The Amiriya Battle


Iraq. Click map to view.

Iraqi police, Army and tribal fighters rout a major al Qaeda in Iraq attack

Thursday's battle in the village of Amiriya, just south of Fallujah, highlights the ongoing battle between the Sunni tribes and al Qaeda in Anbar province. At least 50 al Qaeda were killed and 80 captured in the largest battles between al Qaeda and Iraqi police, Army and the Anbar Salvation Council in Anbar province this year.

The media accounts claim 'insurgents' attacked the village, but do not provide a reason for the attack. "The clashes on Wednesday began about 1 p.m. when insurgents attacked a village near Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, and ended about six hours later when Iraqi soldiers, police and the tribal fighters killed 50 suspected insurgents and captured 80 others, according to Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Khalaf declined to say how many Iraqi security personnel were killed or injured," The Washington Post reports.

But the full story, according to an American military officer and an American intelligence source, is that al Qaeda in Iraq, under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq, assembled several hundred fighters to attack a prominent leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, the grouping of local tribes and Baathists, and former insurgents who now oppose al Qaeda in Iraqi. The leader of the Anbar Salvation Council was to attend the funeral of one of those killed in last week's suicide bombing in Habbaniyah.

The Iraqi police in Amiriya held off the attack, and radioed for backup from Iraqi Army, police and members of the Thurwa al-Anbar, the tribal militias assembled by the Anbar Salvation Council. U.S. air support was called in to help fend off the attack. The Anbar Salvation Council leader escaped as Army, police and tribal fighters poured into the village and routed the al Qaeda force, which was estimated to be several hundred fighters. Once intelligence source claims the figure of 50 al Qaeda killed is low, and the number is likely over 100.

The New York Times claims "two groups that have had ties to insurgents, the Islamic Party Fighters and forces of the 20th Revolution brigade, counterattacked in support of the local residents." The proper name for the insurgent groups are the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the 1920s Revolution Brigades. And they also fought with Iraqi Army and police units.

While al Qaeda in Iraq, via its political front the Islamic State of Iraq, claims the Islamic Army in Iraq and the 1920s Revolution Brigades are now part of its organization, this is only partially true. al Qaeda, through a campaign of intimidation and assassinations, has co opted some elements of the domestic Sunni insurgent groups, as well as at least 6 of the 31 major tribes in Anbar province. But the full contingents of the domestic insurgent groups such as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the 1920s Revolution Brigades did not go over to al Qaeda. Some have chosen to stand up against al Qaeda in Iraq.

Last week's suicide bombing in Habbaniyah targeted Sunni religious and insurgent leaders who have begun to speak out and act against al Qaeda. "Senior commanders of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Jaish Al-Mujahideen and the 1920 Revolution Brigades" were killed in the Habbaniyah mosque bombing last weekend, according to the Al-Badeel Al-Iraqi website. "Ayad Al-Dulaimi, Khalid Abdullah Al-Khalifawi and Abu Al-Waleed Al-Mar'awi from the Islamic Army and Aswad Kamil Al-Falahi and Ahmed Sabah from the 1920 Revolution Brigades were all killed in the explosion," notes IraqSlogger. "Sheikh Mohammed Al-Mar'awi, the imam of the mosque, had criticized al Qaeda for targeting American troops in the vicinity of civilian areas."

Elements of the Islamic Army in Iraq, Jaish Al-Mujahideen, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and other elements of the Sunni insurgency are battling al Qaeda in Anbar, and are fighting alongside government forces. al Qaeda countering by assassinating as many of the leaders of the Sunni opposition as possible. Last week's bombing of the Habbaniyah mosque, as well as the assassination attempt against Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council, and yesterday's attack in Amiriya are part of a campaign to deprive the Sunni opposition of its leadership.



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READER COMMENTS: "The Amiriya Battle"

Posted by Circa Bellum at March 2, 2007 9:46 AM ET:

This is surely a sign of great progress in Iraq, and fairly quickly after our announced surge. I guess that's why the liberals are so desparate to shut it down before it can succeed...

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 2, 2007 10:10 AM ET:

Sounds like a major slapdown. Good news, this is just the sort of battle that really helps move things along. The tribes in Anbar now know which side to be on. At least this solidifies the relationships we have slowly built up.

They now have a good number of insurgents to interrogate. Hopefully they can get new information that uncovers a number of AQ cells. An event like this tends to start a cascading effect. If they follow up quickly, they can do major damage to AQ in the area.

Posted by David M at March 2, 2007 11:14 AM ET:

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/02/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by Andrew R. at March 2, 2007 12:20 PM ET:

I agree that this event goes in the category of "very good." There are at least some signs that we may be somewhat close to a "tipping point":

  • Much as he screams otherwise, Sadr is (more or less) on board with the Iraqi government
  • All indications are that the 1920 Revolution Brigade is well on its way to reaching some sort of settlement with Washington and Baghdad (though the devil will be in the details).
  • A lot of the formerly Ba'ath tribes have signed on with the U.S. and Maliki government.
  • There's an oil deal in the works to mollify a lot of the Sunnis.
There are, of course, still a million ways things could still go pear-shaped: Diyala is an ugly, festering sore, the many different Shi'ite factions might easily turn their guns on each other, and the Iraqi Army is still at least a year away from having anything like the artillery it needs.

But we also have signs that we may be close to a final arrangement that a deal may come out that leaves AQI isolated, and lets us salvage something out of this mess.

Posted by RJ at March 2, 2007 2:25 PM ET:

How many Iraqi families lite candles below pictures of their loved ones who have died in this war of freedom? Has this number reached a critical mass wherein the energies of such pain create a new and unified fighting force to rid the country of such evils? Such events as this article portrays suggest such a reality. If the Iraqis can capture their freedom from these evils, then we--Americans--will in fact have done something noble in our efforts, and will have planted a seed for change in the Middle East. That is not such a bad thing, either.

Posted by Teflon Don at March 2, 2007 2:38 PM ET:

Bill-

Thanks for the news. I was near the scene of the mosque bombing, and had heard scattered reports of the fighting in Amiriya, but to this point I had been unable to assimilate any sort of coherent picture of what was going on.

~TD

Posted by Mark Buehner at March 2, 2007 4:10 PM ET:

Its good news but i wouldnt get hung up on the body counts. Whenever evaluating claims by 'native' forces it helps to divide by 3 unless you actually see the bodies firsthand. Bears out surprisingly well.

Posted by Michael at March 2, 2007 6:29 PM ET:


Bill stated an intel source indicated up to 100 may have been killed. Since this story broke I've been wondering about the accuracy. Whatever the numbers, they called in American Air power, so there was a good fight going on. From what I've seen in the past, if the info is bad, MNF-I counters it with a statement. It is a good sign that the full split has occurred.

What I was not aware of and is groups like the 1920 Revolution Brigades have split.

Captures and kills against Jaysh al Mahdi also bodes well for America and Iraqis. A recent capture shows Shi'ites were attacking American forces. The numbers are small, but another indicator the new "surge" is working.

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10310&Itemid=21

They captured a Jaysh al Mahdi cell leader and 6 suspects responsible for IEDs. Since Dec/Jan announcements of Iranian captures and the video talk between Bush and Maliki, things changed significantly. I keep close tabs to see how much, not trusting Maliki. It appears at this point, he might be doing better than Musharraf?

Does this argue in favor of more pressure on Musharraf?

Posted by the nailgun at March 2, 2007 8:55 PM ET:

ARE THE "WACK-A-MOLE" DAYS OVER???

What I am finding interesting as a mere layperson observer is we were "advised" with the onset of the Surge that the terrorists would just pop up elsewhere and the problem would just shift. Weeks into the official surge program and further weeks still from the initial speculation of it's starting point there is very little evidence of a successful "wack-a-mole" effect from the terrorists. They have clearly tried some larger scale stuff like this one operation Bill covers today but everytime it is the ISF/COTW that has prevailed and convincingly so, let alone the new/"new-ish" allegiances we are building with the tribes and 1920's insurgents. It is starting to look like we are really approaching that point where we finally have all the bases covered especially given so early in the Surge. "Wack-a-mole" is getting a lot harder and only going to get more so as far as I can see.
Anyone see evidence to the contrary?

Posted by Anand at March 2, 2007 11:35 PM ET:

Michael,

Maliki is better than Musharraf. Maliki is mortal enemies with Takfiri, salafi al-qaeda type jihadis. Its either Maliki or them in a fight to the finish.

Musharraf is against some al-qaeda linked groups, but simultaneously trying to reach out to more "moderate" al-qaeda linked networks. He's still splitting hairs and not firmly deciding which camp he's on.

At the moment,Takfiri, salafi al-qaeda type jihadis pose a much greater risk of terrorism than Shia extremists (although this is starting to change). Fundamentally, Maliki's ally Sadr isn't interested in organizing mass terrorism against countries around the world (us included). Sadr wants power inside Iraq (and maybe a little influence in Iran and Iraq's other neighbors).

[Sadr's all about yours truly . . . namely himself. He's not too into visiting heaven soon himself. Al Qaeda linked networks are different.]

Strategically Sadr is a threat to us because he is exacerbating sectarian violence and tensions within Iraq . . . threatening a civil war that might spread into a regional middle east war.

That's very bad . . . but doesn't pose the same short term danger of mass terrorism against civilians around the world as Al Qaeda linked networks.