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March 26, 2003

Anti-Saddam Exiles Returning to fight US

In explaining the lack of a popular uprising to support the US invasion (despite false rumours from Basra), the fallback argument has been that dissident forces still fear reprisals from Saddam's forces in case the US doesn't prevail. The more sophisticated version of this admits that, given that the US encouraged an uprising by Shia forces in 1991, then left them to be suppressed and murdered, the population is understandably cynical and is in "show me the money/success" mode before they show their hand in support of the US.

But how do they explain anti-Saddam exiles in perfect safety in foreign countries returning home to Iraq to sight the United States?:

Young Iraqi exiles are rushing home to defend their country in growing numbers, even though many strongly oppose Saddam Hussein's regime.

A fatwa issued by the highest religious leaders of Shia Islam, calling on Iraqis to "fight the aggressors and stand against the invasion", will accelerate an already strong trend for young Iraqi exiles to go home to defend their country.

Nowhere is this more visible than in the warren of narrow streets in Saida Zeinab, a heavily Iraqi Shia neighbourhood of the Syrian capital.

"I'm against Saddam but I'm not for America," said a young man yesterday behind a shop counter full of music CDs and cassette tapes of speeches and lectures by Shia scholars.

Until two months ago Abdullah, 25, (who did not want to give his real name) was a student of engineering from Kerbala, a town south of Baghdad which contains one of Shia Islam's holiest mosques.

Now he is planning to go home. The patriotic drive to defend his country has overcome his hatred of Saddam's regime, he said, though there are other factors too - peer group pressure and anxiety about his parents' well-being.

Obviously, many Iraqi exiles support the war to oust Hussein's regime, but facing the reality that even many exiles-- by definition more likely to oppose Hussein-- are willing to fight to defend his regime means that any hope for widespread popular support for the US invasion is unlikely to materialize.

Posted by Nathan at March 26, 2003 09:54 AM

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The Bush administration seems to believe that the can flimflam everyone. GWB has led a charmed life -- everything has always worked, for mysterious reasons --and he seems to think that it will continue indefinitely.

It shouldn't have been hard to guess that the Shias and the Kurds would be very very ginger about sticking their necks out. (Pissing of the Turks on top of doublecrossing the Kurds was a stroke of genius). And we might even have realized that every dictator has his supporters -- few are hated by everyone. (The apparently widespread private ownership of guns in Iraq should change the 2nd Amendment argument some, right?)

On top of that, most Muslims and Middle-Easterners dislike the US. That's the hand we've been dealt; you have to play it carefully.

I just saw that young Graham's anti-Muslim missionaries are gearing up to go in once the place is pacified. Just what we need to make us look good and win friends in the Muslim world.

Posted by: zizka at March 26, 2003 02:57 PM

I can appreciate their courage and patriotism, if not their good sense. Theyl'll have to call the movie Death Wish II.

Posted by: markg at March 27, 2003 05:04 PM

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