The ultimate nightmare for White House/Pentagon designs on Middle East energy resources is not Iran after all: it’s a unified Iraqi resistance, comprising not only Sunnis but also Shi’ites.
“It’s the resistance, stupid” – along with “it’s the oil, stupid”. The intimate connection means there’s no way for Washington to control Iraq’s oil without protecting it with a string of sprawling military “super-bases”.
The ultimate, unspoken taboo of the Iraq tragedy is that the US will never leave Iraq, unless, of course, it is kicked out. And that’s exactly what the makings of a unified Sunni-Shi’ite resistance is set to accomplish.
Papa’s got a brand new bag
At this critical juncture, it’s as if the overwhelming majority of Sunnis and Shi’ites are uttering a collective cry of “we’re mad as hell, and we won’t take it anymore”. The US Senate “suggests” that the solution is to break up the country. Blackwater and assorted mercenaries kill Iraqi civilians with impunity. Iraqi oil is being privatized via shady deals – like Hunt Oil with the Kurdistan regional government; Ray Hunt is a close pal of George W Bush.
Political deals in the Green Zone are just a detail in the big picture. On the surface the new configuration spells that the US-supported Shi’ite/Kurdish coalition in power is now challenged by an Iraqi nationalist bloc. This new bloc groups the Sadrists, the (Shi’ite) Fadhila party, all Sunni parties, the partisans of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, and the partisans of former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. This bloc might even summon enough votes to dethrone the current, wobbly Maliki government.
But what’s more important is that a true Iraqi national pact is in the making – coordinated by VicePresident Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, and blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani himself. The key points of this pact are, no more sectarianism (thus undermining US strategy of divide and rule); no foreign interference (thus no following of US, Iran, or Saudi agendas); no support for al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers; and the right to armed resistance against the occupation.
Last Friday Grand Ayatollah Sistani finally confronted the occupation in no uncertain terms. Via Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, his representative in the holy city of Karbala, Sistani called for the Iraqi parliament to rein in Blackwater et al, and most of all the “occupation forces”. He has never spoken out in such blunt language before.
For his part Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), one of the two key, US-supported Shi’ite parties in government, is back in Baghdad after four months of chemotherapy in Tehran. But it’s his son, the affable Ammar al-Hakim – who was the acting SIIC leader while his father was away – who’s been stealing the limelight, promising that the party will do everything in its power to prevent those US super-bases being set up in Iraq. Up to now SIIC’s official position has been to support the US military presence.
Ammar al-Hakim even went to Ramadi on Sunday to talk to Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, brother of the late Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the former leader of the tribal coalition Anbar Awakening Council who was killed by a bomb last month. It was the first time since the invasion and occupation that a SIIC leader went to hardcore Sunni Anbar province. Ammar al-Hakim glowingly described the dead sheikh as “a national hero”.
Most interesting is that Ammar al-Hakim was flanked by none other than feared Hadi al-Amri, the leader of the Badr Brigades – the SIIC militia trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, that in fact comprises the bulk of death squads involved in the avalanche of sectarian killings.
Ammar al-Hakim may now be against permanent US bases and in favor of Sunni-Shi’ite union. But although he now says he is against federalism, he’s actually in favor of “self-governing regions”. That makes him for many Iraqis a partisan of “soft partition” –- just like US congressmen. He qualifies the central government in Baghdad as “tyrannical”.
For their part the Sunni Arab sheikhs in Anbar are totally against what would be a Western Iraq provincial government – possibly encompassing three, majority-Sunni provinces, Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh.
If on one Shi’ite side we have Ammar al-Hakim from SIIC, on the other side – literally – we have Muqtada al-Sadr. The same day Ammar al-Hakim was courting the tribal sheikhs, pan-Islamic Muqtada was saying he was against any soft partition or provincial governments. That’s exactly what the sheikhs like to hear.
So now, in theory, everyone in the Shi’ite galaxy seems to want (more or less) the same thing. Tehran worked very hard to forge the recent peace pact between the al-Hakim family and the Sadrists. SIIC and Sistani are now explicitly saying that a unified Iraq must rein in the Pentagon and throw out the occupation – that’s what Muqtada had been saying all along. Tehran and Tehran-supported SIIC must obviously have seen which way the Shi’ite street wind was blowing, so now we have a new, anti-sectarian, anti-occupation SIIC.
But it will require concentric halos of forgiveness for Sunnis to forget that the Badr Brigades have been responsible for a great deal of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, have cynically collaborated in synch with both the US and Iran, and have been focused on building a virtually independent “Shi’iteistan” in southern Iraq.
‘We want you out’
Away from the Anbar sheikhs, the Sunni front is also moving fast. Last week six key, non-Salafi jihadist resistance groups, on a video on al-Jazeera, officially announced their union under the “Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance”. They are the Islamic Army in Iraq, the al-Mujahideen Army, Ansar al-Sunna, al-Fatiheen Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (JAMI), and Iraqi Hamas.
The whole process has been on the move since early summer. The council has a 14-point program. The key point is of course guerrilla warfare as the means to throw the occupiers out. A very important point – deriding the usual Pentagon rhetoric – is that the council is fiercely against al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers. The council also rejects all laws and the constitution passed under the occupation; calls for an interim government; defends Iraq’s territorial integrity and rejects sectarianism.
It has been the Sunni Arab guerrillas that have virtually defeated the US in Iraq. And what’s even more remarkable is that, unlike Vietnam, this has not been a unified resistance of Sunnis and Shi’ites.
A very important issue concerns a group that decided not to be part of the council: the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The brigades are basically Iraqi nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. They totally reject any sort of collaboration with the US.
But they may join the council in the near future. In a statement released in early September, the brigades stressed what an overwhelming majority of Sunnis agree on: “The democrats have a chance to end this conflict in a face-saving solution for the US, by first declaring that they recognize the factions of the Iraqi resistance as the representatives of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Republic. After which a negotiating team would be arranged to negotiate your troop withdrawal, compensation for Iraq, and matters of future interest. It is only through the Iraqi resistance that a solution may be born.”
Or else, it’s “variable, adaptable and reversible asymmetric warfare that will set the standard for years and years to come”.
And there’s still more – the coordinated, “new Ba’ath” front: 22 resistance groups, under the command of former Saddam star Izaat al-Douri, already seriously talking with the Iyad Allawi bloc – thus part of the nationalist front – and dictating their conditions, which include a resistance ceasefire in exchange for a precise US timetable for withdrawal.
As far as all the key Sunni and Shi’ite factions in Iraq are concerned, they all agree on the basics. Iraq won’t be occupied. Iraq won’t hold permanent US military bases. Iraq won’t give up its oil wealth. And Iraq won’t be a toothless pro-Israel puppet regime.
As far as a concerted Iraqi resistance is concerned, the only way is up. What a historic irony that would be – before the Bush administration is finally tempted to attack Iran, it may have to face a true benchmark imposed on it in Iraq.