Skip to comments.Supporters Of Al-Qa'eda Offer Welcome Of Swords And Poison (Iraq)
Posted on 06/28/2004 5:58:02 PM PDT by blam
Supporters of al-Qa'eda offer welcome of swords and poison
By David Blair
Puppets, sell-outs and traitors are the insults that al-Qa'eda's propagandists routinely hurl at any Arab willing to work with the West. Osama bin Laden's followers will be preparing their full repertoire of blood-curdling denunciation for Iyad Allawi, the new Iraqi prime minister, and his colleagues in the interim government.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the suspected al-Qa'eda leader in Iraq, has already promised him "poison and a sure sword". The formal handover of sovereignty in Iraq will not make a shred of difference to his resolve to wage a campaign of terror.
For, in al-Qa'eda's eyes, this transfer of power is a sham, designed to shield American dominance of Iraq and control over its oil reserves.
Mr Allawi, already a figure of suspicion owing to the long years spent in exile in the West, will be dismissed as an American lackey.
Cells loyal to Zarqawi and the other terrorist warlords will dedicate themselves to fighting Iraq's new government as ferociously as they fought the coalition.
But will they be able to? Will they continue to enjoy a degree of popular support? The prime cause of Iraq's insurgency is the absence of any legitimate government. Mr Allawi's central task is to change this.
How ordinary Iraqis view their new premier and his ministers is the crucial factor. Mr Allawi knows this better than anybody.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, he has been careful to put some distance between himself and the coalition and openly to criticise its failures. He has made a clear effort to present himself as an independent leader, protecting Iraq's national interest.
In his first televised statement yesterday, Mr Allawi tried to rally Iraqi national sentiment. He urged his compatriots to "stand united to expel the foreign terrorists who are killing our children and destroying our country".
But the unavoidable fact is that Mr Allawi is wholly dependent on Western military muscle. Some 140,000 American and 20,000 other coalition troops will remain in Iraq for the rest of this year.
The new government will only be able to call on a single armed division of Iraqi soldiers, totalling about 8,000 men. He has another 40,000 poorly trained, badly equipped and demoralised troops in the newly named National Guard. These forces are hopelessly inadequate.
The US troops, whose very presence incenses many Iraqis, will still carry out their daily round of raids, patrols and offensives. Zarqawi and the other insurgent leaders will keep their crucial propaganda card.
Moreover, the government will be afloat on a sea of Western cash. Iraq's oil revenues will only be sufficient to cover the daily costs of administration. The long-term capital spending, which the country desperately needs, will come from America and its allies.
Ordinary Iraqis understand the new administration's weakness only too well. They are apt to regard almost any prominent figure as being in thrall to the Americans. If supporting the prime minister is equated with backing the coalition, then his government will fail.
Yet most Iraqis are wearied by the turmoil of the last 15 months and the long years of war, sanctions and isolation that preceded it. They might decide Mr Allawi represents their only chance to rebuild their country.
On the one hand, they will face the propaganda of al-Qa'eda and Islamic extremists, reinforced by the reality of American and coalition forces on their streets. On the other, Iraqis yearn for stability and peace.
If they come to associate this with Mr Allawi's government, yesterday's ceremony could be a crucial turning point. But only 23 million bewildered, exhausted Iraqis have the collective power to make this happen. No one can predict what they will decide.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the suspected al-Qa'eda leader in Iraq, has already promised him "poison and a sure sword".
Another reporter spinning the handover.
And 6 months from now they elect who they want.
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