Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 April 2004
Issue No. 686
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Its own Intifada

In Iraq, writes Dina Ezzat, the Arab press is calling it the new uprising

With so much bloodshed and political havoc in Falluja, Al-Ramadi and Baghdad, the Arab press was almost exclusively focussed on Iraq. With the exception of news stories on the heads of state and local economies, Arab papers across the board had Iraq throughout the week on their front pages either as the lead or the second major story.

The death toll of both Iraqis and coalition forces is being recorded everyday as are the moves of the Iraqi Shia cleric leader Muqtada Al-Sadr whose supporters initiated the current wave of unrest and resistance to the US occupation of Iraq.

The increasing level of violence has prompted Arab commentators to express serious concerns, both on the future of Iraq -- especially in view of the upcoming transfer of power from the US to an Iraqi government -- and on the unimpressive Arab reaction to these developments. For more than one writer, Iraq was having its own Intifada and the official Arab response, like with the Palestinian uprising, has been disappointing.

In an opinion piece on Tuesday in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan, prominent Egyptian commentator Fahmy Howeidy wrote, "It has been a year since the US occupation of Iraq and everyday, almost every hour, American troops in Iraq are coming under attack... The Americans are spending a billion dollars a week to maintain combat readiness in Iraq, using F16s and F18s to attack civilian homes, [mosques and churches]. But Iraq is experiencing an Intifada. The Iraqi resistance is holding its own and with heavy Shia involvement, it can no longer be argued that the resistance is confined to Sunni areas... And many in the Iraqi army and the police trained, by the Americans, have taken the side of the anti-occupation resistance," Howeidy noted. According to Howeidy's article, "The occupation forces and the Interim Governing Council in Iraq are now standing on one side and the entire Iraqi people on the other." For Howeidy, the developments of the past few weeks are a clear indication that while "it took the Iraqi regime three weeks to fall, it has been a year since the occupation and the Iraqi people are still resisting ferociously."

On the same day, in the daily Al-Ittihad of the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, professor of political science at Cairo University, also wrote on the Intifada theme. Under the headline, "The Intifada of Iraq", Ahmed argued that the Iraqis are giving the Americans a much tougher time than they expected but "as tough as many others did expect".

"The current American crisis in Iraq comes as no surprise to any commentator or analyst who has carefully followed developments there."

Ahmed recalled an opinion piece published in Al- Ittihad a year ago in which he predicted that the American occupation of Iraq was bound to open the doors wide to resistance. "Today, it is clear that what we are seeing is an Iraqi resistance that could neither be attributed to a limited group of followers of the toppled regime nor to foreign forces, Sunnis, Shia or any particular group," Ahmed wrote.

Irrespective of the complicated nature of the situation, Ahmed argued that the current developments in Iraq was a lesson being taught by the Iraqi people to the sole superpower of the world.

Ahmed was not the only one to take note of the fact that the Iraqi people are dealing single-handedly with the might of the United States. "What we are seeing today is a confrontation between the world's mightiest army, that of the Americans, and the population of one town in Iraq, Falluja," prominent Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt was quoted in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Ra'i Al-Aam as saying.

The confrontation between the US and Falluja summoned up a comparison to the equally unfair conflict between the Israeli army, one of the strongest in the world, and the Palestinian people who have been living under military occupation for decades. Judging by the stories coming out of Iraq, the comparison between Iraq and Palestine was not at all far-fetched. Israeli F16s are providing the fuel for the Palestinian Intifada; US F16s are forcing an Iraqi Intifada. Israelis are imposing curfews on entire Palestinian cities to squash resistance; US forces are doing the same in Iraq.

The images of Falluja under a total military blockade drew similar comparisons. Reports of Falluja streets full of dead Iraqi bodies and Falluja hospitals unable to cope with the rising number of Iraqi casualties reminded some of the blockade that Israeli forces imposed on the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin two years ago when bodies lay strewn on the city's streets and medical crews appealed for international help.

And as Arab activists have for years been forming committees to demonstrate support with the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, this week the daily Kuwaiti Al- Qabas published stories of a Kuwaiti initiative to form yet another committee to support the solidarity of the Iraqi people in their resistance against military occupation.

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