...this blog kills fascists...

Friday, August 13, 2004


The Guardian is reporting that Iraqi Shia leaders in the south are advocating a breakaway movement from the "interim" government.

As the health ministry said that at least 172 Iraqis had died and more than 600 had been injured since Wednesday in fighting across southern Iraq, at least two prominent Shia figures called for the separation of some southern governorates from Baghdad.

Basra's deputy governor, Salam Uda al-Maliki, said he backed a breakaway as the interim government was "responsible for the Najaf clashes."

In Nassiriya, meanwhile, Aws al-Khafaji, the representative of Moqtada al-Sadr, echoed the call. "We have had enough of Baghdad's brutality," he said. "The authorities in Nassiriya will no longer cooperate with Baghdad." He said it was a response to "the crimes committed against Iraqis by an illegal and unelected government, and occupation forces."

I'm not sure how to reconcile al-Khafaji's statement with the Western media reports of a new truce being negotiated, but I do believe that should the call grow louder, the violence spread wider, and the demonstrations grow larger, the Balkanization of Iraq is a very real possibility, with at least the Shia south following in the steps of Iran, circa 1978-1979.

There's a piece in today's Christian Science Monitor that does a good job of laying out the stakes here. While media attention is focused on Najaf, awaiting the promised unleashing of Hell by American forces, the problem is much, much wider. Like Karzai in Afghanistan, Allawi may have US-enabled control over Baghdad and Baath Party buildings and offices, but he has no grip on the country and is seen widely as wholly and totally illegitimate and under American control.

What's at stake is not just the control of Najaf, but perhaps Iraq's territorial integrity. Key territories in Iraq are controlled by armed groups opposed to central government control from Baghdad. Kurdish militias in the north are vying for control of the crucial oil field town of Kirkuk; Sunni insurgents, many of them loyal to Saddam Hussein, control much of the center and the Northwest, including the transit link to Jordan.

Though there's great anticipation all around of the "final assault" on Najaf, even if al Sadr's house, the Imam Ali mosque, even if the entire town is laid to waste by the Marines, it will do little to stem the tide of resistance to American occupation, as well as any American installed government. And Sadr's movement, though branded ad infinitum that of a "Radical Shiite Cleric," is gaining in popular support. Including that of the Iraqi police forces, as the CSM article describes:

As fighting in Najaf seemed to approach a climax, there were other battles raging across the southern portions of Iraq as well, claiming 165 lives over 24 hours. In the southern city of Kut Wednesday, wire services reported that Iraqi and coalition forces battled militants loyal to Sadr who attacked police stations, the city hall, and Iraqi National Guard barracks. In what was the fiercest battle there in months, 72 people were reported killed and more than 100 wounded. Many, if not most, of these casualties are civilians, something that could turn sentiment against the Iraqi government and its US backers.

On Tuesday, the deputy governors of Basra, Dhiqar, and Maysun announced their intention to secede from Iraqi central government control, mimicking similar autonomy arrangements enjoyed by Kurdish militias, and the Sunni triangle insurgents in the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra....

...Meanwhile in the crucial oil-port city of Basra, where 90 percent of the country's oil flows out to global markets, Sadr's Mahdi Army controls the center of the city. They took the city after British troops stopped patrolling and retreated into their bases following heavy fighting on Tuesday. The fighting left one British soldier dead and many injured. Since then the Mahdi Army have taken over the streets. The Iraqi police still there are working hand-in-hand with the rebels.

Thursday, outside the Mahdi Army's main political office in the center of Basra, groups of bearded militiamen casually wandered the streets carrying machine guns and RPGs while in the building's forecourt two policemen sat calmly smoking atop a police car.

Inside the Mahdi Army's main political office, Sadr's leading commander in the south, Sheikh Saad al-Basri, reveled in the success of a public demonstration in support of Sadr Thursday morning, which drew thousands into Basra's streets.

"We made this demonstration to show that we are not only interested in fighting but that we would prefer to settle our differences peacefully," says Mr. Basri, who is now in de facto control of Iraq's second largest city.

Allawi's government will never have legitimacy among the rank and file Iraqi populace, and in fact the only hope he has of retaining control of the country at all is thorugh his promised "iron fist." Allawi's Iron Fist is, of course, limited solely to the US military. While the military might of the world's only remaining superpower is fierce and awesome indeed, it does not endear Allawi to the Iraqi people in the least, as the CSM article points out as well, citing Tarak Barkawi from Cambridge University:

While some experts say that religious passions will be inflamed if Sadr is killed and if the shrine comes under military attack, others say that the larger problem is that Allawi has inherited a government whose major decisions continue to be made by US military commanders, and without sufficient resources to extend its own authority, legitimacy, and control.

"Since the end of the occupation, US forces have in significant measure withdrawn to barracks and reduced their tempo of operations," says Tarak Barkawi, a strategic expert at the Center for International Studies at the University of Cambridge.

"This is good in the sense of reducing their highly unpopular visibility; it is bad in that the lid is off of the insurgents or local militias, and poorly prepared Iraqi forces are left holding the ring. When they can't do so, they must call on US forces, producing further casualties and further unpopularity. This strikes me as a downward spiral."

0 comments: to “ Ramifications

Post a Comment

Blogspot Template by Isnaini Dot Com