*The British are asserting that there has been a popular revolt in Basra against the Republican Guards and other forces loyal to Saddam. The Iraqi government has denied the report. The British also say that the Iraqi military is firing mortars on the rebels. Since the British can pinpoint the origin of mortar fire, they have been using this activity to target the Republican Guards mortar positions, so as to help the rebellion. I wonder myself if the “rebellion” isn’t being in part led by Special Forces agents infiltrated into the city. It is also possible that elements of SCIRI (the Shiite “Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) from the Badr Brigade have slipped into the city from Iran. A Basra rebellion would not be impossible. It happened on a large scale in 1991, and there were also disturbances later in the 1990s, especially when Grand Ayatollah Sadr was assassinated by Saddam. But Basrans would also remember that the US hung them out to dry in 1991 and let Saddam crush them. They will be wary, and their friendliness to the British cannot be assumed.
*My analysis of the Iraqi strategy is that it is similar to what Sadat did in 1973. Ariel Sharon left lots of Egyptian forces in his rear as he raced to encircle Cairo. That is similar to what the US forces are doing. But Sadat won the peace by getting the UN security council (especially the Soviet Union, which reportedly threatened to intervene) to insist on a cease-fire. Saddam has already gotten a condemnation of the war from the Arab League and is seeking one from the Security Council. The difference is that this time the Russian successors to the Soviet Union are weak and economically dependent on the US, and won’t go to the mat for Saddam. So, the strategy will almost certainly fail, but the parallel seems to me striking.
From a discussion on a list about how the war in Iraq is going:
Military analysts have for some time been nervous about the Rumsfeld plan to start the war before all units were in place. A lot of analysts, including Wesley Clark, cannot understand why the equipment for the Fourth Army Infantry was left in ships off Turkey long after it seemed obvious that they were not going to be allowed to be positioned on Turkish soil. These are now being moved to Kuwait. They worried that things could go badly wrong in the meantime. They have. It may be that some units are being held in reserve for the north, but if so that still means they cannot be used in the south, which continues as far as I can see to be in a condition of chaos.
Speaking of the Suez Canal, one remarkable development is the widespread
calls among Egyptians, especially leftists and Islamists, for Egypt to deny
use of the Canal to the U.S. Since Camp David in 1978, I have never seen
this degree of rage and anti-US feeling in Egypt, and one worries that the
Canal can probably be stopped up with a well-executed terrorist attack on
an oil tanker.
The good news for the Anglo-American forces that they have completely
secured Umm Qasr, as the British spokesman claims, is surely offset by the
fact that Umm Qasr is a dinky little port town near Kuwait that a massive
invading force should not have had any trouble securing immediately in the
first place. What I read in the press was that the British were being
pinned down by as few as 100 Iraqi soldiers. This is very bad news for the
Anglo-American side, since Iraq has lots of bunches of 100 soldiers.
Likewise, al-Nasiriya has been the site of numerous anti-Saddam uprisings,
and should not have been so hard to take.
This is not to mention the very bad news indeed that Republican Guards
units have positioned their artillery and tanks in civilian neighborhoods
of Basra and have forced the British to withdraw from the city. Despite
earlier Pentagon promises, Basra’s electricity and water purification have
been knocked out, and civilians are getting shelled. Presumably some of
the food shipments coming in to Umm Qasr would be for Basra, which the
British do not hold.
And, what is to stop the same thing from happening in Baghdad? If it does,
what will that do to world public opinion? So far the US and British look
like British redcoats, marching in straight lines and annoyed that the
colonists are not playing fair. If substantial numbers of the 300,000
Iraqi troops turn guerrilla fighters and stand their ground against the
invaders, this could be a disaster.
My analysis is not meant to support an anti-war or pro-war position. Like
most people, I have mixed feelings about all this (I despise the Baath
Replying to someone who asserted that Iraqi Shiites remained loyal to their clergymen in the 1980s, not to their nation:
The notion that most Iraqi Shiites have the sort of relationship to their “source for emulation” that is common in Iran is erroneous. Rural Iraqi Shiites in the South for the most part have a fairly recent (18th-19th centuries) past as pastoralists and the Iranian type of Shiism that foregrounded trained clerics and jurisprudents was important only in a few urban settings (the Shrine Cities of Najaf and Karbala e.g.) which incidentally had large Iranian heritage populations (most of whom were deported by Saddam).
Iraqi Shiites most certainly did stay loyal to the Iraqi nation during the Iran-Iraq war. They were throughout the 20th century among the main proponents of an *Iraqi* nationalism as distinct from pan-Arabism (in which they would have been swamped in a sea of Sunnis). I suspect that a lot of the Marsh Arabs (500,000 of the Shiites until the ethnic cleansing and swamp-draining of the 90s) couldn’t have told you which jurisprudent they emulated, and if they named one it would have been pro forma–they wouldn’t actually know his rulings.
The late Hanna Batatu actually figured out the ratio per person of mullas in Iran and Iraq, and found it vanishingly small in Iraq.
from a discussion on a list about the origins of radical Islamism:
The strain of thought we are considering is properly thought of as
neo-Kharijism. The Kharijite sect in early Islam was trigger-happy about
declaring people who did not agree with their ways of doing things to be
non-Muslims. A Kharijite declared Ali, the first Imam of the Shiites and
the Fourth Caliph of the Sunnis, to be a non-Muslim and assassinated him
as such. In contrast, the Sunni tradition frowned on kicking anyone out of
the Muslim community for any but the most egregious crimes or heresies.
If one acknowledges the 4 Orthodox Caliphs and a few other simple principle,
you can be an ex-con and still be a Sunni Muslim. The Kharijites tolerated
no slight deviance from their orthodoxies and ideas of morality.
The temptation to revive a Kharijite mindset (I am not arguing for actual
historical influence) was particularly strong in British India, where many
Muslims were converts from Hinduism and/or retained Hindu usages, and
where many Muslims learned English and/or worked for British firms or the
British government. In addition, 18th and 19th century South Asian Islam
was highly influenced by Shiism via the impact of Safavid and Qajar Iran.
Those hardline Sunni Muslims threatened by what they saw as departures
from pristine Islam were thus tempted to declare the hinduized or iranized
or britishized Muslims to be actually non-Muslims altogether. Among the
major such streams in North Indian Islam with this attitude was that of
Sayyid Ahmad Rai-Barelvi in the 1820s and 1830s, whose movement the
British dubbed “wahhabism” by analogy. This British confusion has
confused generations of researchers; the two are not related and are very
dissimilar in many ways.
Maududi in my view simply gave a modernist cast to Sayyid Ahmad
Rai-Barelvi’s approach. Sayyid Qutb imported many of Maududi’s ideas into
Arabic. So there is a complex international Islamist web of neo-Kharijism
going back to the 19th century, which is highly intertwined with the
history of Western colonialism in the Muslim world.
The connection between Sayyid Qutb and Saudi Arabia goes right back to the
1960s. The Saudis clandestinely gave aid to the Muslim Brotherhood,
including its Qutbist wing, as a way of undermining their enemy, the
secular nationalist & socialist Abdel Nasser. Abdel Nasser succeeded in
cracking back down on the revival of the Brotherhood in the early to
mid-1960s, which had militant overtones and openly discussed assassinating
him. In 1965-66 the plot was busted up, with hundreds (some say
thousands) of arrests, and that was the occasion of Sayyid Qutb’s
execution. There is every reason to think that the would-be assassins of
Abdel Nasser were at the least inspired by his work, and the connection
could have been even tighter.
Some of the survivors of the 1965-66 crackdown among the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt managed to escape to Saudi Arabia–which had been
their patron–where they became prime conduits for the spread of Qutbist
ideology. As Dick Norton notes, Sayyid Qutb’s brother was among these.
Thus, the mere conservative Machiavellianism of the Saudi leadership in
using the Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical wings against Abdel
Nasser blew back on them insofar as those chickens came home to roost.
Nowadays Saudi ministers and princes (well, I’ve been redundant) routinely
denounce the Muslim Brotherhood as political in a way the Wahhabis never