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The resistance in Iraq

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | religion | opinion / analysis author Wednesday April 13, 2005 18:05author by Organise - AF Report this post to the editors

Analysis from the British Anarchist Federation

Many of the Moslem combatants fighting in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia are young people from countries who are glad to see them go off to fight. For example Saudi Arabia is happy to finance Islamism internationally in order to fight it internally.

The United States and its allies have become bogged down in Iraq. The "mission accomplished" boasts of Bush now seem extremely hollow. The numbers of fatalities incurred by the US military are well over a thousand and they have lost control in some areas. In fact some areas are no-go. The American policy of capturing the Iraqi oilfields and just as importantly, their hopes of controlling the whole of oil-rich Central Asia from their conquest of Iraq and Afghanistan have gone terribly wrong Saddam was overthrown, but instead of strengthening the US grip on the world, the forces of Islamic fundamentalism have been seriously strengthened. Saddam, previously a useful client of the West, kept both working class revolution AND fundamentalism under control in his secular State. Now Iraq might disintegrate into several different pieces.

The coalition that the US cobbled together in the wake of the September 11th attacks and the start of the "war on terror" are also showing signs of great strain. There are large anti-war movements throughout the world and anti-war sentiment has resulted in the withdrawal of Spain from the occupation. Support for the occupation is increasingly shaky in other countries, with nervous governments worried that they might be voted out on a wave of anti-war sentiment.

The armed resistance against occupation is made up of two main currents- the Baathist party of Saddam, and different Islamic fundamentalist factions. Part of the Baathist forces are made up of Saddam's elite Republican Guard, which was his main arm of repression inside Iraq and on whose loyalty Saddam and his family could count. (about 25,000 men and women) Another section of the Saddamist resistance is made up of the Fedayeen Saddam. This formation was set up by Saddam's son Uday, as a counterweight to his brother Qusay, who controlled the Republican Guard. It is trained in urban combat and undercover work.

Saddam's regime lasted 40 years and in true totalitarian fashion, it planted itself deeply in every aspect of Iraqi society. That is why, despite the capture of Saddam and the death of his sons, it is proving difficult to uproot. A whole social layer, the bureaucracy and the higher ranks of the military are totally identified with Saddam For them to retain or claw back their privileges, and there were many, they must either return to power through armed struggle or integrate themselves into the new regime set up by the US.

Originally the US planned on deBaathisation of Iraq. A number of workers strikes broke out in summer 2000 calling for wage rises and violently opposing themselves to the corrupt Baathist factory directors. The urgent need to put the Iraqi economy back on a firm footing meant this was soon forgotten and a number of Baathist officials, bureaucrats and military leaders have been put back in the saddle, headed up by Alawai, dissident Baathist and loyal accomplice of the CIA.


The splintering of the Baathists, with some rallying to the new regime and their failure to mount an effective armed resistance, meant the emergence of political Islam as a dominant trend within the resistance.

The Baathists reinforced religious identities with their persecution of the Shiite Moslems and the expulsion of one of the oldest Jewish communities. Ethnic and religious identities were strengthened, whilst dying institutions were reinforced. The Baathists gave a role to tribal leaders, which caused derision in a population that is 70% urban and considers them as archaic. The chaos in Iraq is now in fact unleashing a process of retribalisation. The Americans have entered into this with their exploitation of tribal relations and which sheikhs could be supported.


Many of the Moslem combatants fighting in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia are young people from countries who are glad to see them go off to fight. For example Saudi Arabia is happy to finance Islamism internationally in order to fight it internally. The exodus of many young Islamist militants means less of a threat at home. Those Jordanians, Saudis, Palestinians, Syrians who came to support Iraq against the Allies were stranded there and had no alternative but to carry on armed struggle. These fighters have brought the most intransigent forms of Islam with them like Wahhabism and Salafism. The

similarity between the communiqués of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria and the Islamic Army in Iraq are not a coincidence. The Islamist internationalists are a minority in Iraq but their fanaticism and their networks and their training represent a force to be reckoned with.

Abu Rashid, Wahhabist militant and ex- member of the Saddam guard, is now one of the "emirs" of Fallujah. The Taliban is represented by the Army of the Companions of the Prophet, who declared jihad on the feminist leader Yannar Mohammed because of her opposition to the sharia. And of course there is the organisation led by the Jordanian Abu Moussab Zarkaoui, the notorious beheader, who has pledged allegiance to Osama bin-Laden.

Al-Qaeda is hostile to all the Arab nationalisms and Arab "socialisms" and wants to create a vast Moslem Umma (community) founded on sharia law and the most advanced capitalism. It is a pure product of capitalist globalisation and it is not for nothing that bin-Laden, a Saudi millionaire, heads this movement.

Whilst the Baathists can only rely on vast stockpiles of arms, the Islamists can count on the backing of the financial networks of Islamism. The Saudi monarchy has not the slightest intention of letting Iraq return to a leading role in petrol production. Iran for its part is financing the Shiite section of the resistance.

Some Islamists have done like the Baathists, integrating themselves into the provisional government, like the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, whose several thousand militia are now in the new regular army in Iraq.

Even Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Shiite resistance, is ready to turn his Mahdi Army into a political party and participate in the 2005 elections.

ALL the Islamist groups, despite their differences have the same aims, to establish a regime founded on Islam and sharia law, with strict sexual apartheid. They hate atheists and secularists, other religious groups, feminists, organised workers, socialists and communists and they devote columns to denouncing them in their papers. The poet Mohammed Abdul Rahim, who recently joined the Worker-Communist Party and openly campaigned against political Islam in the town of Kut, was murdered, probably by troops of the Islamic Council of the Islamic Revolution, which is part of the new provisional government. In Sadr City, the stronghold of al-Sadr, the local population have supported his Mahdi Army. But in Nassiriyah, the workers of the aluminium factory saw off his troops, which had attempted to occupy and turn it into a military base. In Basra, the different Islamist parties have set up an "emirate" where women are no longer seen in the street and where alcohol and nightclubs and even picnics are forbidden. In Mosul, women working in hospitals or universities have been shot and beheaded.

One could argue that there must be more to the resistance than the Baathists or the Islamists. If it does exist, it has not made itself known. The Iraqi Communist Party has participated in the new government, giving it a certain legitimacy within the working class, and has played an important role in the reorganisation of industry, controlling a powerful trade union central, the Iraqi Federation of Unions. This has not always been appreciated by ordinary members of unions. This has resulted in a split called the Communist Party (Cadres) who have joined the armed resistance. Whilst it might criticise the religious leaders, it makes common front with the Islamists and Baathists in the name of patriotism!!

Mobsters and mullahs

A section of the Communist Party has lost some of its members to the Worker- Communist Party whose opposition to both the occupation and Islamism has attracted an increasing number. This party does not participate in the resistance and criticises it for its nationalist and religious character. It organises in the areas where it has strength- principally refugee camps and squatted buildings- armed groups to protect the population from Islamism and gangsterism. One of its leaders has declared that its aim is to arm the masses and their organisations, to kick out the occupation troops, diminish Islamist influence and to develop the power of the masses. However, they remain trapped within Leninist ideology, and it remains to be seen whether such a mindset will effect their practice as regards real autonomy for the working class.

Why is the resistance overwhelmingly on the right and extreme right, with sections of the left pulled into its orbit and with admiration from a section of the extreme left?

Many were favourable to autonomy for the Kurds, they were weary from the years of war, embargoes and sanctions. The appalling behaviour of the occupation armies and the rise in unemployment has now turned this weariness into hostility. Some of the poorest sections of the masses have been drawn into the struggle against the occupiers. The Islamists, with their well-funded networks have benefited from this.

The workers movement and the women's movement in Iraq does not have large resources. They can only count on themselves, and international solidarity, to develop their workers councils and neighbourhood councils. The resistance only offers an ultrareactionary Islamic regime.

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From Organise! #63 - Winter 2004 FOR REVOLUTIONARY ANARCHISM - the magazine of the anarchist federation

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