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Intifada Iraq

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By Farooq Sulehria


A week long heroic resistence from Baghdad to Falluja, Mosul to Kirkuk, and from Basra to Najaf. Intifada has engulfed much of the country as the followers of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr join the resistance against occupying forces. Senator Edward Kennedy dubbed Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam".

Body count continues. US tough looking marines armed with most sophisticated weapons drawing $1000 a month, suffering big losses. Over 50 dead in one week Highest number of US causalities in a week since the war started. Body count for Iraq? About that General Zeni says: 'we do not keep record'. But media reports put death toll at 600. Number seems highly uneven. How it could be otherwise?

Exactly a year ago, world was 'April fooled' on April 9 instead of 1st April by bringing down Saddam's statue by a cheering Iraqi crowd. Fall of Baghdad was announced. A year later, exactly a year later, world witnesses Rise of Falluja. A small town of four hundred thousand that will go down in Iraq's history as symbol of Iraq Intifada.

The American invaded Fallujah in retaliation for the killing of four American "contractors" on March 31. What were armed American civilians doing at all, without a military escort, in Fallujah? The Economist answers:

"They were private security guards working for a company called Blackwater USA, under contract to the American administration. Around 15,000 such civilian security guards are now in Iraq, a substantial presence. And this number does not include the telephone engineers, oil-pipeline specialists and other private contractors working on Iraqi infrastructure."

In other words, these men were mercenaries: hired killers and bandits who are now swarming all over Iraq, making money out of repressive activities that are carried out with no control or restriction. The people of Fallujah acted 'barbaric' But this is the consequence of the general barbarism imposed on Iraqi people by the US imperialism for decades.

The hawks sitting in Wsahington announced to avenge these 'civilian killings' in Falluja. By the way, another American civilian, an ISM activist was buldozzed by Sharon tanks. She was unarmed as well. No revenge was taken.

Rambos were sent to Falluja to avenge.But Falluja decided to resist. This time Rambos were not fighting Saddam's army neither it was a confusion prevailing a year ago when on March 20 US marched in to 'liberate ' Iraqis. ;Many soldiers fought heroic and stunned the whole world that was expecting an early fall of Baghdad. But there was confusion. Iraqis did not want to fight US killers just to keep another monster in power. But now is different. Monster is gone. Killers must go too. Thus began Intifada Falluja dared resist.

Meantime, a new word spreads across the globe: Mehdi Army.

Mehdi Army

A militia loyal to Shia leader Muqtada Ul Sadr rose in revolt as Falluja reacts to US invasion. Name of the militia is pretty suggestive. Mahdi is Arabic for "the promised one" or "divinely guided one". Mehdi is a Messia Muslims are waiting for. As a Muslim one has the faith in the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and return of Imam Mehdi. Imam Mehdi 'disappeared' at the age of 12 in 607 AD. He will return, accompanied by Jesus Christ, to rid the world of Dajal (the Muslim version of anti-Christ).

The Guardian in it April 8 edition, in a report titled Mehdi Army-of the dispossesses reports: Outside the militia group, no one knows how big it is; estimates vary from 3,000 to 10,000. But it has been growing fast. They are the poorest of the poor, the Shia who feel that, a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, there is little for them in the settlement agreed between the US and the provisional government

The Mahdi Army was born in the war's aftermath. With no one in charge, Shia clerics organised food and essentials from the mosques of Sadr City, the slum in Baghdad that is home to two million Shia.

Security was just as important, and the clerics sent out gunmen to protect Sadr City. One of the most popular clerics was Moqtada al-Sadr - young, radical, and anti-American, whose father had been killed in 1999 by Saddam.

Last June Mr Sadr brought these irregulars together as the Mahdi Army. According to AFP: Its ranks are largely composed of desperate and unemployed young men from poor Shiite areas -- notably Baghdad's teeming Sadr City which switched its name from Saddam City after the fall of the deposed regime to honor the firebrand's slain father.

Many are also from southern Shiite cities which suffered brutal repression at the hands of Saddam's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime.

The militiamen often wear black pants and shirts, as well as green headbands symbolizing Islam. They are fiercely attached to Sadr's guidance and his family's lineage of revered clerics.

Their recent fierce battles with the coalition revealed they mostly have access to light weapons, including assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.

Mehdi Army rose in revolt against the possible arrest of Sadr. The US occupying authorities had banned Sadr's newspaper. But the uprising by Mehdi Army might have a thought out strategy and far reaching effects. Until the outbreak of Intifada, Ali Sistani was seen as the undisputed leader of Shias in Iraq. Sistani despite his opposition to US occupation was seen as impotent if not collaborator. He was not offering any alternative or action to the Shia youth getting impatient with every day passing under occupation. Sadr, a 30-year-old cleric, timely offers the action that the Shia youth wanted. The uprising in Baghdad is different from the Sunni insurgency. Instead of guerrillas attacking from the shadows and melting back into the civilian population, Moqtada al-Sadr has a militia that he called on to take over neighbourhoods and cities. They have dug themselves in and are standing their ground. He has also apparently called for a general strike. The US claims that Mr. Sadr has perhaps 3,000 supporters, although Sadr's Chief commander claims that there are some 50,000 in Baghdad alone.

It was perhaps not a matter of chance that it coincides with uprising in Falluja. Mehdi army was lent mass support cutting across the Shia -Sunni divide. Sadr it seems has pulled the rug from under the feet of Sistani or at least has seriously challenged the leadership claim of Sistani. Not just Sistani, all the political forces including communists, now staying away from Intifada are likely to suffer politcal, losses. The Communist Party of Iraq has been a part of so called provisional government set up by the occupation forces. The Communist Party decision to join the provisional government was controversial. However, by keep siding with provisional government and staying abstaining from Intifada, the communists will badly suffer.

Bush in Trouble

Bush is uttering brave statements. It always is easy making tall claims in the presence of body guards miles away from the battlefronts. Saddam used to bravely wave a gun even fire few shots. He was pretty brave when it came to kill his own helpless masses. Later he escaped Baghdad like a coward and surrendered like a sheep. Fact of the matter is: Bush in Babylon is meeting its Vietnam. Mesopotamia proves a complete mess for Bush.

The Economist testifies: "In private, senior Defense Department officials have given up claiming that the security situation is about to improve. This week, the Pentagon suspended the rotation home of 24,000 soldiers from Iraq and General John Abizaid, the chief of America's central command, asked for contingency plans to increase the number of soldiers in his region. These are the clearest signs yet that the Pentagon is concerned about deteriorating security. They reverse the previous insistence of Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, that more troops would not be needed."

Many coalition partners are deserting USA. Spain is setting an example that others intend to follow. 'NEW Zealand's 60 army engineers in Iraq will be withdrawn in September when their tour of duty ends,' Prime Minister of New Zealand,Helen Clark told reporters on April 2.

On March 27, the main voice of Italy's centre- left opposition, European Commission chief Romano Prodi, urged withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq on Saturday in comments likely to win some voter sympathy ahead of local polls in June. In a letter to the Corriere della Sera daily, former prime minister Prodi called the Iraqi war "unjustified and illegitimate". The "Olive Tree" centre-left coalition wanted a UN-led humanitarian operation in place of "occupation".

Australian opposition Labour Party has also announced to withdraw in case of its victory in elections this year. Poalish prime minister has also stated that Poland was fooled to send its troops to Iraq while Bulgaria after last week's terrorist attack leaving many injured, appears nervous. The Japanese government is under immense public pressure to withdraw following the kidnappings of three Japanese in Iraq. The anti war demo in Tokyo on March 20 was much bigger than February 15 showing the mood in Japan.

Bush has asked another11 countries, including Pakistan, to send troops to Iraq. On April 10 Washington Post reports another bad news for Bush. A WP headline reads: Iraqi 'security' forces refuse to follow US orders.

The WP correspondent reports: A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces.

It was the first time U.S. commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi army in major combat operations, and the battalion's refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security forces have stopped carrying out their duties.
The 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who is overseeing the development of Iraqi security forces. The convoy then turned around and returned to the battalion's post on a former Republican Guard base in Taji, a town north of the capital'

The nervousness generated by Intifada is so big that Saddam Hussain was flown out of Iraq. On April 7, Robert Fisk reported: 'The United States has secretly flown Saddam Hussein out of Iraq and imprisoned him under high security at a vast American air base in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar.' The Intifada raised fears that insurgents would try to stage a spectacular prison escape for the former Iraqi dictator.

Above all, the Intifada has generated an unprecedented Shia Sunni unity, something both Bush and Osama might dislike though for different reasons.

The Iraq Intifada is casting effects on the whole region. Israel id getting nervous, an AFP report on April 7 presents the fears expressed by Israeli media.

The mood in Afghanistan might change. Hard to see an Intifada in Afghanistan at the moment but opposition to US presence will increase in Afghanistan.

 
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