The Sunni Awakening
The Albu Fahd tribe joins the Anbar Salvation Council and vows to fight al Qaeda in Iraq
Poster shows Sheikh Abu-Risha staring down figures representing Al Qaeda in Ramadi. (Photo by Sam Dagher, CSM). Click to view.
The Anbar Salvation Council, the group of tribal leaders and former Sunni insurgents, continues to expand its base of support in the Sunni community both inside Anbar province, and beyond. Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor reports on a major development in Anbar province. The Anbar Salvation Council, led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Rishawi, has turned the Albu Fahd tribe against al Qaeda. The Albu Fahd was one of the six original Anbari tribes to support al Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq. These six tribes are known in some military intelligence circles as the "Sinister Six". The Albu Fahd [described as the Bu-Fahed] has now joined the Anbar Salvation Council and pledged to throw its weight behind the fight against al Qaeda.
"Winning over the Bu-Fahed tribe was a coup," said Mr. Dagher, who covered the tribal meeting where the Albu Fahd moved into the camp of the Anbar Salvation Council. "It had been one of Al Qaeda's staunchest supporters, and traces its lineage to the birthplace of the puritan form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism in the Saudi Arabian province of Najd. It formally threw its lot behind Sheikh Abdel-Sattar Abu Risha."
As of last September, the leadership of 25 of the 31 Anbari tribes were cooperating with the government under the aegis of the Anbar Salvation Council, while six folded under the black banner of al Qaeda in Iraq's Islamic State. Two of the other original sinister six tribes are the Albu Issa and the al-Zuba'a, however both tribes are split in their support. Elements of the Albu Issa have battled against al Qaeda in and around Fallujah. The Zuba'a were split and elements fought al Qaeda after the assassination against Sheikh Thahir al-Dhari, a tribal leader, and the attempt against Salam al-Zubaie, one of Iraq's two Deputy Prime Ministers.
The Albu Fahd tribe is a member of the Dulaimi Confederation, the largest and most powerful grouping in Iraq. We noted the shift in the Albu Fahd tribe was occurring in March, and reported that Mohammed Mahmoud Latif (aka Mahmoud al-Fahdawi) is a leader of the Anbar Salvation Council. Latif/al-Fahdawi was described by Azzaman in early March as a "chieftain of the powerful Dulaimi tribe" and "head of Dulaimis in Tarmiya, Dhaloiya, Balad and Taji, some of the most violent areas in Iraq, [who was] reported to have ordered his tribesmen to wage war on Qaeda."
Al-Fahdawi's efforts seem to be snowballing in Diyala province. Yesterday, two Diyala tribes, the Karki and Shimouri, "signed a peace agreement at the home of the Mujema tribal leader in Diyala province, Monday," and "promised to 'consolidate and unify to battle all insurgents that penetrate among [their] tribes.'" Seven other tribes announced joining the Anbar Salvation Council in late April. The Anbar Salvation Council's national political movement, the Iraqi Awakening, is set to meet in Baghdad in May. And most surprisingly, the Adhamiya Awakening has been established in the troubled Baghdad neighborhood to fight against al Qaeda.
Al-Fahdawi appears to have engineered a revolt by the 1920s Revolution Brigades against al Qaeda in Iraq in the city of Baqubah the provincial capital of Iraq. Todd Pittman of the Associated Press describes the recent fighting in Baqubah, and successful U.S. efforts to oust al Qaeda from the Tahrir neighborhood. "For eight days in early April, al-Qaida battled fellow insurgents from the nationalist 1920 Revolution Brigades, who residents said were trying to resist the terror group's bid for control. The nationalist fighters ran out of ammunition and fled," noted Mr. Pittman
This follows the news that the Anbar Salvation Council struck at al Qaeda beyond its provincial boundaries against al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, Abu Ayyub al Masri, near Taji in Salahadin province. While the Anbar Salvation Council claimed to have killed al Masri, this has yet to be confirmed. The Anbar Salvation Council is clearly organizing resistance against al Qaeda's attempts to establish its Taliban-like Islamist Caliphate in Iraq's Sunni heartlands.