• Iraq
  • September 17, 2007
  • 8 minutes read


noting in particular an attack that killed 14 people in Muqdadiya (Diyala province, north of Baghdad) and torched at least 12 shops. Meanwhile, Al-Hayat reports that the concern about the AlQaeda takeover of Hur Rajab south of Baghdad has triggered a broad-based meeting between tribal leaders throughout the region south of Baghdad as far as Latifiya and Yusufiya (the so-called triangle of death) with the ranking Iraqi army official in charge of security for that region, to plan “methods of cooperation”, but the results of the meeting aren”t indicated any more specifically than that. Needless to say, fighting between armed groups on one side and US allies on the other in these two broad areas isn”t anything new, given their strategic importance as the “gateways” to Baghdad. (See for instance this March 07 post called “AlQaeda/ISI making inroads north and south of Baghdad”).

What seems to have changed a little, perhaps a lot, is the politics. As noted in the prior post, Sunni residents of Hur Rajab were able to take refuge in a Shiite neighborhood; moreover, today”s Al-Hayat article says the region-wide meetings to plan countermeasures have included the heads of Shiite as well as Sunni tribes. So at the very least, this isn”t a reflection of any Sunni/Shiite antagonism; and at best, it could help bring the two confessional groups together in a common cause. And there is another side to this, more immediately dramatic, namely the open nature of the split between the AlQaeda/ISI camp and the domestic resistance groups that ISI considers not sufficiently Islamist/fundamentalist. A good illustration of that is offered by this item posted today on the resistance website albasrah.net. It is self-explanatory:

Al-Qa‘idah suspected in murder of Iraqi Resistance leader, former Iraqi Army General in Ba‘qubah.

In a dispatch posted at 9:28pm Baghdad time Saturday night, the Aswat al-‘Iraq news agency, which was set up by Reuters and the U.N. Development Agency, reported that a prominent commander in the Brigades of the 1920 Resistance organization was killed in an armed attack by gunmen that took place in the Ba‘qubah al-Jadidah section of Ba‘qubah, 65km northeast of Baghdad on Saturday.

Aswat al-‘Iraq reported a source who asked to remain anonymous as saying that six men in an ambulance attacked Brigadier General Khalid Rashid Matar (of the Army of the Republic of Iraq prior to the US invasion) and the 1920 Brigade commander who was with him. Both men were killed in the attack.

The source declined to identify the 1920 Brigade commander who was assassinated. He said only that the commander was “prominent” and had been one of those who took part in the counteroffensive of Resistance forces against the al-Qa‘idah organization. Iraqi Resistance groups launched a counteroffensive against al-Qa‘idah after that organization began attacking Resistance men and families who refused to pledge allegiance to al-Qa‘idah and its Sunni sectarian so-called “Islamic State of Iraq” which was facilitating the implementation of US and Zionist plans to partition Iraq along sectarian lines.

Aswat al-‘Iraq reported that the Resistance organization known as the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution was formed in the first few months after the American invasion in the spring of 2003. Many of its members belonged to the Zawbi‘ tribe, a Sunni tribe that played a prominent role in the historic Iraqi revolt against the British colonialists in 1920 in which the Zawbi‘ tribe’s Shaykh Darri Al Mahmud ash-Shamari killed British Colonel Gerald Leachman in August that year.

And in fact this idea of “AlQaeda versus the Iraqi Resistance” is brought out even more clearly in another Al-Hayat article this morning by Mashraq Abbas. As part of his history of the Abu Risha phenomenon, he calls attention to something that has been generally unnoticed about the ISI declaration of its special Ramadan war against collaborators. At about the same time that statement was posted in the internet, he writes, there was also an audio message from Omar al-Baghdadi

…in which he urged the prosecution of the representative leaders of the Islamic Party, and “the brotherhood” in Iraq [meaning those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Islamic Party of Iraq], and the leaders of groups like the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, and “Hamas Iraq”, and the “Front for Jihad and Change” which was recently announced. [Al-Baghdadi] stressed that these are more serious dangers to the Islamic State than others, and in this connection he named the operations they are planning for Ramadan after the former AlQaeda head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And why are the resistance groups “dangerous”? That is something AlQaeda”s up-and-coming ideologue, Abu Yahya al-Libi, spelled out in his recent video lecture: The biggest danger comes from those who promote “the methodologies of adaptation and compromise, whose adoption has become one of the characteristics of the age…” The background was the proposition of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq and others to the effect that there is an urgent need for unity among all of the groups opposing the American occupation. For Al-Libi, and no doubt Al-Baghdadi or whoever is running that show, the AMSI suggestion represents a mortal danger to the purity of the jihadi method. Al-Libi explains there are many ways that their enemies attempt to isolate the jihadis from the ummah, and one of the most dangerous is this idea of compromise, coming from those who promote, as he put it

…some of the methodologies adopted by Islamic movements far removed from jihad, especially those with a democratic approach and those groups that melt and bend the source texts and iron them out so that they agree with the civilization and methodologies of the West, and portraying these groups as moderate, balanced…pushing them into ideological confrontation with the jihadist groups. (this is at minute 44 of the video).

In other words, where the end-game for AMSI and many of the Iraqi Resistance factions has to involve compromise on political aims and a political program, for the ISI/AQ types the end-game involves just the opposite: standing firm against just these distortions of the purity of the jihadi method. I think the Ramadan campaign is a manifestation of this polarization.

(And if it is, then the good side of it could be that the Resistance, freed from any association with the crazies, might find itself that much closer to the possibility of a rapprochement with the Sadrists and the formation of a truly national front. A pious thought for the start of a holy month.)