View: Dr. Sedat Laciner
The United States (US) and its allies have made mortal mistakes in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation and in return they amply pay the price. Even some of these mistakes were accepted by the American authorities. However, the Americans were not the only ones who made grave mistakes; the resistant groups also have had deathly mistakes. Ironically both sides’ mistakes do not make the other side’s job easier. Contrary, the US mistakes nourishes the chaos. Iraqi resistance and insurgency have been expanded as a result of the US policies. However the expansion of resistance does not serve to end the occupation, but inflames the anarchy in the country. The way resistance groups act similarly does not help to free Iraq but legitimate the occupation.
In this context we can summarize the mistakes and dilemmas of the resisters in 10 different titles:
Not Organized: Even if they are named as ‘Iraqi resistance’ it is hard to mention about a united front of resistance. There are numerous actions of resistance and great majority of them are in conflict. Among them there is not an ‘umbrella organization’ to provide coordination. Even some of the ‘resistant organizations’ are not a real organization but a bunch of militants. While some of them maintain their activities as cells, some just follows a chief of a tribe or a spiritual leader. The coordination and communication between the resisters/insurgents are in a limited level. Even they are not aware of each other’s actions and aims. For instance, the Necef Uprising in the beginning of August 2005 which was started by the Army of Mehdi related to El Sadr was initiated free from the other Shiite groups.
Not Legitimate: Just like the invaders, the resisters in Iraq also do not seek popular and constitutional legitimacy. The anti-American Iraqi groups have their own truths and they simply give no importance to the Iraqi people’s ideas, and even if they win their war against the invaders, their possible government would not be so different than the Saddam Hussein Governments in the past. For this reason, although the Iraqi people have strong reaction to the American forces, they have not supported the resisters either. As far as the resistance groups continue to behave like a gang, they could not get public support, and the resistance cannot evolve to a real national independence movement.
Weak Representative Power: Related with lack of legitimacy, the resistant groups have no representative power. Some of the religious, tribal and sect leaders have millions of followers but they have also enemies more than their followers. None of them has showed efforts of electing or designating the representatives of the public for their movements. Even the biggest resistant organizations cover a narrow region, a race or a sect. As practiced in Turkish case, the first thing to do in Turkish national independence movement was to make elections. The elected leaders with strong and consistent ideas made Turkish resistant a national independence movement after the First World War.
Not Inclusive and Tolerant: Each groups and individuals fight for their own interests in Iraq. There is no serious cooperation between the resistant groups. Although there are limited co operations, these are not long lasting and all-inclusive. The resistant groups are not tolerable to each other. In other words, in reality, they see each other as potential ‘enemy’. However, ‘the greater enemy’, namely the foreign invaders, delays a possible conflict between the groups.
In this framework, the resistance of Iraq can neither be national, nor religious. Even in the single sect there can be various focuses of powers which compete with each other. Everybody fights through his/her own perspective.
Weak Leadership and Intellectual Support: There are many leaders in the resistance, but none of them has power to affect and unite all the groups. Apart from the weak leadership the intellectual and media support are not fully behind the resistant movements. The most important one among them and perhaps the main reason of these is the inexistency of a strong Iraqi nation and national identity. Saddam Hussein made enormous efforts to create an Iraqi nation. He tried to remove the differences between Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkomen etc. and aimed to create differences between Iraqis and other Middle eastern nations. Now the ethnic and religious groups lost their beliefs towards each other and Baghdad. They approach all kinds of political action with doubt, and avoid of giving full support.
No Realistic Targets: The common targets of the resistant groups are to give harm to the invaders and to end the invasion. However, except this, they haven’t got any realistic targets in the long run. For instance, after the invasion what kind of Iraq they want? What will be the position of the ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq? A federation or a unitary state? Will Iraq be established according to the religious principles or will it be a secular nation-state?
All of these questions have no common answers. The worst of all is that the resistant groups have unshakeable assumptions and beliefs for future of Iraq, and these are totally opposite of each other. In other words, after the invasion if the resistant groups attempt to establish a Iraq in their minds, they will inevitably have to conflict with each others, because there is no room in their mind for the others.
No Effective and Legitimate Methods: One of the biggest impasse of the resisters is that they have no comprehensive, effective and legitimate strategy. Most of the times, they use terrorism and their actions are reactive instead of reaching a solution. The suicide attacks and hostage taking are some of their methods. The actions are generally coincidental. At the first glance it can be understood that in planning and application they are not professional. In the actions mostly the ordinary Iraqi people are killed. The number of the Americans killed in the actions has seriously increased in the recent months, however most of them are privates and killings are mostly accidental. The insurgents can not kill any key American soldier, and they prefer easy targets instead of important points. They kill truck drivers, journalists or innocent civilians. They have chosen terrorism as a method, but they cannot succeed even terrorism.
No Strong Principles: Apart from some exceptional cases, the resisters cannot display common ‘eminent principles’ of their movements. They are speaking of Islam, Iraqi independence, freedom etc. However all these so-called principles are defended mostly by the ideological and religious groups on the obssessional grounds; additionally these remain as only to be the principles of small groups instead of a national resistance movement. In other words, the resistance has not yet constituted its own national ideology. Naturally when there is no consistent ideological framework, it is very hard to define and implement an effective methodology.
Not Focused on Peace: Perhaps the greatest impasse of the Iraqi resistance is that ‘it loves to fight’. Under the name of ‘fight against the invaders’ many spiritual and political leaders seek to be a hero. Their fame and glory are seen to be the most important things instead of Iraq’s future. In the same period, thanks to the war there are people who have gained power, and all these people still - consciously or unconsciously, wish the continuity of the war. This forms a vicious circle in itself. It is hard to say that among the resistance groups there is a single group that fights in the name of peace, and has serious plans to save Iraq after the invasion and those who are in search for cooperation with the other resistant groups.
Open to Manipulation and Dependent on the External World: Some of the resistant groups have organic ties with Iran and Syria. The Arab nationalists take support from the other Arabic countries and foreign radical movements. Apart from this, some of the organizations which are similar to El-Kaide are acting according to the directions from their centers in other countries. In addition to all these, even US, UK and Israel have a significant manipulative effect on the resistant groups.
In the light of this information, it can be argued that the resistance in Iraq does not unite the Iraqi people; on the contrary, it divides the ‘nation’. Instead of terminating the invasion it maintains the continuity of the foreign occupation in different forms. In this regard, there are ‘resistances’ or ‘attempts of resistance’ in Iraq instead of a ‘national resistance’ or a ‘national independence war’. The most significant result of the dilemmas and mistakes which were defined above is the probability of unconsciously forming a gap between the social, religious and ethnic groups in Iraq.
The so-called resistance groups now struggle against the American forces. However it seems that the war against the US can be liken an exercise for a greater civil war.
Iraq needs a ‘constructive, national, peace in mind, realist, pragmatist, strategist, popular and charismatic leadership’, which has organization and representative abilities. In brief, Iraq needs a leader who can combine military and constitutional power in order to construct a free, united and a stable Iraq. Such a resistance leader will not only end the occupation and free Iraq but also will help the Americans. The US needs someone with whom it can make negotiations for Iraq’s future. A truly national, realistic and democratic Iraqi resistance can save Iraq and the US in the Middle East.
Journal of Turkish Weekly
9 February 2005