The Iraqi people step up to the plate, and more Red-on-Red fighting
Further details emerge about the developing rifts between the native elements of the Iraqi insurgency and al Qaeda and their Islamist allies. Army Major General Rick Lynch, the spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, acknowledged the infighting has occurred in Anbar province; “Many times these citizens are urged by their local tribal leaders to rid the area of the insurgent influence… In Fallujah and Ramadi, citizens have established checkpoints to keep insurgents out and six al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the area since September.”
According to Maj. Gen. Lynch, the increase in tips from over a year ago has skyrocketed by 240 times the number reported last year. The Department of Defense reports “Iraqi civilians provided more than 1,300 tips to coalition and Iraqi Security Forces… That is a huge improvement from the 47 tips received in January 2005… Of all the valid calls received by the Ministry of Interior’s national tips hotline, 98 percent provided actionable intelligence… Most calls are about terrorist activity… but calls also come in about kidnapping, murder and other criminal activity.”
Knight Ridder Newspapers indicates that neighborhood watches are forming in the Baghdad neighborhood of Hai al-Salam, which consists of “Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians.” The increase in “kidnappings, assassinations and random violence” pushed the residents to band together across sectarian lines and defends their neighborhoods. When the Iraqi Army and police were unable to provide the security needed for the neighborhood, the residents of Hai al-Salam “erected roadblocks and checkpoints and put neighborhood men to work as guards.”
Omar at Iraq the Model reports the Karabala tribe is continuig to negotiate with the Iraqi government and U.S.; “This afternoon sheikh Usama al-Jada’an the chief sheikh of Karabla tribes said in a TV interview that they’re getting close to cut a deal with the US and Iraqi authorities; the deal includes gradual withdrawal of US forces from Anbar, freeing a certain number of Iraqi security detainees and rebuilding the police force of the province with recruits exclusively from the local population with a total of up to 11,300 men. In return the tribes will form teams of tribal fighters to deal with al Qaeda cells that are present inside the territories of Anbar as well as sealing the borders with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.”
The Times Online provides further reasons for the rift between the insurgency and al Qaeda in Anbar, and states the murder of Sheikh Naser Abdul Karim al-Miklif and the suicide bombing against Iraqi police recruits in early January were critical in turning the Sunni tribes against al Qaeda (note that we mentioned the murder of Sheikh al-Miklif and three other prominent Anbar sheikhs, and the impact of the suicide bombing in Ramadi, in January).
While these events certainly played a large role in the finalization of the resistance to al Qaeda, there have been numerous incidents of infighting, or red-on-red, during the prior year. The native elements of the insurgency, while no great fan of the foreign militaries in Iraq, have grown tired of al Qaeda’s attempts to impose harsh Shariah law and cleanse the cities of the ‘unpure’ – Shiites who a re often friends and family of the Sunni populations. Nor are they fond of al Qaeda’s attempts to extort locally run criminal enterprises (a major source of income in along the western Euphrates River Valley), cutting the crime syndicate’s profits by over half. Intimidating and murdering tribal leaders crossed the line.
The fact that there are disagreements between al Qaeda and the insurgents and local tribal leaders shows the serious flaws in al Qaeda’s strategy in Iraq. The Sunnis in western Iraq should be al Qaeda’s ideal allies – they both want to expel the United States from Iraq and fear a Shiite-dominated central government. But al Qaeda, and Zarqawi in particular, assumed the mass slaughter of Iraqi, particularly Shiites, would create a civil war, and the imposition of the horrific band of Taliban like rule, would prove to be a winning strategy. Zarqawi has shown an unwillingness to move beyond his narrow version of Salafi Islam and make concessions to retain allies, and this is cost al Qaeda dearly.
The newly created Mujahedeen Shura Council, which is comprised of al Qaeda in Iraq and six small Islamist groups (Victorious Army Group, the Army of al-Sunnah Wal Jama’a, Ansar al-Tawhid Brigades, Islamic Jihad Brigades, the Strangers Brigades, and the Horrors Brigades) has made yet another appeal for the insurgency to unite under its banner. So far there are no new takers.
Osama bin Laden once said “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Zarqawi is by no means defeated in Iraq, and can still muster the strength to commit acts of terror, but it seems clear at this point his horse is viewed more like a nag than a thoroughbred.
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