Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Right to Resist

The Iraqi National Reconciliation Conference, held this past weekend in Cairo, has ended with a couple of surprises: Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and all other foreign troops; and they recognized that all peoples have a right to resist invasion and occupation.

This is an extraordinarily significant acknowledgment: Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis are standing together with Sunni Iraqis and saying that the insurgency is legitimate -- IF insurgents do not target innocent civilians or institutions that civilians need to survive. The statement explicitly rejected terrorism but recognized that legitimate resistance is not the same as terrorism.

Some other key points in the final agreement:

  • All those held in detention but not convicted of a crime should be released.
  • All reported incidents of torture should be investigated and the instigators held accountable.
  • No more arbitrary arrests and detentions unless the authorities can present an official judicial order.
  • The practice of declaring some Iraqis "infidels" was condemned. These declarations are used by some insurgent groups in Iraq to mark specific individuals for assassination.

Here are Juan Cole's comments on the call for a timetable leading to the withdrawal of all foreign troops:

Al-Hayat gives the orginal Arabic wording of some articles of the agreement. One provision says, "We demand the withdrawal of foreign forces in accordance with a timetable, and the establishment of a national and immediate program for rebuilding the armed forces through drills, preparation and being armed, on a sound basis that will allow it to guard Iraq's borders and to get control of the security situation . . ."

Sources at the conference told al-Hayat that they envisaged the withdrawal of foreign military forces from the cities within 6 months (i.e. mid-May?). They said that the withdrawal would be completed over a period of two years (i.e. November 2007). This timetable, al-Hayat says, appears actually to have been put forward by the Americans themselves. If that is true, we finally know exactly what George W. Bush means by "staying the course." It is a course that takes us to withdrawal.

The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance list had originally called for an American troop withdrawal as part of its party platform, but that plank was opposed by Ibrahim Jaafari, and was dropped even before the January 30 elections, presumably because of American pressure.

Cole also links to a Reuters report about the disastrous security conditions, which are only getting worse (the starred item is new or updated, according to Reuters):

KAN'AAN - Five Iraqi civilians were killed and 14 injured in the town of Kan'aan, just north of Baghdad, when a roadside bomb detonated near a passing U.S Humvee, a hospital official said.

BAQUBA - U.S. troops opened fire on a crowded minivan north of Baghdad, fearing a car bomb attack, and killed at least three members of the same family, including a child, the U.S. military said. Survivors and relatives said five were killed and four wounded.

* BAIJI - Police said they found the bodies of two women who were sisters and who worked for the Iraqi army in Baiji, 200 km (120 miles) north of Baghdad. The women were abducted and killed by gunmen, police said.

DUJAIL - Iraqi police said they found a body identified as Lebanese contractor Nidhal Adnan in the Shi'ite town of Dujail, north of Baghdad.

AL-KARMAH - A U.S. Marine died on Sunday from gunshot wounds received on Saturday in the town of al-Karmah, the U.S military said in a statement. Karmah lies 15 km (10 miles) west of Baghdad in the volatile Sunni Arab province of Anbar, a haven for local insurgents and foreign militants.

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