Iraq: Siege in Najaf

Iraqi resistance grows

The siege of Najaf is the latest episode that underlines the fact that neither US Imperialism nor their puppet "Iraqi government" led by Iyad Allawi control Iraq.

At the time of writing US AC-130s have been bombing the al-Mahdi Army positions in Najaf relentlessly for a week. Hundreds of resistance fighters have been killed. The Grand Ayatollah Allah Ali al-Sistani has issued a call for Iraqis to march to Najaf to save the city. In reality al-Sistani, a pro-interim government supporter and a collaborator with imperialism, is attempting to use his influence as the religious head of the Shias to force a defeat on Muqtada al-Sadr who he views as a threat.

The battle for Najaf has come to symbolise the resistance of the Iraqi people against the US occupation. Fighting has spread from Najaf to numerous other cities, including Sunni areas. Tanks and US warplanes have been bombing Sunni fighters in Fallujah. Demonstrations by Shia and Sunnis against the US assault on Najaf (and the Imam Ali shrine) have even been joined by members of the new Iraqi police force.

"Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning into planet Mars. Doesn’t Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn’t Bush realise this? The American appointed ’government’ controls only parts of Baghdad – even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the ’Prime Minister’, is little more than mayor of Baghdad, ’Some journalists,’ Blair announces, ’almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq.’ He doesn’t get it. The disaster exists now." Robert Fisk Independent (London) 1 August 2004.

When Bush tried to claim that the Iraqi Olympic football team was a symbol of the new free Iraq, its manager called for an end to the US occupation! In the US presidential elections, Iraq has become a plaything for Bush and Kerry to slag each other off, but in Iraq the US occupation which has cost them $130 billion so far, is stumbling from one disaster to another. There have been 700 attacks on oil pipelines, nearly 1,500 Iraqis have been killed in the last six weeks and the streets are swarming with private "security" personnel, in reality, foreign mercenaries.

So far only $600 million of the allocated $18 billion approved for the rebuilding of Iraq has been spent and much of this on security. An inquiry into the torture of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib jail described the prison as an "animal house" and said that "Institutional and personal responsibility [for the torture]" stretched "right up the chain of command in Washington".

The effects of the crisis in Iraq are spreading to every corner of the globe. Oil prices have risen 30% this year and hover between $45 and $50 a barrel (oil is now 136% more expensive than before September 11th). Capitalist politicians and big business now fear that this will lead to a world recession.

Even if the US army, (fronted by a token Iraqi force), manages to "defeat" the al-Mahdi army in Najaf that will not signal the end of the resistance to the occupation. Nor will it mean the end of the al-Mahdi army as the Iraqi collaborators predict.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s power base is in Sadr City, the Shia district of Baghdad. The two million Shias in Sadr City face mass unemployment, US forces on their streets, live in slums and are opposed to the US occupation and it’s Iraqi puppet regime.

"Prime Minister" Iyad Allawi, whose background includes links to the CIA, has signed the "death warrant" for his Iraqi interim government by sending US forces against the Shia resistance fighters. A "victory" for US Imperialism in Najaf will be pyrrhic and short lived. The resistance movement will continue to gather pace.

On the other hand, the programme of Sadr, and other similar groups, for a fundamentalist Shia state offers no way out. Sadr’s militia has clamped down, Taliban style, in areas like Sadr city.

The call for a shia – or a sunni – state cannot build unity among the people of Iraq, but will widen the religious and national divisions that ultimately could result in civil war. The way forward is to build a united movement of the working class against the occupation and for a secular and socialist Iraq.

The pressures on the Bush regime such as the mounting death toll and declining morale amongst US troops; the growth in opposition to the occupation in the US and around the world; and the instability in the oil markets are underlining the fact that it is impossible for the US to win its war of occupation in Iraq.

From Socialist Voice, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in Ireland.

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August 2004