Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Assault on Fallujah

pv vivekanand
THE US military has launched its much-awaited assault on Fallujah in what is definitely a no-holds-barred bid to "cleanse" the town west of Baghdad ahead of January elections. No doubt, the military might of the sole superpower will prevail and American soldiers, backed by a few hundreds of Iraqi National Guards, would take control of Fallujah. It is only a question of how many days it might take before the US military claims it has "pacified" the town and cleared the way towards implementing the plan for elections.
Slain and maimed in the bargain will be hundreds, if not thousands, of Fallujah residents, women and children and others who have nothing to do with the insurgency. It is hardly likely that the US military would find many "foreign terrorists" in the town. US commanders have already set the ground to explain it away: Many of the "foreign terrorists" might have fled the town before the US military sealed it off.
As such, the declared American objective of "cleansing" Fallujah might work out in the short term, but it is unlikely that the assault would deliver a body blow to the insurgency against the American military presence in Iraq. Insurgents will regroup and show their presence elsewhere in Iraq, as it has already happened in Samarra and in Baghdad itself.
Mind you, it was only a month earlier that the US launched an all-out offensive in Samarra and claimed control of that town after killing an unknown number of residents.
Today, as reports indicate, the guerrilla resistance to the US military's effort to wrench control of the streets of Fallujah is co-ordinated from Samarra.
Insurgent seem to have the run of Baghdad. A bombing targeting the finance minister came in less than a couple of hours after the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, declared a 60-day state of emergency that gives him sweeping powers after giving the green light to the US military for the assault on Fallujah.
On Tuesday, Allawi declared a 10pm-4am curfew in the capital.
It would seem that neither the US military nor the interim government is sure who the enemy is.
What is known is that the insurgents include nationalist Iraqi tribes, religious groups, former Ba'ath Party and Iraqi Republican Guard members as well as foreign guerrillas magnetically drawn to Iraq in order to unleash their frustration and anger over American policies to the Arab and Muslim worlds.
On the political front in Iraq, the assault on Fallujah has already claimed its first casualty: The Iraqi Islamic Party  has opted to quit the interim government and withdraw its sole member in the Allawi cabinet. The minister himself, Hajim Al Hassani who is in charge of industries, has refused to quit, but then he might face expulsion from the party if he persists on his stand.
The party's move is a severe blow to Allawi since the group represents the Sunni community and is deemed to be influential and powerful since is the Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, arguably the most organised and disciplined group in the Middle East.
"We are protesting the attack on Fallujah and the injustice that is inflicted on the innocent people of the city," said Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, head of the party.
"We cannot be part of this attack," he said.
Washington would be naive not to take serious note of a open statement issued by 21 prominent Saudi religious scholars addressed to the Iraqi people endorsing their resistance and forbidding any co-operation or dealings with the US-led coalition forces.
The statement highlighted that Iraq should remain undivided and called on Iraqis to abandon personal, regional or tribal interests and come together the US forces.
The statement's authenticity is yet to be established. Its purported signatories include Sheikh Safar Al Hawal, Sheikh Salman Al Awdah, Sheikh Nasir Al Omar, Sheikh Hatim Al Ouni, Sheikh Awad Al Qarni and Sheikh Saud Al Finaisan, all of them known to be moderate religious leaders whose words have an impact on Muslims.
The American strategists have refused to accept the reality that they would not be able to "bring to heel" those who challenge their designs in Iraq. Instead, buoyed by President George W Bush's re-election to another four years at the White House, the neoconservative camp is determined to pursue a military solution to what is essentially a geopolitical problem that warrants an acceptance of the realities on the ground.
As many seasoned journalists covering the events in Iraq as well as commentators and observers have noted, the US approach to Iraq was and is fundamentally flawed, and the situation has crossed the point of no return for Washington to hope to pacify the Iraqis.
The assault on Fallujah and the resulting bloodbath would only further alienate the people of Iraq against the US presence in their country and fuel resentment against the US-supported interim government in Baghdad.
For every Iraqi killed in Fallujah or elsewhere, there would be dozens, starting with the victim's immediate family members, springing up to avenge the death. That is the lesson to be learnt from Iraqi history.
But that is lost on the Bush administration.
If anything, the reported plans of shuffling of key cabinet posts for Bush's second term clearly indicate the hawkish mindset would only take deeper roots in Washington.
It might indeed be a bitter disappointment for those who had hoped for a moderation during the Bush second term to observe that relative "moderates" are bowing their way out and hawks are entrenching closer to the corridors of power.
Condaleezza Rice, a clear hardliner, who is leaving her job as national security adviser, is a moderate when compared with the man who is tipped to succeed her — Paul Wolfowitz.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, again a relative moderate, is also quitting the cabinet, and it is safe bet his successor would be as hawkish and pro-Israeli as Wolfowitz.
As antiwar.com notes: "Bereft of restraint, or common sense, this ideology-driven administration is determined to spread the gospel of 'democracy' with evangelical zeal — at gunpoint, whether the peoples of the Middle East want it or not."
That might indeed be the American goal, but it is unrealistic and is devoid of understanding of the region and the history of its people and the prevailing sense of injustice perpetuated against them and supported by the US.
And ignoring those realities would continue to be America's folly that would only drag the world's sole superpower deeper into the quagmire to a point where the US experience in dealing with the Fallujah insurgents would resemble a child's play when compared with what lies ahead.