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Resistance looks beyond Fallujah
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - US military superiority has prevailed in Fallujah, but it is certainly not a knockout blow to the insurgency, which will continue its resistance, at the same time working for the establishment of a political movement involving exiles in Arab and non-Arab nations for the liberation of Iraq from foreign domination.

In the meantime, according to Asia Times Online information gained from Iraq, the resistance will continue on its present course of limited engagements with US forces in as many different places as possible. Already serious unrest has spread to al-Anbar, Mosul, Samarra, Tikrit, Tamim, Baghdad, Babil and other places.

Command and control of a guerrilla war was mapped out well before the invasion of the country last year. By February 2003, about 35,000 Fedayeen (the paramilitary "men of sacrifice" of Saddam Hussein) had been trained for urban warfare. And Saddam also restored ties with Salafi-based Islamic seminaries in Fallujah, Islamic Sufi groups in Tamim, and coordinated a strategy under which these groups agreed to coordinate with Ba'ath Party security committees.

A key element of the resistance was that officially trained Iraqi militias and Ba'ath Party members would not themselves commit to full battle. They recruited civilians, who were given training and equipped with arms and ammunition. These latter forces, mostly religiously motivated zealots, were the cannon fodder. This was amply illustrated in Fallujah, where the leaders and "professional" soldiers had left long before the US assault on the city began.

The fleeing guerrillas took refuge in other parts of al-Anbar province in which Fallujah is located, while their colleagues in al-Tamim, Baquba and Mosul carried out organized attacks. In Mosul, the Iraqi resistance took control of the city for a time and then melted away. The strategy is aimed at spreading US forces and demoralizing the Iraqi troops which fight with them - there have been reports of widespread desertions.

Political battlefield
A number of important Ba'ath Party members were assigned to Iraqi intelligence missions abroad during Saddam's time. After the US occupation of Iraq these Ba'athists mostly took refuge in Syria, where they at present form a strong political movement. Similar groups are believed to exist in Egypt, Sudan, Russia, China, France and Libya. Their aim is to organize themselves into some form of a "government in exile".

The Iraqi Ba'ath Party and the Syrian Ba'ath Party have a long history of differences that badly dented the pan-Arab dream of a united Arab republic comprising Iraq, Egypt and Syria, as well as liberated Palestine. However, well before the war, Saddam resolved many differences with Syria and the government there strongly opposed the US attack on Iraq. But under immense US pressure, Syria was not in a position to support the Iraqi resistance. Nevertheless, a second tier of the Ba'ath Party in Syria is strongly in support of the Iraqi resistance, so they have given shelter to their Iraqi counterparts.

A significant development in the Iraqi resistance is their Arab-language websites, which release photographs and information on the resistance on a daily basis. Clearly organized groups are behind these sites, for as soon as one website is shut down, another springs up.

Facing reality
In another development, Iraqi Minister of the Interior Faleh Hassan al-Naqib, speaking at a press conference, accepted some ground realities never before admitted by the US administration or even al-Naqib's US-installed interim government. The minister accepted that the resistance is not a scattering of Islamic groups, but rather an organized and very well-coordinated movement with a command structure. He also admitted that it is an indigenous movement, with only 4-6% foreigners. And unlike frequent US claims that Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group members are kingpins, he accepted that the resistance comprises mostly Saddam loyalists.

Al-Naqib also conceded that the insurgency had developed some form of political leadership operating from Syria. He named the principal coordinator as Mohammed Yunus Ahmad, a former Ba'ath Party security official.

Tribal influences
An important dynamic of the resistance is the role of tribal society. It is a rule in all Iraqi tribal societies that decisions are unified and never defied by individual members of the tribe. This nationalist trend goes beyond Shi'ite and Sunni differences - at present, all Arab-origin Shi'ite clerics from Baghdad, including Muqtada al-Sadr, have raised their voice in favor of the resistance, and Muqtada has suspended his support for the scheduled January elections.

In the south, marshland Bedouin tribes, where the Ba'ath Party was very strong, have also started sporadic attacks on British troops. Groups that remain excluded from the resistance include those in the provinces of al-Karbala and Najaf, where Arab tribal traditions are weak because of the strong dominance of people of Indian and Iranian origin.

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

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Nov 19, 2004
Asia Times Online Community

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