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April 10, 2004

US-Appointed Iraqi Government Close to Collapse?


by Juan Cole
AP reported that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) issued a demand early on Saturday that the US cease its military action against Fallujah and stop employing "collective punishment."

Not only has what many Iraqis call "the puppet council" taken a stand against Bush administration tactics in Iraq, but individual members are peeling off. Shiite Marsh Arab leader Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi suspended his membership in the council on Friday. A Sunni member, Ghazi al-Yawir, has threatened to resign if a negotiated settlement of the Fallujah conflict cannot be found. Old-time Sunni nationalist leader Adnan Pachachi thundered on al-Arabiya televsion, "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah, and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal." For him to go on an Arab satellite station much hated by Donald Rumsfeld and denounce the very people who appointed him to the IGC is a clear act of defiance. There are rumors that many of the 25 Governing Council members have fled abroad, fearful of assassination because of their association with the Americans. The ones who are left appear on the verge of resigning.

This looks to me like an incipient collapse of the US government of Iraq. Beyond the IGC, the bureaucracy is protesting. Many government workers in the ministries are on strike and refusing to show up for work, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat. Without Iraqis willing to serve in the Iraqi government, the US would be forced to rule the country militarily and by main force. Its legitimacy appears to be dwindling fast. The "handover of sovereignty" scheduled for June 30 was always nothing more than a publicity stunt for the benefit of Bush's election campaign, but it now seems likely to be even more empty. Since its main rationale was to provide more legitimacy to the US enterprise in Iraq, and since any legitimacy the US had is fading fast, and since a government appointed by Bremer will be hated by virtue of that very appointment, the Bush administration may as well just not bother.

The Interior Minister, Nuri Badran, who was dismissed by Paul Bremer on Thursday, appears to have gone into exile in Jordan. He was probably let go because he objected to the twin US assaults, on Fallujah and on the Sadrist Shiites, or at least to the way it was being done.

The degree of hatred for the United States in the Muslim world is growing by the minute, as the events in Fallujah are broadcast throughout the region. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's warning to Bush that by invading Iraq he would be creating 100 Bin Ladens may well come to pass. For more on this see the Washington Post.

Part of what caused this incipient collapse of the US-appointed Iraqi government is that the US military decided to besiege the entire city of Fallujah to get at insurgents who killed 4 US Blackwater mercenaries last week, even though reports indicated that the guerrillas left the city after the killings. Those guerrillas, supported by civilian demonstrations and desecration of the mercenaries' bodies, announced that they were taking revenge for the Israeli murder of Hamas clerical leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Just as the Israelis and their American amen corner helped drag the US into the Iraq war, so they also have inflamed Iraqi sentiment against the US by spectacular uses of state terror against Palestinians. Both the Sunni and the Shiite uprisings in Iraq in the past week in a very real sense were set off by Sharon's whacking of Yassin, a paraplegic who could easily have been arrested. (Only once Muqtada al-Sadr announced his support for Hamas was he targeted by the Neocon-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority for arrest, convincing him that he had nothing to lose and had better launch an insurgency).

The siege and assault on Fallujah during the past 5 days have killed some 400 Iraqis and wounded 1000, according to eyewitnesses. The civilians in the city had begun wanting for food and water. On Friday, the US appears to have spread panic by broadcasting warnings of an imminent attack and encouraging women and children to leave. Large numbers have streamed out. Some attempted to take their men with them, but Marines refused to allow male civilians out. Some families chose to remain together and face further bombardments rather than split up.

One Marine was killed and another wounded at Fallujah on Friday.

AP said, ' Throughout the afternoon, fighting was reduced to sporadic gunfire. But when night fell, heavy explosions resumed as an AC-130 gunship strafed targets and soldiers and insurgents engaged in a mortar battle. Marines said they had come under fire and wanted to return fire. The AC-130 hit a cave near Fallujah where insurgents took refuge after attacking Marines. A 500-pound laser-guided bomb also struck the cave, said spokesman 1st Lt. Eric Knapp. '

The US announced a pause in the fighting to allow the Iraqis to "tend to their dead." This statement of Paul Bremer's is obviously a cruel taunt, and indicative of the fury and hatred of the American administration of Iraq toward the people of Anbar province, who have fiercely resisted the American occupation, largely out of Iraqi nationalist or Sunni fundamentalist motives.

At the western edge of Baghdad, guerrillas set off a spectacular explosion when they hit a fuel convoy, killing a US soldier and an Iraqi driver, and wounding 12 others. (Eyewitnesses spoke of lots of bodies, so the casualties are probably greater). Two American soldiers and several mercenaries may have been taken hostage.

Another US soldier was killed in Baghdad when his base was attacked. Substantial guerrilla groups engaged US troops in Baqubah and Muqdadiyah north of the capital.


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    Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Visit his blog.

     

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