The Iraqi resistance may merely want the Americans and other westerners out of Iraq, but bin Laden’s goal is more ample: to rid the entire Middle East of “crusader” influence. Though bin Laden is an unapologetic religious fundamentalist, it is his nationalist “foreign policy” that gains him as many supporters among the Arab masses as his strong beliefs in the infallibillity of the Koran.
BY PEPE ESCOBAR
The ultimate nightmare for White House/Pentagon designs on Middle East energy resources is not Iran after all: it’s a unified Iraqi
resistance, comprising not only Sunnis but also Shi’ites.
“It’s the resistance, stupid” – along with “it’s the oil, stupid”.
The intimate connection means there’s no way for Washington to
control Iraq’s oil without protecting it with a string of sprawling
The ultimate, unspoken taboo of the Iraq tragedy is that the US will
never leave Iraq, unless, of course, it is kicked out. And that’s
exactly what the makings of a unified Sunni-Shi’ite resistance is
set to accomplish.
Papa’s got a brand new bag
At this critical juncture, it’s as if the overwhelming majority of
Sunnis and Shi’ites are uttering a collective cry of “we’re mad as
hell, and we won’t take it anymore”. The US Senate “suggests” that
the solution is to break up the country. Blackwater and assorted
mercenaries kill Iraqi civilians with impunity. Iraqi oil is being
privatized via shady deals – like Hunt Oil with the Kurdistan
regional government; Ray Hunt is a close pal of George W Bush.
Political deals in the Green Zone are just a detail in the big
picture. On the surface the new configuration spells that the US-
supported Shi’ite/Kurdish coalition in power is now challenged by an
Iraqi nationalist bloc. This new bloc groups the Sadrists, the
(Shi’ite) Fadhila party, all Sunni parties, the partisans of former
interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, and the partisans of former
prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. This bloc might even summon
enough votes to dethrone the current, wobbly Maliki government.
But what’s more important is that a true Iraqi national pact is in
the making – coordinated by VicePresident Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni,
and blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani himself. The key
points of this pact are, no more sectarianism (thus undermining US
strategy of divide and rule); no foreign interference (thus no
following of US, Iran, or Saudi agendas); no support for al-Qaeda in
the Land of the Two Rivers; and the right to armed resistance
against the occupation.
Last Friday Grand Ayatollah Sistani finally confronted the
occupation in no uncertain terms. Via Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, his
representative in the holy city of Karbala, Sistani called for the
Iraqi parliament to rein in Blackwater et al, and most of all
the “occupation forces”. He has never spoken out in such blunt
For his part Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic
Iraqi Council (SIIC), one of the two key, US-supported Shi’ite
parties in government, is back in Baghdad after four months of
chemotherapy in Tehran. But it’s his son, the affable Ammar al-
Hakim – who was the acting SIIC leader while his father was away –
who’s been stealing the limelight, promising that the party will do
everything in its power to prevent those US super-bases being set up
in Iraq. Up to now SIIC’s official position has been to support the
US military presence.
Ammar al-Hakim even went to Ramadi on Sunday to talk to Sheikh Ahmed
Abu Risha, brother of the late Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the former
leader of the tribal coalition Anbar Awakening Council who was
killed by a bomb last month. It was the first time since the
invasion and occupation that a SIIC leader went to hardcore Sunni
Anbar province. Ammar al-Hakim glowingly described the dead sheikh
as “a national hero”.
Most interesting is that Ammar al-Hakim was flanked by none other
than feared Hadi al-Amri, the leader of the Badr Brigades – the SIIC
militia trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, that in fact
comprises the bulk of death squads involved in the avalanche of
Ammar al-Hakim may now be against permanent US bases and in favor of
Sunni-Shi’ite union. But although he now says he is against
federalism, he’s actually in favor of “self-governing regions”. That
makes him for many Iraqis a partisan of “soft partition” –- just
like US congressmen. He qualifies the central government in Baghdad
For their part the Sunni Arab sheikhs in Anbar are totally against
what would be a Western Iraq provincial government – possibly
encompassing three, majority-Sunni provinces, Anbar, Salahuddin and
If on one Shi’ite side we have Ammar al-Hakim from SIIC, on the
other side – literally – we have Muqtada al-Sadr. The same day Ammar
al-Hakim was courting the tribal sheikhs, pan-Islamic Muqtada was
saying he was against any soft partition or provincial governments.
That’s exactly what the sheikhs like to hear.
So now, in theory, everyone in the Shi’ite galaxy seems to want
(more or less) the same thing. Tehran worked very hard to forge the
recent peace pact between the al-Hakim family and the Sadrists. SIIC
and Sistani are now explicitly saying that a unified Iraq must rein
in the Pentagon and throw out the occupation – that’s what Muqtada
had been saying all along. Tehran and Tehran-supported SIIC must
obviously have seen which way the Shi’ite street wind was blowing,
so now we have a new, anti-sectarian, anti-occupation SIIC.
But it will require concentric halos of forgiveness for Sunnis to
forget that the Badr Brigades have been responsible for a great deal
of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, have cynically collaborated in
synch with both the US and Iran, and have been focused on building a
virtually independent “Shi’iteistan” in southern Iraq.
‘We want you out’
Away from the Anbar sheikhs, the Sunni front is also moving fast.
Last week six key, non-Salafi jihadist resistance groups, on a video
on al-Jazeera, officially announced their union under the “Political
Council of the Iraqi Resistance”. They are the Islamic Army in Iraq,
the al-Mujahideen Army, Ansar al-Sunna, al-Fatiheen Army, the
Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (JAMI), and Iraqi Hamas.
The whole process has been on the move since early summer. The
council has a 14-point program. The key point is of course guerrilla
warfare as the means to throw the occupiers out. A very important
point – deriding the usual Pentagon rhetoric – is that the council
is fiercely against al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers. The
council also rejects all laws and the constitution passed under the
occupation; calls for an interim government; defends Iraq’s
territorial integrity and rejects sectarianism.
It has been the Sunni Arab guerrillas that have virtually defeated
the US in Iraq. And what’s even more remarkable is that, unlike
Vietnam, this has not been a unified resistance of Sunnis and
A very important issue concerns a group that decided not to be part
of the council: the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The brigades are
basically Iraqi nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist.
They totally reject any sort of collaboration with the US.
But they may join the council in the near future. In a statement
released in early September, the brigades stressed what an
overwhelming majority of Sunnis agree on: “The democrats have a
chance to end this conflict in a face-saving solution for the US, by
first declaring that they recognize the factions of the Iraqi
resistance as the representatives of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi
Republic. After which a negotiating team would be arranged to
negotiate your troop withdrawal, compensation for Iraq, and matters
of future interest. It is only through the Iraqi resistance that a
solution may be born.”
Or else, it’s “variable, adaptable and reversible asymmetric warfare
that will set the standard for years and years to come”.
And there’s still more – the coordinated, “new Ba’ath” front: 22
resistance groups, under the command of former Saddam star Izaat al-
Douri, already seriously talking with the Iyad Allawi bloc – thus
part of the nationalist front – and dictating their conditions,
which include a resistance ceasefire in exchange for a precise US
timetable for withdrawal.
As far as all the key Sunni and Shi’ite factions in Iraq are
concerned, they all agree on the basics. Iraq won’t be occupied.
Iraq won’t hold permanent US military bases. Iraq won’t give up its
oil wealth. And Iraq won’t be a toothless pro-Israel puppet regime.
As far as a concerted Iraqi resistance is concerned, the only way is
up. What a historic irony that would be – before the Bush
administration is finally tempted to attack Iran, it may have to
face a true benchmark imposed on it in Iraq.
Pepe Escobar is a columnist with Asia Times, and a correspondent with the new The Real News Network, a radical web-borne television news network.
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