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Fanning the flames of resistance
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - With US forces storming into western districts of Fallujah early on Monday, seizing the main city hospital and securing two key bridges over the Euphrates River, the first stage of the long-expected assault on the insurgent stronghold appears to be under way.

This follows the interim Iraqi government's declaration on Sunday of a state of emergency for 60 days throughout the country, except for Kurdish-run areas of the north.

These developments are expected to precipitate a new phase in the resistance that, Asia Times Online contacts say, is being coordinated from Samarra, the Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad where at least 33 people were killed and 48 wounded, including a local police chief, in four car-bomb attacks and clashes on Saturday.

The sources say the Iraqi resistance, comprising nationalist Iraqi tribes, religious groups, former Ba'ath Party and Iraqi Republican Guard members, as well as foreign fighters, is being coordinated by Saddam Hussein's former No 2, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who has played an important role in cementing a unified strategy among the different anti-US groups in the country.

Izzat has used his influence as the only devout Muslim in the former Ba'athist regime and encouraged different Islamic groups from the north to the south to make contact with local Ba'ath councils and units of Iraqi forces.

Foreign infiltration into the country is also continuing across largely unguarded borders, notably from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan and Kuwait. "There is news that the majority of the civilian population of Fallujah has been forced to leave. This obviously affects Iraq's neighbors," commented a leading Pakistani strategic expert, retired Major-General Ghulam Umar.

Although the troubles in Iraq have only drawn a cautious official response from Muslim countries, including the Arab League asking the US not to invade Fallujah, a far deeper impact has been made on Muslim masses across the globe, where increasingly they are becoming motivated to take up arms in support of the Iraqi resistance. The Koran through its teachings supports Muslims helping people in a state of siege or intense oppression, regardless of religion.

Asia Times Online has learned from sources in Saudi Arabia that as many as 10,000 Saudi youths might be in or going to Iraq. And with the strong presence of organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in such countries as Syria and Jordan, it can be safely estimated that jihadis from these countries are also flooding into Iraq, or are preparing to do so.

At the same time, the US has consistently reaffirmed its determination to flush out the resistance once and for all, making intensified clashes inevitable, including possibly across Iraq's borders. The hardline US approach has served to bring the many Arab tribes in Iraq together. Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, who is himself a tribal chief from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, is a fierce critic of the Fallujah operation.

The US operation on Fallujah includes Battalion 36, an elite fighting force of Kurds and the Badr Brigade (former exiled Shi'ite group in Iran) , as well as combatants from Iraqi exile groups trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency in Hungary before the war. They are considered "alien", and their participation beside US forces will not only provoke local tribal sentiment, but also have an impact on countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and attract support for the resistance, though from the grassroots level.

Saudi support
According to Saudi Arabia-based Arab News, 21 prominent Saudi religious scholars have signed an open statement to the Iraqi people legitimizing their resistance and forbidding any cooperation or dealings with the occupying US forces.

The scholars stressed the importance of a unified Iraq, asking Iraqis to forsake personal, regional or tribal interests to ensure that justice is served among all. They also told the Iraqi people that they should understand the reality they were living in because "any vision that goes beyond seeing things in their true perspective with all its details will end in failure".

Signatories to the statement included Sheikh Safar al-Hawali - who has been a mediator between terrorists and the Saudi government in the past year - Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, Sheikh Nasir al-Omar, Sheikh Hatim al-Ouni, Sheikh Awad al-Qarni and Sheikh Saud al-Finaisan.

Though Arab News gave the statement prominence, its senior editor, Siraj Wahab, said its authenticity had yet to be conclusively confirmed as it was only posted on an Islamic website.

Significantly, scholars such as Salman and al-Hawali were once supporters of Osama bin Laden, but after September 11, 2001, they denounced al-Qaeda and restored ties with Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler. The statement therefore sheds some light on the undercurrents in Saudi society, where large segments support the Iraqi resistance movement.

A similar statement in favor of the Iraqi resistance was in the offing in Pakistan, but the Pakistani intelligence community intervened and prevented it from being released for fear of widespread anti-US demonstrations. At the same time, a countrywide demonstration program planned by the banned Hizbut Tehrir was crushed through mass arrests.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online. He can be reached at

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Nov 9, 2004
Asia Times Online Community

The rise and fall of Fallujah
(Nov 3, '04)

The eternal circle of the Iraqi insurgency
(Oct 30, '04)

US occupation through Iraqi eyes (Oct 30, '04) 


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