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[casi] Inside the resistance,3604,1061660,00.html


Inside the resistance

Popular anger is forging an alliance between diverse
strands of Iraq's guerrilla movement

Zaki Chehab
Monday October 13, 2003
The Guardian

The suicide bomber who yesterday attacked the
US-frequented Baghdad Hotel was the fourth member of
the Iraqi resistance to kill themselves for the cause.
The bombing came only three days after last week's
suicide attack on a Baghdad police station that left
at least eight people dead. From the meetings I have
had with resistance fighters in different parts of
Iraq, there is no doubt that there will be many more
such attacks to come.

The use of suicide bombing in Iraq - the first
announced target was the UN in August - signals a
clear change of tactics by the growing resistance
movement. The US-led coalition forces, frustrated by
their inability to control the situation, blame
foreign infiltrators for these attacks, emphasising
the similarity between these new tactics and those of
al-Qaida and other militant groups in the Middle East.
Few seem to grasp the fact that Iraqis, who are
well-trained militarily, have simply learned from
others' experiences, and carried out the attacks

I first met Iraqi resistance fighters at a farm in the
suburbs of Ramadi, north of Baghdad. It was several
months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and
on that day the people of Ramadi were gathering at a
mosque to grieve the death of a young Iraqi killed by
US forces. The man - unarmed, and driving a civilian
car - had failed to stop at a checkpoint. There had
been no signs warning him or other drivers of the
danger they were approaching. I was taken aback by the
strength of the anger felt by the local people - such
deaths (this young man was not the first to die at the
checkpoint, nor the last) were clearly galvanising
local people to fight back against the occupation

After the funeral, with the dreaded 10pm curfew fast
approaching, my new Iraqi companions invited me to go
with them to a nearby place of safety. As we made the
dangerous journey along the road from Ramadi to
Baghdad - the site of daily attacks by the resistance
and street gangs - the conversation turned to the
nature of the Iraqi resistance movement. I was very
keen to find out why it was spreading throughout Iraq
so quickly, and what motivated its members. My
companions - ordinary Iraqis - immediately offered to
introduce me to the fighters they knew.

The fighters wore civilian clothes but their faces
were covered, and they held a range of small arms and
light weapons - AK-47s, RPG-7s to shoulder-mounted
rocket propellers and hand grenades.

What struck me most, though, was their intense
commitment to their cause: the liberation of Iraq from
its current occupiers. These were no "Ba'athist
remnants". On the contrary, they blamed Saddam Hussein
for bringing the Americans into Iraq. They went so far
as to say the capture of Saddam by allied forces would
sever the links between Saddam and the resistance
movement once and for all. They defined themselves as
nationalists. One said: "We do not want to see our
country occupied by forces clearly pursuing their own
interests, rather than being poised to return Iraq to
the Iraqis."

Later, I met members of a different strand of the
resistance: Saddam Hussein loyalists in Tikrit. We
were filming in the main street there when two young,
well-built Iraqis approached us. While they were
asking us who we were working for, a US convoy passed
by and the two men shouted abuse at the American
soldiers, threatening to turn Iraq into their

Then they turned to us, boasting that they had
attacked the Americans the night before at Saddam's
palace in the town, and would carry out daily attacks
until the Americans were driven out of the country.
One of the two men introduced himself as Nabil, and
declared that there was no support locally for the
Americans, who would never be safe, even in their

These were not empty threats. I spent that night with
an Iraqi family in the town. While sitting in the back
garden, we witnessed eight explosions within minutes
of each other. My host, a university professor,
explained that they were mortar attacks targeting the
US headquarters in Tikrit.

In Mosul and Falluja, the resistance groups are
different again. Here, most identify themselves with
Islamist organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Recently, there have been reports of meetings in the
Jordanian capital between high-ranking members of
Hamas and this section of the resistance, which has
sought to learn from the experience of Hamas and its
military wing, well-known for its suicide bomb attacks
against Israeli targets.

This development was entirely predictable. When Mosul
fell to American forces on April 11, terror and chaos
spread over the city. The Pentagon promised that
thousands of its soldiers would secure Mosul and
prevent mass looting. I entered the city that day. By
the time praying started, dozens of worshippers had
gathered to hear one of Mosul's leading Sunni clerics
calling for patience, but warning that if peace and
security were not restored, then "the inhabitants of
Mosul still have the means to resist, as this is not
the promised liberation but an occupation. We will
never accept Iraq becoming a second Palestine."

Iraq is a country which has faced more than 20 years
of war, and more than a decade of sanctions. The
motivations of each strand of Iraqi resistance vary:
the loyalists are driven by the loss of power; the
nationalists by the desire to establish independence
and security; the Islamists by their dream of
returning political Islam to the Iraqi nation. These
aspirations may be incompatible, but the focus of each
group now is to fight together against the common
enemy of Iraq - the occupying forces.

In some areas at least, this common interest has a
structural expression. In the back streets of Mosul,
soon after the fall of the city, I came face to face
with a group of armed men, shouting and firing shots
in different directions. I asked who they were: some
introduced themselves as former Ba'athists, others
said they belonged to Islamist organisations. Though
ideologically worlds apart, they explained that they
all took their orders from the same committee in the
city, which was headed by a group of religious
leaders. I later found there were similar
relationships in Falluja and Samarra.

The resolve and ferocity of the Iraqi resistance has
been amplified by the blunders of the American
soldiers in Iraq. Coalition commanders have dealt
ineptly with ground operations, and neither the
British nor the Americans have come up with a clear
road map for the political reconstruction of Iraq that
would enable Iraqis to rule themselves.

Random road checks and house-to-house searches, often
based on inaccurate information, make a bad situation
worse. Culturally inappropriate behaviour - male
soldiers body-searching women, for example - and
collective punishments have further alienated the
population and helped entrench popular support for

Given the growing number of Iraqis joining the
resistance, there is a strong need for Washington and
London to revise their military and political plans
for post-conflict Iraq. The occupation forces are in a
fragile position. If they strengthen their military
presence in the face of increasing resistance, they
will only alienate Iraqis yet further from their
attempts to redraw the political future of Iraq - and
the resistance will continue to spread. Unless there
is an early withdrawal, the currently sporadic attacks
in the Shia-dominated south can be expected to

Britain and the US are currently setting the stage for
a new phase of Iraqi resistance. Its members are
learning fast from the experience of the region, and
are already adopting new tactics. The latest of these
is suicide bombing - a weapon which even the strongest
counter-terrorism forces struggle to cope with.

 Zaki Chehab is the political editor of the Arabic TV
station al-Hayat-LBC, and was the first journalist to
broadcast an interview with members of the Iraqi

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