.”)

3. See: Tim Shorrock, “AFL-CIO Eliminates International Affairs Department,” May 4, 2005, ; Kim Scipes, “Labor Imperialism Redux?: The AFL-CIO’s Foreign Policy Since 1995,” Monthly Review, May 2005, ; Tom Barry, “Third Decade of Regime-Change Aid: Washington Tightens Economic Noose and Increases Support to Groups Planning Post-Castro Transition,” Global Policy Forum, June 25, 2004, ; Alberto Ruiz, “The Question Remains: What Is the AFL-CIO doing in Venezuela?”, Zmag, March 2, 2004, ; William Blum, “Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy,” excerpted from Rogue State (Common Courage Press: 2000), .

4. “Iraq unions: Hassan Juma’a,” Labournet, February 11, 2005, .

5. Tariq Ali, Bush in Babylon (London: Verso, 2003) 118, 120-121; Ilario Salucci, A People’s History of Iraq, the Iraqi Communist Party, Workers’ Movements, and the Left
1924-2004 (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005) 62. An ICP leader recently explained that the party collaborated with both Saddam and the U.S. occupation because “[w]e distinguish between ideology and politics.” Shaheen Chughtai, “Iraqi Communists celebrate change,” Aljazeera, July 1, 2004, .

6. “Iraqi Communists stage comeback,” Iraq Press, June 23, 2003, .

7. Karl Vick and Robin Wright, “Coaching Iraq’s New Candidates, Discreetly,” Washington Post, January 26, 2005, ; Pamela Constable, “Iraqi Communists Make a Comeback,” Washington Post Foreign Service, January 29, 2004,\ an28&notFound=true ; “Red flags fly over Baghdad, Iraqi Communists get U.S. support in role in new interim government,” Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, July 6, 2004, ; Shaheen Chughtai, “Iraqi Communists celebrate change,” Aljazeera, July 1, 2004, ; “NDI Assessment Mission to Iraq, June 23 to July 6, 2003,” (NDI, 2003), .

For NDI’s overall goals in Iraq, see: Herbert Docena, “Silent Battalions of Democracy, How the US is Reconstructing Iraq’s State and Society,” in Silent War, The US’ Ideological and Economic Occupation of Iraq (Focus on the Global South, January 2005) 19, ; William I. Robinson, “What to Expect from US ‘Democracy Promotion'” in Iraq, Silent War, The US’ Ideological and Economic Occupation of Iraq (Focus on the Global South, January 2005) 9, .

8. On December 17, 2003, State Department official Thomas S. Warrick, who coordinated Iraqi exiles prior to and following the invasion, explained that the U.S. supported the ICP because it “was different from other communist parties.” “Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy Minutes, November 17, 2003” (U.S. State Department), ; Testimony of Dr Toby Dodge, Committee on Foreign Relations, April 20, 2004, Committee’s hearings on “The Iraq Transition: Civil War or Civil Society?”, ; Patrick E. Tyler, “New Iraqi Governing Council Meets for First Time,” N.Y. Times, July 13, 2003, ; Tariq Ali, Bush in Babylon (London: Verso, 2003) 40-41.

9. “Official recognition given to new union federation by Iraqi Governing Council,” IFTU, February 9, 2004, ; Matthew Harwood, “Pinkertons at the CPA,” Washington Monthly, April 2005, .

10. According to NED founder Allen Weinstein, “[a] lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Jon Quaccia, “National Endowment for Death Squads? The AFL-CIO and the NED,” Alia2, December 23, 2004, ; see also: William I. Robinson, “What to Expect from US ?Democracy Promotion'” in Iraq, Silent War, The US’ Ideological and Economic Occupation of Iraq (Focus on the Global South, January 2005), 9, ; Tom Barry, “Third Decade of Regime-Change Aid: Washington Tightens Economic Noose and Increases Support to Groups Planning Post-Castro Transition,” Global Policy Forum, June 25, 2004, ; William Blum, “Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy,” excerpted from Rogue State (Common Courage Press: 2000), .

11. Matthew Harwood, “Pinkertons at the CPA,” Washington Monthly, April 2005, ; Harry Kelber, “Sweeney Is Silent on Ties to War Hawks Who Are Promoting Bush’s Global Agenda,” LaborTalk, April 6, 2005, ; “The IFTU participates in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 92 conference, Geneva (June 2004),” IFTU, June 9, 2004, ; “IFTU Vice President, Hadi Ali addresses MPs and journalists at House of Commons,” IFTU, May 20, 2004, ; “The Solidarity Center’s Iraq Programs – Update” (Solidarity Center, April 2005),\ FID=14650091&CFTOKEN=82445938 ; “Iraq: Launch of international support programme for trade unions,” IFCTU, April 2, 2004, ; Leigh Strope, “AFL-CIO Gears Up to Help Iraqi Unions,” Boston Globe, March 12, 2004, .

12. Sami Ramadani, The Independent, January 7, 2005, .

13. “Iraqi CP Secretary Musa on Consequences of War, Iraq’s Future,” World News Connection, March 20, 2004, 3/20/04 WRLDNWSC 00:00:00.

14. “Al-Jaza’iri Discusses Situation in Iraq, Czech Envoy’s Car Attack, US Presence,” World News Connection, September 9, 2004, 9/9/04 WRLDNWSC 00:00:00.

15. Anne Barnard, “Many Hold New Hope For an End to Violence,” Boston Globe, June 2, 2004, 2004 WLNR 3583195.

16. Raid Fahmi, “Iraq Finds Its Bearings,” Liberation, April 13, 2005, .

17. “Iraqi Communist Leader Interviewed on His Party’s Role, Elections, ?Occupation’,” World News Connection, April 1, 2005, 4/1/05 WRLDNWSC 16:47:19.

18. Ewa Jasiewicz, “Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions,” Voices in the Wilderness, October 31, 2004, (“The IFTU has never opposed the Occupation’s Orders 39 (pdf) on Foreign Investment and 30 (pdf) on Salaries and Employment Conditions which allow foreign companies such as Halliburton and Bechtel to carry out 100% privatisation of public assets at zero profit tax and total profit repatriation. Order 30 sets the minimum wages for workers at 69,000ID, around #30 per month. Average rent is 25-50,000ID per month. 5 litres of drinking water costs 300-500 ID and barely serves a family for a day. Yet the Orders remain in place unchallenged.”)

19. David McKnight, “Soft spot for Iraqi thugs,” Australian, February 9, 2004,
(“The Iraqi Communist Party . . . agrees that foreign investment can revitalise the economy, while urging that wide-scale privatisation be delayed until an independent government is established”).

For details about Iraqi privatization, see: Greg Palast, “Secret US plans for Iraq’s oil,” BBC, March 17, 2005, ; Zaid Al-Ali, “The IMF and the Future of Iraq,” MERIP, December 7, 2004, (IGC plans to privatize and join WTO); Greg Muttitt, “Resisting the economic war in Iraq,” Corporate Watch Newsletter, April/May 2005, (Allawi’s plan to privatize Iraqi oil in September 2004).

20. Ewa Jasiewicz, “The Invisible Fire – Public Sector Worker Struggle and Trade Unionism in British-Occupied Basra,” January 19, 2004, . See also: “Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions-IFTU Helps Alawi’s Government to Crack Down on Workers’ Protests in Petrochemical and plastic Company in Baghdad,” Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq, January 10, 2005, .

21. In contrast with huge Basra oil worker strikes, the IFTU has reported few strikes by its own affiliates. See, e.g.: “400 Workers at top Baghdad Hotel conclude successful strike,” IFTU, March 6, 2005; .

22. “Strike Action by Railway Workers in Basra,” IFTU, January 9, 2005, .

23. Similar ICP/IFTU statements include:

*John Lloyd, “United we understand,” Financial Times, April 22, 2005, (Saady Edan, president of Mosul IFTU: “[I]f [the occupation] ends now, it will bring chaos. Once the Iraqi security forces are capable, then the occupation should leave. But they are not yet.”);

*”Iraqi Communist Party leader views electoral program, obstacles to elections,” BBC International Reports (Middle East), December 21, 2004, 12/21/04 BBC-MIDEAST 00:00:00 (ICP general-secretary Majid Musa: “[H]ow can we [end the occupation] in view of the country’s complex situation, the current balances of power and the regional and international circumstances around us? . . . . [T]errorist and subversive acts will only prolong the presence of foreign forces and give an excuse to others to say the country is in danger and cannot endure the bad consequences and so the help of the foreign forces is needed.”)

*Juan Cole, “Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion,” Guardian, November 26, 2004,
(ICP general-secretary Majid Musa: “[T]he withdrawal of foreign forces . . . is an objective that all Iraqis without exception seek to achieve. . . . However, the problem is deciding when those troops could depart. We have not yet built sufficient military, police or security forces to protect the security of Iraq.”)

*”NDI Assessment Mission to Iraq, June 23 to July 6, 2003,” (NDI, 2003), (Former ICP general-secretary: “If the [U.S.] were to withdraw from Iraq, there would be a civil war and democrats would have no chance.”)

24. Faleh Jabar, “Trajectory of violence,” IFTU, April 29, 2005, (All “insurgents” are “terrorists”; U.S. assaults on Najaf and Falluja were “a crucial factor for the successful culmination of the January 2005 elections.”); Michael White, “Labour dissent at plan to invite Allawi,” Guardian, August 18, 2004,,14991,1286392,00.html (“Since taking office on July 1 Mr Allawi has played the hard man on security issues – and even threatened martial law. More seriously, he has been accused of personally executing six insurgents held at the Amariya detention centre outside Baghdad this summer – a charge which is denied but which has been widely disseminated.”)

25. “Terrorists confess to murder of Iraqi railway workers,” IFTU, April 15, 2005, .

26. Patrick J. McDonnell and Solomon Moore, “Iraq to Purge Corrupt Officers,” L.A. Times, May 1, 2005,
(the new puppet regime is “go[ing] after insurgents in a more concerted fashion than the regime of outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.”); Faleh Jabar, “Trajectory of violence,” IFTU, April 29, 2005, (ICP leadership says that efforts to “Iraqise” the occupation by arming Alawi with heavy armor units “were applauded by the public,” which is encouraged by “Western-enforced democratisation” such as “Palestinian elections, Egyptian reforms and pro-democracy mobilisation in Lebanon.”); Abdullah Muhsin, Tribune, April 26, 2005, (“A new police force and army that are culturally different from Saddam’s repressive apparatus are being trained and will be ready soon . . . . the so-called ?resistance’ is increasingly withering and the majority of areas in Iraq are now secure.”)

27. Michael Hirsh and John Barry, “The Salvador Option,” Newsweek, January 14, 2005, (“The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is said to be among the most forthright proponents of the Salvador option.”)

28. Abbas Kadhim, “Iraqi Shiite religiosity must prevail over ignorant fanaticism,” The Daily Star, May 13, 2005, .

29. “Allawi’s Labour visit,” Guardian, August 18, 2004,,14991,1286390,00.html ; Michael White, “Labour dissent at plan to invite Allawi,” Guardian, August 18, 2004,,14991,1286392,00.html .

30. “Open letter from Abdullah Muhsin, foreign representative of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, to trade union delegates at the Labour Party conference,” . See also: Patrick Wintour and Kevin Maguire, “Deal with unions to keep Blair safe,” Guardian, September 30, 2004,,14991,1316070,00.html .

31. Carol Turner, “Cracks in the coalition,” Guardian, October 25, 2004,,12809,1335392,00.html ; Abdullah Muhsin, “We are nobody’s pawns,” Guardian, October 23, 2004,,,1334208,00.html (“I did not offer voting advice to trade unions on Labour’s Iraq motions and confined my remarks to urging solidarity with Iraqi workers.”)

32. Helene Mulholland, “Unions in war row ask for UK cash,” Guardian, October 27, 2004,,12809,1336788,00.html .

33. “Labour NEC Statement on Iraq,” October 11, 2004, ; Matthew Tempest, “Troops in, says anti-war MP,” Guardian, February 24, 2005,,12956,1424324,00.html ; “Extract from Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech by Harry Barnes MP, LFIQ Joint President urges other political parties to follow LFIQ lead,” Labor Friends of Iraq, ; Gary Kent, “The battle for democracy,” Yorkshire Post, November 11, 2004, ; Nick Cohen, “The great liberal betrayal 2004,” New Statesman, November 1, 2004, WLNR 15883138; Patrick Wintour, Kevin Maguire and Michael White, “Union fury at Stop the War coalition’s sectarianism,” Guardian, October 23, 2004,,,1334187,00.html .

34. Ewa Jasiewicz, “Workers’ struggles in U.S.-occupied Iraq,” Socialist Worker, March 11, 2005, .

35. Houzan Mahmoud, “For those who have an illusion about the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU),” FWCUI, August 20, 2004,\.htm .

36. Sami Ramadani, “Britain’s Trade Unions, the Occupation of Iraq and the IFTU,” Labournet, October 22, 2004, .

37. Hani Lazim, “Fake unions won’t help Iraqi workers,” Socialist Worker (U.K.), October 9, 2004, .

38. Ardeshir Mehrdad, “Between Iraq’s colonialist and Islamist quagmire the ?third way’ is hard but possible,” Iran Bulletin, November 2004, .

39. “The Stop the War Coalition and the IFTU,” October 11, 2004, .

40. See: Greg Muttitt, “Iraq’s other resistance,” Guardian, June 3, 2005,,3604,1498155,00.html ; Hassan Juma’a Awad, “Leave our country now,” Guardian, February 18, 2005,,3604,1417222,00.html (“We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don’t want a timetable — this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.”)

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