The city of Ramadi begins to take center stage as one of the last refuges of the insurgency along the Euphrates River Valley as Coalition forces press operations to clear and bold the border towns in western Iraq.
Coalition forces continue to strike at al Qaeda and insurgent cells, weapons caches and safe houses in and around Ramadi. Over the past few days, soldiers of the Second Brigade Combat Team (2BCT), Task Force 2-69 Armor, arrested Majid Adnon Swedowi, an insurgent cell leader operating in Ramadi, along with five of his cohorts. Several IEDs are destroyed in place and a mortar tube and weapons cache is discovered.
The Marines patrolling the streets of Ramadi often find the citizens are supportive of Coalition efforts to restore law and order in the city. Some are even welcomed by the residents of Ramadi, as Private Jefferson Haney, an artilleryman with Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment stationed in Ramadi reports; “”Before I came here, I thought everybody here was a bad guy… I know different now. When we first started patrolling people were put off by us, but it was because we were new faces. Within a few weeks things had changed. We could approach people and they would invite us into their homes. The people here are very friendly and family oriented.” Ramadi is still a dangerous place, but Private Hanson provides an insightful view of the city not often reported.
While Coalition forces patrol Ramadi, cracks have surfaced between the native Iraqi insurgency and the foreign and al Qaeda elements, “in some cases resulting in gun battles on the street.” The assassination of local Sunni Sheikhs advocating involvement in the political process, the brutal tactics of al Qaeda against civilians, and tellingly, money are at the root of the split.
Residents think the strong support that al Qaeda in Iraq has had in the heart of Anbar province is starting to fracture, if not completely break. The group is dominated by non-Iraqis…
Kamil Ahmed, a 40-year-old resident with long-standing ties to local insurgent groups, said the break started in the summer, when al Qaeda in Iraq started killing police who showed up for work, breaking an insurgent agreement to let the officers do their jobs.
The split intensified when the group assassinated several sheiks, in mosques, for criticizing its actions. Insurgent groups also went against al Qaeda in Iraq and urged citizens to vote in the constitutional referendum in October and in the upcoming December national elections. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had characterized voting as cooperating with the Americans.
Ahmed said the final straw was about money. He said businesses and even some government offices around Ramadi had been paying local insurgents protection money, as much as $70,000 a month. Al-Qaeda in Iraq demanded the money.
We’ve said this before and will say it again, the more the Iraqis, even those opposed to a U.S. presence in their country, are exposed to the depravity of al Qaeda, the more they grow to despise them.