Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The resistance/"resistance" in Iraq

Now, I have very little sympathy with the Iraqi resistance/"resistance". This remains the case even though I acknowledge that there are different strands in it, including some very much opposed to Al Qaeda/Zarqawi-type attacks on random civilians. I've no doubt some have decided to fight the US out of wounded nationalist pride or in response to American crimes in Iraq, but I still agree with Marc Mulholland that

the Iraqi insurgency in fact is inspired by Sunni supremacism. It is a ventriloquism of nationalism, not the real deal. It cannot acquire broad popular support outside a sectarian faction. It is thus wholly reactionary.This is not even considering its strong Islamist colouring.

Nevertheless, it seems a woefully underreported fact that, at least up until fairly recently, Pentagon estimates indicated that 80% of attacks were targeted at coalition troops. (See, for example, this report - via Lenin, relating to the four months preceding January 20 of this year. Or in general his "dossier" on the resistance: if you chase down the links they seem fairly credible in this regard). This really did surprise me. If I didn't keep in touch with Lenin's Tomb I would undoubtedly have continued to agree with what Jeff Weintraub wrote in March 2005:

One long-term trend in the operations of the Sunni Arab 'insurgency' in Iraq, which was clear even before the January 30 election but now seems to be accelerating, is that the targets of its attacks are overwhelmingly Iraqi Shiite Arabs

(Of course Weintraub's comment refers to a different period than that of the above Pentagon report, but it seems doubtful that the figures were so different as to justify his claim that the targets of the resistance/"resistance" were "overwhelmingly" Iraqi Shiites. Nor, I would imagine, has Weintraub expressed any change of mind as to who exactly is, or was until recently, targeted.)

One reason for the distorted view of who has been targeted is that 75% of those killed in the relevant period were Iraqis. This, of course, is because attacks on Iraqis, especially Iraqi civilians, are far more likely to be "successful" than attacks on foreign troops. And it is entirely natural that attacks that kill people win more attention than attacks that don't.

But this seems to have led to a distorted picture of the overall strategy of the resistance/"resistance". In particular it seems to have left many of us with an excessively grim view of its jus in bello record.

(One might add the caveat that Pentagon figures are likely to be a lot more exhaustive in recording attacks on coalition troops than attacks on Iraqis of any stripe. On the other hand the Pentagon clearly has no stake in portraying the insurgents as more scrupulous in jus in bello terms than they really are. Another caveat is that it seems very likely that attacks have recently shifted towards intra-Iraqi fighting - but this can no longer be seen as overwhelmingly Sunni on Shia violence).

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