[Marxism] Excellent analysis of Shia rebellion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 15 08:52:54 MDT 2004

full articles at: http://www.leftturn.org/

Shia Backgrounder: A History of Oppression
by Zein El-Amine

When the media started reporting on the US military's first entry into 
the city of Karbala around the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, Shia 
around the world wondered if the US had any idea about what this 
invading army was trampling on. A few days later, the front pages of the 
papers were full of images of millions of Shia on their pilgrimage to 
Karbala - the site of the battle that forged their sect of Islam and set 
off a centuries-old quest for justice. In the spirit of that quest they 
chanted, "No to the US, No to Saddam, No to Israel, Yes to Islam."

The battle of Karbala in 680 AD is the birthplace of the Shia sect of 
Islam. The events leading to its birth and the main division within 
Islam began with the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. A group of 
followers and elders chose Abu Bakr, a close companion of the prophet, 
as successor. But dissenters believed that Ali, the prophet's son in law 
and cousin, was the rightful heir.

In 634 AD Abu Bakr died. Umar became caliph, or temporal leader, and 
expanded the Muslim empire. In 644 Uthman became caliph and ruled until 
year 656 when Ali is finally chosen as caliph. But 5 years later Ali is 
assassinated and Muawiyah declares himself caliph. In 680 AD, Ali's son 
Hussein and his followers take up arms against Yazid, son of Muawiyah in 
an attempt to regain the caliphate from Muawiyah's supporters, who were 
suspected of assassinating Ali.


The Shia Rise Up
by Rami El-Amine

"What is striking is how much has changed in a week - a week. No one can 
talk about the Sunni Triangle anymore. No one can seriously talk about 
Sunni-Shia fragmentation or civil war. The occupation cannot talk about 
small bands of resistance. Now it is a popular rebellion and it has 
-Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University

It's still too early to assess the impact of the April Iraqi uprising 
against the US occupation but one thing is for sure, things will never 
be the same again in Babylon. The tenacious resistance that the mostly 
Sunni fighters put up in Fallujah - more than 600 Iraqis (mostly women 
and children) and around 60 US soldiers were killed in the first week 
alone - rightly became the rallying cry of the rebellion. But Fallujah 
has been bearing the brunt of the occupation from day one.

What was different about this uprising was that large numbers of Shia 
rose up against the occupation forces. Suddenly the US and its allies 
were no longer just facing small pockets of armed resistance, 
concentrated mostly in the "Sunni triangle" northwest of Baghdad, but a 
major rebellion that killed more than 83 US soldiers in the first two 
weeks and took control of a number of major cities. US-trained Iraqi 
police units not only refused to put down the rebellion but in some 
places joined it. A battalion of Iraqi Civil Defense Forces refused to 
go to Fallujah "to fight Iraqis."

Sectarian tensions between the Shia and Sunnis quickly turned into 
solidarity and mutual aid. They exchanged messages of support and Shia 
joined Sunnis in donating blood and organizing a relief convoy to 
Fallujah. Joint prayers were organized. "Sunnis and Shia are united 
against the American occupation" was painted on walls in Sunni 
neighborhoods of Baghdad. And members of the Mahdi Army - the militia 
formed by the fiery young Shia cleric, Moqtada Al-Sadr - went to 
Fallujah to fight alongside Sunnis.

The entire occupation apparatus-from the Coalition Provisional Authority 
(CPA) to the military-was caught off guard by the rebellion even though 
it was a crisis of their own making. Part of the reason for this is that 
they've consistently overestimated the level of support for the 
occupation among Iraqis, particularly among the Shia, who have forced 
the CPA to revise most of its major plans: creating a Governing Council, 
disbanding the military, holding elections, and drafting a constitution.

The decision to go after Al-Sadr and his followers, while ill-timed, was 
a sign that the occupation authority was beginning to realize that a 
growing segment of the Shia posed a threat to the occupation and that 
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the other Shia leaders they've been 
dealing with couldn't and possibly wouldn't do anything to keep them in 

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