“Civil War” & Where’s Zarqawi?

Sectatian violence does not a civil war make, and has anyone heard from Zarqawi lately?

As further sectarian violence surfaces in Iraq, the predictions of civil war increase. Over the past few days, scores of bodies have been uncovered in the Baghdad area, many showing signs of torture and execution-styled murders. In an attempt to improve the standing of the Iraqi Police, an agreement has been struck for the Iraqi Army and police forces to conduct joint operations. This is a clear indication the Interior Ministry is under pressure to clean up its police forces, as well as an admission that the Iraqi Army is viewed in a far better light by the Iraqi people than the police forces.

But sectarian violence, while a troubling and a destabilizing development, does not equate to civil war. Many established democracies are rife with sectarian strife, including India, the Philippines and Indonesia. This isn’t intended to excuse the killings in Iraq, but it should be understood that there are very real problems throughout the world in established democratic countries. al Qaeda is attempting to stir up sectarian violence and create the conditions for a civil war, but the political process, while frustratingly slow, is moving forward and the Iraqi Army and police forces, while far from perfect, have not cracked.

While the focus is on the sectarian strife in the major population centers, a real civil war is occurring inside Iraq – between al Qaeda and their erstwhile Sunni allies. A representative from the newly created “Anbar Revenge Brigade” claims to have killed “20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers,” including “a number of the Arabs including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Jordanians.” Unlike prior inflated claims, these numbers should be considered reasonable. Strategy Page reports numerous sensitive al Qaeda documents have been found, including a “death list” and “many of the names on the list are of Sunni tribal and religious leaders who have been less than enthusiastic in their support for al Qaeda. Sadly, a number of those on the list have already been slain.” It is these tactics which have spurred the creation of the Anbar Revenge Brigade.

In the atmosphere of open warfare between al Qaeda and the Sunnis, questions are beginning to arise about the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. SITE Institute’s Rita Katz notes that since the Mujahideen Shura Council was formed in Iraq last month, Zarqawi has been virtually silent; “A few days after the council was established, Al Qaeda in Iraq ceased to post communiqu

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • cjr says:

    “While the focus is on the sectarian strife in the major population centers…..”
    As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the secterian strife is confined to Bagdad and the area south of Bagdad. I dont much reported outside this one area.
    This seems logical since this is really the only place were all the following come together:
    -The only place were Sunnis and Shiites are in close proximity.
    -Almost all of the media
    -Almost all of the Iraqi Special Police
    -Sadr’s stength is centered here
    My point is: even in the worst case scenario, the only real battleground will be Bagdad.

  • “Civil War” & Where’s Zarqawi?

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    Sectatian violence does not a civil war make, and has anyone heard from Zarqawi lately?
    As further sectarian violence surfaces in Iraq, the predictions of civil war increase. Over the past few days, scores of bodies have…

  • hamidreza says:

    “al-Qaeda’s desire to create chaos and draw Iraqi into civil war should be understood in that context – as an act of desperation.”
    Well it seems al-Qaeda is becoming more successful in supplying a pretext to Shiite militias to take things into their own hands. This serves Iran’s interests – and al-Qaeda appears to be helping Iran, more than they are helping themselves in Iraq or Sunnis in Iraq.
    When the time comes for the Iraqi army to confront the Shiite militias, would it be up to the task? The creed of the Islamist is to appear one way and docile, but then act the other way at the opportune moment. The erosion of the Iraqi center is scary.
    More troops needs to be sent in, and the Iraqi Intelligence service operatives must be firmly put in place. Any weakness on the part of the US will embolden al-Qaeda, cause more sectarian fighting, and empower the Shiite militias.
    There is no question in my mind that al-Qaeda’s plan is not to create sectarian strife in order for Sunnis to take over Iraq and create another Saddam like dictatorship and rule over the Shiites. That would not be practical. al-Qaeda’s plan is to cause the Shiite militias to take over, resulting in the exit of the US from the Middle East. Then they will cooperate with the Shiites for a while, each establishing an Islamic state in their own territory, until Sunni Islamists have taken over adjoining states such as Jordan and Syria and Egypt. Also, al-Qaeda needs Iranian help to destablize Saudi Arabia.

  • cjr,
    “As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the secterian strife is confined to Bagdad and the area south of Bagdad.”
    The 101st is engaged in a major cleanup effort south of Baghdad. I wouldn’t attribute anything south of Baghdad as “sectarian” in my humble opinion. For the last two years, just as security in a given area was about to improve, the level of intimidation attacks skyrocketed.
    Classic AlQueda move.

  • Jamison1 says:

    There is a lot of strife in Baqubah as well.

  • cjr says:

    IMO, Al Qaeda’s real goal in starting an Iraqi civil war is to get Sunni’s from outside Iraq take an interest in the confict and to get them to intervine in the Iraqi’s Sunni side. The civil war then becomes international. Al Qaeda will try to turn this into a larger war between a “united, international Sunni alliance lead by Al Qaeda” vs. everyone else in the world.

  • Neo says:

    Of course the al Qaeda plot to take control of most of the Green Zone may have diverted resources.

  • Tim Solan says:

    General John Abizaid has confirmed the plot against the Green Zone.
    Zarqawi and AQIZ have only two ways in getting the upper hand in Iraq.
    1)Provoke a full blown civil war and the political process comes to a complete end.
    2)Weaken America’s will to the point where there are large and continuous calls for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops in this country and President Bush capitulates.
    AQIZ has continually tried their hand at both.
    Scenario 1, culminated in the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra on Feb. 22nd, while causing unrest failed.
    Scenario 2, would have culminated in the attack against the Green Zone. It could have been described as a mini- Tet Offensive. The MSM would be all over it. I can hear it now, after months of hearing from the US Military that AQIZ has been degraded and Iraqi intelligence and security forces continue to improve, the supposed most secure area in Iraq has been overrun by AQIZ. That would just be the starting point 
    al-Qaeda will either exit or continue to become more desperate (more likely in my opinion) as both of these plots ended in failure.

  • Boghie says:

    al Qaeda in Iraq is a spent force.
    They have been squeezed from Sunni strongholds and Sunni state sponsors of terror. There are now about 300,000 military personnel actively pushing them around. And where is al Qaeda getting pushed…
    Away from the borders of Syria and Saudi Arabia and toward the borders of Iran… Iran is where many of the Taliban and al Qeada cowards ran in an effort to fight another day. Iran placed them under ‘house arrest’ – whatever that means.
    Regardless, my guess is that relying on ‘an enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is less fundamental than tribal and religious connection.
    In the end I think Iran or some other terrorist haven will spit Zarqawi out with two bullet holes in the head – an apparent suicide…

  • ECH says:

    Iraq’s Turn for the Worse Brings U.S. and Baathists Closer
    A news report from the only Westerner crazy enough to have embeded himself in the Iraqi insurgency. And, yes the guy was almost killed on many occasions. It seems US and Baathist interests in Iraq are really converging. They both don’t want a pro-Iranian religious state, nor do they want al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the US needs the Baathists to fill important professional, military, and bureaucratic posts as they finally realize that the Shia are 25 years or more from building a professional class.

  • annoy mouse says:

    How would the US ensure that a newly constituted Iraqi Intelligence Service would be vetted of Iranian collaborators? The US needs a solid partner that has predictable interests and it wouldn’t surprise me that the Baathists might fit this role.
    This latest AQ plot, failed as it may have been, makes you wonder how it got so far. Do we have any allies in the Iraqi government?
    And finally this money quote: “The group claims to have killed 20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers.”

  • blert says:

    Iraqi sympathizers with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

  • ECH says:

    I heard someone say the Defemse officials may have been bribed. Zarqawi does have according to Michael Ware and almost inexaustable supply of money coming in from Gulf oil barrons. That, good logistics, and his ruthlessness has made AQ such a power in Iraq. But, their days are slowly going to be numbered, it may take another year or two though.


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