Jihadis, Elections and Ramadi
RAMADI, IRAQ: As Election Day quickly approaches in Iraq, the various jihadi factions and the non-jihadist insurgents are taking their varied positions on how to deal with the voting process. The domestic insurgents, foreign fighters and jihadist do not have a unified position on how to deal with the electoral process, and their official statements reflects this.
al Qaeda and allied Salafist jihadi groups, according to the SITE Institute, "vow to continue jihad, separate themselves from any group or person who enters into negotiations with the Iraqi government and its supporters, and states that involvement in the "political operation" is prohibited by Islamic law."
Ansar Al Sunnah says the Islamic world has a choice between jihad and democracy, and those who participate in democracy are a "partner in the guilt" and are "losers." They do not threaten to conduct attacks during the election, nor are they asking for their members to silence their guns.
Islamic Army in Iraq has ordered its adherents to refrain from attacking polling places. And Baathist insurgents are encouraging Sunnis to vote and vow to defend the polling centers from attacks by Zarqawi's terrorists. This is a far cry from the bold threats made just under a year ago.
In Ramadi, Mizhar al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni and the leader of the Free Progressive Iraqi Party, has been murdered while campaigning in the heart of the city. Three of his bodyguards were wounded.
Coalition and Iraqi forces recently completed Operation Skinner, another battalion-sized joint operation in the heart of the city. Major General Huck has indicated to the leadership of Ramadi that a political solution to the insurgency in Ramadi is desired. But he has made it clear that all options remain on the table, including an assault on the scale of Fallujah, if the insurgency does not abate. This coincides with our analysis on the Ramadi Problem from December 7th:
Ramadi is the provincial capitol of Anbar province, with 400,000 residents, and there are political ramifications to an assault on the scale of Fallujah. The elections are less than two weeks away and the new government may seethings differently. This isn't an issue of the Coalition possessing combat power, but a matter of trying an alternative strategy to subdue the insurgency in the city.
Major General Huck states a major part of the the solution to the security situation in Ramadi is the reestablishment of the police force, who, like in many cities and towns on the Euphrates River, have gone into hiding. But the cooperation of the leaders of Ramadi is needed to reestablish security.
At meeting of tribal and community leaders yesterday in the provincial capitol, the some participants reiterated their demand to raise a "Sunni Division" to police the city and allow for the withdrawal of U.S. And Iraqi government troops. They are living in denial, as this "solution was tried, and failed, when in March of 2004, the infamous "Fallujah Brigade" disintegrated after a repeated campaign of intimidation and terror.
The parliementary elections are a positive development for the future of democracy in Iraq and for further splits between the native insurgents and the jihadists, but are not a panacea to the problems in Ramadi. At some point the leaders and residents of the city must chose to reject the insurgency or suffer the fate of Fallujah and Tal Afar.