What We Learned in Iraq This Week
The media this morning was full of announcements that Moqtada Al-Sadr had declared a cease fire or asked his troops to stop fighting (and I’m sure George, Dick and McSame cheered that news) but this afternoon they seem to have noticed that Al Sadr’s statement is more “nuanced.”
Al Sadr’s statement makes 9 demands to Maliki’s government which a member of the GorillasGuides team translated as follows:
"Based upon our responsibilities under the law [shariah] and for the sparing of Iraki blood and for the protection of the reputability of the Iraqi people, and for their unity both in terms of people and in terms of territory, and in preparation for its independence and liberation from the armies of oppression; and in order to put out the fires of fitna which the occupier and his followers wish to keep burning between Iraki brothers, we call upon the beloved Iraki people to measure up to their responsibility and their consciousness of law in sparing bloodshed and preserving peace in Irak, and its stability and independence.
The following is resolved:
1. Ending armed manifestations in Basra governorate and all the other governates.
2. Ending of attacks and illegal arbitrary detentions. [by GZG]
3. Demand that the government apply the law on general amnesty, and release all prisoners who have not had charges confirmed against them, in particular prisoners belonging to the Sadrist current.
4. We announce that we will repudiate those who carry weapons and target the government and service agencies and institutions, or the offices of political parties.
5. Cooperation with government agencies to bring about security and to charge criminals, according to due process of law.
6. We reassert that the Sadrist movement does not possess heavy weapons.
7. Efforts [meaningful efforts are to be made] for the return to their residential areas of those who were forced out as a result of security incidents.
8. We demand respect for human rights by the government in all of its security activities.
9. Working [meaningful efforts are to be made] towards the realisation of development and service projects in all governates."
This does not look like surrender to me but an offer of truce – if the Maliki government agrees to this set of demands (and these are actually demands Al Sadr has been making for a while).
With the clear evidence that Maliki – even with countless US air strikes, UK force support and US special forces fighting along side his army (h/t Juan Cole) – was unable to make headway against the Sadrist forces who not only held the bridges needed for Maliki to resupply his forces in Basra but also killed his closest security advisor, Al-Kadhmi, this week’s fighting has demonstrated even more the futility of our occupation. (For a knowledgeable Iraqi military analysis of the fighting and current situation, click here.)
As Time notes about the fact that the Mahdi Army will not hand over their weapons:
That raises the prospect that, even if the fighting does subside, the government’s offensive will have accomplished little. Militants in Basra will have successfully defied the Iraqi prime minister’s demand that they surrender, and his subsequent demand that they hand over their weapons. Rather than demonstrating the power of the central government and the weakness of Shi’ite factions, this week’s violence may have demonstrated the opposite.
Still, as good students of BushCo’s Iraq happy talk, a spokeman for the Maliki government said:
"A large number of people will listen to Muqtada al-Sadr’s call. Life will return to all of Iraq as before."
But as Fatih Abdulsalam of Azzaman writes:
All explanations are possible for the current fighting in Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq situated in an area which floats on massive oil riches.
But the reality of the situation which tells volumes about what is happening is the fact that war, in the fullest sense of the word, has been raging without interruption in Iraq for the past five years.
Over those years, bombing by war planes and shelling by heavy artillery have been raging across the country, telling everyone inside and outside Iraq that conditions for normal life are no longer possible.
Amid such circumstances in which villages, towns and cities turn into battle scenes, there are still some whose total state of denial spurs them to speak of successes and achievements.
Every now and then in the past five years, the government or the foreign occupiers would launch massive and bloody operations on Iraqis in major cities such as Karbala, Najaf, Baaqouba, Kut, and Basra and so on and so forth.
Fierce fighting takes place inside these cities with the main fodder being innocent Iraqi civilians among them women and children
In the past five years, Iraqis have been paying dearly for the blunders first of the foreigners who came to occupy their country and second of the Iraqis these foreigners have nurtured and supported to run the country.
The tragedy is that almost all political factions are armed and have raised their own militias groups. Even American occupiers today have their own Iraqi militias.
This is the harvest of the political process whose initiators relied on sectarianism to sell it to the Iraqis. It started with the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops whose commanders and civil leaders sanctioned and Iraqi factional groups jumped on as a means to achieve their ends.
And now neither the Americans nor the factional government have the slightest idea of how to have it solved.
Previously, they spoke of ‘the Sunni Triangle’ where most of the military operations used to take place. They gave the world the impression that the other Iraqi ‘triangles’ were calm and serene.
Today the parties responsible for the occupation of the country, whether foreigners or their Iraqi lackeys, are to blame for the loss of a country which, with proper and wise leadership, could have now turned into a beacon of democracy and economic prosperity in the Middle East.
The video above is part 1 of 6 of John Snow’s Hidden Iraq – a view of Iraqis reality today. The full series can be seen here. (h/t Diane)
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Thank you to all who sent such lovely and thoughtful comments on the announcement of the death of a beloved brother of the Guides team this week. I am sure your words and reaching across the divide between our peoples will be appreciated. Rev. Mike Kinman who has been in a dialogue with Mohammed Ibn Laith wrote a beautiful tribute and spoke of what he will do in response to Ali’s death – and I hope we will all follow his example.