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Al Qaeda’s powerful new enemy in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sometimes you just have to make a choice, and it appears some of the tribes in Iraq have done just that. Faced with a choice between al Qaeda's Zarquawi faction and American troops, they've apparently chosen, at least for now, that American troops are the lesser of two evils:
Tribal chiefs in Iraq's western Anbar province and in an area near the northern city of Kirkuk, two regions teeming with insurgents, are vowing to strike back at al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni-led group that is waging war against Sunni tribal leaders who are cooperating with the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. Anbar tribes have formed a militia that has killed 20 insurgents from al-Qaeda in Iraq, leaders said.

Separately, more than 300 tribal chiefs, politicians, clerics, security officials and other community leaders met last week in Hawijah, about 35 miles southwest of Kirkuk, and "declared war" on al-Qaeda in Iraq. In a communique, the participants vowed "the shedding of blood" of anyone involved in "sabotage, killings, kidnappings, targeting police and army, attacking the oil and gas pipelines and their transporters, assassinating the religious and tribal figures, technicians, and doctors."

"Hawijah was never a hideout for terrorists and fugitives," the statement added. "Anyone who provides refuge to terrorists will be considered and dealt with like a criminal and terrorist."
There's a "good news/bad news" element to this. The good news is fairly obvious. Given the situation, powerful tribal leaders in a violence prone area of Iraq have opted to take out al Qaeda, seeing that organization as the greatest threat to their members. If they can get rid of al Qaeda, they reason, then there's less of a reason for coalition troops to remain. For the most part that's a net positive in our fight against al Qaeda and its influence in that country.

But the bad news is these tribes still don't trust their government or their army to take care of the problem. Instead we have a supposedly illegal (and obviously tolerated) militia formed and dealing with al Qaeda.

The militia problem is one which is going to have to be dealt with in the very near future. But pragmatically, they've been useful in some aspects of keeping Iraq out of civil war and extending and exercising a modicum of control in the absense of the government (or coalition forces) ability to do so. That could become a double-edged sword a little further down the road if militia leaders refuse to disarm and disband when the government and military are able to exercise similar abilites.

That is when, in my estimation, the real chance exists for a civil war. Finally getting them to stand down is going to be a delicate and difficult job, but one which is necessary if the Iraqi government is to have true control and sovereignty. I wish I had a simple solution to the problem, but my guess is it is going to take a combination of both government and religious leaders working very closely to make it happen. We'll see if that's possible when the time comes. In the meantime, this coalition of powerful tribal leaders aligned against al Qaeda is, for the moment, good news.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Isn’t this a good opportunity to invite the militia to join the regular security forces? They can even guard their own area most of the time and get training and intelligence and weapons. And they’ll have spiffy uniforms with Iraqi flags on ’em.
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
There is no love for Coalition forces in Hawijiah. This is lip service to get funding for projects in their tribal areas.
Written By: A Professional in Iraq
URL: http://
I’m not sure anyone is arguing there is love for the coalition as much as there appears to be at least some pragmatic reasoning taking place there now. Your point about getting funding for their projects makes sense in that context. At least with the coalition that’s possible. All AQ wants to do is blow things and people up.
Written By: McQ
I don’t care if they love us, as long as they don’t try to kill us, or destroy what we are working for over there...
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Solving your problems when your government can’t or won’t is a what a free people do. I don’t have a problem with it although I’m sure some folks will be screaming over vigilante justice or some such. The real issue is what happens after they’ve won. Are they going to disband peacefully, etc?

Although most people don’t know it, this sort of thing wasn’t uncommon in the US in the 19th century. A gang of thugs moves in, takes over, and overwhelms or subverts the civil authorities. This whole "it has to come from the government to be legitimate" business is a steaming load. The government derives its authority from the people, not the other way around.
Written By: Jeff the Baptist

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