Jan 28, 2006

Split in Sunni Guerrilla Movement

Gilbert Achcar kindly shares this translation of an article from al-Hayat on splits in the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement.

' The AMS: We Are Now Waging Two Battles: Against 'the Occupation' and Against 'the Terrorists'

Sunni Clans Take the Initiative of Launching a Campaign to Expel Zarqawi's Followers and 'Foreigners and Intruders'

From Al-Hayat Newspaper, London; January 26, 2006

Baghdad-London -- There are still more consequences to the wave of assassinations targeting Sunni political and religious figures participating in the political process, and the killing of 42 police recruits in Ramadi by extremist Islamist followers of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of "al-Qaeda's Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers." A new escalation took the form of additional Arab Sunni tribal clans joining the campaign aimed at liquidating this organization.

The "Popular Clan Committees" launched a large campaign chasing Zarqawi's group in Ramadi "in order to expel them to Syria beyond Iraqi borders." Sheikh Osama al-Jedaan, the head of the al-Karabila clan in Qa'im, on the Syrian border, said that the "Clan Committees" have started a military campaign against the "terrorists," asserting that security formations composed of Ramadi inhabitants are searching for people wanted by the Iraqi government and by their own "government." He emphasized that this operation aims at expelling from Iraqi borders "foreigners and intruders" coming from other states of the region. Six armed groups belonging to "the Iraqi resistance" recently declared war on Zarqawi's "terrorist" organization.

A Sunni religious figure from the province of al-Anbar told Al-Hayat that the groups that destroyed the Sunni provinces belong to the "terrorists and takfiris" [a label attached to the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists]. He added that the best measure to be taken in order to stabilize the situation is that the inhabitants of the province (the clans) expel these groups. He expressed his regret that some Sunni families gave refuge to "the terrorist elements" although they constitute no more than 50 per cent [certainly a typographic error for a much lesser percentage] of the armed men, attributing this to several reasons among which are "wrong understanding, material need, fear from them, or the desire to take revenge on foreign troops." He asserted that this support and the silence kept with regard to terrorist groups have ended after Sunni families suffered from "the assassinations targeting Sunni figures and the killing of police recruits, the responsibility of which was claimed by al-Qaeda's organization." He said that the resistance fractions acting within the "popular committees" to cleanse Ramadi have ceased their operations against US troops (a truce), but that this does not mean that they trust the Americans or disregard the necessity that they get out of Iraq.

This Sunni sheikh asserted that the mediation of the Ramadi notables between the resistance and US troops "have succeeded in convincing the resistance elements of the necessity of expelling the terrorists, and anyone who excommunicates [takfir] a Muslim Iraqi and kills Shias on the basis of their religious identity, but they did not succeed in increasing their confidence in US authorities."

One of the sheikhs of the Sunni al-Dulaim clan in Ramadi said that the city inhabitants have started to understand the true nature of the armed groups that kill in the name of religion and resistance. He told Al-Hayat that many Ramadi inhabitants have given material and logistical support to the Arab fighters, but understand nowadays the goal of these armed groups, which is to sow the seeds of "a sectarian conflict by killing Shias on the basis of their religious identity and excommunicating the people working in the police or in the government in general."

Moreover, a member of the al-Bubaz Sunni clan, the largest clan in Samarra, stated that his city was quiet and had gotten rid of the terrorists by the action of its seven major clans (Bu-Nisan, Bu-Abbas, Bu-Badr, and others), adding that "the inhabitants of Samarra are ready to support the clan committee in Ramadi, and that they stand by waiting for any sign in order to join them in fighting the terrorists."

In the same context, Issam al-Rawi, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said that Arab Sunnis are now waging two battles, one against government apparatuses and the other against "terrorist gangs." Al-Rawi added that the AMS praises the efforts of the inhabitants of Ramadi to oppose terrorism, especially Zarqawi who "once excommunicates the Shias and their religious authorities, and another time excommunicates the Sunnis and the AMS, allowing Iraqi blood to be spilled." He explained that the AMS believes in resistance, but calls the terrorists to stop attacking Iraqis.

In the same way, a leader of the "Brigades of the 1920 Revolution" in al-Anbar told Al-Hayat that most "fractions of the patriotic Iraqi resistance" disapprove the way Zarqawi's organization deals with Iraqi civilians as well as his overdoing in targeting the police and army "in all regions of Iraq." [This last precision put between quote marks by the reporter hints at the very unfortunate sectarian twist -- now corrected apparently -- of many Iraqi armed groups who supported bloody attacks against gatherings of Iraqi police and army recruits as long as they were in Shia areas and changed their mind when the same turned to Sunni areas as happened recently in Ramadi.]

He said that "these fractions ["of the patriotic Iraqi resistance"] have called to concentrate the resistance efforts on targeting 'occupation' soldiers, instead of wasting time and effort in confrontations with the army, police and national guard, while occupation soldiers are thus enabled to recover." This does not mean that "Iraqi army and police will be immune from our attacks in case they targeted the 'mujahideen' or treated people badly or assaulted them."

He added that "the mujahideen have resorted to a new kind of operation reducing the risk for civilians, such as putting explosive charges on roads outside the cities and practicing sniping inside the cities." He also said that "the rift between the patriotic resistance and the extremists has worsened progressively, but that "the last straw was the extremists' attack on police recruits in Ramadi, at a time when most resistance fractions in al-Anbar had met and agreed unanimously on not hurting them as there is a need for police, especially in the city of Ramadi."

Published in Al-Hayat, Jan. 26, 2006, translated by Gilbert Achcar. '