THE THREE-week standoff between occupation forces and resistance fighters in the Iraqi city of Najaf has been a major news story.
It was continuing as Socialist Worker went to press.
US troops have surrounded the city, where unarmed supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr are holed up in the Imam Ali shrine, one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites.
The shrine has been bombarded by US aircraft, damaging its structure. Reports last weekend that al-Sadr had surrendered the shrine to the Iraqi police force proved to be fictitious.
Iraq’s puppet government claimed police had entered the shrine and taken it over.
“The Iraqi police are now in control of the shrine, along with the religious authorities,” said a spokesperson for Iraq’s interior ministry.
But days later the US military was forced to repudiate these claims. “Not a lick of truth to it,” said an anonymous US official. “We are still outside of the shrine, and so are the Iraqi police.”
An aide to al-Sadr dismissed the government claims as “laughable”.
Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army was outside the shrine fighting US troops in the old quarter of the city, al-Sadr’s aide added.
Coalition forces have told these lies before
THE IRAQI government’s disinformation over the Imam Ali shrine parallels similar events during the invasion of Iraq last year.
In the early stages of the war, coalition forces claimed that British forces had secured the port town of Umm Qasr.
These reports had to be denied a few days later when it became clear that the port was still in Iraqi hands.
In April last year the British military confirmed that they had killed Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as “Chemical Ali”, in Basra.
Newspapers even ran obituaries of the Iraqi general.
Yet in August coalition troops announced that they had captured al-Majid and that he was now in US custody.
A senior Iraqi cleric last week accused the international media of colluding with US occupying forces.
Sheikh Mahdi al-Sumaidaie told the Arab news channel AlJazeera that coalition forces and the media were distorting the truth of the situation in Iraq.
“I call on the world media to stop twisting the news by portraying Iraqi resistance actions as the mere killing of Iraqi citizens,” he said.
“If the media provides one hour of honest coverage of what the Iraqi resistance are doing, I bet you the mothers and sisters of US soldiers in Iraq will pour into the streets of America screaming at Bush to pull the troops from Iraq,” al-Sumaidaie added.