Anbar tribes and tribes from the city of Hawijah oppose Zarqawi’s jihad
Faced with the continued prospect of submitting to the brutality of al Qaeda, Sunni tribal leaders continue to band together to fight the terrorists in their midst. The Washington Post provides a look at the state of affairs between al Qaeda and the tribal leaders in Anbar province and central Iraq. A tribal council was held in the city of Hawijah, which lies directly north on the Tigris River,and has been a hotspot of the insurgency. Many Sunni leaders were willing to go on the record to express their defiance:
“We are a group of the Anbar people who want to get rid of Zarqawi . . . because this is the only way to make the Americans withdraw from Ramadi or Iraq in general…We are against Zarqawi and his followers because they aim to extend the presence of the occupation and hurt our forces to make them weak… I cannot say that all the people in Ramadi support us, but I can say 80 percent of them do…We have killed a number of the Arabs, including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis, Syrians and Jordanians… We were also able to foil an attack by Zarqawi’s men who were trying to attack an oil pipeline outside Ramadi. We killed four Iraqis trying to plant the bomb under the pipeline.”
An al Qaeda operative known as Abu Azzam (not that Abu Azzam) lashed out against the Iraqis in Ramadi fighting against his cause, “[they] are collaborators and dogs for America. They kill the mujaheddin to get money from the American crusaders. They are cowards and we have killed a lot of them. . . . All the people here support us and our jihad against the Americans and their followers.”
The declarations against al Qaeda are encouraging. The risk alone of speaking out is great, as al Qaeda has murdered, raped and intimidated those who opposed them in the past. The tribal leaders are explicitly putting themselves, their families and their tribesmen in Zarqawi’s crosshairs. The fact they are willing to publicly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq demonstrates a marked shift their attitudes towards both al Qaeda and the prospects for the Iraqi government.
The split between al Qaeda and the nationalist elements of the Sunni insurgency began to appear as far back as Fallujah, when al Qaeda fighters were found murdered in the city, and al Qaeda ‘commissars’ executed local fighters who abandoned their fighting positions as the American onslaught of the city intensified. To this day, Zarqawi and other al Qaeda members refer to the “betrayal of Fallujah” and how the Muslim political and religious leaders abandoned them during the fight. Over the past year, we have seen numerous cases of red-on-red fighting, as well as an open declaration of war against al Qaeda by one of the largest insurgent groups in Iraq, the Islamic Army of Iraq, along with other groups.
As we’ve pointed out several times in the past, the importance of turning Sunni groups naturally sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause is a tremendous ideological victory in the War on Terror. It is not important that the Iraqi people like us (a good number of them do, but that’s besides the point), but that they see al Qaeda for what it is, and reject their ideology.