Iraq now? was Re: [Marxism] Sadr militia leaves shrine, Sistani to take over; 77 reported dead overnight; US attacks Sadr City, bombs Fallujah

g.maclennan at g.maclennan at
Fri Aug 20 18:21:43 MDT 2004

There are still conflicting reports coming out about this.  
But it does look like some sort of deal is being thrashed 
out. It also appears that this is a variation on the Fallujah 
compromise.  There ex-Baathists marched in and "took over". 
In Najaf, the followers of al-Sistani are to assume control 
of the shrine.

What is one to make of all this?

Well it would appear that it is very much a case of al-Sadr 
lives to fight annother day. However this the second uprising 
came closer to destroying him physically than did the 
previous one. His army too has been dealt with most brutally 
by the Americans. They are poorly armed and untrained and 
have little but their courage to offer to the gunships, the 
tanks and the war planes.

So is it a military defeat but a political victory for al-

It is close to irresponsible to attempt to answer that 
question from this distance.  But I am tempted to say that is 
it neither a military defeat nor a political victory.  His 
army has been savaged, but there are signs that they are 
beginning to realise that they have to get better at it. One 
solution is to emulate the Sunni Resistance and move to low 
intensity warfare.  That would make Iraq ungovernable in the 
short term and would in all probability lead eventually to a 
draft in the USA.

Politically al-Sadr has become something of an icon of 
resistance. Sunnis have, for instance, carried his portrait 
in demonstrations in Fallujah.  But his "program" would 
appear to be little more than the imposition of an Iranian 
style clerical dictatorship. I cannot see how Iraq can be 
united around that.  I noticed btw as the crisis deepened the 
liberal, Juan Cole, began referring, on his web site, to the 
Sadrists as "puritannical thugs".

Apart however from his inability to articulate a program 
which would unite Iraqis, al-Sadr seems unable to unite the 
Shia.  The religious establishment grouped around al-Sistani 
and the Da'awa Party, almost certainly okayed the assault on 
Najaf, and as a consequence has been compromised by the 
damage inflicted by the American military on the Holy City. 
But they still seem to have a line which apparently makes 
sense, namely that they hold back until the elections in 
January, when they will presumably win a majority of seats.

So for now, events in Iraq will in all probability slip back 
to where they were. The American writ will hold only in the 
Green Zone and on cable television.  They will win everything 
on Fox News and on CNN.  In the real world however their 
ferocious deployment of tanks, bombs and rockets is a clear 
sign of the military and political weakness.

I would emphasise the military aspect because lack of person 
power on the ground has meant that they have had to resort 
once more to air power. Useful for protecting forts such as 
the Green Zone and for forays out, but of limited use as 
providing protection against low intensity warfare. 

For example this week the American military sent their tanks 
into the slum city named al-Sadr city.  It is unclear how 
many of the slum kids they slaughtered.  Now they have 
withdrawn.  What do they think will happen in the houses and 
streets of the slums?  How many friends do they feel they 
have made?  How many hearts and minds do they think they have 
won over?

It is true that the American military once said in 
Vietnam 'Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and mind will 
follow'.  But it didn't work in Vietnam and it won't work in 
Iraq.  The assault on al-Sadr city and on Najaf was I feel a 
clear sign of American weakness.  It was demonstration in 
extremis of their military power.  That such a demonstration 
was necessary at all, is a clear indication of the disastrous 
failure they face in Iraq. 

So what will happen now?  It is a true sign of hubris to 
attempt to answer that question.  But we humans cannot cease 
trying.  I think that the al-Sadr movement will fall back on 
its base – the slums of Baghdad.  That is where they will 
make another stand.   The Americans will once more return to 
their bases and as a result the destruction of the human and 
material infra-structure of the Allawi regime will continue 

After November the Americans will be faced with a decision – 
to get out or to go for broke by instituting the draft and 
putting in 500k soldiers to crush the resistance.  Neither 
choice is the Good News for the American ruling class. Indeed 
I am confident that whatever the twists and turns that 
eventuate over the  coming months and even years, that the 
Owl of Minerva will eventually declare the Second Iraq war 
a ‘war too far’.



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