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WITH THE ELECTION Commission of Iraq deciding to hold parliamentary elections on January 30, 2005, the United States-led forces in illegal occupation of the country apparently believe that they have enough time to crush the freedom movement. Emboldened by their recent success in recapturing the city of Fallujah, the commanders of these forces have claimed they will be able to accomplish this task. However, their hopes are not likely to be fulfilled since the Iraqi resistance has displayed a remarkable capacity to adapt itself to changing circumstances. That the resistance has become both agile and resilient was borne out by developments that took place before, during, and after the subjugation of Fallujah. This city, which was once considered the hub of the resistance, had lost its pivotal position even before the launch of the assault by the U.S. army and marines since the leaders of most resistance groups had slipped away before it was surrounded. Even as the troops bludgeoned their way through Fallujah, the insurgents intensified their guerrilla campaign in the rest of the Sunni belt as well as in Mosul and other towns that have a mixed population. The success claimed for the Fallujah operation might also prove ephemeral since insurgent cells are likely to infiltrate the city once again by mixing with non-combatants who fled during the fighting but will now head back home.

The devastation caused by the military operations in Fallujah can only increase Iraqi resentment towards the occupation forces. At least a fifth of the city's 300,000 inhabitants are believed to have stayed put through the fighting and casualties could have occurred on a horrendous scale since the U.S. relied heavily on air power, armour, and artillery for the incursive operation. The toll of the dead and wounded is likely to remain uncertain even after humanitarian agencies are allowed to enter the city. However, civilians accounted for a large proportion of the casualties on earlier occasions and the consequences of the Fallujah operations were not any different. Whole neighbourhoods were razed to the ground and most places of worship in "the city of a thousand mosques" were damaged. The occupying powers and the Iraqi Interim Government that they prop up are trying to preempt a backlash by promising to take up reconstruction work urgently. While similar promises were made after military operations in other cities, the follow-up action has been extremely tardy in almost all cases. In short, the occupying forces have a long way to go before they can achieve their goal of "pacifying" Fallujah.

The military successes notched up by the occupation forces have made the problems they have to contend with even more complex. With the resistance targeting the soft-underbelly of the occupation, a large number of troops will have to be stationed in Fallujah for a long period to protect the reconstruction crews. As a result, these forces are not likely to have sufficient strength to "pacify" the rest of the Sunni belt. Given this situation, it does not appear likely that any sort of credible electoral exercise can be conducted in a region where about a fifth of the Iraqi population resides. Several Sunni political formations have already announced that they will boycott the election in protest against the military action in Fallujah. The Iraqi Interim Government will do all it can to weigh down on some Sunni politicians to enter the electoral fray. However, these political groups have always sided with the resistance rather than the puppet regime when it came to the crunch.

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