GIS Special Topical Studies
Iraq War 2003: Background, Lessons and Follow-On

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March 23, 2004

New Development in Anti-US Resistance in Iraq

Analysis. By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS. The nationalist-Ba’athist resistance in Iraq continues to evolve in order to better prepare for a long-term struggle against the occupation forces and the Iraqi authorities who they will empower in Baghdad. Developments also point to the growing separation of the non-Islamist resistance from the residues of the Saddam Hussein Administration. The latest milestone in this process was the mid-March 2004 publication in Baghdad of a communiqué announcing the formation of the Patriotic Front for the Liberation of Iraq (PFLI). The PFLI’s communiqué borrows heavily from the revolutionary rhetoric of the Palestinian nationalist organizations since the1970s.

The authors of the PFLI communiqué stressed that theirs was not a completely new organization, but rather the uniting of various localized resistance organizations and groups which had sprung up spontaneously in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad and which had now decided to cooperate under a single headquarters in order to better wage the war against the US-dominated occupation forces. The communiqué stressed that the member organizations represented a myriad of “armed organizations” and “resistance trends” of several ideological characters unified by their determination to liberate Iraq by force of arms.

The PFLI communiqué noted the geographical diversity of the member organizations and groups, explaining that  “the Mujahid detachments in Baghdad, Samarra, Tikrit, Bayji, ad-Duluiyah, Yathrib, al-Ishaqi, Baqubah, ar-Riyad, Kirkuk, al-Basrah, al-Amarah, Ninwa, and Babil have come together in one organization now on the march towards one goal: the liberation of Iraq from Anglo-American colonialism.”

Moreover, the PFLI stressed that its armed struggle would not end with the transfer of formal power from the US occupation to Iraqi authorities. The PFLI was, it indicated, committed to continue its struggle until the toppling and destruction of any administration in Baghdad established and sustained by the US and its allies. In this context, the PFLI warned “the traitors to the homeland, those who cooperate with the occupation” that “the reckoning [with them] will be severe and harsh because they have betrayed and deserted the homeland, delivering it up to foreigners on contemptible pretexts”.

The emergence of the PFLI was the latest of several efforts by the non-jihadist anti-US forces to close their ranks and improve their armed struggle. The emergence of the PFLI came on top of the emergence a month earlier of the Liberation Front-Provisional General Command which had Islamist elements and which was becoming an increasingly popular political and armed resistance entity.

This trend represents genuine grassroots effort to not only markedly escalate the anti-US guerilla war, but also to prevent the fall of post-occupation Iraq into the hands of the Islamist-jihadist forces. Iraqi opposition sources emphasized that the Islamist-jihadist resistance was sponsored and actively supported by the intelligence services of Syria and Iran, as well as various Islamist-jihadist movements in the Middle East, Western Europe and south Asia. The vastly larger and indigenously popular Islamist-jihadist forces are well organized and lavishly funded. Hence, the Iraqi nationalist-Ba’athist élite appeared convinced that once a “democratic process” was allowed to take place in Iraq, the country would quickly become an Islamist state which would be dominated by a coalition of Shi’ite and Sunni movement beholden to Iraq’s militant neighbors.

With the US losing control over the socio-political process in Iraq, the nationalist-Ba’athist élite, of which the PFLI claims to be a major component, are increasingly resigned to the idea that the future of Iraq would ultimately be decided in a fratricidal civil war: an option increasingly accepted by the Islamist-jihadist élite as well.