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Iraq Invasion - Igniting Arab Opinion
"PEOPLE SEE this as an occupation. If the government gives us weapons we will fight the Americans and the British."
This Basra resident's view of the war does not bode well for the British and US troops waging war in Iraq. Far from being greeted as "liberators" from the oppressive Saddam Hussain regime, there is now plenty of evidence from 'embedded' Western journalists that many Iraqis view the invasion as a 21st century Crusade.
Moreover, the brutality of the war, relayed by the Arabic Al Jazeera news service, is inflaming Arab anger against the invasion throughout the Middle East.
Because of US support for the right-wing Israeli regime of Ariel Sharon, which is oppressing the Palestinians, anti-Western sentiment had already been seething. Now the scenes of devastation in Basra and Baghdad are generating an outpouring of anger and protest throughout the Arab and Muslim world - a real worry for many of the repressive, corrupt, pro-Western regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Last Friday over 15,000 anti-war protesters marched from Cairo's al-Azhar mosque. In Iran, an officially approved demo of thousands marched to the British embassy in Tehran - some threw stones.
In Jordan, riot police held back several thousand protesters trying to march to the Israeli embassy. In the Palestinian territories some 30,000 demonstrated their support for Iraq.
Several hundred thousand marched through Damascus in an officially sanctioned protest. Although a Coalition 'partner' in the 1991 Gulf war, the Syrian regime remains on the US list of 'terrorist-sponsoring' countries over its refusal to close the political offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld upped the stakes by accusing the Syrian government of providing military support to Iraq. Rumsfeld said the US would "consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments".
This threat confirms to many Arab-speaking people that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is merely the first phase of an attempted Western re-colonisation of the Middle East.
This new pan-Arab nationalism based on the most oppressed workers and poor is a first step in taking an anti-imperialist stand. It is also marking time for the reactionary and corrupt pro-Western Arab ruling classes.
However, in the absence of mass workers' organisations and independent socialist parties to fight for an overthrow of capitalism and landlordism and for socialist internationalism, the movement could find its way into a divisive religious cul-de-sac.
In The Socialist 4 April 2003: