Fallujah and the Aftermath
In Baiji on Sunday, clashes between US troops and guerrillas left 12 Iraqis dead and 25 wounded.
Most Americans do not realize that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraqi history and poetry for its defiance of the British in the Great Rebellion of 1920. The 1920 revolution against the British is key to modern Iraqi history. One of the guerrilla groups taking hostages named itself the “1920 Revolution Brigades.” Western journalists who don’t know Iraqi history have routinely mistranslated the name of this group.
Meanwhile, The Guardian hints around that the number of civilian casualties in the US assault on the city is enormous and will only come out as hospital authorities begin counting the dead and wounded.
Karl Vicks reports concerning the outbreaks of violence in several Sunni Arab cities that:
“The most immediate concern for the interim government is manpower. Iraq has no more than eight battalions of the newly trained troops, whose main job is to occupy cities after U.S. forces defeat insurgents. Duty in Samarra and Fallujah, which have about a half million people between them, already was stretching that force thin. Adding duty in Mosul “means you’re operating right out on the edge of what forces you have — Iraqi forces,” the U.S. official said.
American forces may be stretched thin as well. A battalion deployed outside Fallujah raced back to its Mosul base when insurgents struck, attacking in groups as large as 50 at a time, numbers not previously seen in the city, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings of Task Force Olympia, the brigade that in February replaced a much larger unit, the 101st Airborne Division.”
Mr. Vicks seems unaccountably elated at the news of Shiite tribal warriors attacking Sunni guerrillas in the Latifiyah area. There has already been some Sunni-Shiite violence in that region, a phenomenon thankfully somewhat rare so far, and it isn’t a good sign if it escalates.
One of two Iraqi vice presidents, Kurdish politician Barham Salih, has admitted that elections might be postponed because of the poor security situation. In my view, his statement should be taken as a sign of nervousness on the part of the Kurds at the outcome. If the Sunni Arabs boycott, you could well see most of the 275 seats going to Shiites, with perhaps 35 or so for the Kurds. They would be a small, Sunni minority and could not depend on Sunni Arab allies to slow the Shiite legislative juggernaut. It may well be this prospect of a tyranny of the Shiite majority that frightened Salih into his statement (which is not supported by any major policy makers, and which is opposed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
I was talking to an Iraqi government official and I complained that if the Sunni Arabs boycott the January elections, it would be a disaster. He said that UN officials believe a boycott is unlikely, based on experience in Peru and elsewhere.
But actually, the Bahrain Shiites boycotted the first free elections to be held in years, as a result of which the parliament is dominated by Sunni fundamentalists. The same thing could happen in Iraq in reverse. And, if it does happen, it will be the nail in the coffin for any legitimacy for the next Iraqi government.