Like your average grouchy post-Marxist, I don’t have a huge amount of time for the post-modern idea that there are no facts, only interpretations — but the situation in Iraq would be enough to test even the strongest faith in the idea of an objective reality.

Not only are there so many narratives about what is ‘really’ happening flying around the West, it seems that alliances on the ground have become so fluid, that some insurgents aren’t necessarily always fighting with the same group, or admitting to the same identity — like a drummer playing for three bands, waiting to see which one will make it big.

The Guardian has a big splash alleging exclusive information about Iran’s plan to force Us forces out by running a proxy war — an argument that most comments on its own site suggest is a bizarre excursion into repeating unexamined US propaganda. It is certainly contradicted by the argument in a new Chatham House paper, which argues that there are nine separate conflicts going on in Iraq:

1) A violent Sunni-Shia struggle, centred on Baghdad.

2) A struggle for control over state and disputes about its form between unitarians and federalists.

3) Violent clashes between Kurds and non-Kurds in Kirkuk and Mosul.

4) The Sunni-US conflict in the centre, and 5) the Shia-US conflict in the south.

6) An intra-Sunni conflict between al-Qaeda foreign forces and local tribal forces in Anbar and two other provinces.

7) Intra-Islamist conflict in the Sunni triangle, between al-Qaeda and local movements.

8) Intra-Shia conflict in Basra and Najaf between Sadr’s forces and Badr.

9) Unrestrained criminality across the country.

The excellent Iraq Slogger (via Leninology) website adds the formation of a new explicitly Marxist group, the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance. This itself may be part of jockeying for whatever struggle will follow the coming rout of American forces –and the need to build up a bit of cred beforehand.

Hardly surprising that there would be so many overlapping struggles, since — contrary to the simpleminded idea of the ‘Arab mind’ the US worked off — Iraq was riven with complex identities to begin with.

And really, it’s not just about Iraq now. From Chad through Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, the whole region is on fire…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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