[Marxism] al-Sadr led fighters resist attack on mosque; US military demands crackdown in Fallujah

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed May 12 20:24:42 MDT 2004

There are several hints in this article that the US forces are meeting
heavier resistance in the attack on Najaf.  The  reliance on body-counts
is one possible indicator; another is the photo caption included at the
opening of the article below; and a third is the widening involvement of
local forces in Najaf in trying to end the fighting through getting the
US forces out as a condition for the Mahdi Army's departure.

Another is the destruction of the mosque in Karbala, and this comment by
the new US-appointed Iraqi governor: "If you assess U.S. military
movements in terms of territorial gains, then U.S. forces a week from
now will enter certain areas of the city that will in turn make the
prospect of a peaceful settlement very weak."  I believe this is a
warning, admittedly  ambiguous, to the US military that further advances
into Karbala will create an uncontrollable situation.

Sadr's offer to withdraw if the US forces do so also is no doubt winning
wide agreement from the population, and heightening pressure those on
Shia leaders with significant popular support who have used their
influence to try to keep people from joining resistance to the US

And, of course, the fight in Fallujah is not over either.  We will
probably get a chance to know whether the fighters in Fallujah have made
good use of their breathing space.
Fred Feldman

Coalition battles with cleric's militia rage on
Al-Sadr vows defeat of Americans; 22 insurgents reported killed 
Photo caption:
Karim Kadim / AP
An Iraqi schoolgirl runs past burning tires Wednesday in the Sadr City
suburb of Baghdad. Iraqis partly blocked the entrance to the mostly
Shiite district after several days of clashes with U.S.-led coalition
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 5:40 p.m. ET May  12, 2004KARBALA, Iraq - U.S. tanks,
helicopters and jets attacked fighters loyal to a radical Shiite Muslim
cleric in this holy city Wednesday, partly destroying a mosque used by
insurgents and setting seven hotels ablaze. Twenty-two militants were
The cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, urged his followers to resist, comparing
their struggle to the Vietnam War in his first news conference since the
standoff began more than a month ago. 

U.S. forces killed 22 militants, and six coalition soldiers were
wounded, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the
U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, said in Baghdad. Four of the soldiers
returned to duty. 

Iraqi leaders in another holy city, Najaf, discussed how to peacefully
resolve the confrontation between al-Sadr and the coalition, which is
seeking to arrest him in the killing of a rival cleric. Coalition
officials have said they welcome efforts to work for a peaceful
solution, even though they will not negotiate with the cleric and want
him to face justice. 

Mosque badly damaged
Half of the Mukhaiyam mosque in Karbala was destroyed in the fighting
Wednesday. Most shops in Tal al-Zeinabiya, a central market, were also
destroyed, as were three ambulances and two military vehicles. 

Fighting subsided by dusk as the call for evening prayers spread across
Karbala from loudspeakers at the Imam Hussein mosque, one of the most
sacred shrines of Shia Islam. 

Iraqi guards manned the shrine gates to prevent al-Sadr's fighters from
entering. Explosions and machine-gun fire continued intermittently as
night fell. 

Fighters pushed a wounded comrade down a street on a pushcart. Jets flew
overhead as militiamen took up new positions near another holy site, the
Imam Abbas shrine. 

Al-Sadr's fighters acknowledged that they lost control of the Mukhaiyam
mosque, less than a mile from the Imam Hussein shrine. 

"We put up a very stiff resistance," said one of the militiamen, Ameer
Latif, 30. Another fighter, Amar Haider, leaned against a wall with his
Kalashnikov rifle and said: "God willing, we shall still be victorious."

Three explosions resounded late Wednesday in Najaf, and residents said
U.S. forces appeared to be making an armed incursion into the city. At
least one civilian was killed and another was wounded, Iraqi authorities

'Prepared for any American escalation'
Al-Sadr is holed up in Najaf. He met with reporters there Wednesday -
his first news conference since his militia, the Al-Mahdi Army, launched
attacks on coalition troops in Baghdad and other cities in early April. 

"I appeal to the fighters and mujahedeen in Karbala to stand together so
as none of our holy sites and cities are defiled. We are prepared for
any American escalation, and we expect one," al-Sadr said. 

"Let remind you of Vietnam," he said. "We are an Iraqi people that has
faith in God and his prophet and his family. The means of victory that
are available to us are much more than what the Vietnamese had. And, God
willing, we shall be victorious." 

Al-Sadr also referred to the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops at
former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. 

"Look at what they have done. Look at the torture they have committed
against our detainees. Could anyone who came to rid us of Saddam do
this?" al-Sadr said. 

Prospects for a deal
The new U.S.-appointed governor of Najaf, Adnan al-Zurufi, said
Wednesday that he believed his U.S. backers would give another week to
efforts to find a peaceful end to the standoff. 

"If you assess U.S. military movements in terms of territorial gains,
then U.S. forces a week from now will enter certain areas of the city
that will in turn make the prospect of a peaceful settlement very weak,"
al-Zurufi said. 

On Tuesday, Iraqi political and tribal leaders in Najaf said al-Sadr
would end the standoff if the coalition postponed its legal case against
him and established an Iraqi force to patrol the city. 

However, the offer hinges on an agreement that U.S. forces pull out of
the city and Kufa and that al-Sadr's militia lays down its weapons,
leaders said. 

"We do think it's a positive sign that Iraqi leaders are stepping
forward and they are trying to make a constructive contribution to
minimize bloodshed in their own country," said Dan Senor, a spokesman
for the coalition. But he said al-Sadr must disband his militia and
order it to withdraw from government buildings. 

General: Fallujah Brigade must crack down
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines surrounding the flashpoint city of Fallujah will
give a new Iraqi brigade some time to strip guerrillas of heavy weapons
and crush foreign fighters there, but they are ready to renew an
offensive if security is not restored soon, Lt. Gen. James Conway,
commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told Reuters on

"We are prepared to allow them some time. The brigade is still forming.
We continue to work with them in hopes that we will get more of heavy
weapons out of the city and eventually turn over foreign fighters," he

"I am hesitant to give a time line, but it is not endless." 

Under a peace deal between the Marines and civic leaders that put an end
to a bloody month-long siege, about 2,000 U.S. Marines pulled to the
outskirts of Fallujah and entrusted the Iraqi Fallujah Brigade with
restoring peace. 

The truce has calmed the rebellious city of 300,000 people at the heart
of the so-called Sunni triangle, a hot spot of resistance to the
U.S.-led occupation besieged after four U.S. contractors were killed and
mutilated by a mob in late March. 

But the peace deal has left Marines frustrated and eager for action as
they wait in their dust-covered tanks and heavy armored vehicles in the
desert heat while insurgents fail to turn in weapons. 

Marine commanders have been meeting for days a parade of religious
leaders, sheiks in flowing robes and town officials in hopes of giving
peace a chance with the Fallujah Brigade, made up of soldiers in
Saddam's army and guerrillas. 

"Fallujah is a tribal society. The Americans need to stay out of the
city and let the negotiations proceed so we can have peace," Fallujah
Mayor Mahmoud Ibrahim Al-Juraysi told Reuters. 

Marines are keeping a tight cordon aimed at trapping guerrillas and
preventing the smuggling of AK-47 assault rifles, mortars and rockets
used by insurgents during the siege. 

No fighter has been caught trying to cross the cordon. 

Col. John Coleman, chief of staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force,
told Reuters that U.S. forces estimated that 100 Islamic foreign
fighters were hiding in the gritty streets of Fallujah. 

Conway said Marines had agreed to allow an Iraqi court to try the
killers of the four contractors whose brutal and televised death
prompted the crackdown. The Americans had previously demanded that the
killers, who are still on the run, be turned over to U.S. forces. 


In other developments:

U.S. soldiers killed six insurgents who attacked patrols with
rocket-propelled grenades in separate engagements Wednesday in east
Baghdad, the military said. 
A mortar attack on a U.S. military base north of Baghdad killed four
Philippine workers, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Wednesday.
She said the victims were employed at Camp Anaconda near Balad, which
came under mortar attack Tuesday.
Gunmen fired Wednesday on a car carrying Iraqi security forces near the
city of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, killing a man and seriously wounding
his brother, Iraqi authorities said. Two other members of the
U.S.-backed Iraqi Civil Defense were wounded.
In Samarra, another town north of Baghdad, about 20 gunmen raided a
police station Tuesday night, and the seven police inside fled. The
attackers then detonated a bomb that destroyed the building and two
police cars. 
Three mortars were fired Wednesday night toward the Italian Embassy in
Baghdad, but no one was harmed, Italy's ANSA news agency reported. The
shots apparently missed the building. 
A video clip posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed a
group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading a U.S. contractor in Iraq,
saying the death was revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S.
soldiers. Before he was killed, the man identified himself as Nick Berg,
a U.S. contractor from Philadelphia whose body was found Saturday on a
highway overpass in Baghdad.
The head of Iraq's war crimes tribunal said the United States had
pledged to hand over former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and dozens of
other suspects to Iraqi authorities by the time the U.S.-led coalition
transferred power to Iraq next month. The official, Salem Chalabi, told
reporters in Kuwait that trials would begin early next year and that
judges would receive "files" on the suspects at the end of this year.
The U.S. Defense Department disputed the report.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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