“We have had enough of his nonsense. We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis, regardless of their sect — whether Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs or Kurds.”
– Sheik Ahmad Khanjar, leader of the Sunni Albu Ali clan, referring to Abu Musab al Zarqawi
Red-on-red incidents between al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents are nothing new in Anbar province. We saw numerous instances of this when al Qaeda attempted to impose its will on the Sunnis in Qaim along the Syrian border. However the Washington Post provides a new twist to the internecine warfare between the foreign jihadis and local Sunni fighters. Sunnis have taken up arms against al Qaeda to protect their Shiite neighbors [hat tip Rantburg]. In Ramadi.
Rising up against insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, Iraqi Sunni Muslims in Ramadi fought with grenade launchers and automatic weapons Saturday to defend their Shiite neighbors against a bid to drive them from the western city, Sunni leaders and Shiite residents said. The fighting came as the U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldiers.
Dozens of Sunni members of the Dulaimi tribe stablished cordons around Shiite homes, and Sunni men battled followers of Zarqawi, a Jordanian, for an hour Saturday morning [note – Omar states this is Iraq’s largest tribe]. The clashes killed five of Zarqawi’s guerrillas and two tribal fighters, residents and hospital workers said. Zarqawi loyalists pulled out of two contested neighborhoods in pickup trucks stripped of license plates, witnesses said [note – to put it more plainly, al Qaeda had to run away!].
The leaders of four of Iraq’s Sunni tribes had rallied their fighters in response to warnings posted in mosques by followers of Zarqawi. The postings ordered Ramadi’s roughly 3,000 Shiites to leave the city of more than 200,000 in the area called the Sunni Triangle. The order to leave within 48 hours came in retaliation for alleged expulsions by Shiite militias of Sunnis living in predominantly Shiite southern Iraq.
“We have had enough of his nonsense,” said Sheik Ahmad Khanjar, leader of the Albu Ali clan, referring to Zarqawi. “We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis, regardless of their sect — whether Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs or Kurds.”
Zarqawi is in a bind. His plan to foment civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is now being opposed by his Sunni “allies”. Sunni tribes are tiring of his violence against fellow Iraqis, even against non-Sunnis. Al Qaeda must stop the election to ratify the constitution to further deny the Iraqi government legitimacy. Sunni clerics are beginning to encourage their followers to vote. Zarqawi responds by using the only tools he understands – threats, intimidation, violence.
Zarqawi’s movement posted statements in Ramadi pledging to kill Sunni clerics in the west for urging Sunnis to take part in the country’s next elections.
“We, al Qaeda in Iraq, announce that we will apply the religious punishment for apostasy upon whoever calls for creation of the constitution. You, preacher at the podium of prophecy, be a speaker of truth, doer of good and rallier for the rule of sharia,” or Islamic law, the statement said.
In the eyes of al Qaeda, all who oppose them are infidel, even their natural allies such as Sunni preachers in Iraq who oppose the US presence. This will ultimately be Zarqawi and al Qaeda’s undoing, provided the West can muster the political will to continue the fight.