What next Iraq?
The killing of Zarqawi is a smokescreen designed to conceal the calamity of the US-led occupation, Iraqi analysts tell Omayma Abdel-Latif
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Iraqi primiere Nur Al-Maliki aided by US President George Bush as they prepare for the press conference. Bush was in Iraq in a surprise visit to voice support for the Iraqi government. His visit coincided with a carnage in Kirkuk which claimed the lives of 17 Iraqis
No change expected
Zarqawi's double face
Shortly after hearing the news of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's death, Sheikh Muhammud Al-Somaidai of the Muslim Scholars Association commented: "Managing the news about his death the way the media did was another US-made scenario to convince the world that good news was finally coming from Iraq, and to declare the end of Zarqawi's era."
Khalaf Al-Oliyan of the Iraqi Accord Front -- the main Sunni bloc in the National Assembly -- echoed the same view. For him, Zarqawi was no more than "a US-made myth to plant the seeds of sectarianism."
Such views reflect a common understanding among Iraqis that Zarqawi's role was much inflated by Washington over the past three years to cover-up atrocities committed by US-led occupation forces in Iraq. "Zarqawi was only a pawn," says Iraqi academic Sawsan Assaf. "Violence is not likely to go away so long as the US-led occupation persists and continues its atrocities against civilians. Iraq's problem is and remains a brutal occupation. Zarqawi, who was not a very important man, is only a by-product of that occupation." Assaf added.
Almost one week after his death, Zarqawi continued to dominate Western press coverage with news reports suggesting that he was alive when found and was beaten to death by US forces. Already the US military, according to The Times of London, is speaking of "a treasure trove" of documents found in the house that could offer leads into future terrorist operations in Europe. The sticky question is how those alleged documents survived a 500-ton bomb that razed the house to the ground.
Along with this question, there are others whose answers Zarqawi's death only obscures. "Who planted Zarqawi in Iraq in the first place?" asks Iraqi commentator Dhafer Al-Ani. "Who financed his activities and secured the money, the weapons and the recruits; who provided him with protection and what role did those forces that are said to have penetrated his ranks play in pushing him to carry out the atrocities he did or to undermine the Iraqi nationalist resistance?"
According to Al-Ani, "Perhaps the greatest mystery about Zarqawi was the fact that the bulk of his victims were Iraqis, not Americans." Al-Ani concludes: "None of these questions are likely to be investigated by the Americans nor the Iraqi government. It is such a strange coincidence that his agenda to divide Iraq has been similar to that of the invaders."
"Even if Zarqawi did not exist," says Iraqi novelist Haifa Zangana, "they -- the US occupation -- would create one, and if he died they would make another Zarqawi to keep Iraq under their control."
Iraqi analysts read US President George W Bush's statements that Zarqawi's death "will not end violence" in Iraq as prophecy of forthcoming raids on residential areas and the killing of civilians justified in part in the name of uprooting Zarqawi's "network" and followers.
The Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement Sunday signalling its opposition to any possible military operations in Anbar province under the pretext of "fighting terrorism". Eyewitnesses say that residents in Ramadi have already begun evacuating their homes for fear of expected US-led military strikes. "The military option is no longer acceptable, regardless of the justifications for it," the statement said.
On Saturday, 20 people were killed, including the representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party, in Alexandria province with 32 wounded. In Baghdad, nine Iraqis were killed and 14 wounded. In another incident, a roadside bomb that struck a busy market in a predominantly Shia area of the capital killed three.
Who will take the blame for such killings in a post-Zarqawi era? Zarqawi, argues Zangana, was not solely responsible for the violence in Iraq. He was a good tool, presented as the face of the resistance and thus undermining it. "The primary responsibility for the death, the slaughtering and the violence taking place in Iraq, lies with US occupying forces whose presence in the country, with a web of mercenaries and foreign fighters, is causing the bloodshed," said Zangana.
Zangana noted that when US marines were suffering injuries or killings by the Iraqi resistance, such killings or injuries would be avenged on the same day or the day after. "They would plant a car bomb in a crowded market and specifically near a mosque or a husynia targeting again a Shia - populated area so they can claim that the Sunnis are coming to kill the Shias ."
The "Salvador option", said one analyst, is clearly being implemented in Iraq. "They are training special commando forces to do these attacks. It is exactly like what happened in Latin America during the 1980s. All the slaughter and torture is the same. It is obvious that mercenaries and foreign fighters are paid to do the job," said Hana Al-Bayaty of The Brussells Tribunal.
These mercenaries, Albayaty added, have a free hand in Iraq since they are immune under Iraqi civil and criminal law. One recent study carried out by Hassan Obeid Eissa on mercenaries in Iraq suggests there exist at least 50,000 of them, representing "the biggest army of mercenaries in history". This army enjoys legal immunity secured by decrees issued by former US Civil Administrator Paul Bremer. One decree issued 18 June 2003 stipulates that, "No Iraqi court has legal authority over any member of the coalition regarding any issue, be it civil or punitive."
What impact will Zarqawi's death have on the popular national resistance to occupation? Iraqi analysts point out that from the beginning the Iraqi resistance distanced itself from what Zarqawi did. "In their statements, the Iraqi resistance movement detached themselves from Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda activities because their goal was clear from the beginning, and that was to target the occupiers and the military bases. Therefore, there is no Iraqi blood on their hands," Assaf states.
Zarqawi, nonetheless, became a burden on the national resistance, his profile heavily manipulated by the US occupation to justify to Americans atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians in its war on terror. Assaf -- who is originally from Ramadi, a hotspot of the Iraqi resistance, and has had numerous discussions with leaders of Sunni tribes -- confirms the tribal leaders did not provide Zarqawi with support, and that when Zarqawi's followers bombed Ramadi's police station, Ramadi residents protested.
"Anbar residents shunned Zarqawi and things turned soar when shortly before his death he issued an order to assassinate the tribal leaders of Al-Dulaimi tribe." It was, therefore, not surprising that Essam Al-Rawi of the Muslim Scholars Associations, described Zarqawi's absence from the Iraqi scene as a "positive step" for the national resistance. It will give it a "boost," he said.
One of the places where resistance will continue is Fallujah. According to Assaf, Fallujah has been selected as a location for one of the 14 US military bases to be built in Iraq. The people of Fallujah, which is home to many former Iraqi military leaders, will not sit idle. "This is an occupied country and the basic history lesson tells us that people will resist the occupation. They do this in Iraq each in his own way because many Iraqis believe that in the resistance is the continuity of Iraq," Assaf concluded.