Iraq in revolt

The killing of 20 Shia protesters by Spanish occupying troops, and the issuing of an arrest warrant by US pro-consul Paul Bremer for the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has sparked off a new armed revolt by sections of the majority Shia population in Iraq.


With only two months to go to the fictional hand over of power to an Iraqi administration, the US occupation forces have now moved on al-Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb, home to two million Shias with tanks and helicopter gunships.

Originally the US occupiers had hoped to "lean" on the majority Shia population for support for the installation of a pro-US puppet regime in Iraq. These plans are now crumbling to dust in the hands of the occupation leader Paul Bremer.

The clashes with Muqtada al-Sadr's 10,000 strong militia, al-Mahdi Army on 6 April left over 20 US Marines dead. Dozens of Iraqis were also killed and hundreds were wounded. A US Brigadier General said that the US forces were intent on "destroying the al-Mahdi Army". The American occupiers are playing with fire. If they attempt to capture Muqtada al-Sadr in the vicinity of the holy shrine of Imam Ali (in the centre of Najaf) it will enflame not just the Shia population of Iraq but Shias around the world.

Turning point

This latest escalation in the war in Iraq is a turning point for imperialism's occupation of Iraq. US and British imperialism and the other so-called coalition forces now face the prospect of armed resistance to their occupation not just from the Sunni Muslims but also from the majority Shia population. Shias are now involved in armed clashes with US, British, Ukrainian, Spanish and Italian troops in Baghdad, Nasiriya, Kut and Karbala.

Patrick Cockburn reported "In Baghdad there was a sense of crisis spiraling out of control yesterday with the US having to face a new battle front against the black-clad militia of Sadr", London Independent, 7 April 2004. Thousands of US troops have also moved on the Sunni town of Fallujah in response to the killing of four US contractors.

Muqtada al-Sadr, who is being protected by thousands of supporters, has vowed that the Shia uprising will continue. "This insurrection shows that the Iraqi people are not satisfied with the occupation and they will not accept oppression" Al Jazeera, 6 April 2004.

Vietnam-style quagmire

The Bush regime had planned to pull off a charade of handing over power to a puppet Iraqi regime on 30 June as part of his campaign for re-election in the November presidential elections. He even raised the prospect of lowering the numbers of US troops.

Now there are calls from within Bush's Republican Party for more US troops to be sent to Iraq, as Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy declared that Iraq is turning into "George Bush's Vietnam."

The Iraqi working class can defeat imperialism and liberate their country. But in their struggle for liberation they must also fight against the right wing reactionary Islamic forces in Iraq and the collaborating Iraqi capitalist elite, otherwise one form of capitalist oppression will just be replaced by another.

The re-emerging Iraqi workers' movement must unite all nationalities and religious groups in a struggle for socialism to achieve freedom from all of its oppressors.

This article is from the April 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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