[lit-ideas] Only a provocateur

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 23:30:13 -0700 (PDT)


Only a provocateur 

Zarqawi's death will not halt the cycle of violence
set in motion by the occupation of Iraq 

Jonathan Steele in Cairo
Friday June 9, 2006
The Guardian 

The success of any insurgency always depends on the
degree of its popular support. In a country occupied
by foreign troops and where the government is not
perceived as independent, the most powerful source of
that support is nationalism. The occupiers are the
insurgents' best recruiting tool.

These basic truths have never been taken on board
sufficiently by the Bush administration or the UK
government in their dealings with Iraq. Ignoring them
was the biggest blunder in the pre-invasion period,
when it was falsely assumed most Iraqis would welcome
the arrival of western troops. Since the invasion, US
commanders and politicians have continued to underrate
the extent of nationalist resentment and resistance.

The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-styled
leader of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, offers a new chance
to adjust to reality. His killing has been greeted
with relief and delight by many Iraqis. Though
attracted to Iraq by the magnet of the occupation, he
was seen as the architect of a terror campaign that
had nothing to do with the real insurgency. It was
designed to provoke chaos and civil war. An extreme
Sunni fundamentalist who believed Shias were not true
Muslims, he and his group had increasingly turned to
attacks on Shia targets.

For months there were signs that his vicious carnage
was alienating many Iraqi Sunni leaders. As a result,
Zarqawi was forced to agree not to disrupt last
December's election for a new Iraqi government since
Sunnis wanted to take part.

His ultra-radicalism earned him rebukes from within
al-Qaida itself. Ayman al-Zawahiri, its deputy leader,
wrote him a letter last summer warning of the risk of
losing popular support, questioning the wisdom of
attacks on ordinary Shias, and denouncing the videos
of hostage-beheadings. Although the letter's
authenticity has not been proved beyond doubt, its
message sounded plausible. Zarqawi was reminded that
the Taliban failed to broaden its political base and
fell largely for that reason. He was also told to
remember that resistance in Iraq cannot be led by
"non-Iraqis" and that he should therefore defer to
local feeling - a reflection of the need to understand
national pride that applies more strongly to the
Americans and the British.

Zarqawi and other foreign jihadis were always a
minority within the resistance. Outsiders have never
exceeded 10% of the numbers of fighters and suspected
insurgents killed or detained by the occupation and
Iraqi forces. Clearly, Zarqawi had Iraqi allies, and
had an influence on inciting suicide bombings.

The test of that influence will come over the next few
weeks. Will the number of brutal attacks on civilians,
and particularly on Shias, go down? The amount of
blood spilt in recent sectarian assaults, particularly
since the bombing of the shrine at Samarra, is
horrendous. Killings of Sunnis by Shia militants,
often linked to government ministries, have also
become rampant.

A cycle of violence and revenge has been set in
motion, and will not easily be reduced. So Zarqawi's
death may have little impact in the short term. It
will not affect the nationalist insurgency that
targets the Americans and British, and those defined
as collaborating with them. When Saddam Hussein's sons
were killed, the US claimed it would reduce the
resistance. Similar hopes were expressed when Saddam
was captured two and a half years ago. In both cases
the predictions were wrong.

The appointment yesterday of new security ministers
gives Iraq's government a better image. They now need
to control the killers in their own forces. Zarqawi
used murder to incite and exacerbate sectarianism. His
death removes the provocateur. It is up to the Iraqi
government to roll back the consequences.


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