IRAQ: Resistance fighters confident of victory

November 17, 1993

Doug Lorimer

In a report filed on February 15 from the Iraqi city of Samarra, 125 kilometres north of Baghdad, US Knight Ridders Newspapers correspondent Tom Lasseter described seeing a 21-year-old Texan named Michael Pena blast away from a school roof with his 0.50-calibre machine gun at an unarmed Iraqi man on the street.

Horrified US soldiers rushed to the Iraqi and watched him die, as he praised God. A few days later, when Lasseter talked to him, Pena didn't say a word about the man he killed, but he was boiling with frustration. "No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?", Pena asked. "Because there is no fucking reason."

Pena's expression of frustration reflected a more general attitude among US soldiers in Samarra. US troops are due to be pulled out of Samarra on July 1, handing over their role to the new, US-recruited Iraqi Army. But, according to Lasseter, "Many of the American troops who patrol the city say they don't see much hope for Samarra", and even "some officers privately worry that the city will fall to insurgents as American troops withdraw".

Fifteen months ago, when the US Army's 1st Infantry Division sent some 5000 soldiers to retake the city of Samarra from Iraqi resistance fighters, "it was a test of the American occupation's ability not only to pacify but also to rebuild a part of Iraq dominated by the country's minority Sunnis". But more than a year later, reported Lasseter, "American troops are still battling insurgents in Samarra" and "US military officials suspect that many of the Iraqi Army soldiers in Samarra, including a company commander, are on the insurgents' payroll".

The lack of confidence in the success of their counterinsurgency war displayed by US soldiers in Samarra is mirrored by the growing confidence of the Iraqi resistance fighters.

In a new 30-page report issued on the same day as Lasseter's dispatch from Samarra, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) reported that "the insurgency appears to have become more coordinated, confident, sensitive to its constituents' demands, and adept at learning from the enemy's successes and its own failures".

Based primarily on an analysis of the public communications of insurgent groups, as well as interviews and past studies about the insurgency, the IGC also concludes that the resistance groups have adapted quickly and effectively to changing US tactics in both the military and political spheres.

The report notes that the resistance groups have become increasingly mindful of their image and the necessity of cultivating public opinion among Sunnis, other Iraqis, and the West. Thus, they promptly and systematically respond to charges that they are corrupt or target innocent civilians.

The latter claim, emphasised by the distorted picture of the Iraq war presented by Western TV news coverage, is refuted by the Pentagon's own statistics on resistance attacks. According to declassified Pentagon figures included in a report written by Joseph Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the US Government Accountability Office, who testified before the Senate foreign affairs committee on February 8, about three-quarters of the 34,100 insurgent attacks last year were aimed against US and allied foreign occupation forces.

According to the ICG report, all of the Iraqi resistance groups have become more confident over the past year. The report notes that their optimism is not only noticeable in their official communiques, but in more spontaneous expressions by guerrilla fighters and sympathisers on internet chat sites and elsewhere.

Initially, according to the report, the resistance groups perceived the US military presence in Iraq as extremely difficult to remove, but "that no longer is the case".

"Today, the prospect of an outright victory and a swift withdrawal of foreign forces has crystallised, bolstered by the US's perceived loss of legitimacy and apparent vacillation, its periodic announcement of troops redeployments, the precipitous decline in domestic support for the war, and heightened calls by prominent politicians for a rapid withdrawal."

Moreover, the report adds, "When the US leaves, the insurgents do not doubt that Iraq's [US-created] security forces and institutions would quickly collapse."

From Green Left Weekly, March 1, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.