Against The Common Enemy

Karim El-Gawhary

The pattern is the same every night. An explosion can be heard before midnight, sometimes one, sometimes several. Sometimes it is the dull thud of a distant shell, at other times explosions rock the hotel to its foundations. And the Iraqis always react in the same manner, turning on the television or turning up the radio to find out where the shells have landed. Most are disappointed. Of the 25 or so attacks that may occur throughout the entire country, only a handful are reported on Arabic television.

A USA occupier guards the burning remains of a factory in Baghdad, which was hit by Iraqi Resistance mortar fire.

A USA occupier guards the burning remains of a factory in Baghdad, which was hit by Iraqi Resistance mortar fire.

Heavily armed with all manner of weaponry, and coupled with a deadly determination, the invisible opponents of the USA occupation have proven more persistent and determined than Washington expected. “They are occupiers, what else do they expect?” commented Hoda Nueimi, a political scientist at Baghdad University. Military resistance against the American occupation force, she says, can be considered justified as long as it is directed at American soldiers and their representatives and not at the civilian population, a view held by many people in Baghdad.

The attempts on the life of USA Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz were welcomed in some quarters, since actions such as these are seen as restoring Iraqi self-esteem. Attacks on institutions such as the Red Cross, or against Iraqi police officers, on the other hand, are condemned as acts of terror. Most Iraqis dissociate themselves from such acts with the usual “it wasn’t us” reaction, placing the blame on “foreign” militants who have infiltrated the country over the past few months.

According to Muthana Harith Al- Dhari, professor of Islamic Law at the University of Baghdad, these foreign militants are trying to provoke the occupation forces into retaliation. “The people behind the attacks are not local Islamists,” he said. He claims not to be associated with the “Islamic resistance”, saying also he has sufficient insider information to know that such a view is not mere speculation. “While the attacks on the UN headquarters or the Red Cross bear the hallmarks of Islamic militant groups—suicide bombers—attacks on civilian targets are inconsistent with our Islamic ideology,” continued Al-Dhari.

Some Iraqi newspapers disagree, maintaining that, “Al-Qa’eda members would not remain undetected in Baghdad without local assistance.” Nueimi remains sceptical. “The Americans are always talking about Al-Qa’eda and foreign militants,” she said. “Let them show us just one on national television, complete with name and nationality.”

Given that the occupying forces are incapable of providing security inside Iraq, it is no wonder that most Iraqis refuse to hand in what weapons they have.

Given that the occupying forces are incapable of providing security inside Iraq, it is no wonder that most Iraqis refuse to hand in what weapons they have.

The precarious situation in Iraq is viewed by the USA military in technical terms, and they remain convinced that all weapons in the country will be turned in for money. As the joke goes here, “I’ll sell them my Kalashnikov to buy something better.” This may be difficult to achieve. In the last few days of the war the Iraqi army failed to deliver the Stalingrad in Baghdad that they had promised. Instead, soldiers and officers fled, taking with them a huge arsenal of weapons which included mines, mortars and small rockets. These are weapons from Russia, France as well as the USA, bought by Saddam Hussein back in the days when Iraq was on the list of friendly countries. Military experts estimate that guerrillas need only one-tenth of these weapons to engage the USA troops in guerrilla warfare for a year.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that every Iraqi household keeps guns at home for self-defence. The USA troops, or more to the point the Iraqi police force, must provide law and order so that the loaded Kalashnikov under the bed will no longer be needed. The lasting solution is political rather than technical. The consensus in Baghdad is that Iraq needs a political response to the resistance which will lead to an end of the occupation. Not all Iraqis demand an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from the country; many fear this would result in civil war. They expect the situation to be approached in practical terms. “For months we have been suggesting withdrawal of troops from the cities, that the Iraqi Interior Ministry be given more power, and that those sections of the old regular army which were not directly involved with the old regime be redeployed,” said Mahmoud Osman, member of the Governing Council. “It would take years to build up a new army. And we should also keep in mind that Saddam was not responsible for creating the regular army—this army is more than 80 years old,” he added.

Iraqis will always find common cause with foreign Muslims that have joined them in their effort to rid the land of USA occupiers.

Iraqis will always find common cause with foreign Muslims that have joined them in their effort to rid the land of USA occupiers.

Meanwhile, the USA administrators in Iraq are continuing along the same track, insisting that military remnants of the old regime—or Al-Qa’eda members—are responsible for the violence. In reality, however, those responsible constitute a wild mixture of Saddam loyalists, Islamists and Arab nationalists as well as tribal members who feel their traditions have come under threat. The boundaries are becoming evermore blurred, although not at operative or planning levels.

“Islamists have nothing against cooperating with Arab nationalists, as long as they are not loyalists of the old regime looking to recoup their old privileges,” is how Al-Dhari explained the new alliance. “Who said that an Islamist cannot also be a nationalist, and that a nationalist is not a Muslim,” he added. The once divided and for the most part hopeless Iraqis are no longer so. They are united in the sense that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” “USA policy in Iraq is not smart,” says political scientist Nueimi. “Not all Iraqis, whether Islamists or nationalist, live according to the same values,” she continued, “but the Americans have achieved one thing, namely that the Iraqis now have one goal: to end the occupation and govern themselves.”


Published Sunday, November 9th, 2003 - 06:01am GMT

Article courtesy of Al-Ahram Weekly

This is the print-ready version of Against The Common Enemy

Karim El-Gawhary



It was found in the Occupation Woes section of the World Crisis Web.

To view and post your views on the article in full go to http://www.world-crisis.com/analysis_comments/P184_0_15_0/
Part of the World Crisis Web
23737914 page visits since October 2003.