Choosing Sides in the Sunni Insurgency

A Sunni tribe joins al Qaeda, The Islamic Army in Iraq offers negotiations with the U.S.

Iraq. Click map to view.

The splits within the Sunni Insurgency and al Qaeda continue to manifest as Sunni groups begin to chart their future actions. One of the major Islamist insurgent groups is willing to negotiate, as a Sunni tribe has committed to al Qaeda.

The Associated Press reports the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the largest insurgent groups in the country, has again announced it is willing to negotiate with the United States. The Islamic Army in Iraq fears the rise in Iranian influence. “In sections of the tape not aired, the speaker on the tape said Iraq faces occupation by two powers – ‘the Crusader Americans and the Iranians … and the latter is the more dangerous,’ Al-Jazeera reported.” It has been rumored that the Islamic Army in Iraq, along with Ansar al-Sunnah, may formally join al Qaeda’s Mujahideen Shura.

MEMRI reports the Al-Bubaz tribe has thrown its lot in with al Qaeda.

On October 5, 2006, an Islamist website reported that the Al-Bubaz tribe, which is Sunni, had announced the establishment of its own Shura Council, which included tribe members from Diyala, Samarra, and Baghdad. The new council announced a reconciliation between the tribe and the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters in Iraq – which includes eight organizations and is headed by Al-Qaeda – and declared allegiance to the mujahideen, with all their factions, saying it would permit the tribe’s youth to join whichever faction they wished.

The Al-Bubaz tribe is one of the six tribes that refused to support the Iraqi government and hunt al Qaeda. Twenty five of 31 tribes in Anbar have vowed to fight al Qaeda.

The Iraqi government and Coalition forces are working to undermine the leadership of the six tribes by exploiting the natural splits within the tribal structures. Cash and support is being distributed to factions within the tribes opposed to the support of al Qaeda. Recalcitrant leaders are being targeted with arrest or assassination. The most recent major operation in Diyala province, which netted over 250 suspected insurgents and al Qaeda, was partially aimed at the Al-Bubaz.

Al-Qaeda’s recent effort to unite the disparate elements of the Sunni insurgency has caused the group to reemerge as a primary threat to security. Abu Ayyub al-Masri is following Zawahiri and Attyia al-Jaziri’s previously ignored orders to Zarqawi, and is attempting to consolidate al Qaeda’s control over large swaths of the Sunni insurgency. Getting ‘native’ Iraqi insurgent groups would help to legitimize al Qaeda’s role in the insurgency. For this reason, the Coalition is actively hunting al-Masri.

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

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  • Charles Vairin says:

    It is time to kill all of the Ab-Bubaz tribe. All tribes that align with AlQuida should suffer this fate. Everyone should understand this.

  • thanos says:

    It’s also interesting to note that there are signs of sectarian strife outside of Iraq as well. There’s also fighting in Pakistan between Sunni and Shia over a shrine.
    This internecine warfare appears to have really heated up during the Israel Hamas conflict.

  • Choosing Sides in the Sunni Insurgency

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    A Sunni tribe joins al-Qaeda, The Islamic Army in Iraq offers negotiations with the U.S.
    The splits within the Sunni Insurgency and al-Qaeda continue to manifest as Sunni groups begin to chart their future actions. One o…

  • Justin B says:

    The Realist in me says these folks are right to be hedging their bets and throwing in with Al Qaeda based on the reality of the current debate over Iraq. Let’s be realistic and recognize that it is a coalition, not just the US. And several countries in that coalition are openly debating abandoning Iraq. And some already have. So you are presented with three options:
    1. Align with the US/Coalition
    2. Align with Shiite Iran
    3. Align with Al Qaeda
    Problem is that the Shia are watching Iran laugh in the face of the UN Security Council and a nuclear armed Iran is a very bad thing for the Sunnis in Iraq. Especially if there is a power vacuum if the US or other coalition nations drawdown forces.
    Italy plans to be out by the end of the year:

    Coalition forces moved ahead with plans to turn security responsibilities over to Iraqi troops by the end of 2007, as Italy formally handed the reins of the relatively quiet southern Dhi Qar province.
    It was the second province of Iraq’s 18 to be turned over to local control, and paves the way for most of Italy’s 1,600 troops to return home by the end of the year – a campaign promise by new Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

    The folks in Al Anbar should be praying that we do not withdraw from Iraq like the Italians. If the US leaves Iraq now, Iran will use the militias like Al Sadr to consolidate power under the Shia. I am certain that the Shia would be able to run things better than we could because they could simply go in and execute every last one of the Sunni and Al Qaeda trouble makers and Iran would gladly fund it. Iran would be the top dog when it comes to the Axis of Evil and it would push all these Al Qaeda folks back into their home countries to cause chaos there.
    The Geneva Conventions thing and our dislike for War Crimes and torture make Al Sadr a much better candidate to stop the violence in Iraq. And that is what the debate is. Do we want Iraq run by Al Qaeda or Al Sadr? And folks are actively choosing who they think will win so they can align with the victor.
    I think we are well past the right and wrong or good and evil aspect of who folks want to align with. Everyone is making their bets and what we have to do is demonstrate in no uncertain terms that if you choose the side of anyone but us (meaning the Iraqi Government and Coalition), you will end up in jail. And that goes for Al Sadr. Part of the problem is that we still have not dealt with this guy or the threat that Iran and the Shia pose. The more we get control of the Shia and of Iran, the more trusting the Sunnis will be. I would be scared to death that the folks that Saddam gassed 20 years ago are your neighbors and Saddam is not there to protect Al Anbar and the Sunnis. We have to convince them we can keep them safe from Iraq, Al Sadr and Al Qaeda and so far, we are not real convincing.


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