Strong anti-government reactions have set in already as reports come in from Fallujah of bombed hospitals, high civilians casualties and denial of access to medical care. The political fallout could fall far beyond Iraq.
Several governments and international groups have warned that military action is likely to undermine elections scheduled for January.
The influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) called on people Tuesday to boycott elections.
AMS secretary-general Dr Harith al-Dhari openly supports Iraqi resistance to the occupation. “We have said we support the resistance since the occupation of this country began,” he said Tuesday. “This is our right as Iraqis. Therefore, we don’t need a fatwa on this issue as this matter is clear.”
The Iraqi Islamic Party, a major Sunni political party, has withdrawn from the Iraqi interim government. “We are protesting the attack on Fallujah and the injustice that is inflicted on the innocent people of the city,” said Abd al-Hamid from the party. “We cannot be part of this attack.”
Resistance to U.S. forces seems to be rising sharply. “Even if the Americans take the city, they will only anger the rest of Iraq,” said Dr Khalid al-Obeidy, professor at Baghdad University. “We have a dummy government who does only what the Americans tell them to do, so this martial law is from the Americans, not from any Iraqi government,” he said about the recent institution of martial law.
“You don’t need a reason to kill anyone here — you can kill anyone you want, so you don’t need martial law,” he added. The Shura Mujahidin Council in Fallujah, an influential local group, has called on the Iraqi National Guard that is fighting alongside the U.S. military to withdraw from the battle for the sake of national unity. The council has also asked for international intervention to stop the siege, and is persuading resistance fighters in other cities throughout Iraq to assist those fighting in Fallujah.
The fighters in Fallujah believed to be mostly Sunni have won backing from Shia leaders who fought U.S. forces in Najaf earlier.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Misser, a leader at the office of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Sadr City area of Baghdad condemned the U.S.-led attack. “I have publicly announced that if the Americans raid Fallujah and the Fallujah people asked for help of any kind, our followers are to help them in any way they can,” he told IPS. “I mean help them by any means necessary.”
He said Sadr followers living near Fallujah and in Baghdad have been asked to look after refugees from the city.
Concern is growing over what a victory over an estimated 6,000 resistance fighters can mean for the United States and its appointed government. Killing or capturing a significant number of these fighters will not be easy for the interim government to live with.
“As we tighten the noose around him (resistance), he will move to escape and fight another day,” U.S. commander Colonel Michael Formica was quoted by AP as saying. “I do not want these guys to get out of here. I want them killed or captured as they flee.”
The more U.S. forces succeed in this, the heavier Iraqis say will be the price they would have to pay.