Violence in Iraq: Foreign or Home-Brewed?

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily, has sent its own correspondent (by the name of Thomas Heine) to check things out in Iraq. Being on-the-scene has put him in a position to uncover some interesting discrepancies, as he reports in Iraq’s Disguised Foreign Legion.

For all their increasing differences, he notes, there’s one thing on which both the American occupiers and the Iraqi occupied can agree: that the rising tide of violence there against Coalition forces, as well as Iraqis judged to be collaborators, is due mainly to Islamic fighters from outside the country – from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and the like. “Naturally those are foreigners,” he quotes one Iraqi interviewee, a certain Tahseen Saleh. “Iraqis couldn’t manage that sort of thing.” And Jalal Talabani, a leading Iraqi Kurd and this month’s chairman of the Governing Council, has declared “The large majority of the criminals that commit the terror-acts belong to Al-Qaida.”

Strangely, both the Iraqis and American occupying authorities may very well be wrong. Of course, it’s not surprising that they would claim such an overwhelming foreign influence: the Iraqis, because they would rather not be closely associated with devastating attacks that have occurred against institutions which are supposed to be off-limits, like the Red Cross and the United Nations; the Americans, even more, because they would like to deny an indigenous uprising against the occupying powers, and instead paint their struggle as part of the international “War on Terrorism.”

Still, Heine notes that, so far, there is little evidence or documentation to support that that is the case. For example, in the past couple of days American military authorities claimed to have captured in the country twenty suspected (foreign) members of Al-Qaida. Then top American commander LTG Ricardo Sanchez had to concede at a Baghdad press conference that it had been impossible even to verify their Al-Qaida affiliation. Rather, Heine cites the logic of Rami Khouri, editor-in-chief of the English-language Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star, that what is happening in Iraq is simply an occupation naturally arousing resentment and resistance from among a proud people, who retaliate against the occupiers, who retaliate in turn and thus set off an upward spiral of violence. It’s not at all about “freedom-haters” or “America-haters,” as the US would have the world believe. Instead, it is something that everyone should have seen coming, whether foreign fighters are present in the country or not.

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