The Iraqi insurgency crossed the Rubicon today, with Saar's open declaration of resisting the US, a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Taking over the strategic city of Najaf , scene of strategic clashes in the invasion last year, and warning of armed rebellion. In Baghdad Saar's offices were taken and sacked by US forces in the wake of the withdrawal of Sadr from Baghdad.
Najaf, along with Karbala, is considered a holy city in Iraq, a place of pilgrimages and commemorations of martyrdoms in the past. These previous martyrdoms are regularly invoked in the current struggle as a call for civilians to die in opposing enemy forces, or to be claimed as martyrs to spur the cause. We "Remember the Maine!", they remember their dead as well.
Sadr's move to Najaf indicates both a victory and a defeat. By creating a base of operations where he is, in effect, the law, he has given the US a target to bring to bear military might. He has also, however, given others a flag to rally around, and a symbol of the porousness of US control.
In Fallujah, another sign of the evolution of power from individual or small group lead, to being a coordinated and organized force, is playing out. US forces are being ambushed on the way into the town, even as streets are deserted, and it is clear that the guerrillas do not have operational control of the town itself. Instead, they are forcing the Americans to some through the major road into the town under heavy fire. 5 GI's are reported dead in the attack in the last 24 hours, with another killed near by in an ambush.
Uprisings in Iraq against Hussein were summarily dealt with in his time in power - and this uprising against American occupation follows the pattern of urban uprisings during the modern period - with demonstrations acting as cover for small unit operations on the part of the "partisans". Crushing them quickly has generally been the key to success - as they spiral out of control quickly.
Presently Marines are operating in the city, destroying homes of suspected insurgents - there is a gun battle in the Northeast corner of the city - with US forces on foot exchanging gun fire, pinned down after being ambushed. The penitence is stiff, but not numerous, and one report indicates that relief is already on the way.
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This June handover is driven by the calendar - allowing coalition forces to move to a garrison stance during the long months of July, August and September. The US military, in extending deployments and asking for more troops, clearly believes that the occupation of "sovereign Iraq" will require far more force than is presently available, and is a far more dangerous undertaking than they have so far admitted.
Hence it becomes essential, if the US forces are to reach a stabilized point for the hand over, for this uprising to be met with the harshest possible measures. Whatever the long term effects may be.