Monday, August 13, 2007

Understanding the resistance, Part II: The mixing of symbols

Information Clearing House published on Friday the English version of a lengthy interview with Abduljabbar al Kubaysi, dated July 10 2007 or just in the run-up to the ultimately aborted Damascus Conference. The following brief excerpts and comments are only meant to encourage people to read the whole thing. Kubaysi says the US is behind a lot of the killing of civilians, as part of their efforts to foster a sectarian-based civil war; that the initial US aim was to install by military power an easily-manipulable Shiite government, but that the unexpected growth of the resistance caused them to design the "political process" as a way of getting Sunni groups involved, so as to drain the pool in which the Sunni resistance was able to thrive; but now that the Sunnis have become completely disaffected with the government, that strategy too has ended in failure.

Regionally, he says the original American plan was to blame Syria for letting AlQaeda into Iraq, and use that as the pretext for toppling Assad and setting up a Muslim Brotherhood government in Damascus, which would fight in support of the Iraqi Sunnis, with Iran on the other side supporting the Shiites, hoping in this way to trigger a regional war that would last decades. But the Iraqi resistance prevented that by denying them the first step, namely initial control of Iraq.

Kubaysi also made remarks of another type. This is a man who grew up and flourished in the culture of left-nationalism, now having to deal with a rising generation to whom those ideas and ideologies are largely a thing of the past, who are motivated rather by Islam. When he was asked "...what is the relation of the resistance to the salafi and takfiiri groups," his reply included this:
Regarding alQaeda, in the first two years they were a very limited force....Later they steadily gained ground and they still keep growing. They have a lot of money but they do not spend it on luxury life but live very decent life on minimum needs dedicating everything to the struggle, which shows a very serious and attracting behavior. They spend the money on the struggle. Most of the youths join them not for the ideology but because they offer a place to resist.
So first of all he honors these people for their seriousness and dedication to the cause of resistance. This is worth noting because where others would challenge the "ideology", Kubaysi says the ideology is secondary if that, and the point is the dedication to the practical cause. He goes on:
They have a lot of resources and a steady supply also from outside while the other groups get nearly nothing from outside. Today maybe we can say that al Qaeda is the first organisation of the resistance. They go separately from the others but nevertheless in each city there is a kind of council to co-ordinate military action, to chalk out a plan of defence.

Islam is a weapon to make the people rise up. The Islamic history, the Islamic figures, the Islamic culture is used to push the people to fight because they consider Islam as their identity. National and religious symbols are being mixed. The Koran says that if Islamic land is attacked by foreigners, armed resistance is obligatory. This is until today out of question in the common sense. Jihad becomes a Muslim duty for the people being occupied by foreign invaders like fasting and praying.

So all the resistance groups whether Islamic or not use this spirit as a tool to mobilise and raise the people. Take for example the statements of the Baath party and of Izzat al Durri personally. Judging by his language you would believe him to be an extreme Islamist. But this does not mean that all of them are really Islamists.

The entire environment is Islamic. By Marxist or nationalist calls you will not attract young people. Where ever young people go you will find Islamic sentiment and spirit dominating. This indirectly favours al Qaeda. People who join them do not feel to do something not normal as the general conditions are Islamic. On the contrary they will believe to only act consistently.
If people in the American orbit read this at all, no doubt their readings of it will differ, but to me the first and most important point for any analysis of the resistance is that you cannot pidgeonhole people and groups as if you were Linnaeus studying his butterflies or what have you. "National and religious symbols are being mixed..." We can assume Kubaysi knows something about the mixing of symbols, because in earlier years he was involved in working together with anti-Saddam nationalist Baathists, Communists, Kurdish nationalists, unaffiliated people, and so on. People of many ideologies faced with a common crisis. While the wisdom of the anglosphere has been to play up and highlight each and every prospect for internal strife, sunni/shiite and islamist/nationalist in particular, there is also an underlying dynamic that goes in the opposite direction, and it is the ability to overcome ideological differences and work together in a common crisis. This was no doubt key to defeating the American scheme in its first stages, and this is an ability that will no doubt continue to baffle and defeat the aggressors for as long as they persist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re-reading Kubaysi's 2002 interview on earlier post was a timely reminder of the secular/socialist/modernising origins of the Baath party before Saddam and his tribe took it over.

And also of the one-time alliance of dissident/reformist Baath socialists with socialist Kurdish parties.

When was solidarity lost - after Anfal? Kubaysi does not go into detail.

As you indicated in your commentary Kubaysi concedes that pan-Arab nationalistic resistance has now been superceded by Salafi driven pan Arab Islamism. He does not seem very comfortable with this but rather presenting a unity "spin" at all costs.

Whatever, is surely an acknowledgment of a definitive moment of change in Arab modern political history?

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What GJ (above) overlooks is that Saddam himself was once a great moderniser, his tribal origins notwithstanding. See ‘The Other Saddam – a View from India’ by former Indian diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar:

As Sabir Jassim, a former classmate of Saddam Hussein at the Tikrit Secondary School for Boys recounted to Jon Lee Anderson in 2000 “When we were boys…we used to talk about our dreams for the future. Most of us wanted to become teachers. Saddam talked about ending Iraq’s poverty and backwardness. He was very anti-colonialist.”

In his romantic fable, ‘Zabiba and the King’, published in late 1999, Saddam’s deep ambivalence towards his tribal milieu is palpable and he champions the cause of female emancipation even in the context of the king’s conversion to Islam.

In his final letters addressed to the Iraqi people in general and his “brothers and comrades in the various factions of the courageous Iraqi Resistance” in particular, Saddam foregrounded the humane, tolerant dimension of Islam which is suppressed by militant Jihadism.

For all his faults, Saddam was able to bridge the gulf between securalism and Islam, tribalism and modernity in his own person. His death was a great loss for the Resistance.

I would also like to draw attention to the effusive posthumous tributes to Saddam Hussein by Abdul Jabbar Al-Kubaysi and Awni Al-Kalemji published on the IPA website ( in early February at the end of the 40 day mourning period.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction: For securalism read secularism!!

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever Saddam's attributes as a moderniser his first major act on assuming presidency was to unleash war against southern Iran which set in train the events that have culminated in Iraq's present disaster!

After the achievements of the 1970s that single decision spelt the end of modern Iraq, surely?

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unleashed war on Southern Iran? Khomeini was bent on overthowing the secular natonalist government of Iraq from the moment he took power!

You only have to look at the havoc wreaked in Iraq by Iranian-backed forces since the US invasion to appreciate the magnitude of the threat posed by Iranian expansionism under the cover of the Islamic Revolution.

Saddam made repeated attempts to make peace with Khomeini before and after hostilities began, but the latter refused all his overtures and the US fuelled the conflict by supplying arms to Iran via Israel and refusing to support Saddam's desire for a ceasefire. When Khomeini grudgingly agreed to a ceasefire just before his death in 1988 he liked it to swallowing poison.

Because of Iranian intransigence and American Machiavellianism Saddam had to build up his military forces to the point where he could fight Iran to a standstill. That enabled the US to portray Saddam as a threat to the region and the new bogeyman the moment Khomeini died. The US went on to unleash an economic conspiracy against Iraq involving their servile Kuwaiti clients and other Gulf allies - the rest is history.

1:35 AM  

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