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Iraq's Resistance to the Occupation

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A growing armed resistance in Iraq has confronted US-UK occupation forces since the 2003 invasion. Insurgents have killed and wounded many occupation troops as well as Iraqi government forces working with the occupiers. Some insurgents have targeted civilians, both foreign and Iraqi.

Punitive and violent counter-insurgency measures have not reduced the number of insurgent attacks, but instead have aroused resentment among the general Iraqi population, building support for the resistance. Independent analysts believe that the bulk of the insurgency is composed of ordinary Iraqis who want foreign troops out of their country. Elections and a formal Iraqi government have not diminished the insurgency. In fact, Iraq has witnessed a trend toward growing violence and insurgent operations of increasing sophistication, ranging across a widening geographical space.

In addition to the armed resistance, a non-violent resistance to the occupation has also emerged, composed of political parties, intellectuals, religious groups and trade unions, including the powerful Oil Workers Union. This non-violent movement tends to be more secular than the armed resistance and more inclined to engage in electoral politics. It also tends to be critical of the armed movements, especially those that harm civilians and those that seek or impose religious orthodoxy. Poll data show that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis want to end the occupation. These sentiments provide the political basis for a powerful and diverse resistance movement that is likely to persist until US-UK withdrawal.

The articles below look at the nature of the resistance, its tactics, support and success, and how it affects the future of the occupation.

Statements and Press Releases

Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations: "Iraq after the Surge: Political Prospects" (April 2, 2008)

Nir Rosen, a journalist living in Baghdad, testified before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that Iraqis do not see American soldiers as peacekeepers or policemen there to help the Iraqi people. Iraqi civilians join US-funded militias in order to benefit financially and gain territory in Baghdad, not to express their solidarity with the US occupying forces. Rosen claims that clashes within the country are not on the basis of ethnic or religious differences, but rather between those collaborating with US forces and those fighting against the occupation. (Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)



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Iraq’s Own Arab Spring (April 25, 2011)

Iraqi protestors took to the streets to denounce US plans to maintain military presence in Iraq. The combination of both Sunni and Shia participants indicates a sense of Iraqi nationalism which has not been witnessed since the US occupation and the inflammation of domestic sectarian divisions. This article highlights how Iraq is being influenced by the Arab Spring and uniting against the continuation of US military involvement. (Guardian)


Six Years on, Huge Protest Marks Baghdad's Fall (April 9, 2009)

Tens of thousands of Iraqis protested in Baghdad against the US occupation. Six years after the US-led invasion, protesters call for the return of Iraq's sovereignty. Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr said in a speech "return sovereignty to our country ... make our country free from the occupier, and prevent the occupier from stealing our oil." The protest exemplified the distrust Iraqis feel about the US plan to fully withdraw at the end of 2011. (Reuters)


Iraq Vet Says He Wont Return (November 11, 2008)

Iraqi veteran Benjamin Lewis is awaiting final orders from the US military as to whether he will be redeployed to Iraq for a third time since 2004. Since his return from Iraq in 2007, Lewis has been actively protesting with a growing number of US veterans who are opposed to the war. Lewis is determined not to return to Iraq, despite the threat of imprisonment. (Common Dreams)

Who Lost Iraq? Is the Maliki Government Jumping Off the American Ship of State? (September 7, 2008)

This Tomdispatch article explains how Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is uncomfortable with a US/Iraqi bilateral agreement. The US wants a long term military presence in Iraq via permanent military bases and favorable oil agreements for US oil companies. The author argues that al-Maliki feels less dependent on US support than in the past.

No to the US-Iraqi Agreement (July 14, 2008)

The US-led invasion of Iraq has destroyed local infrastructure, created five million widows and displaced a vast majority of the population both within and outside of the country. In this article, Iraqi politician Saleh al-Mutlaq rejects any kind of long-term security agreement between the US and Iraq. The politician states that a US-Iraq agreement can only exist when the US respects Iraq's sovereignty and regards itself as a friend of the Iraqi people and not as a friend of a sectarian government, which the US supports. (Asharq al-Awsat)

Maliki Calls for a Withdrawal Timetable (July 7, 2008)

Shifting from his previous statements, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouiri al-Maliki demands a precise timetable for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. US-backed Maliki is under a lot of pressure from the Iraqi people as well as the powerful Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). The Prime Minister also seeks support of Sunni-led neighboring countries such as the United Arab Emirates. His statement challenges US efforts to maintain a permanent presence in Iraq under a broad-based bilateral agreement between the two countries. (Agence Global)

Hundreds of Shiites Protest US-Iraqi Security Deal (June 20, 2008)

Hundreds of followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protest against the plan of a long term security pact between Iraq and the US, which will provide a legal framework for the presence of US forces after the UN mandate expires. The protesters say that the bi-lateral agreement will humiliate Iraqis, erase their sovereignty and give the occupier the upper hand. The deal has also drawn criticism from other powerful Shiite leaders as well as Sunni politicians.(Associated Press)

Baghdad Wants US to Have Temporary Bases with Limited Missions (June 5, 2008)

A united front of Iraqi politicians rejects a US draft treaty on proposed security measures in Baghdad. The treaty would allow the US to imprison any Iraqi civilian regarded as a security threat and launch military operations without informing the local authorities. The Iraq government has demands of its own and will reject the treaty unless US bases remain temporary. (Mideast Wire)

Lawmakers Want US Forces Out as Part of Deal (June 4, 2008)

A majority of the Iraqi parliament rejects a long-term security deal from Washington unless it includes a specific timetable for US withdrawal. The Iraqi representatives want to postpone bi-lateral negotiations until the US elects a new president in November. Two Iraqi lawmakers, whose parties oppose the deal, discussed the US-Iraqi treaty with Congressman William Delahunt, a long time opponent of the war. (Reuters)

Iraqis Protest Against US Military Deal (May 30, 2008)

Thousands of Iraqi's marched in protest against a deal between President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki that would allow US troops to remain in Iraq beyond December 2008. Bush and al-Maliki hope to sign a bilateral Status of Forces Agreement that would circumvent legislative approval for the US troop presence. However, opposition groups strongly resist the deal, claiming that the agreement would further reduce Iraqi sovereignty and lead to indefinite occupation by US military forces. (Agence France Press)


Iraq's Civil Resistance (December 6, 2007)

This Nation article discusses the parallel movement of non-violent civil resistance in Iraq by oil workers, women, human rights defenders, who all oppose the US occupation and so-called "political Islam." These organizations claim this concept "dominates both sides of the conflict-the collaborationist regime and the armed insurgents, as both seek to impose a reactionary, quasi-theocratic order."

Only a US Withdrawal Will Stop Al Qaeda in Iraq (October 5, 2007)

The US government argues against withdrawal from Iraq on the basis that US forces must stay and defeat "al-Qaeda in Iraq" (AQI). Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland suggest that a timetable for withdrawal is the only way to eliminate AQI. With the US presence, many political groups, such as the Anbar Salvation Front, who attempt to defeat al-Qaeda are seen by Iraqis as collaborating with the occupiers. Public opinion research shows that while all of Iraq's ethnic groups oppose AQI, half of all Iraqis support the group's attacks on coalition troops. This suggests that as long as the US stays in the country, AQI will remain there too. (AlterNet)

Iraq's Workers Strike to Keep Their Oil (September – October, 2007)

The Iraqi Federation of Oil Workers (IFOU) is the main opposition to the privatization of oil in the country and is one of few voices speaking out for the rights of millions of Iraqi workers. In June 2007, the Union organized a strike which, although short lived, resulted in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreeing to delay the implementation of a controversial oil law until October 2007. Despite heavy pressure from the US, the oil law has not yet passed parliament. Commentators suggest the union represents a large threat to the Bush administration's goal of privatizating Iraq's oil. (Dollars and Sense)

Out of the Shadows (July 19, 2007)

Some resistance leaders in Iraq plan to establish a public profile for the powerful yet largely underground movement. Although sectarian tensions have deepened during the course of the war, various Sunni and Shia insurgent groups share the common objective of ending the US occupation of Iraq. In addition to calling for a complete withdrawal of US forces, the resistance intends to create a political platform "to become an influential voice in a future Iraq." (Guardian)

Iraqi Lawmakers Pass Resolution That May Force End to Occupation (June 5, 2007)

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution that will allow MPs to block the renewal of the UN Multinational Force's (MNF) mandate, which legalizes the presence of coalition troops on Iraqi soil. Nationalist lawmakers responsible for this resolution state that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will not be able to circumvent the parliament as he did in 2006 when he requested an extension from the UN Security Council without conferring with members of parliament. Furthermore, Nassar al Rubaie, the head of the Al-Sadr bloc in Iraq's Council of Representatives, stated that "there will be no such a thing as a blank check for renewing the UN mandate anymore, any renewal will be attached to a timetable for a complete withdrawal." (AlterNet)

Sunni Resistance Receptive to Sadr Alliance (May 23, 2007)

According to the Pentagon, Sunni resistance is likely to welcome Sadr's invitation to work with his group. Although the Bush administration claims that the US cannot leave Iraq because sectarian violence will escalate, Sunni and Shiite leaders are attempting to work together to force the end of the occupation, suggesting that US efforts to drive the two sects into further distrust and anger are eroding. (Inter Press Service)

Poverty Drives Children to Work for Armed Groups (May 10, 2007)

Since the beginning of the US occupation in Iraq, the country's economic and social conditions have deteriorated, forcing thousands of children to leave school to work for Sunni and Shia militias. A growing number of these children are producing bombs for armed groups and helping to fight occupation forces, risking dangerous injuries or death while earning only US$ 3 a day. The US and the Iraqi government have been unable to safeguard the lives of Iraqi children in direct violation of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that every child should enjoy protection and have access to education. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

The Iraqi Resistance Only Exists to End the Occupation (April 12, 2007)

This Guardian article shows that the emergence of the resistance in Iraq is directly linked to the dissatisfaction with the US occupation and the violence perpetrated by US troops. The resistance movement is composed not only of militiamen as the US government frequently terms them, but also of ordinary Iraqis who are tired of facing humiliating searches, arbitrary arrests and torture. Further, most of the resistance attacks are aimed at the occupation and Iraqi forces and not at civilians. The resistance movement continues to grow in Iraq and the number of attacks is increasing, showing that without the Iraqi people's support this level of resistance would not have happened.

Iraqi Shias Protest in Holy City (April 9, 2007)

Marking the fourth year that US troops have occupied Baghdad, hundreds of thousands of Shias protested in the streets of Najaf, calling for the US withdrawal. While waving Iraqi flags, Iraqis shouted "no" to America and "yes" to the Shia leader Moqtada Sadr. The cleric advised his followers not to use violence and to unite with the Iraqi security forces against the "enemy." The peaceful march symbolizes the increasing anti-US sentiment among Iraqis and the strong mass opposition to the occupation. (BBC)

UN Chief Shaken by Baghdad Explosion (March 22, 2007)

UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon paid his first official visit to Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked for UN support to the Iraqi government and said that the country was "on the road to stability." Yet, an explosion very close to where the conference was taking place left the building shaking and seems to indicate the contrary. The Iraqi government also acknowledged that it is taking steps to bring about reconciliation in the country, holding talks with the Sunni insurgency. However, many insurgent groups said they will only lay down their arms after the US announces a timetable for withdrawal. (Guardian)

Iraqis See Hope Drain Away (March 19, 2007)

According to a survey conducted by major media groups, the feeling of insecurity is growing in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation and pessimism is increasing in the population, with only one-third of Iraqis expecting things to improve in the next year. The poll shows that most Iraqis think their lives have worsened since 2003 in terms of jobs, water, electricity and freedom to choose where to live without persecution. Further, the survey reveals that support for the occupation is dwindling, with 82 percent of the population expressing lack of confidence in Coalition forces and 69 percent of Iraqis thinking the US occupation has exacerbated the security situation. (USA Today)

Iraqi Insurgents Offer Peace in Return for US Concessions (February 9, 2007)

This Independent article points out that for the first time the Sunni resistance revealed its conditions for ceasefire in Iraq, showing that it is willing to negotiate. The terms of the ceasefire include the dissolution of the Iraqi Constitution and the Iraqi government, the public recognition of the legitimacy of the resistance, the occupation forces withdrawal and the US-UK commitment to reconstruct all war damage. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge remains in convincing the US to negotiate with men it has been calling "terrorists" for the past four years.

Southern Tribes Add to Iraqi Resistance(January 19, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article points out that violence is escalating across Iraq and that resistance has grown in the south of the country. Several Shia Arab tribes have engaged in the resistance movement, increasing the number of casualties among the occupation forces. Their motivation is growing nationalism and loss of hope in the US-UK promises. Nevertheless, the US and British government have been trying to downplay Iraqi dissatisfaction with the occupation by not mentioning who is targeting their forces in the south or by calling all resistance fighters "terrorists."



Fighters Welcome Report That Advises Withdrawal of US Troops (December 7, 2006)

Members of insurgent and militia groups in Iraq have welcomed recommendations for the withdrawal of US troops by the Iraq Study Group, reports this Integrated Regional Information Networks article. Abu Baker, a member of the Sunni insurgent group Muhammad's Army, says that "the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq has been one of our foremost demands since 2004." He further commented that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq "is the reason why we continue to fight, resulting in the killing of thousands of Iraqis."

US Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself (November 26, 2006)

A classified US government report finds that the "insurgency" in Iraq now has the financial means to sustain itself. This New York Times piece reveals that the groups responsible for "insurgent and terrorist attacks" raise between US$70 and US$200 million a year from illegal activities, such as oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting and other crimes. This report reveals how little US intelligence agencies know about "the opaque and complex world of Iraq's militant groups."

Resistance Growing Up at School (October 12, 2006)

Children growing up in occupied Iraq strongly resent the presence of US troops in their country and blame the United States for destroying their cities and increasing violence. Iraqi schools attempt to teach their pupils that not all US nationals wish to harm them. However, such attempts have proved largely futile due to the constant bloodshed and daily bombings that Iraqi children witness. As one teacher tells Inter Press Service, "How can we teach them forgiveness when they see Americans killing their family members every day?"

Iraq War Draws Foreign Jihadists, But Not In Droves (October 3, 2006)

The US National Intelligence Estimate suggests that the US-led invasion of Iraq has fueled jihadism throughout the world. However, the author of this Christian Science Monitor article points out that foreign terrorists in Iraq make up only a small percentage of forces targeting the US military. The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, estimates that between 800 and 2,000 such fighters operate in Iraq. In contrast, the insurgency against the US-led occupation has more than 20,000 people, meaning a vast majority of its fighters come from Iraq itself.

US Writes Sunni Resistance Out of Anbar Story (September 26, 2006)

Recent media reports suggest that Sunni forces have joined the US counter-insurgency by banding together with tribes in al-Anbar to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Yet these reports fail to mention that Sunni forces have been fighting al-Qaeda for many months, whilst continuing to resist the US occupation. The "disappearance" of Sunni opposition from US media reports comes from US army command briefings, which omit any suggestions that Sunni resistance forces make up a third power seeking to control the al-Anbar province. (Inter Press Service)

Iraq Occupation Depends on Sadr - and Iran (September 20, 2006)

US armed forces in Iraq face a growing threat from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and his Iranian allies. Anger at US military atrocities in Iraq, combined with al-Sadr's revelation that he has the capacity and intends to expel the US occupiers, make him a popular political figure in the Shiite community. As this Inter Press Service article concludes, both Iraqi and US officials realize that they cannot deal with al-Sadr by force alone, and must urge his Iranian supporters to restrain him.

Young Children Fight US Troops in Iraq (September 19, 2006)

Iraqi children as young as six have joined resistance movements in Sadr city in east Baghdad to fight against the US-led occupation, according to this Associated Press article. US military forces claim militias are recruiting youth who can lure troops into ambushes. However, followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr insist that these children are acting voluntarily, and such behavior is "the natural reaction from innocent children who are witnessing horrible deeds committed by the occupation forces in Iraq."

Situation Called Dire in West Iraq (September 11, 2006)

The chief of intelligence for the US Marine Corps in Iraq, Colonel Pete Devlin, says US military forces can do nothing to improve the turmoil in the country's western Anbar province. These conclusions contradict previous statements by US government officials who claim that the US military remains in control of Anbar. (Washington Post)

US Losing Control Fast (September 6, 2006)

Iraqi police and residents claim US armed forces have lost control in al-Anbar, the largest of Iraq's 18 provinces, which constitutes almost one third of the country. The US military continue to face strong resistance in the towns of Haditha, Ramadi and Fallujah by militia groups that oppose the occupation. As a result of soaring civilian deaths and the destruction of vital infrastructure, anti-US sentiment among residents remains high. (Inter Press Service)

Post-Zarqawi Violence Keeps Surging in Iraq (August 17, 2006)

The Bush Administration portrayed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man in Iraq and described his death in June 2006 as a big blow to the Iraqi "insurgency." However, resistance against the US has continued to grow in Iraq. As the New York Times points out, the number of roadside bombs exploded or found in Iraq "rose in July to the highest monthly total since the war began," and daily attacks on US and Iraqi security forces have doubled since January.

Guilty of Fighting a War (August 12, 2006)

The US rejection of an amnesty for Iraqi insurgents "harms Iraq's hopes for peace" and maintains the fiction that Iraqis are an "inchoate horde of death-worshiping dead-enders." The author of this New York Times article describes the killing of US soldiers in Iraq as "an act of war, not a crime," and therefore believes the US should pardon all such acts of resistance under Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's reconciliation plan. Without a comprehensive amnesty, "Iraqis have no incentive to stop fighting, knowing that peace means prison."

Losing Hope in Iraq: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (August 1, 2006)

openDemocracy interviews Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad about the dire situation in his home country. Having reported from "all sides of the insurgency," and from behind US lines, Abdul-Ahad offers a unique insight into the nature of the resistance, the role of Iran and the state of the media. While acknowledging that "Saddam was a thuggish dictator," he believes that the current cycle of violence will continue as long as US forces remain in Iraq.

Iraq's Muqtada Al-Sadr: Spoiler or Stabiliser? (July 11, 2006)

This International Crisis Group report focuses on the role of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Sadrist movement in Iraq. According to the report, the imam has emerged as a key to Iraq's stability. His nationalistic discourse, resistance to the occupation, and opposition to federalism earn him respect from many disenfranchised Iraqis. Though US officials oppose Sadr's anti-occupation stance, the Sadrist movement plays a central part in Iraq's government and its demands reflect many justified grievances.

Maliki's Dead End Plan (July 7, 2006)

Al-Ahram examines the US objection to an amnesty for Iraqis fighting the US-led occupation. As the article points out, a US acknowledgement of the resistance movement would "undermine the very rationale of its presence in Iraq." The author also looks at the wider use of language and propaganda in describing the violence in Iraq, noting that the Western media label all anti-occupation activity as of an "insurgent" nature, grouping together all acts of violence "under a single, convenient, moniker."

Things Could Get Even Worse in Iraq (June 12, 2006)

The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could strengthen the resistance against the US-led coalition in Iraq, by paving the way for a united Sunni-Shia anti-occupation front. By "inflaming Sunni-Shia tensions," al-Zarqawi diverted the opposition from "honest and true resistance that is away from chaos, killing innocents and policemen and sabotaging infrastructure," argues the Australian. The article concludes that the fundamental cause of instability in Iraq is not sectarian strife or the presence of foreign insurgents, but the occupation of the country by coalition forces.

The Death of Zarqawi: Targeting the "US Home Audience" (June 8, 2006)

The leaders of the US and UK are trying to spin the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a big setback for the Iraqi insurgents. The US military has conducted a "propaganda campaign" to magnify the role of Zarqawi, portray him as Osama Bin Laden's "right-hand man in Iraq," and tie the war to the organization responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks. This Uruknet article argues that Zarqawi was, in fact, a "failed fringe fanatic," who commanded "a handful of supporters." His death will not have any impact on the "inevitable and legitimate, overwhelmingly homegrown" resistance to US occupation.

A Word from the Islamic Army (May 16, 2006)

While some groups, both Sunni and Shia, believe the time for violent resistance has passed, others refuse to negotiate with the United States or the Iraqi government. In this interview, a member of the Islamic Army speaks to Inter Press Service about why he joined the violent struggle against occupation forces in Iraq, why he believes it is wrong for Iraqis to join the new army or police force, and why the occupation cannot be ended either by a political process or by other peaceful means.

National Sovereignty and Military Occupation Not Compatible (May 3, 2006)

Following the nomination of Jawad al-Maliki as prime minister, commentators constantly repeat the need for Iraq's government to overcome sectarian divisions, political deadlock, and a "brewing civil war." Yet as this article points out, Iraq cannot achieve national sovereignty and political legitimacy as long as the US-led occupation continues. Violence, corruption and sectarianism have all sprung from the military occupation, and will persist so long as it continues, despite the best efforts of Maliki or any other Iraqi politician. (Uruknet)

World Demonstrations Strengthen Iraqis (March 29, 2006)

After three years of the US-led occupation, life in Iraq remains dire. Military operations continue and most Iraqis lack basic services. Nonetheless, Inter Press Service reports, Iraqis appreciate the solidarity of anti-war demonstrators in the US and around the world. Anti-war protests "are a great help for Iraq and for justice" one Baghdad resident remarked, and help to solidify Iraqi resistance to the occupation.

The Economics of Occupation (March 28, 2006)

As Professor Michael Schwartz points out, the media rarely acknowledge US attempts to "neo-liberalize" Iraq, and the subsequent resentment of the Iraqi public. US occupation officials disbanded various state-owned factories and enterprises, representing 40 percent of Iraq's economy, and "opened" Iraq to multinational competition, further eroding the domestic economy. Combined with the dissolution of Iraq's military and police forces, the destruction of Iraq's economy has pushed unemployment levels as high as 60 percent, giving tremendous inspiration and manpower to the Iraqi resistance. (TomDispatch)

In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency (February 15, 2006)

This report from the International Crisis Group offers an in-depth look at the Iraqi insurgency. Since the US invasion and occupation, Iraq's armed resistance has become increasingly coordinated, with a greater ability to communicate and a sense of optimism in fighting the US occupation. According to the report, the US should not focus on defeating the Iraqi resistance militarily, as continued military operations will only escalate violence. Instead the US should focus on eliminating abuse and addressing Iraqi grievances, while agreeing to withdraw when Iraq's government so requests.

Iraq and the Problem of Terrorism (January 24, 2006)

In this article, Adil Shamoo of Foreign Policy in Focus examines the relationship between terrorism and the US occupation of Iraq. Though the US administration has equated attacks in Iraq to terrorism, the bulk of the armed resistance are Iraqi nationals opposed to the US occupation. Nonetheless, experts estimate that as many as 2,000 foreign fighters operate in Iraq. As Shamoo points out, so long as the US continues to promote militarism over human rights and maintains 138,000 troops in Iraq, insurgents will resist the US occupation, and some may commit acts of terrorism.

Speech Delivered at the International Peace Conference (January 11, 2006)

In this speech, Hassan Jumaa Awad, President of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, outlines the Iraqi labor movement's opposition to foreign occupation and US plans for privatizing and controlling Iraqi oil. Despite the incursions of firms like Halliburton, the Iraqi labor movement has fought to maintain public control over Iraqi natural resources while striving for economic justice and a united and democratic Iraqi society.




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