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Friday | June 06, 2003

Iraq Sunni cleric calls for jihad

As Iraqis' Disaffection Grows, U.S. Offers Them a Greater Political Role

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 6 The imam at one of Baghdad's largest mosques urged more than a thousand listeners today to wage a jihad, or religious war, against American occupying forces in Iraq.

Speaking at Friday Prayers, Imam Mouaid al-Ubaidi denounced the Americans as invaders and aggressors and implicitly praised recent guerrilla attacks against United States soldiers as self-defense by people who are being "strangled."

The unusually bellicose sermon by the Sunni Muslim cleric came just hours before American officials, responding to growing Iraqi disenchantment, offered to give Iraqis more authority in an American-controlled interim administration that is expected to be formed next month.

Heightened frustrations with the American occupation is believed to be inciting attacks like the one mounted in the central Iraqi town of Falluja on Thursday. One American soldier was killed and five others injured when a grenade or a mortar round hit their encampment, 30 miles west of Baghdad. It was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings that has left eight soldiers dead in less than two weeks.

"There are only two powers now in the world," Mr. Ubaidi said in his Friday sermon. "One is America, which is tyrannical and oppressive. The other is a warrior who has not yet been awakened from his slumber, and that warrior is Islam.

"Our brave Muslim Iraqi people, who care about their honor and their country, refuse all manner of occupation," he continued. Declaring that a jihad was justified to protect oneself or one's religion, he went on to declare that "Islamic people don't have any of these rights" and that "it is these Islamic people's right to carry the banner of jihad to regain those lost rights."

In the immediate aftermath of the war, American officials spoke hopefully of creating a provisional Iraqi government put together by a national conference of Iraqi leaders.

That notion died in the ensuing chaos. Earlier this week they presented a revised plan that would have created a purely advisory "Iraqi face" on the new government. Today's re-revised plan would go further, creating what the Americans called a genuine "Iraqi partner."

L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in Iraq, presented the offer at a meeting tonight with an array of Iraqi political leaders. The most important change in the plan, according to one official, would be to give a proposed Iraqi political council more power in naming ministers to an interim administration under a new occupation authority. Elections at this point "might lead to more instability instead of less," one official said. In an "undeveloped political climate," he said, elections might provide an opening for "intervention by extremists."

This is not getting any better by the day, is it?

Where are all the neo-cons and their online friends talking about our great victory in Iraq. How we got rid of Saddam. Well, the word I would use is evicted. We threw him out of his palaces. The odds are good that we have done little else to him.

The article suggest the greatest threat is from the Sunnis angered at their loss of status. Sure, until the Shia clerics realize that if a war starts, they better get their share of dead Americans as well. The fact is that this situation is spinning out of control slowly. And the US has the wrong forces deployed in the wrong way to deal with a guerrilla war.

The fact is that the US has no natural allies in Iraq. Even Chalabi expects more of a role in running Iraq. This is fast becoming untenable. If a war starts, we have whole units isolated and deployed as little more than cops across the country.

We are facing a total collapse of our Iraq policy not within years or months, but weeks. If the pace of combat increases and we have to hunt down guerrillas through every village, and deal with platoon and company-sized ambushes, we will be fighting to hang on.

In 1920, a rebellion against the British which began in Basra not only spread, but unified the entire country. The Kurds have been the most loyal to the US, but if they decide that continued loyalty will cost them, they will end their moderate support of the US military.

We cannot improve the lot of the Iraqi people, resentment is exploding, the Shia militias now control most of Baghdad and the Sunnis are moving to organize an open rebellion.

We now face a similar explosion of nationalism in our occupation of Iraq and we have no ideas on how to deal with it. The American people think Iraq is over. It might be more accurate to say that Iraq is just beginning.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 06, 2003 10:28 PM | Comments (55)


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