Iraq Slides Further Into Chaos

January 29, 2005 8:42

by Jim Addington

The obscenity of the invasion and occupation of Iraq is still being hidden by the British media which has largely ignored what is going on in Iraq. It has been left to very few commentators at home and Al Jazeera, the Arab news service available in English, to keep us informed daily of the serious events occurring in that country. However, the imminent election in Iraq, together with constant attacks by insurgents who have shown up the insecurity of the occupation, has again begun to focus the British media and therefore public interest on what is going on. Even the tragic effects of the Tsunami have not entirely blocked the renewed interest in how the election will turn out amid fears of a civil war.

The head of the Iraqi intelligence service, General Muhammad Abd AllahShahwani, has recently estimated that more than 200,000 sympathisersare supporting some 40,000 active fighters against the occupation of this war-torn country. He added that part-timers were also likely to be providing everything from intelligence to logistics and shelter."I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq, more than 200,000 people".

The numbers far exceed any figure so far presented by the US military in Iraq, which has struggled to control the country since ousting the former government in April 2003. Past US military assessments on fighter numbers were increased to 20,000 full and part-time members as recently as October.

Intelligence director Shahwani said "the resistance" enjoys wide backing in the provinces of Baghdad, Babil, Salah al-Din, Diyala, Nineveh and Tamim. He should have included Mosul which the US occupation forces have said is out of control. He questioned the value of destroying Falluja; fighters had gained strength through Iraq's tight-knit tribal

bonds and links to the old 400,000-strong Iraqi army, dissolved by the US occupation in May 2003 after the US-led invasion. "People are fed up after two years without improvement... fed up with no security, no electricity, people feel they have to do something,"

Commenting on the size of the insurgency he said "The army was hundreds of thousands. You would expect some veterans would join with their relatives, each one has sons and brothers." Some city neighbourhoods and small towns around central Iraq had become virtual no-go zones despite US military efforts in Samarra and Falluja. Parts of Baghdad itself had become "virtually untouchable". This supports the remarks made by Sir Jeremy Greenstock last autumn after retiring from the position of second in command of the occupation. Speaking in London about security in Iraq he said "occupation forces are in control of areas they are in, and the insurgents are in control of areas they are in". His advice to the occupiers was to try to win hearts and minds in those areas they did not control.

In stark contrast to US assessments of success in Falluja, the Iraqi spy chief said that the November campaign against the town was far from a military triumph. "What we have now is an empty city almost destroyed and most of the insurgents are free. They have gone either to Mosul, to Baghdad or other areas." This time the US forces (gladly aided by the British government who sent the Black Watch to coverUS-controlled areas) destroyed a city of 300,000 people, first ejecting them from their homes. Tens of thousands have been living outside in makeshift camps. Despite US claims that they had 'retaken' the city, fighting has continued daily.

Towards the end of December residents were told by US forces that they could return in small numbers. They found the occupying forces still engaged in the systematic destruction of houses suspected of harbouring dissidents. Some were actually destroyed in front of the owners as they returned. Early returners were reported as saying there was nothing to go back to in Falluja and leaving at once. We must be grateful to Al Jazeera and the few British correspondents whose reports have helped to confirm the daily news from the Arab news agency.

The complicity of the Iraq interim government in the destruction of one of their major cities is well documented, all in the interest of holding on to their official positions. The anger generated by the encouragement given to the US forces will remain for decades. One thing that has been reported in the British media but largely ignored thereafter is the complete destruction of the electricity and water supplies in Falluja. Are we so inured to bad reports that these things no longer move us?

Where does this leave the election process? Can there really be a valid election, representing the people of Iraq, in the current situation where daily attacks in many parts of Iraq kill scores of occupation-trained Iraqi police, national guards - and innocent bystanders? What security can the occupation forces offer when they themselves are forced to stay in the green zone headquarters in Baghdad, itself the target of frequent rocket attacks? How fair and honest an election can there be in these circumstances and will the insurgents accept the result?

How can an election be conducted without security in which there isonly one constituency covering the whole of Iraq, with 7000 candidates, comprising 256 groups in 72 parties collected into 33 coalitions to vote for on a proportional representation 'list' basis, in a country that has had no anything like a genuine election for half a century?

To pose these questions is not to answer them, but it helps to reply to those who say that things would be worse if the occupying forces were to leave. It is not exaggerating to say that the insurgency is now looking like a rebellion with wide support. Opinion polls have

consistently shown that a big majority of Iraqis want nothing less than the departure of the US and other forces. Before the interim government was set up last year the occupiers said the unrest would end after its appointment; it did not happen. They are now hoping

for a reduction after 30th January. Be under no illusion, the resistance will continue as it did when the British ruled Iraq. When if ever will the 'new American century' colonialists decide to pack their bags?

In Southern Iraq we have been told repeatedly that the British rule is peaceful and everything is back to normal. Has the government's 'D' notice committee anything to do with the blanket of secrecy? In the 1st January issue of the New Statesman Stephen Grey wrote about the real situation in Basra. "Basra has been getting barely four hours of electricity a day - one year after the British army announced the restoration of round-the-clock power". While the British army operates largely in an area that is looking forward to the coming election it has also been affected by the insurgency now covering much of Iraq, coming under massive attack last August.

By contrast US forces are now admitting major no-go areas in cities such as Mosul, where insurgents are able to operate at will. This is no doubt largely due to the tactics of the occupying forces in keeping their troops out of harm's way in fortified areas as much as possible. However, the Green Zone in Baghdad, which houses the US and UK embassies and the US military command, comes under continued attacks by rockets and mortars and its entrances are regularly targeted by suicide bombers. A fine basis for a peaceful election!

The author, Jim Addington, is Chair of Action for UN Renewal, a UK group which was formed by the merger of Renew UN and the Forum for UN Renewal.

See Also:

What Sort of Sovereignty for Iraq After 30th June? (from June 2004)

US and UN Face Growing Chaos in Iraq

(from May 2004)

Illegality of Iraq War

(from 2003)