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Iraq: cut and run « Previous | |Next »
April 5, 2004

They do have lots of problems in Iraq.

Bruce Petty

The Shiites are calling for Australia's withdrawal from Iraq. A reasonable suggestion since Iraqi nationalists hold that Iraq is an Arab country under American occupation and Iraqis have the right to fight back. Meanwhile the Australian chickenhawks strut around the country saying that Australia will never cut and run. Those who suggest withdrawal are appeasers.

The protests have turned bloody in Iraq. There has been a dramatic escalation of fighting in Iraq between US soldiers and the supporters of local Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. It is difficult to get a clear idea of what happened.

Is it armed troops firing on demonstrators? Or is it armed conflict? Have the Shiites decided to fight the US occupation? It appears to be the latter as the radical Shiites have attacked coalition bunkers and taken control of Iraqi police stations, checkpoints and other government buildings. It was the Iraqi police and civil defence services that cut and run.

Juan Cole says that it would appear that the Coalition decided to pick a fight with Muqtada al-Sadr. The CPA closed down his newspaper al-Hawza, on the grounds that it was publishing material that incited violence against Coalition troops. It also issued arrest warrants. That's a deliberate provocation.

Juan Cole says that this represents a new level of resistance to the US occupation. Previously, the US military was directed at the Sunni triangle; currently a major operation in Fallujah is underway as the US moves to round up those behind last week's bloody attacks there. Now the Iraqi Shiites, who were initially grateful for the removal of Saddam Hussein, have turned against the United States. The US is now fighting dual Sunni Arab and Shiite insurgencies simultaneously. That means the US is potentially facing a two-front war against the Sunni radicals in the center-north and Shiite militias in the South.

Why is the US is doing this when it says it is turning over sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30? In picking a fight, are they not increasing the possibility of turning Iraq into an endless cycle of atrocity and retaliation?

Abu Aardvark suggests that the US strategy is that "Sadr's forces represented a time bomb that would eventually have gone off anyway, so the US might as well confront him militarily now rather than closer to the handoff of power."

On the other hand, the Islamist forces in Iraq could see the June 30th handover as the US doing a cut and run in the face of insurgency, violence and chaos. In the Middle East that would be interpreted as undercutting the triumphalist mentality embodied in the Bush administration's rehabilitation of empire.

In this report Paul McGeough says that:

"The Shiite revolt is the single worst development to face the US occupiers. Until now they have presumed that the threat came from a persistent but minority Sunni and foreign-assisted insurgency, but just over a year since the fall of Saddam Hussein they are forced to contemplate having to put down the 60-plus per cent Shiite majority on which they had reckoned for support....A spokesman for the spiritual leader of the Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for calm. But significantly, he also told reporters that the demonstrators' cause was "legitimate" and he spoke out against "acts waged by the coalition forces."

It looks as if the US has lost broad community support within Iraq.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:13 PM | | Comments (0)