GNN: Introducing America's New War In Iraq
Guerrilla of the Week - Raed Jarrar
Guerrilla News Network - Editor's Pick, April 4, 2004
"The real clash that's supposed to happen in this war did not yet happen. In the south, people are waiting, and they will be tired in months." - Raed Jarrar, October 2003, interview with GNN
We were standing in tank graveyard on the outskirts of Baghdad when Raed Jarrar, blogger/architect/ democracy activist, first explained to us that the real war had yet to be fought.
It was October 2003, and Muqtada Al Sadr, the 30-year-old Shiite "firebrand cleric" had just declared himself the ruler of an autonomous government. Thousands of loyal followers filled the streets of Baghdad's Shiite slum to show their support.
All the news agencies flocked to his mosque. But few reporters on the ground understood, and almost no one back home, save a small handfull of astute observers like Juan Cole, that Al Sadr and his radical Shiite followers were Iraq's wildcard. Since the first hours after Baghdad fell they had been biding their time, quietly arming, raising money and recruiting new members to fight what they knew would be a coming battle to remove the foreign infidel from their land. The Americans appeared helpless, or unwilling, to stop them.
What you saw Sunday across Iraq was the other shoe dropping - a massive coordinated Shiite uprising that left 22 Iraqis, eight U.S. troops and four Salvadoran soldiers dead.
In a move that is sure to just inflame more violence, the U.S. announced on Monday that an arrest warrant has been issued for Al Sadr.
This is a completely new war, and the Americans are just as unprepared to fight it as they were the one they are currently fighting against Baathist sympathizers and oppressed everyday Iraqis in the so-called Sunni Triangle.
Raed Jarrar saw it all coming. As he told us back in October, "In the south, people are waiting, and they will be tired in months."
Jarrar is a 20-something Palestinian-Iraq architect who is best known to the world as one half of the famous Baghdad Blogger team. Shortly before the March 2003 invasion his best friend starting writing a blog called "Where's Raed?" under the pseudonym Salam Pax. At the time, it was the only uncensored reporting coming out of Baghdad. Raed began writing for the blog after the end of "major combat," offering a more jaundiced take on the American arrival than Salam, who is gay, and seemed to be looking forward to the personal freedoms that an American invasion might bring.
Jarrar also started a small NGO that has completed more than 100 small reconstruction projects. Following his personal mantra, "democracy cannot come from outside," he became a mini-Soros, building bridges for $60 that Bechtel would charge thousands.
With an office in Nasiriyah he frequently came face-to-face with the Shiite militias who controlled the city. He was even detained once, and interrogated overnight before he was released. They never harmed him, but they made sure he knew who was in charge.
Jarrar warned us that the Americans had underestimated the strength and depth of anti-American sentiment among Shiites. Our reporting across Iraq confirmed what he had told us: We found little support among Shia for an American "liberation" that removed a man who had brutally repressed them for decades.
As GNN's Anthony Lappé has been writing last week, forget Fallujah. That is the old war. The new one has just started, and there may be nothing the Americans, the British or their Salvadorans amigos can do to keep the country from tearing apart.
Recently, Jarrar left "Where's Raed?" and can now be found on his own blog. Read it and you'll understand why we think Raed in the future of Iraq.
The following is an excerpt from Raed's blog for Monday, April 5, 2004:
Raed in the Middle
Monday, April 05, 2004
Muqtada, is younger than me. He is around 25 years old [News reports put him at 30 - GNN], spent all of his life in Iraq studying in religious schools, I think he is very introverted, defensive and acting like a rebel. Yet, he is very smart and pragmatic. He started working immediately after the war stopped, inherited the popularity of his father and used it as a starting point. He knows that his age and religious degree doesn't allow him to represent himself as a leader for Iraq, that's why he started and maintained strong relations with the Iranian very well respected religious personality: Al-Haeri.
Considering Al-Haeri as his religious reference gave him the chance to go ahead with his Anti-American, Anti-Saddam perspective with a strong religious cover.
AsSadr opened offices and mosques in the cities of the south and in Saddam city (Athawra) in Baghdad, which he managed to change its name to AsSadr city [Originally "Saddam City" - GNN]. AsSdr city is a huge gridiron city inside Baghdad that one million Shia people live in, it is the area of the poor, vulnerable and uneducated people, and it is the weapons market of Baghdad, you can get a grenade for $5 or a machine gun for $50.
He created a parallel Iraqi government, as an alternative option beside the CPA, he selected ministers too.
And, maybe the most important thing he could arrange, he controlled a very important part of the religious establishment of Shia Iraqis ... (Al-Hawza).
Everyone was underestimating him; Bremer, political leaders, media, most of my friends, my parents. But I didn't… at all.
From my frequent visits to the south, I could really feel and see the actual strength and authorities AsSadr have, and the real possibility that he will be a key person in the next stage of the Iraqi history.
White revolutions were happening in the southern cities, without anyone noticing that. A strong Shia-Shia competition, which reached to fighting some times, happened between AsSdr and Al-Hakim (assassinated last year in the huge explosion at Najaf). Cities like Amara, Kut, Diwanyya and Simawa were completely controlled by AsSadr party, and Nasryya had dramatic demonstrations that changed the Al-Hakim people in the governorate and replaced them with AsSadr representatives.
One of my dear friends at Najaf told me once that the "Najafians" call Al-Hakim party: the rational stream, and they call AsSadr party: the chaotic one. For sure Al-Hakim had decades of experience and political work, and a strong backup and support from the Iranian government, but AsSadr was just starting.
Then, AsSadr established his own militia: Al-Mahdi Army, with blessings from AyatoAllah Al-Haeri… tens of thousands of Iraqis joined the new army under the eyes of everyone.
The thing that I want to make obvious here is the well designed political and military steps of AsSadr, that I'm sure no one even heard about. Do you know why you didn't hear much about him earlier? Because AsSade wasn't noisy enough to drag the attention of Bremer and the international media, the undesigned explosions of Falluja did.
When the CPA decides to close the AsSadr newspaper and arrest his assistant, they should expect to have real clashes… I mean REAL ones.
Read the full blog here - http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/.