The city of Ramadi is the last bastion of the insurgency and al Qaeda in Anbar province. Yesterday’s deadly attack on prospective police recruits waiting outside the recruiting center may go a long way to erode that support.
The Washington Post reports “at least 80 Sunni Arabs were killed and 61 wounded” by the suicide bomber, and residents of Ramadi are furious. Tribal leaders, who are very influential in the Iraqi culture, were killed during the attacks.
The responsibility for the attack is being placed directly on al Qaeda’s shoulders. “Neither the Americans nor the Shiites have any benefit in doing this. It is Zarqawi,” said the brother of one of the wounded. According to the Washington Post, “Another group of people beat a doctor in the hospital after he told an Iraqi journalist that U.S. forces were to blame for the attacks… Others said they hoped that sympathies in the city… would turn against Zarqawi’s faction.”
Tensions between the Sunnis in Ramadi and al Qaeda have been simmering for some time. Over the summer of 2005, members of the Dulaimi tribe in Ramadi took up arms in defense of their Shiite neighbors to protect them from al Qaeda threats, killed five terrorists, and caused them to flee.
al Qaeda often oversteps its bounds in Iraq, and targets sheikhs and tribal leaders, or attempts to extort local criminal enterprises (such as smuggling). This alienates the al Qaeda from their natural base of support among the Sunnis people. The mass murder of Sunnis waiting to volunteer for the police certainly will not help al Qaeda’s cause in Ramadi.
While in Iraq, I accompanied a joint Marine-Iraq Army raid of farming community on the Euphrates River near Husaybah. A small cache of shells and mortars were uncovered in a run-down shed, and was brought to a field that was only several hundred yards from the Syrian border. The line of concertina wire that separate Iraq and Syria was in full view. The Iraqi troops, while proud of their find, looked angrily across the border.
I asked “Icy” the interpreter about this, and he agreed to help me question the Iraqi soldiers. They stated the weapons were coming across the Syrian border and were being brought by al Qaeda to kill the Iraqi people. Their desire was to cross the border and get to the heart of the problem. No doubt there are Sunnis in Ramadi that are having similar feelings today.
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