Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Advice to the resistance: "Let's not be lured into fighting Iran too"

One reason for the recent American exaggeration of the Iranian role in Iraq, most notably in the Petraeus testimony, is to invite the Sunni resistance to enter into an arrangement of convenience with the American occupation, either by the Sunnis joining the so-called political process in order to help fend off Iranian influence in the Green Zone, or else by suspending or easing their attacks on the American occupation in the interests of a tacit agreement to focus on the Iranian threat. This is the reading of Awni Qalamji, a Sunni-resistance ideologue writing in his regular Al-Quds al-Arabi opinion column. Naturally Qalamji's point is to warn against getting sucked into taking any such attitude.

Of course, he writes, no one can or should underestimate the damage that the Iranians have done to the interests of Iraqi unity and independence. However, he warns:
All of this doesn't give us the right--and particularly it doesn't give the Iraqi resistance the right--to alter the arrangement of our priorities and make secondary struggles more important than the main struggle against the occupation. In fact it has been said, always and everywhere since the beginning of the Age of Colonialism, that it is the occupation that gives birth to the legitimacy of the resistance, and it follows that the main battlefield in the liberation of Iraq is to focus our fighting on the American occupation, as the spearhead and leader of the occupation and its main force.
It is one of the lessons of all colonial struggles including Vietnam and Algeria that resistance begins and ends with the preservation of one's own forces and the demolition of those of the occupier, and under no reasoning or pretext, no matter how apparently convincing, should the resistance forces be dissipated in more than one front. Dispersal of resistance forces among different fronts makes them easier targets for the occupation forces, and Qalamji says this is particularly the case now, considering that the resistance is still weak in rear-guard support and fixed bases.

He says the requirement for overall strategic unity doesn't mean the resistance can't from time to time allocate forces to secondary or supporting aims, but his main point is the need for overall strategic unity against the American occupation. For one thing, he adds, unity will prepare the way for the establishment of fixed bases for the resistance, a very important condition for final victory.

Underlying this discussion of strategic singleness of purpose with tactical flexibility is the following idea: The techniques used against the Americans are also applicable against the secondary or derivative parties that support in many ways the occupation . Luckily for our understanding of what Qalamji is saying, there is a saying that is common to English and Arabic:
Taking the battle against the American occupation to the other circles of the occupation is not a case of the chicken and the egg where the question is which comes first. Rather it is an application of this principle: [The battle against the American occupation itself is] the only way to weaken the forces of the occupation and weaken their underpinnings, and this will lead necessarily to the weakening and convulsion of the helpers and the cooperators with the occupation, whether they are Iraqis or whether they are Iranians, or whether they are mercenaries or Israeli Mossad, or [Kurdish] separatists.

An editorial note from missing links: There is a pronounced tendency on the part of most commentators to do two things: (1) One is to aggressively ignore any statements expressed by Iraqis or others in Arabic, unless these have been refracted at least once, or better still twice or many times, though the interpretative lens of reliable authorities such as AP or Juan Cole or one of the netroots authorities. One thing I have been trying to do here is to bring the discussion back to Arabic discussions in Arabic, so far as that is possible. Often, as in the case of the Istanbul Conference at the end of last year, just to take one example out of many, the Arabic views are completely washed out of the English language discussions, and what you get instead is a monotone. So I think one reason for the unpopularity of this blog is its strangeness: a lot of the material stands outside of what people are used to seeing.

(2) The second unfortunate tendency is to never admit you don't have the Complete Answer. Of course Juan Cole is the worst at this, but it is a disease that affects all of us. I myself sometimes hate to admit I don't know how the pieces fit together. What's lacking in myself and others is an ability to hold different viewpoints and different explanations in the mind at the same time, while sorting them out. Of course, we all have first principles, and it goes without saying that mine is that foreign occupation is wrong, and everything else follows from that. But that doesn't mean there aren't twists and turns. What is AlQaeda in Iraq: A Saudi/CIA supported entity? Or possibly a group that is starting to see its ideology challenged and rejected in ways it hasn't experienced up to now? A little of both? I do not know. I did my best to report on the cats paw hypothesis, and more recently on the ideological-challenge idea.

All of which is by way of explaining why I posted today's post. It is because it illustrates an important factor in resistance thinking: namely that the US is in the process of trying to lure the resistance into a tacit deal that would have the effect of focusing on the Iran as the enemy. Part of the run-up to a war with Iran? I don't know.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to your editorial note, Badger, it is admittedly a bit too simplistic to view the militant Jihadist current loosely referred to as ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq’ as a mere catspaw. The argument of Ba’athist Resistance insider Salah Al-Mukhtar is also more subtle than that.

It is perhaps more helpful to think of it as a virus or a mutant species that has been let loose and allowed to spread for the purpose that I have described – which coincides with US strategy in Iraq -: namely to sabotage the Iraqi National Resistance and cause patriotic Iraqis – or at least those lacking in political awareness – to acquiesce in the fait accompli of US hegemony over Iraq as a supposedly lesser evil. (I drew your attention to Robert Dreyfuss’s book, ‘Devil’s game: how the United States helped unleash fundamentalist Islam’ in an earlier comment.)

The threat from Iran and Iranian-backed forces, which have been empowered and emboldened as a direct result of US policy – serves a similar Machiavellian purpose vis à vis Iraq’s Sunni factions (and the Gulf states!)

However, unlike ‘Al-Qaeda’, Iran has influential local allies in SIIC, Dawa and the Sadr group. The USA and Iran have engaged in antagonistic collaboration – a sort of devils’ dance, if you like – for the last five years. It is not yet clear whether Satan (USA) will finally get the better of Beelzebub (Iran) or vice versa –or whether the dance will continue for years to come...

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the ed. comment. I always feel a bit guilty when I come here after a timely absence. So much to think about when exposed to important information, yet it's not a daily or even weekly visit at times. Now you've given me a bit of an excuse.

Today I came by hoping you might be commenting on the story of the Israeli commandos and the Syrian/North Korean nuke plant. I read about it at syriacomment where some of the comments were interesting. Love to know what the Arab world is saying.

10:24 AM  

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