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[casi-analysis] Najaf: Bush Started It

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Hope this is useful. Am circulating a PDF two-sided A4 version of this


NAJAF: Bush Ignited This Insurgency, Not Muqtada al-Sadr
JNV Anti-War Briefing 60 (13 Aug. 2004)

The United States has launched a war against a large part of the Iraqi
people. It is the Bush Administration’s desire for total domination, not
the militancy of Shia insurgents, that has triggered this latest uprising.
The US is trying to tame the Shia majority.

At the time of writing, US forces have surrounded the most holy site in
Shia Islam, the Imam Ali mosque in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, after
eight days of fierce fighting with the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr,
reportedly leaving hundreds dead. Elsewhere, ‘US air strikes and fighting
on the ground in the [largely Shia] Iraqi city of Kut have left 72 people
dead and about 150 injured,’ according to the interim Iraqi government.
(BBC News Online, 12 Aug.)

‘British troops [have also] fought fierce battles with militants in Amara
and Basra... British toops launched an offensive overnight on Tuesday [10
Aug.] against Shia fighters in the southern town of Amara, killing 10 of
them, the militiamen said. Hospital officials in the town said four
civilians had also died.’ (Telegraph, 12 Aug., p. 12)

‘The purpose was to regain control of al-Amarah,’ said Squadron Leader
Spike Wilson, British forces spokesperson. (‘British troops kill 10’,
Times, 12 Aug.) Control is what it’s all about.

‘One of the biggest challenges to the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi,
is to stamp his authority on the capital. Sadr City, as the Shia suburb in
north-east Baghdad is known, has increasingly started to ressemble 1980s
Beirut. Scores have died in the past week as American tanks and fighter
aircraft have fought the insurgents.’ (Telegraph, 12 Aug., p. 12)

Adrian Blomfield of the Telegraph visited Sadr City: ‘That civilians are
being killed by US troops is not in doubt. In a pool of blood on a
hospital operating room floor yesterday, doctors were battling to save the
life of six-year-old Ali Hussain—shot in the belly’ by soldiers in a US
tank. The doctors said, ‘We have had at least 20 dead brought in today.’
(Telegraph, 12 Aug., p. 12)

Mehdi Nouri, a shopkeeper in Sadr City, said: ‘The Americans can never win
us back now. The Americans are frightened of ordinary Iraqi people, that
is why they hate us. We are frightened of them, that is why we hate them.
In such a situation we can only see death and more deaths. We are begging
the Americans to leave.’ (Telegraph, 12 Aug., p. 12)

This is a US assault on Najaf. ‘Iraqi government troops are also involved,
though their participation may be largely for political reasons—not least
to signal that this is an operation that has the full backing of Iraq’s
interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.’ (Jonathan Marcus, Diplomatic
Correspondent, BBC News Online, 12 Aug.)

‘Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, has laid his credibility on the
line by promising total destruction of [Sadr’s] Mahdi army.’ (Telegraph,
12 Aug., p. 12) However, ‘Ibrahim al-Jaafari, one of Iraq’s two
vice-presidents and leader of the biggest Shia party, the Da’awa,
yesterday [11 Aug.] said US troops should stop fighting in Najaf and leave
the job to Iraqi security forces.’ (Guardian, 12 Aug., p. 3)

Jaafari ‘has topped opinion polls as Iraq’s most popular politician’
earlier this year. (FT, 12 Aug., p. 7)

‘A diplomatic source in Baghdad said yesterday that it was unclear why the
cleric was leading the bloody uprising, the second that he has instigated
in four months.’ (‘British troops kill 10’, Times, 12 Aug.) Media
reporting has done its best to obscure the origins of the violence.

The simple truth is that, as in the case of the first ‘Sadr uprising’,
this violence has been ‘instigated’ not by Shia militants, but by the
United States.

Go back to the beginning, 2 Aug.: ‘US forces in Iraq went on the offensive
against two Islamist political groups yesterday [2 Aug.], arresting an
influential Sunni cleric in Baghdad and breaking a two-month ceasefire
with followers of Shia radical Moqtada al-Sadr, based in Kufa. Sheikh
Mahmoud al-Sudani, a spokesman for Mr Sadr in Baghdad, told journalists
that US soldiers had surrounded Mr Sadr’s house. Reuters news agency
quoted witneses saying that US forces had moved into Mr Sadr’s
neighbourhood in Kufa, next to Najaf, and were exchanging fire with
members of Mr Sadr’s Shia militia, the Mehdi Army.’ (FT, 3 Aug., p. 9)

Interestingly, despite later denials, it was clear in first reports that
the mission was to arrest Sadr: ‘The US military says an Iraqi arrest
warrant has been issued for Sadr in relation to the killing of a rival
cleric in Najaf last year.’ The Independent also noted that ‘during truce
negotiations earlier this year, Iraqi officials said Sadr would not face
arrest.’ (Independent, 3 Aug., p. 25) Another lie.

A few days later Sabah Khadim, a senior adviser to the Allawi government,
indirectly confirmed that arresting Sadr is a priority: ‘Asked whether Mr
Sadr would be arrested, Mr Khadim said: “We don’t know exactly where he
is, but we will fight all criminals. It does not matter how big they are.’
(Guardian, 7 Aug., p. 1)

The 2 Aug. raid was followed by ‘days of mounting tension during which Mr
Sadr’s supporters seized 18 Iraqi police officers in response to the
arrest of several of the cleric’s senior aides.’ Full-scale violence in
Najaf came on 4 Aug. (Guardian, 6 Aug., p. 2)

It wasn’t until 5 Aug. that ‘Militants linked to the firebrand cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr declared holy war on British forces’. In Basra, British
forces had arrested four Sadr supporters on 3 Aug. Fighting broke out on 5
Aug. ‘after the expiry of a noon deadline to release them.’ (Telegraph, 6
Aug., p. 14)

All this is very like the start of the spring ‘Sadr uprising’, which was
triggered ‘after the US-led occupation authorities closed his newspaper,
arrested a key aide and called for his arrest over the killing of a
moderate Shia leader.’ (BBC News Online, 16 June)

On 5 Aug., a Sadr spokesperson in Amara said of this latest violence,
quite accurately, ‘The ceasefire is over because of the  actions of the
occupation forces.’ (Telegraph, 6 Aug., p. 14)

Despite all this, on the same day, ‘a spokesman for Mr Sadr called for the
restoration of a truce agreed in June between Mr Sadr’s forces and US
troops.’ (FT, 6 Aug., p. 5)

The governor of Najaf, Adnan al-Zurufi, responded to this appeal with the
statement that, ‘There is no compromise or room for another truce.’
(Times, 7 Aug., p. 18)

A US diplomat said, ‘This is one battle we really do feel we can win.’
(Telegraph, 7 Aug., p. 12)

No more ceasefires.

The reason Sadr wants a ceasefire is because he wants to become part of
the political process. As part of the first truce, ‘Mr Sadr issued a
statement calling on his men who are not from Najaf to “do their duty” and
go home... [and] announced he would set up a political party to contest
elections next year.’ (‘Sadr orders militia to quit Najaf’, BBC News
Online, 16 June)

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Baghdad suggested that the order for
non-resident fighters to leave Najaf might be ‘a tentative step to secure
a place in a future Iraqi government.’ Sadr ‘urged supporters not attack
Iraqi security forces, and said the recently formed interim government was
a opportunity to “build a unified Iraq”.’ (‘Sadr orders militia to quit
Najaf’, BBC News Online, 16 June)

Sadr was no longer calling the interim government a puppet of the US; he
was preparing for political, not military, mobilisation.

It is precisely the political strength of the Shia majority that the
Allawi government and the Bush Administration fear and wish to destroy.
That is why they launched the raid to capture Sadr. That is why they are
willing to invade Najaf and kill hundreds. That is why they are assaulting
Shia communities all over Iraq.

It is not Sadr’s guns, but his votes that pose a threat to US domination.
Elections (even the national assembly conference) cannot be held until the
opposition has been co-opted or crushed.

Private Lee O’Callaghan, who was killed in fighting in Basra on 9 Aug. was
due to return to the UK the following week. His aunt, Margaret Evans,
said, ‘My message to Tony Blair is we should not be there. Why are we in
Iraq? My message would be,
get the rest of the kids out.’ (Telegraph, 11 Aug., p. 10)

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