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Today's Topics:

   1. The law chief who bowed to Blair (bluepilgrim)
   2. Fallujah: A War Crime in Real Time by Prof. FRANCIS A. BOYLE (John Churchilly)
   3. Iraqi Farmers Aren't Celebrating World Food Day (bluepilgrim)
   4. When will they ever learn? (
   5. The Sunni-Shi'ite power struggle (


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 15:55:00 -0600
From: bluepilgrim <>
Subject: The law chief who bowed to Blair

The law chief who bowed to Blair
John Kampfner
Monday 22nd November 2004

EXCLUSIVE: The NS reveals how, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Tony Blair
and George Bush leant on Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, to change
his mind on the legality of the war. By John Kampfner

As Tony Blair implores the nation to appreciate the benefits of the
so-called special relationship, more evidence has emerged of the extent of
the Bush administration's pressure on the British government in the run-up
to war against Iraq.

We already knew that the Prime Minister agreed to back George W Bush's war
plans as early as April 2002. He was concerned about regime change and
needed to find another reason - weapons of mass destruction - to justify
military action politically and legally. What is less known is how Blair,
together with the Americans, leaned on the UK Attorney General, Lord
Goldsmith, to change his mind about the legality of the war. That story can
now be told.

A commercial barrister and personal friend of the Blairs, with little
experience of international law, Goldsmith shifted his position on the
legality of war not once, but twice. He was asked by Blair to stay silent
until he could guarantee that his advice was helpful in justifying war.
Even then, his first attempt was not deemed positive enough, so at the last
minute a new version was produced. If any of the doubts had been made
public, Britain's armed forces could have been vulnerable to legal challenge.

So sensitive is the whole affair that Goldsmith was reluctant to speak
about it during his two appearances before the Butler inquiry earlier this
year. His testimony was regarded as evasive and unconvincing. Initially, he
even suggested that he could not show the committee the contentious legal
advice he provided to Blair on 7 March 2003, which has never been made
public. The five-person committee was flabbergasted. Goldsmith gave in to
their demand only after they told him they would abandon their inquiry and
announce why they had done so.

Between September 2002 and February 2003, Goldsmith let it be known,
usually verbally, that he could not sanction military action without
specific United Nations approval. He indicated that resolution 1441, passed
unanimously by the UN Security Council in November 2002, did not provide
that automatic trigger, and that a further resolution was necessary.

Throughout this period, Blair was fully aware of the Attorney General's
reservations. For that reason, he instructed him not to declare his
position formally. When challenged by one cabinet minister in autumn 2002
as to why the government had not yet received formal advice from Goldsmith,
Blair responded: "I'll ask him when I have to, and not before."

Blair, although a lawyer himself, made it clear throughout that the
legalities were an unwelcome distraction. He had allowed himself to be won
over to the American position. This was that resolution 687, passed in 1991
at the end of the first Gulf war, gave any permanent member of the UN
Security Council the right at any point to declare Iraq in further material
breach of its obligations to get rid of its WMD. The long-held British
view, in common with just about every other country, was that only the
Security Council itself could make such a judgement.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, let it be known to his
department throughout the autumn of 2002 that he disagreed with his own
legal team. The lawyers took a clear and united view. At one meeting he
flatly overruled them, causing them to appeal to Goldsmith to act as an
arbiter. Goldsmith, crucially, told them they knew what his view was but he
could not give formal advice. The implication was that Blair would not let
him. The two offices work closely; usually, one Foreign Office legal person
is seconded to the Attorney General. If at any point during this period
Goldsmith had disagreed with the Foreign Office legal opinion, he had ample
opportunity to tell them. From November 2002, all the lawyers worked on the
basis that a second resolution was not just desirable but a legal
requirement. That included the entire Foreign Office legal team, led by
Michael Wood, whose deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned on the eve of
war. Wood did not. In the 2004 New Year Honours List, he received a

Goldsmith was uneasy. In late January 2003, he wrote a memorandum to Blair
expressing his concerns. In mid-February, he was instructed to go to
Washington to hold talks with senior American officials. The Butler report
refers obliquely to how the Attorney General "met members of the US
administration who as co-sponsors of the resolution [1441] had detailed
knowledge of the negotiation of the resolution". He met not just his US
counterpart, John Ashcroft, but a powerful behind-the-scenes figure called
John Bellinger. Bellinger's formal title is senior associate counsel to the
president and legal adviser to the National Security Council. He is
responsible for advising on US and international law on national security,
use of force, intelligence and terrorism.

After that trip, Goldsmith agreed to produce the legal advice Blair sought.
His 13-page paper set out in detail the status of the various UN
resolutions. He did not give a definitive view, but suggested that the
government's case would have been "safer" if it had been based on a further
reference to the UN on the eve of war. In his conclusion, he set out the
potential for legal challenges to the government. In a break with the
ministerial code, Goldsmith's advice to Blair on 7 March was not circulated
to either the cabinet or the permanent secretaries of key government
departments. When asked about this by Butler, the PM suggested he could not
trust some members of his cabinet with such papers. Blair's answer to the
committee that day confirmed its worst fears about his approach to the
machinery of government and led it to conclude: "We are concerned that the
informality and circumscribed character of the government's procedures
which we saw in the context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing
the scope for informed collective political judgement."

A copy of Goldsmith's document was sent to the office of the Chief of
Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, as would normally be the case on
the eve of war. He responded by saying that it was too equivocal, and that
he needed a more definitive declaration if he was to commit his forces, and
to ensure that they or their officers did not become liable under
international law.

Goldsmith, still deeply uncomfortable, felt he could not give that
definitive response. When asked about this during his hearings before
Butler, he suggested it was the Prime Minister's call to make the final
determination on WMD. Never before had an Attorney General felt unable to
give legal direction on his own. On 14 March, as the Butler report states,
the legal secretary to the Attorney General wrote to Blair's private
secretary asking for confirmation that "it is unequivocally the Prime
Minister's view that Iraq has committed further material breaches as
specified in . . . resolution 1441". The following day, he received such an
assurance that "it is indeed the Prime Minister's unequivocal view that
Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations."

Blair knew that Goldsmith's advice of 7 March, if released, might not be
strong enough to convince wavering Labour MPs ahead of the crucial Commons
vote. That weekend, the Attorney General was asked to produce something
more compelling. His final version was published on 17 March, on the eve of
the debate, in the form of a written parliamentary answer described as "the
Attorney General's view of the legal basis for the use of force against
Iraq". This was not the same as his formal legal advice to the Prime
Minister. Contrary to the public assertions of several ministers, this was
not a "summary" of the legal advice.

Blair, who knew the real story, made sure he avoided that formulation. This
was a partial, tendentious account of that advice, shorn of various caveats
and qualifications that Goldsmith had included ten days earlier. A
qualified document had become a document of advocacy. Sexing up had become
a habit.

Goldsmith was asked to appear before the cabinet on 17 March to present the
case. Sitting in the chair previously occupied by Robin Cook, who had just
resigned, he read out his brief statement before Blair moved the discussion
on. Questions were not permitted. On the 23 occasions that Iraq had been on
the agenda for cabinet discussions, this was the first time a member of the
cabinet can recall the Attorney General attending. In the space of a year,
a man who had shared the doubts of almost the entire legal establishment
about the lawfulness of a war without an unequivocal endorsement from the
UN had been prevailed upon to cast those doubts aside. In the fraught weeks
of Feb- ruary and March 2003, Goldsmith told lawyer friends that his
position was impossible. He wondered out loud whether he should stay in his
job. He did the business, and did stay. What was published on the eve of
war was not the legal advice. The legal advice of 7 March, which has never
been released, did not sanction war.

Blair took it upon himself to make a final determination that was not his
to make.


This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current
and cultural affairs<>
subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.


Message: 2
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 14:16:17 -0800 (PST)
From: John Churchilly <>
Subject: Fallujah: A War Crime in Real Time by Prof. FRANCIS A. BOYLE

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

November 15, 2004
A War Crime in Real TimeObliterating Fallujah

The obliteration of Fallujah continues apace. Article 6(b) of the 1945 Nure=
mberg Charter defines a Nuremberg War Crime in relevant part as the ". . . =
wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages. . ." According to this def=
initive definition, the Bush Jr. administration's destruction of Fallujah c=
onstitutes a war crime for which Nazis were tried and executed. There is no=
thing surprising about that.

Since the Bush Jr. administration's installation in power by the United Sta=
tes Supreme Court in January of 2001, the peoples of the world have witness=
ed a government in the United States of America that has demonstrated littl=
e if any respect for fundamental considerations of international law, inter=
national organizations, and human rights, let alone appreciation of the req=
uirements for maintaining international peace and security. What the world =
has watched instead is a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integ=
rity of the international legal order by a group of men and women who are t=
horoughly Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and =
in their conduct of both foreign policy and domestic affairs. This is not s=
imply a question of giving or withholding the benefit of the doubt when it =
comes to complicated matters of foreign affairs and defense policies to a U=
.S. government charged with the security of both its own citizens and those=
 of its allies in
 Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and the Pacific. Rather, the Bush Jr. admi=
nistration's foreign policy constitutes ongoing criminal activity under wel=
l-recognized principles of both international law and U.S. domestic law, in=
 particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nurember=
g Principles. So their obliteration of Fallujah was to be expected.

One generation ago the peoples of the world asked themselves: Where were th=
e "good" Germans? Well, there were some good Germans. The Lutheran theologi=
an and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the foremost exemplar of someone who =
led a life of principled opposition to the Nazi-terror state even unto deat=

Today the peoples of the world are likewise asking themselves: Where are th=
e "good" Americans? Well, there are some good Americans. Like three Catholi=
c Nuns in Denver, they are getting arrested and going to jail for protestin=
g against United States weapons of mass destruction (WMD) whose power for h=
uman extermination far exceeds even the wildest fantasies of Hitler and the=
 Nazis. Or else for protesting against illegal U.S.. military interventions=
 around the world. Just recently the Nuclear Resister estimated that since =
the Fall of 2002, there have been more than 9,500 anti-war related arrests =
in the United States alone. Many more will be coming.

In international legal terms, the Bush Jr. administration itself should now=
 be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under internation=
al criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgme=
nt, and the Nuremberg Principles, due to its formulation and undertaking of=
 aggressive war policies that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the =
Nazi regime. As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right un=
der international law and the United States domestic law, including the U.S=
. Constitution, to engage in acts of non-violent civil resistance in order =
to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpet=
rated by U.S. government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs poli=
cies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-ter=

This same right of civil resistance extends pari passu to all citizens of t=
he world community of states. Everyone around the world has both the right =
and the duty under international law to resist ongoing criminal activities =
perpetrated by the Bush Jr. administration and its nefarious foreign accomp=
lices such as Blair, Berlusconi, Howard, Koizumi, Kwasniewski, etc. by all =
non-violent means possible. If it is not so restrained, the Bush Jr. admini=
stration could very well precipitate a Third World War.

The time for preventive action is now. Civil resistance is the way to go. P=
eople power can overcome power politics. Popular movements have succeeded i=
n toppling tyrannical, dictatorial and authoritarian regimes throughout for=
mer Communist countries in Eastern Europe, as well as in Asia, and most rec=
ently in Latin America. It is time once again to exercise People Power here=
 in the United States of America: "When in the Course of human Events. . . =
We hold these Truths to be self-evident. . . . we mutually pledge to each o=
ther our Lives, our Fortunes, and sacred Honor."

Despite the best efforts by the Bush Jr. Leaguers to the contrary, we Ameri=
can Citizens still have our First Amendment Rights: Freedom of Speech, Free=
dom of Association, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom to Petition our Government=
 for the Redress of these massive Grievances, Civil Resistance, etc. We are=
 going to have to start vigorously exercising all of our First Amendment Ri=
ghts right now. We must use them or else, as the saying goes, we will lose =
them. We must act not only for the good of the Peoples of Southwest Asia, b=
ut for our future, that of our children, that of our nation as a democratic=
 society committed to the Rule of Law and the U.S. Constitution. The Nazis =
had their "homeland" too.

Francis A. Boyle, Professor of Law, University of Illinois, is author of Fo=
undations of World Order, Duke University Press, The Criminality of Nuclear=
 Deterrence, and Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, by Clarity =
Press. He can be reached at: FBOYLE@LAW.UIUC.EDU


Francis A. Boyle
Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA
217-333-7954 (voice)
217-244-1478 (fax)
(personal comments only

Do you Yahoo!?
 Meet the all-new My Yahoo! =96 Try it today!


Message: 3
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2004 00:47:09 -0600
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: bluepilgrim <>
Subject: Iraqi Farmers Aren't Celebrating World Food Day

Iraqi Farmers Aren't Celebrating World Food Day
Nov 11, 2004

As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush
Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save
their seeds. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations
-- including seeds the Iraqis themselves developed over hundreds of years.
That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented
and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous
peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo:
Pay Monsanto, or starve.

  When the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) celebrated biodiversity
on World Food Day on October 16, Iraqi farmers were mourning its loss.

A new report [1] by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new
legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents
farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market
to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for
Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While
political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi
people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.

"The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade
deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their
patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one
of the report's authors.

Becoming Monsanto customers at the barrel of a US gun.

The new law in question [2] heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on
life forms - this first one affecting plants
and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture
in the future - that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on
large corporations providing inputs and seeds.

In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed
from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local
markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into
effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer
proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational
agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the
contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops
like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of
farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this
way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.

"If the FAO is celebrating 'Biodiversity for Food Security' this year, it
needs to demonstrate some real commitment", says Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN,
pointing out that the FAO has recently been cosying up with industry and
offering support for genetic engineering [3]. "Most importantly, the FAO
must recognise that biodiversity-rich farming and industry-led agriculture
are worlds apart, and that industrial agriculture is one of the leading
causes of the catastrophic decline in agricultural biodiversity that we
have witnessed in recent decades. The FAO cannot hope to embrace
biodiversity while holding industry's hand", he added.


 From GRAIN Shalini Bhutani in India [Tel: +91 11 243 15 168 (work) or +91
98 104 33 076 (cell)] or Alexis Vaughan in United Kingdom [Tel: +44 79 74
39 34 87 (mobile)]

 From Focus on the Global South Herbert Docena in Philippines [Tel:+63 2
972 382 3804]


[1] Visit
GRAIN and Focus' report is entitled "Iraq's new patent law: a declaration
of war against farmers". Against the grain is a series of short opinion
pieces on recent trends and developments in the issues that GRAIN works on.
This one has been produced collaboratively with Focus on the Global South.

[2] Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits
and Plant Variety Law of 2004, CPA Order No. 81, 26 April 2004,

[3] GRAIN, "FAO declares war on farmers, not hunger", New from Grain, 16
June 2004, <>



Message: 4
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 06:30:20 EST
Subject: When will they ever learn?

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

By Michael Schwartz 11-19-04

In the New York Times this week the first crack appeared in  the armor of the
"victory in Fallujah" facade maintained by the major US media  since the
battle began. Eric Schmitt and Robert Worth discuss a secret Marine  Corps report
that reveals the major bind the US has gotten itself into by  sweeping through
Fallujah and attempting to pacify it. This US strategy has  created exactly
the dilemma that many critics of the war had been predicting: in  order to hold
Fallujah the United States has to keep large numbers of troops  there, and
then the Americans will not have sufficient troops to handle the  uprising
elsewhere in the Sunni areas.

The problem is summarized thusly  in the New York Times article: "Senior
marine intelligence officers in Iraq are  warning that if American troop levels in
the Fallujah area are significantly  reduced during reconstruction there, as
has been planned, insurgents in the  region will rebound from their defeat.
The rebels could thwart the retraining of  Iraqi security forces, intimidate the
local population and derail elections set  for January, the officers say.

Beneath this general problem lie three  key problems that made the attack on
Fallujah a desperation measure in the first  place, and which is now creating
a new and deeper crisis for the US military in  its aftermath.

First, and most important, the people of Fallujah hate  the Americans and
support the guerrillas (even if they may have complaints about  much of what they
do). This means that as soon as the people return, so will the  resistance,
hidden from US view because virtually all the guerrillas are  residents of
Fallujah with supporters in the community. They will not be turned  over to the US
or to Iraqi police, and they will therefore begin to mount  attacks on
whoever is left to guard the US-installed local government.  Second, the US cannot
depend on Iraqi police or military to fight this  next phase of the "battle of
Fallujah". Here's how this problem was reported by  the Times: "Senior
officers have said that they would keep a sizable American  military presence in and
around Fallujah in the long reconstruction phase that  has just begun, until
sufficiently trained and equipped Iraqi forces could take  the lead in
providing security.

'It will take a security presence for a  while until a well-trained Iraqi
security force can take over the presence in  Fallujah and maintain security so
that the insurgents don't come back, as they  have tried to do in every one of
the cities that we have thrown them out of,'  General George W Casey Jr, the
top American commander in Iraq, said on November  8. American commanders have
expressed disappointment in some of the Iraqis they  have been training,
especially members of the Iraqi police force. Other troops  have performed well, the
officers have said."  The key thing here is that  when the Americans entered
the Fallujah battle they believed that the Iraqi  forces would be ready to
take over immediately after the city was cleared.

But the mass defections and unwillingness to fight exhibited by the  Iraqis
have forced a drastic revision in these estimates, so that now US  military
leaders are forced to keep a US presence  during the "long  reconstruction phase"
(read - "until  the
guerrilla attacks stop")  while they wait (probably in vain) for a new cycle
of training to produce an  Iraqi force that is capable of resisting the
guerrillas (the first three efforts  to produce such a force have already failed -
there is no reason to believe that  the next will succeed).  The third problem
is that the US simply does not  have enough troops to hold Fallujah and also
do all the other fighting that is  now necessary. The Times reporters expressed
it thus: "If many American troops  and the better-trained specialized Iraqi
forces, like the commando and special  police units, are committed to Fallujah
for a long time, they will not be  available to go elsewhere in Iraq, possibly
creating critical shortfalls."

In other words, when the resistance drives the police and local  government
out of other cities (as they did recently in Samarra, Tal Afar and  Mosul) the
US will not have sufficient troops to recapture the cities, and they  will
have to allow them to remain in rebel hands, just as Fallujah remained in  rebel
hands for six months.  This is the ultimate denouement of the attack  on
Fallujah. The US is now faced with the choice of leaving Fallujah and  allowing the
shura mujahideen government that has ruled it since April to return  to
power, or allow the resistance to take power in many other cities. Either  option
will leave the US in a significantly worse position than it was in before  the
attack. As so many predicted, the attack on Fallujah has strengthened the
resistance and weakened the US occupation.

And one final note: the only  remedy for the third problem is a vast increase
in the number of US troops in  Iraq. And that means a draft in the United

Michael Schwartz ,  professor of sociology at the State University of New
York at Stony Brook,. His  work on Iraq has appeared on ZNet and TomDispatch, and
in Z Magazine. His books  include Radical Politics and Social Structure, The
Power Structure of American  Business (with Beth Mintz), and Social Policy and
the Conservative Agenda  (edited, with Clarence Lo). He can be reached at


Message: 5
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 19:13:48 EST
Subject: The Sunni-Shi'ite power struggle

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

This article is a fairly reasonable assessment  of the Sunni-Shiite thing at
present, as well as the current status of  the Iraqi resistance in its various
forms. However, does it  project a realistic future scenario, based on the
given  data?

By Pepe Escobar

November 20, 2004 - Iraqis are not  fighting one another - at least not yet:
they are fighting the occupying  power, although with different strategies.
After Fallujah, this situation  is about to change.

For the average Iraqi, Sunni or Shi'ite - and  Americans underestimate Iraqi
national pride at their peril - there's no  question: the current Sunni
resistance morally prevails, because they are  Iraqis fighting an invader/occupier.
This means the US occupation in  essence lost even before it began. Defining
the resistance as "anti-Iraqi  forces" - as the Pentagon does - is nonsense:
they are a legitimate  popular resistance movement, while the US-trained Iraqi
police are largely  identified for what they are - collaborationists doing the
dirty work of  Iraqification, the Mesopotamian version of failed
Vietnamization. Hundreds  of these US-trained forces ran away before the battle even
started in  Fallujah. No wonder: they were resistance moles. And most of Mosul's
police also defected.

The resistance is now spread out all over  the Sunni heartland -
contradicting US marine talk that the assault on  Fallujah "broke the back of the
resistance". Added proof that the  resistance is indigenous is that of more than 1,000
men between the ages  of 15 and 55 who the Pentagon says were captured in
Fallujah - there's no  independent confirmation; only 15 have been confirmed as
"foreign  fighters", according to General George Casey, the top US ground
commander.  And these "foreigners" are mostly Saudis, Jordanians or Syrians,
described  by Iraqis themselves as "our Arab brothers", members of the large Arab
nation. The real "foreign fighters" in Iraq are the Americans.

Anger in Sunni-dominated Baghdad has reached a fever pitch, as an  Iraqi
physician told a radio station he has examined bodies of people who  seem to have
died of banned chemical weapons: the bodies are swollen, are  yellowish and
have no smell. Asia Times Online sources in Baghdad say that  people in Fallujah
believe the Americans may have used chemical weapons in  the bombing of
Jolan, ash-Shuhada and al-Jubayl neighborhoods. They also  say the neighborhoods
were showered with cluster bombs.

The political war

The  Sunni Iraqi resistance is battling a political war. For the mujahideen,
the stakes are clear: under the current US-imposed situation, the Shi'ites
will be in power after elections scheduled for January. Saif al-Deen
al-Baghdadi, a hardcore Sunni Salafi and top member of the resistance in  Mosul, has
qualified the Iyad Allawi government as representing "the  fundamentalist right
wing of the White House and not the Iraqi people".  Apart from the "clash of
fundamentalisms" implicit in this observation,  the fact is that for the
resistance, softcore or hardcore, the Shi'ites  are being propelled to power by an
alliance of fundamentalists -  Washington plus US-backed Allawi.

The Shi'ites are not doing  enough to calm Sunni anger. When Shi'ite leader
Grand Ayatollah Ali  al-Sistani spoke out against the Fallujah offensive, it
was too late. In  fact, the one who spoke was Sistani's top man in Karbala,
Ahmad al-Safi  al-Najafi, who told thousands at the Imam Hussein Mosque that
Sistani  viewed the assault on Fallujah as he viewed the assault on Najaf: he
favored a peaceful solution, he called for the withdrawal of "foreign  forces"
(the Americans) and he condemned the death of innocent civilians.

The Sunni-Shi'ite divide is not monolithic. The powerful Sunni  Association
of Muslim Scholars (AMS) - founded after the fall of Saddam  Hussein - is
closely coordinating with the lumpenproletariat -based  movement of Shi'ite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr.

But events in Fallujah  have set the political landscape on fire - with the
AMS urging all Iraqis  to boycott the January elections. At the lavish
golden-and-marble Umm  al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad - built by Saddam and previously
called "Mother  of all Battles" - the AMS managed to rally 47 political parties,
not only  Sunni Islamist but eight Shi'ite parties, one Christian, the Iraqi
Turkmen  Front and the Communist Party. Their joint communique condemns the
elections as "imposed by the US-backed interim government and rejected by  a
clear majority of political and religious powers"; stresses that "the US  raids
against Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, Mosul, Baghdad and more recently  Fallujah
represent an obstacle to the political participation in the  occupied country";
and qualifies the attack on Fallujah as "genocide". The  whole idea comes from
Sheikh Jawad al-Khalissi, a Shi'ite, who is a  descendent of one of the leaders
of the 1920 revolt against the British  colonial power. In Iraq, history does
repeat itself in many ways.

The AMS is making it very clear to all Sunni Iraqis - and to all  Iraqis for
that matter - that Fallujah had nothing to do with  "stabilizing" the country
before elections, as the Pentagon and Allawi  have claimed. And support for
the AMS is increasing fast, especially after  the Americans arrested seven of
its leading members. On a parallel front,  the Americans also arrested seven
aides to Sheikh al-Hasani, the leader of  a splinter group of Muqtada's movement.
The popular response was swift:  this past Wednesday more than 3,000 people
demonstrated in front of the  Green Zone in Baghdad demanding their release.

To boycott or not to boycott?

What is Muqtada up to? Hashim al-Musawi, one of his top aides,  told a crowd
in front of Kufa's mosque this week that they will also  boycott the elections
because in Fallujah the Americans "violated all  human values enshrined in
the Geneva Convention". This may be a  diversionary tactic. Asia Times Online
contacts in Baghdad confirm that  Muqtada is frantically negotiating with
Sistani: the crucial point is how  many parliament seats Muqtada will get if he
joins a united list of all  major Shi'ite parties in the January elections. The
Grand Ayatollah is  putting all his efforts to consolidate this list. And he is
adamantly in  favor of conducting the elections on schedule.

The key question is  how extensive a Sunni boycott would be. If the absolute
majority of Sunnis  - up to 30% of the population - don't vote, plus some
Shi'ite factions,  the elections have no legitimacy. The Kurds are also extremely
nervous.  With a boycott, most of the 275 seats will be Shi'ite: the Kurds
would get  around 30 - with no Sunni Arab allies to counteract what many in
Baghdad  are already defining as the tyranny of a Shi'ite majority.

As for  Prime Minister Allawi, his Iraqi National Accord is a mixed bag of
Sunni  and Shi'ite ex-Ba'athists. Allawi does not want to be part of the Sistani
 list. This may be a blessing in disguise for Iraqis, because in this case
Allawi may not even be elected to parliament: his little party has scant
popular legitimacy. And his "political capital" after Fallujah is zero:  not only
did he authorize the massacre, but he installed martial law,  muzzled the press
and exacerbated the inherent contradiction of his  position - how to behave
as a strong leader when you depend on an  occupying army.

It's important to note that not a single party -  and especially the Shi'ite
parties - represented in Allawi's "cabinet"  condemned Fallujah. Their
collective game is to blame the whole disaster  on Allawi alone. But that may not be
enough to placate Sunni anger.

At the moment, with fighting in Fallujah still raging, and the  resistance
hitting all over the heartland, this is how Sunni Iraq is  reading what the
Americans say: If you fight us, we will kill you. And if  you don't participate in
our elections, you go to jail. No wonder the  resistance keeps growing.

To stay or to go?

Imagine a Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government next January having  to face a
widespread Sunni guerrilla movement with only a ragged bunch of
guerrilla-infiltrated Iraqi security forces. Who're you gonna call? The  marines?

The Sistani-blessed government may ask the Americans to  go. The Bush II
administration will obviously say no. The Sistani-blessed  government may launch
selected raids against the resistance: not likely to  break its back. Moreover,
in the eyes of most Iraqis, the Sistani-blessed  government cannot even
afford to not ask the Americans to pack up and go.  Sistani knows Shi'ites are
anti-occupation: nobody will tolerate a  Sistani-blessed government "protected" by
an occupying army. Not to  mention this would prove the point now stressed by
the Sunni resistance:  the Shi'ites are allied with American

This  leaves an ominous prospect in place: an Iraqi Shi'ite, Sistani-blessed
government fighting a widespread Sunni guerrilla resistance in a bloody
civil war.

Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd.

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