Site Navigation

Civil war in Iraq

21. January 2007

We continue to support the resistance

We speak plain language: the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq has grown in the course of the last six months into a sort of civil war.

It helps little, to simply argue against this position by pointing out that all this has been caused by the machinations of the USA and of Zionism – as many of our friends in the resistance like to do. Surely the USA contributed substantially to this split, without however carrying this on their banner from the outset. For the civil war does not indicate by any means the success of Washington, but its total fiasco, its complete loss of control of the situation.

One can take part in the search for the historical context of the conflict. But it was not inevitable that the conflict had to come so far. Or to put it differently: the central reasons lie decisively in the current conflict of interest.

In order to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Baath regime, the neocons threw all the precepts of previous US policies in the region out the window. Even in 1991 Washington considered the Baath to be the lesser evil in relation to pro-Iranian Shiite political Islam and accordingly allowed Saddam to crush the Shiite rebellion. Until 2003 the fear of Iran and the expansion of its influence on the entire Shatt el Arab region and beyond had the greatest weight in Washington.

The neocons believed they would be able to sweep away all political obstacles with armed power. At first they dreamed they would be able to establish by means of their direct political agents Chalabi and Allawi a loyal puppet regime similar to those with which they [the U.S.] rule half the world. But this failed thoroughly. Not only did the raw wind of the resistance–especially that carried out by the Sunni part of the population–strike them. But what happened with the regime that the U.S. itself put in power was exactly that which the old US power elites had warned about — it fell under the control of per-Iranian forces, for which the US occupation represents only the lesser evil in relation to the Saddam regime and which under changed circumstances can easily turn against the USA.

Washington had thus sat down between two chairs. From the former “dual containment” policy that was the political line of the USA at the gulf since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, they were now in a position of dual alienation.

The pro-Iranian forces established a terror regime in Bagdad. At its core were the Badr brigades of the Hakim family, which are bound directly to the Iranian military apparatus. With approval and support of Washington they organized first a witchhunt directed at the remaining Baath Party members. Their U.S. backers euphemistically called this revenge campaign “debaathification.” But the more the resistance expanded, the more the resistance itself became the target of death-squad terror. After the resistance had obtained the broadest support in the Sunni population, the death-squad attacks took on an anti-Sunni character.

For the outbreak of the civil war there are clearly guilty parties. Alongside Washington there is also Teheran with its local allies.

The resistance naturally fought back against the attacks. It tried to do it in a non-sectarian way. But in view of the strong Islamic coloring of the national resistance, it was impossible to avoid noticing that sectarian retaliations were carried out. Particularly the salafitic [hardline Sunni] currents (Al-Qaeda is only one of them) used this situation to drive their openly chauvinistic anti-Shiite campaign. Although this form of Islam has no historical roots in Iraq, in the light of the situation described above, it was able to bear fruit in the political soil there.

Thus now the spiral of sectarian attack and counterattack has apparently turned inexorably into a civil war. By doing this it has also slid out of control of the USA, insofar as it strengthens forces that are not under U.S. control, that are loose cannons, and that can even turn against the U.S. To this can be added that the USA has described its invasion as an export of democracy, peace and prosperity. The world can only evaluate the chaos in which Iraq finds itself today as an indication of U.S. weakness, which diminishes U.S. credibility and with this its power.

But this situation also changes at least provisionally the perspective of establishing a national resistance front that would include a significant part of the Shiite political spectrum. The greatest disappointment thereby is with the movement of the impoverished Shiite masses under the guidance of Muqtada al-Sadr. Not only we, but even parts of the resistance had not until the last period given up hope that he would link up with them. Actually there were promising indications this could happen. Besides having made calls on the USA to unconditionally leave Iraq, there were the rebellions 2004, the solidarity with besieged Falluja then, as well as the refusal to support the divisive Constitution of 2005 with a vehement position taken against the division of the country.

On the occasion of the 2005 elections we stated that the actual winner was Muqtada and thus closest US-collaborators among the Shiite political forces had suffered a blow. The al-Maliki regime found itself connected with Muqtada, who became the principal support of the regime in Bagdad. On the other hand, the consequence of this was that Muqtada and his Mahdi army, despite different phrased rhetoric, were pulled in into the civil war on the Shiite side and the resistance rightfully considered Muqtada responsible for the policy of the government. The execution of Saddam at the end of 2006 sealed the break, with which obviously members of Muqtada’s party took the role of hangmen and tried to humiliate Saddam during the execution. Meanwhile, because of his steadfast anti-occupation positions Saddam became the symbol of the resistance, regardless of possible points of criticism. The gruesome production of the hanging itself was seen by the resistance as a common attack by the USA and its Shiite Islamic allies — including Muqtada; this is a chasm that will not be mended in the foreseeable future.

As we have from the outset, we stand now on the side of the resistance, and thus against the Maliki government and its ally Muqtada. In this situation one can only show strength and continue the struggle. If the basic conditions and the international constellation should change, the resistance may try again to reach out its hand. Perhaps then it will be accepted.

The political opposition to the large formations of Shiite political Islam in Iraq as well as the quasi-occupation policies of Iran regarding its neighbor should not be allowed to lead under any circumstances to anti-Shiite and chauvinistic anti-Iranian attitudes, though these attitudes are common in Sunni milieus. Further, the struggle must be led as a national and political struggle, although it cannot be denied that in the mass base of the resistance the Sunni Arabs are predominant.

Enough potential breaking points are present in the Shiite community. On the one hand the USA is threatening aggression against Iran and its Shiite supporters, which can only strengthen the anti-U.S. tendency – apart from the fact that the occupation itself is rejected among the Shiites. On the other hand the Iraqi Shiites also share an Arab identity that will probably not eternally be able to put up with too strong a patronizing attitude from Tehran. It is also the responsibility of the resistance to promote these breaking points and to present an acceptable program to the Shiites.

It is highly probably that the unification of the Sunni and Shiite opponents of the occupation into a common front would unleash enough power to drive the invaders from the country

Willi Langthaler
14 January 2006
[Translated from the German-language magazine “Intifada“]