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Iraq: Najaf « Previous | |Next »
August 22, 2004

The news from Najaf is confusing. I have have very little sense of the state of play.

We had reports earlier in the week that Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters had been defeated, and that they had handed over the keys of the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf to a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. No agreement has been reached between Sadr and the Shiite religious hierarchy on the precise terms for ceding control of the shrine.

Then we had reports of heavy fighting, which keeps on continuing. On this account Sadr's Shia militia is holding its own. Others say the US and multinational force (MNF-1) is winning this round.


From what I can gather the U.S. is trying to force Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia out of the shrine of Ali, to disband the “al Mehdi” militia and restore the city to occupation control. So, if the US military backs down now the credibility of the new client Allawi regime will be tattered. It looks as if the siege will continue.

What we can figure out is that the resistance to the US occupation is now being led by fundamentalist Shiites who want to impose an Iraqi state run by Islamist on a population, which does not want to become a clone of Iran. The siege of Najaf does highlight how the MNF-1 uses excessive force to deal with acts of resistance to the occupation. The aim is to overpower the Shiite Islamists and maintain enough security to manage Iraq's future.

There is little awareness in Australia that the US has been bombing the sacred cemetery and parts of the Najaf, reducing some parts of the city to rubble; or that the Howard Government supports a desecration of a sacred Muslim cemetery. Bombing the city of Najaf is hardly winning the "battle for the hearts and minds" of the Iraqis.

Yet the official government line is that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the occupiers, that they support their new Allawi government, that the "war on terror" is being won, and that Australians are now much safer.

Does the siege of Najaf suggest that the Allawi client regime and the Americans control little of the countryside of Iraq, and only parts of Baghdad? We know that the highways are littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks and that tn the summer heat Baghdad has the smell of death.

So I guess the chaos means that our fuel prices will continue to increase.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)