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Najaf - the begining of the Iraqi Intifada!?

The mass demonstration against the US occupation could be the begining of the real Iraqi Revolution. More than any other single act it threatens the US presence and sectarianism simultaneously

The demonstration against the American occupation at Najaf marks the opening of a potentially unique and qualitatively new phase in the Iraqi civil war. The hundreds of thousands who marched carrying Iraqi flags and banners proclaiming an end to occupation express a move away from passive opposition and towards mobilised open hostility against the US among the wider population. It means that the insurgency could potentially be supplemented and sectarianism eventually supplanted by a national popular uprising.

Instead of the limited effectiveness of the role of individual terrorism and urban guerrilla actions, a potentially new weapon of immeasurably greater force now lies in the hands of the Iraqi people. Insurgency is mostly containable if sufficient counter-forces and perseverance is maintained, but a popular national war of liberation, which grows out of the mass participation of the whole people, is an unstoppable force for any army. This is where the anti-American movement is now. It has reached a pivotal point, where, either it progresses from this demonstration to more mass actions, or it will be bogged down in stalemate and sectarianism for years.

The next step must be a series of rolling demonstrations calling for an end to occupation, an end to sectarianism and for socio-economic improvements in the lives of the people. These should be organized in both Shia and Sunni cities. Movements must begin from Basra to Fallujah, Mosul to Ba’qubah and in mixed and Kurdish areas such as Tal Afar, Kirkuk also, where sectarian divisions are growing. Other actions to bring pressure to bear on the US and the current sectarian Shiite government should be a series of strikes in industry, public sectors and especially the oil sector. There should a programme of city-wide, regional and then a national General Strike against the US occupation, sectarianism and social deprivation.

Mass social mobilisations around the slogan of freedom, against sectarianism and for improvements in socio-economic conditions for Iraq inevitably have an effect of reducing and marginalizing sectarianism, and encouraging unity between even the most alienated of communities. During the predominantly Shiite demonstration in Najaf, there was the small, but significant, participation of Sunni religious groups and a Sunni speaker on the platform. Within in Iraq, poles indicate that despite the sectarian carnage, 58% of the population still desire a unitary state. There is still a huge, yet stagnant reservoir of potential for overcoming the current sectarianism. It can only be tapped and refreshed by actions, not words and this means paving the way through local demonstrations to eventual joint demonstrations of Shiites and Sunnis. At some point culminated in millions strong national unity demonstration in Baghdad itself.

In order to facilitate the demonstrations and strikes, citizens organizing committees should be set up which should aim to be based on grass root, neighbourhood organisations, defence forces and trade unions, which have a social and non-sectarian agenda. They should include the formation of similar committees in the Iraqi police and armed forces, who can send delegates to ensure they are united with and not used against the people. The local committees should elected delegates to form town and city wide committees, regional committees and eventually call a national, non-sectarian conference of Shiite and Sunni peoples’ committees and the election of a joint Revolutionary National Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, made up of all the different and religious and regional groups.

Undoubtedly existing sectarian and religious leaders will attempt to hijack it and organizations like Al Qaeda will attack and attempt to sabotage such a movement. But a grass roots movement against the occupation, against sectarianism and for an improvement in the economic and social conditions of the Iraqi people remains the only hope of averting the bloody break-up of the nation. A mass movement across all sectors of the population would paralyse US forces and, in the face of such widespread open revolt, they would have no other option but to withdrawal.

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Stephen J. Morgan is a former member of the British Labour Party Executive Committee. A political writer, his first book was "The Mind of a Terrorist Fundamentalist - the Cult of Al Qaeda." He is a journalist and columnist for magazine. His specific interests are political psychology and Chaos theory. He lives in Brussels (Old Europe) Contact

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