2nd May 00:14
The broad base and many causes of Iraqi resistance to US occupation (sense clear population elements life)
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
The broad base and many causes of Iraqi resistance to US occupation
By Nasser Salem
After weeks of dismissing the attacks on their troops as the last gasp
of the deposed Ba'athist regime, increasing resistance has forced
American officials to admit that something like a real guerrilla
movement is gathering momentum in Iraq. The hawks in the Pentagon are
finding out day by day that neutralising the resistance is proving
more difficult than they had expected. Dozens of American soldiers
have been killed and more than 250 injured since President Bush
declared "the end of the war"on May 1. Mounting casualties have forced
American officials, including arch-hawks such as Donald Rumsfeld, to
admit that US-led coalition forces are facing a determined resistance,
warning that they need many months to eliminate it.
The increasing scale, sophistication and strength of the attacks, now
running at up to a dozen a day, are becoming more and more obvious.
These attacks are no longer simple booby-traps and hit-and-run raids
carried out by small groups using AK-47 assault rifles, hand-grenades
and rocket-propelled grenades. Recent reports indicate the use of
mines and sophisticated roadside bombs that combine explosives and
mortar rounds known in military parlance as "improvised explosive
devices." They also point to the increased complexity of ambushes, as
shown by the growing use of double or triple attacks and ambushes.
American convoys, bases and positions are increasingly coming under
mortar attacks as well. Needless to say, such attacks require complex
surveillance, transport and positioning of weapons and fighters.
Coalition forces have responded with a series of massive operations to
identify the armed resistance and hunt down those responsible.
Thousands of Iraqis have been detained in three major operations, and
hundreds of Israeli-style raids against villages, towns and
neighbourhoods, all aimed at eradicating the resistance. Hundreds have
been killed. On one occasion, US forces took hostages to force an
Iraqi to surrender. According to the Washington Post, US troops
belonging to the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division on July 23
picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general,
leaving a note saying: "If you want your family released, turn
yourself in" (July 28, 2003).
But the eventual effect of these Vietnam-style "search-and-destroy"
operations is likely to be to add to the Iraqis' antipathy and
aversion to the occupation. These feelings are born not only of
deep-seated distrust of the Americans but also of the depredations of
war and the frustrations engendered by the failures of reconstruction.
In a society of close-knit families and strong social ties, it is hard
to see how such operations will encourage the friends, families and
neighbours of the estimated 20,000 Iraqis who died during the
three-week war to feel kindly toward their occupiers. Nor will they
soften the Iraqis' bitter sense of being occupied. These feelings
largely explain the apparent ease with which resistance-fighters can
attack US forces and then melt into crowded districts and
neighbourhoods. It also explains the failure of a US$ 2,500
reward-programme, offered to anyone providing information on
attackers, to bring in significant scoops.
American officials are blaming the resistance mainly on remnants of
the Iraqi regime: the Fedayeen Saddam militia, Ba'athists and remnants
of the elite units of the Republican Guards and Special Republican
Guards, as well as Saddam's massive security and intelligence
apparatus. That tens of thousands of members of these groups have
survived the war gives credence to the argument that remnants of the
regime form the basis for some attacks on US forces. A network
operating under the name of al-'Awdah ("Return") reportedly brings
together groups of Ba'athist loyalists using such names as Saddam's
Jihad Movement, Jaysh al-Mu'tassem ("al-Mu'tassem's Army") and Jaysh
Khaled bin al-Walid ("Khaled bin al-Walid's Army").
These units are also believed to be behind attacks on so-called "soft"
targets. These include Iraqi civilians working under the US-led
"Coalition Provisional Authority," such as the two electrical workers
killed in southern Iraq on June 26; Iraqis cooperating with US
authorities, such as trainee police cadets and officers killed in a
graduation ceremony on July 5, and the recent attempt on the life of
former Iraqi intelligence chief Wafiq al-Samarra'i; and the offices of
various opposition groups that have recently returned to Iraq, such as
Shaykh Jamal al-Wakil's Islamic Accord Movement and Iyad Allawi's
Iraqi National Accord.
But the reasoning that blames resistance attacks solely or mainly on
remnants of the Saddam regime raises serious questions about the
extent to which the deposed regime planned the current resistance
before the war. It also raises questions about whether this Ba'athist
component of the resistance is centrally controlled and led by the
fugitive Saddam. Some observers and Iraqi members of the 25-strong
Governing Council have cited do***ents, including one dated January
2003, suggesting that the regime planned the scenario that unfolded
after the war, including the looting and destruction of Iraq's
Yet accepting such arguments on face value requires turning a blind
eye to a growing body of evidence that a significant proportion of the
resistance is neither pre-planned nor the work of Ba'athists. For one
thing, it is hard to think of any plausible scenario in which the
elusive Saddam could be personally involved in leading guerrilla
attacks, even those carried out by the Ba'athist resistance, from his
continuously moving hideout. Moreover, even those attacks believed to
be waged by remnants of the Ba'athist regime seem to be loosely
The fact that US forces are sinking ever more deeply into a quagmire
is shown by attacks claimed by a number of non-Ba'athist groups. In
the words of General Richard B Myers, the chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of General Staff, the anti-coalition resistance in Iraq is far
from "monolithic." A statement issued by a previously unknown group
calling itself the "Iraqi Resistance Brigades", and claiming
responsibility for attacks on American forces in mid-June, identified
Saddam as an enemy of Iraq and accused his regime of exacerbating the
suffering of Iraqis. Arab volunteers are also believed to be active in
the resistance. One group of these volunteers calls itself the
"Hizbollah Islamic Army in Iraq."
One characteristic of the non-Ba'athist resistance is that many of its
constituent groups are salafi - a fact that has caused some members of
the Governing Council to refer to elements in the resistance the
"Taleban of Iraq." The germ of these groups can be traced back to the
Wahhabi Movement which spread in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq in the
1990s. Saddam's regime had tried to curb the burgeoning influence of
the Wahhabi Movement by using his security services for a wave of
arrests of members in 1996 and 2000; hundreds were arrested,
imprisoned and tortured. The ranks of the Iraqi salafis are reportedly
being bolstered by like-minded Arab and Muslim volunteers, who have
been streaming into Iraq since the invasion began.
Realising the role played by salafi groups prompted some senior
American officials in early August to claim that al-Qa'ida is behind
much of the resistance. Seemingly, the tenor of comments - made by
senior officials such as Myers, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez,
the commander of US ground forces in Iraq, and deputy secretary of
defence Paul Wolfowitz - depicts the US-led campaign in Iraq as part
of the larger "war on terrorism." But most observers say that there is
stronger evidence that it is American heavy-handedness that is
effectively recruiting Iraqis into the resistance.
So far, resistance operations have mainly been concentrated in the
Sunni-dominated central area that has come to be known as the "Sunni
Triangle." This is the triangle formed by Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah
to the West and Tikrit to the northwest. The area possesses several
features that facilitate this development. The Sunni Triangle had
historically been a base of support for Saddam's regime, and as such
has the most to lose by the occupation in terms of material benefits
and political privileges. For instance, senior members of Saddam's
military and security agencies and the Ba'ath party came
disproportionately from this area. By dissolving the Iraqi armed
forces the US-led occupation authorities created an army of
disgruntled military commanders and soldiers concentrated in this
Moreover the Triangle is a largely tribal area where arms are abundant
and tribal traditions, such as revenge killings, have deep roots. So
the more operations the Americans launch to "pacify" the local
population, the more that population seems determined to inflict
casualties on the Americans, in revenge. Another characteristic of
this area is that its political outlook has historically combined
traditional Islam and Arab nationalism, which makes people deeply
offended by the presence of non-Muslim forces in their lands.
There is also considerable resistance activity in other areas. On June
27 the US army said that a soldier was killed near Najaf while he was
investigating a car theft. In another attack four soldiers from the
173rd Airborne Brigade were injured during an attack on a patrol
Kirkuk on August 9. A number of attacks have also taken place in
Ba'quba, most of whose inhabitants are Shi'ites.
But so far most Shi'ite authorities in Iraq have called for peaceful
political resistance to occupation. The fact that the main Shi'ite
authorities have yet to decide to join the armed resistance is rooted
in their fear that the brutal regime of Saddam might return. But the
desire of the Iraqi Shi'ite community, concentrated mainly in central
and southern Iraq, for liberation from occupation is abundantly clear.
This longing for independence is shown in the slogan heard in rallies
and demonstrations held by members of the Shi'ite community : Kalla,
kalla, Amrika! Kalla, kalla, Saddam! ("No, no to America! No, no to
The question remains how long it will be before the contagion of
guerrilla warfare reaches the Shi'ite-dominated centre and south. It
seems to be only a matter of time before the armed resistance spreads
to other parts of Iraq. Some developments would probably expedite this
process. One would be the elimination or capture of Saddam. This would
remove the fears that armed resistance might eventually contribute to
the return of the Ba'athist regime. This, along with the escalating
heavy-handedness of the American forces, would also facilitate what
has come to be known as the "Golden Fatwa" (al-fatwa al-dhahabiyyah)
by Shi'ite authorities calling for armed resistance. Ideally a joint
fatwa on this, issued by both Shi'ite and Sunni authorities, would
pave the way for a national framework for resistance that transcends
tribal and sectarian cleavages and transforms resistance into an
instrument of national unity.
Although it is still far from being a full-scale insurgency supported
by a full-fledged mass movement, the Iraqi resistance has contributed
to low morale among US troops. Most of the 146,000 American soldiers
currently stationed in Iraq are unprepared for dangerous urban
warfare. They were originally expecting to leave Iraq in May. A number
of them have given statements to the press criticising their
As armed resistance becomes more organised and escalates, such signs
of flagging morale in the ranks of US troops will inevitably mount.
This will in turn erode domestic support for war in the US, thus
forcing American decision-makers to rethink their Iraqi adventure.