12/4/07:UNITED IRAQIS DEMAND US END OCCUPATION
- From: uneoo@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: 20 Apr 2007 10:21:24 +1100
GREENLEFT WEEKLY AUSTRALIA (18-APR-07)
(NOTE: The imperialist American government and racist Australian government seems not having got the message, this much loud and clear. Get out of Iraq now. Iraqis demanding.-- U Ne Oo)
Massive rally calls for end to US occupation of Iraq
12 April 2007
â??Wrapped in the Iraqi flag and chanting anti-American slogans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shia snaked into the holy city of Najaf yesterday for a protest rally to mark the fourth anniversary of the toppling of Saddam Hussein and to demand the ejection from Iraq of US and British troopsâ??, the April 10 British Guardian reported.
The demonstration in Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, had been called by 33-year-old middle-level Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al Sadr in a speech he made in Najaf on March 30.
Senior aides to Sadr pointed to a number of Sunni Muslim clerics at the head of the march into Najafâ??s 1920 Revolution Square, as evidence that the march was â??national and not sectarianâ??.
The square, named after the Iraqi patriotic uprising against British colonial rule, is also known as the Sadrain Square, in honour of Moqtadaâ??s father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al Sadr â?? the most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq before he was assassinated in 1999 by agents presumed to be working for Saddam Husseinâ??s government.
Hazim al Araji, a Baghdad-based leader of the Sadrist movement, told the Guardian: â??We are all carrying the national flag, which is a symbol of unity. And we are all united in calling for the withdrawal of the Americans.â??
In a statement issued on April 8, Sadr blamed the US occupiers for fostering violence between Iraqis. He called on Iraqi soldiers not to â??walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch-enemyâ??.
Call for liberation
Associated Press reported that some â??Iraqi soldiers in uniform joined the crowdâ?? as it marched into Najaf. The protesters â??shouted â??Yes! Yes! Iraq. No! No! Americaâ?? amid a sea of banners and Iraqi flagsâ??.
Salah al Obaydi, a senior official in Sadrâ??s organisation in Najaf, told AP the rally was a â??call for liberationâ??, adding: â??Weâ??re hoping that by next yearâ??s anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty.â??
Iraqi state-owned TV carried segments of the Najaf demonstration live, but characterised it as a celebration of the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Husseinâ??s regime, ignoring the protestersâ?? call for an end to the US-led occupation.
Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at the University of Baghdad, told the April 10 Christian Science Monitor that the Najaf demonstration proved Sadr â??is the only man capable of amassing such a huge demonstration and shows the weakness of the government and its allies. Heâ??s also trying to prove to all that heâ??s the moving spirit among Shiites and that he has not changed his mind about the presence of US forces.â??
Following the US-British-Australian invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Sadrâ??s movement â?? the Office of the Matyr Sadr and its Imam al Mahdi Army militia â?? quickly emerged as the de facto ruler of Saddam City, Baghdadâ??s 2 million-strong Shiite slum district, which was renamed Sadr City in honour of the young clericâ??s father immediately after the April 9, 2003, fall of Husseinâ??s regime.
A year later, the US military attempted to crush Sadrâ??s movement because of his outspoken criticism of the occupation and his opening up of negotiations for united resistance with the guerrillas led by former officers of the old Iraqi Army based in the rebel Sunni city of Fallujah, 55km west of Baghdad.
US military commanders publicly vowed to â??capture or killâ?? Sadr. The Mahdi Army militia fought a series of bloody street battles with the US military in Sadr City and in Najaf that ended in an uneasy truce in June 2004.
This truce followed on the heels of a US-sponsored opinion poll that found that Sadr had become the most popular public figure among Iraqi Shiites after the countryâ??s top Shiite cleric, Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
In July 2004, Sadr called on his supporters to boycott a US-organised conference to set up a puppet Iraqi government â?? a boycott also called for by the Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents Iraqâ??s 2000 Sunni clerics. The US military broke its truce with the Sadrists, launching an unsuccessful assault on Sadrâ??s home in Najaf.
An offer by Sadr to resume the truce was rejected by US officials. However, after a month of heavy street fighting in Najaf, a new truce was mediated by Sistani. US officials agreed to withdraw their troops from the city and the Mahdi Army in Najaf agreed to hand over its weapons to the local police.
Fighting between the US military and the Mahdi Army continued in Sadr City into October 2004, when a truce was brokered under which US commanders agreed not to send their troops into the district and the Sadrists agreed to participate in the US-organised January 2005 elections for an interim Iraqi parliament.
Having secured a truce with the Sadrists, the US military launched a brutal month-long assault on Fallujah in November 2004, killing up to 6000 of its residents and reducing much of the city to rubble.
The Sadrists participated as part of the Sistani-backed United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) of Shiite religious parties in both the January 2005 elections and in the December 2005 elections for a permanent 275-member parliament. The UIA won 128 seats, with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the main pro-occupation Shiite party, gaining 36 and the Sadrists 29.
Against SCIRI, which is backed by the Shiite religious establishment, the Sadrist MPs have supported leaders of the UIAâ??s smaller Islamic Call (Dawa) Party holding the prime ministership, including current US-backed PM Nuri al Maliki. Three Sadrist MPs head ministries â?? agriculture, health and tourism â?? in Malikiâ??s government.
Throughout 2005, there were increasing reports that the SCIRI-run interior ministryâ??s US-recruited and US adviser-controlled police commando units were carrying out an escalating campaign of death-squad abductions, torture and executions of Sunni Muslims.
In January 2005, Newsweek magazine had reported that the Pentagon was â??intensivelyâ?? examining applying the â??Salvador Optionâ?? in Iraq by organising death squads within the police commando units to target Sunni resistance fighters and their sympathisers.
The November 16, 2005, New York Newsday reported that Iraqi police commando units had been built up â??over the past year under guidance from James Steele, a former [US] Army Special Forces officer who led US counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador in the 1980s. Salvadoran army units trained by Steeleâ??s team were accused of a pattern of atrocitiesâ??, including extrajudicial killings of critics of the US-backed Salvadoran government.
In early March 2006, John Pace, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, told the British Guardian that the Baghdad morgue had been receiving 700 or more bodies a month. â??The vast majority of bodies showed signs of summary execution â?? many with their hands tied behind their back. Some showed evidence of torture, with arms and leg joints broken by electric drillsâ??, said Pace.
The Guardian reported that â??Pace, whose contract in Iraq ended last month, said many killings were carried out by Shia militias linked to the interior ministry run by Bayan Jabrâ??, a leading figure in the SCIRI. â??The Badr brigade [SCIRIâ??s militia] are in the police and are mainly the ones doing the killingâ??, said Pace.
On February 22, 2006, a revered Shiite mosque in the mixed Sunni-Shia city of Samarra was bombed, according to local witnesses at the time, by four men wearing Iraqi police commando uniforms. US commanders in Baghdad quickly blamed â??Sunni insurgentsâ?? for the act.
Within a week of the Samarra mosque bombing, US officials, led by then-ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, began accusing Sadrâ??s Mahdi Army of being responsible for the wave of death-squad killings of Sunnis in Baghdad. By doing so they aimed to deflect Western media attention away from the US militaryâ??s role in instigating the death squads.
This ploy has largely worked. For more than a year now, the Western corporate media has uncritically parroted the claim that â?? as the Pentagonâ??s latest report submitted to the US congress puts it â?? â??the Iraq conflict has changed from a predominantly Sunni-led insurgency against foreign occupation to a struggle for the division of political and economic influence among sectarian groupsâ?? â?? even though the same report noted that 90% of rebel attacks in Iraq are directed against the US-led occupation forces and their puppet Iraqi security forces (ISF).
Since late last year, the US occupation forces have carried out a series of attacks on Sadrâ??s movement. Last December, for example, Sadrâ??s top aide Saheb al Amiri was killed in a raid by US troops in Najaf.
The Najaf demonstration occurred as 3300 US, Polish and ISF troops, backed by US air strikes, attacked what US officials described as â??rogue elementsâ?? of the Mahdi Army in Sadrist-controlled neighbourhoods in Diwaniyah, a city 180km south of Baghdad with 400,000 residents.
Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, a senior aide to Sadr, said that the US-led assault in Diwaniyah, as well as recent arrests of leading Sadrists in Baghdad by US forces, was part of an effort â??to plunge us into a vortex of violence and sectarian fighting, but we are working hard to rise above itâ??. He said the Sadrist movement remained committed to â??peaceful resistance against the occupation for nowâ??.
General Pawel Lamla, commander of the 900 Polish troops committed to the Diwaniyah operation, told Agence France Presse on April 9 that it was an extension of the US-led â??security crackdownâ?? being carried out in Baghdad.
While US officials have claimed that the â??security crackdownâ??, officially launched on February 14, has reduced civilian deaths, AFP reported on April 1 that Iraqi health ministry figures showed 1869 Iraqi civilians were killed in March compared with 1646 in February.
AFP also reported that 87 US soldiers were killed in Iraq in March, adding that â??US military losses for March were nearly double those of the Iraqi Army, despite Washingtonâ??s claim that Iraqi forces are leading the security crackdown in Baghdadâ??.
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