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Jihad Volunteers Rush to Baghdad

Posted March. 25, 2003 22:18,   


U.S. ground forces which were advancing rapidly towards Baghdad have met with persistent Iraqi defenses and are fighting with difficulty.

“The situation is different from the Gulf War. The American forces will face much more difficult ground battles,” say Jordanian sources that are in daily contact with the Iraqis. The evident differences from the previous Gulf War can be observed in and out of Iraq. This could be a sign that signals a long and bloody war.

In Jordan, since beginning the war, no Iraqi nationals have fled the country. There were only refugees of foreign nationals such Sudan, Chad and others. In two refugee camps near the Jordanian border, not a single Iraqi national could be seen in zones set for Iraqi refugees. Nothing but dust and wind inhabit empty refugee camps set on barren fields. If it was anything like the previous Gulf War, this would have been a time when tens of thousands would have gathered here.

“This is proof that Baghdad still maintains a supply of food,” say United Nations officials. Another interpretation is that for those who leave now could be labeled as traitors. This is because President Hussein’s administration has already taken up a policy of letting go of those who wish to leave the country. It is estimated that since the end of last year, about 3 million Iraqis have left for Jordan and Syria.

Those who remained can be seen as hardcore Bas political party members, military, police, government officials and ordinary citizens who have no political affiliations. One of the reasons for them to remain is that they know from experience that the U.S. will sort out their bombing targets. As a result Hussein’s administration has minimized the possibility of citizen revolt during the upcoming defense of Baghdad.

In Amman, there are an increasing number of people rushing to Baghdad. This is striking against no flow of refugees. This is a phenomenon that didn’t occur in the previous Gulf War.

“I’ve watched Baghdad turn into an ocean of flames on broadcasts every day. I will die fighting in my birthplace,” says Dayev Kajem, an Iraqi construction worker who is seeking a bus ride to his homeland. He is a volunteer for the ‘Jihad’. Men like him are common.

“Every day I phone Basra. They say conquest of Basra by Americans is a lie. I don’t know why I’m here,” says Satar Muhammad, a butcher from southern Basra.

But they were unable to cross the border. This is because no driver is willing to risk the drive, and transportation fares have also risen to almost $300. The Iraqi middle class who can afford the fare have no interest in the ‘Jihad’.

One of the reasons for these Iraqi ‘patriots’ is that the American logic of ‘freedom from dictatorship’ does not apply to Middle East reality.

“There is no concept of democracy in the Middle East,” says one expert. He emphasizes that, “Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are all kingdoms. Syria has a hereditary president. Even Egyptian President Mubarak’s third son is the third highest ranking power in the government party.”

There are some Iraqis who admit that President Hussein is a ‘tyrant’. But in order to rule Iraq where there are 121 ethnic tribes, some Iraqis resign to the necessity of a ‘strong government’.

Last January, a special correspondent visited Babel, 110 km from Diwaniyawa and 250 km south of Baghdad. He saw many new canals dug beside existing irrigation canals on the roadside. All of them were parallel with the roads. There was no water but the guide told them it was an ‘irrigation canal’. Some of those who dug those canals were in military uniforms.

A Baghdad citizen who recently escaped to Amman said that they were trenches for military purposes. They are built like roads so were not seen by satellites.” He claims it is a tactic to stop the U.S. advance into the north by filling trenches with ‘crude oil’ and burning them.

Unlike the previous Gulf War, it is widely know that Iraq has prepared many contingencies for ground battles. In the central civilian zone, there are even stories of plans to ‘shoot all night long, from houses to harass American troops’.

There are also stories of smuggling a vast number of hand-held rockets, night-vision goggles and computers with military software through Lebanese and Syrian borders. There were even eyewitness accounts of the Iraqis hiding smuggled military equipment and foreign technicians from U.N. inspectors other than biochemical weapons.

Ki-Tae Kwon kkt@donga.com