War on Iraq

New Resistance Group Emerges in Iraq; Seeks Ouster of U.S. and "Al Qaeda"

Today's announcement of a new resistance group in Iraq is a landmark in the armed campaign against the US occupation.
Today's announcement on al-Jazeera TV of the launch of a Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance, which brings together the main non-al-Qaida Islamist groups in the Sunni areas, is likely to prove a landmark in the emergence of a coherent leadership for the armed campaign against the US occupation.

The new front, first reported in the Guardian in July, has published a 14-point programme, declaring the armed resistance against illegal foreign occupation to be the legitimate representatives of the Iraqi people; rejecting as null and void all constitutional arrangements and laws passed under the occupation; calling for the establishment of an interim government and the defence of Iraq's territorial integrity; and rejecting sectarianism and attacks on "the innocent."

Underlying the new front, which has been many months in the making, is a rejection of the tactics and ideology of al-Qaida (which accounts for a minority of armed attacks) , and a determination to give the resistance movement a political face in preparation for an eventual American pullout.

Despite a drop off in the rate of attacks on occupation and US-backed Iraqi forces in the past couple of months in the wake of the US surge (they were running at about 5,000 a month in the summer), there is no doubt that it is the resistance campaign that has played the decisive role in bringing the most powerful army in the world to the brink of defeat and driving the issue of withdrawal to the top of the political agenda in Washington. Its weakness has been in the lack of common cause between the Sunni-based resistance and the anti-occupation forces in the predominantly Shia areas.

Crucially, however, today's new political council does not include two of the groups who originally signed up to the plan for a united front -- the most important of which is the nationalist-Islamic 1920 Revolution Brigades.

The Brigades have held back because of disputes over the attitude of some other groups towards the US-sponsored "tribal awakening" movement against al-Qaida, which has led to some on the fringes of the Sunni-based resistance to co-operate with US forces. One group which signed up to today's resistance council, Iraqi Hamas, has been reportedly working with the US military in Diyala province to expel al-Qaida from the area. There are also differences over links with parties taking part in the US-sponsored political process.

The Brigades, which recently released a statement in English with a clear anti-capitalist as well as anti-imperialist message, have left the door open to joining with the new political council. This promises to be the start of a process which will shape the future of Iraq.

Seumas Milne is a columnist and associate editor with The Guardian.
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