It’s now nearly five years since Seumas Milne described the terrorists in Iraq as a “classic resistance movement with widespread support”. Well whatever support they had was undermined by the horror they unleashed on the Iraqi people. However, while the surge is viewed as a success by most commentators, Milne continues to bang his tin drum of defeat for the coalition and blow his plastic trumpet of victory for jihadists. He’s been doing this for a while, as well as blaming the sectarian fighting on the US, as a colonial divide and rule tactic, when the real culprits are the people he praises, who blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
He returns to his theme today, suggesting all the “resistance” need do now is bridge the sectarian divide to free Iraq. He doesn’t make it exactly clear what Iraq is to be freed from. Its democratic government? After a laughable attempt to downplay the effects of the surge, Milne’s black knight equivalent of Bush’s Mission Accomplished cock-up, he gets down with the big strong men with the guns.
A few days ago in the Middle East I met the leader or “emir” of one of the largest mainstream Iraqi resistance groups, the Sunni-based Islamic army. In his first interview with a western journalist, Sheikh Abu Yahya argued that the US had “suffered a historic defeat in Iraq, not only militarily, but also politically and morally”. There was no question, he said, of the resistance following the path of collaboration taken by the highly unstable Awakening Councils, most of whose members only joined because of poverty and unemployment: “We will continue fighting until the last American soldier leaves Iraq, however long that takes.”
But like other resistance groups, Abu Yahya’s Islamic army will not take part in a political process it regards as “illegitimate and corrupt” unless there is reform of the sectarian structures as part of a negotiated US withdrawal. So far the US shows little interest in rewarding the people who fought it to a standstill over the past six years – but any pullout without such a deal is a recipe for renewed conflict.
Given the widespread support of the political processs in Iraq, the reduction in sectarian violence, the strategic defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the defanging of Muqtada al-Sadr over the past two years, you’d have to wonder what resistance Milne was still in contact with?
Sheikh Abu Yahya?
I think it would be interesting to know if this Abu Yahya is Abu Yahya, the senior member of al-Qaeda, who issued the US “advice” on how to fight Al Qaeda? This Abu Yahya is one of the inner circle of Al Qaeda. Granted he was one of the Al Qaeda group who rebuked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for his excesses in Iraq, but he is by no means a moderate “resistence” fighter fighting for a free Iraq.
“I share with you your great jihad,” he wrote in a letter dated Nov. 20, 2005, according to a translation obtained from the West Point group. “I hope that you will lay open your heart for the acceptance of what I say.”
In subsequent video appearances, Mr. Libi cast himself as a utility man for Al Qaeda. He rebutted Muslim scholars who criticized suicide bombers in Algeria; he urged Muslims to carry out attacks in Europe in revenge for the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Asked to assess Mr. Libi’s stature, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, Dell L. Dailey, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant general, said in an e-mail message, “Abu Yahya is a senior Al Qaeda member, a top strategist for the group, and trusted and presented as one of the group’s most effective promoters of jihad.”
Of course, I doubt that it is the same Abu Yahya, since it is surely impossible that The Guardian, a progressive left newspaper, would pay a journalist to write advertorials for a senior member of Al Qaeda. Isn’t it?