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IRAQ - Sunni Tribes To Combat Neo-Salafi Groups.

Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive al-Qaeda out of Anbar - Iraq's most restive province - on Sept. 27 met Shi'ite PM Maliki, marking what Washington hoped was to be a breakthrough alliance against Neo-Salafi militants. Shaikh Sattar al-Buza'yi, a Sunni tribal chief from Anbar who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other shaikhs had offered their co-operation. Reuters on Sept. 28 quoted Buza'yi as saying: "We agreed to co-operate. We haven't agreed to anything specific, but we agreed to co-operate". Maliki's office issued a statement praising the chiefs for their commitment to fighting the Neo-Salafi militants and saying: "This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts".

It was the first time Maliki had met the shaikhs since they pledged to fight al-Qaeda in a meeting at Buza'yi's compound in Ramadi, the provincial capital, two weeks earlier. Al-Qaeda's Iraq branch has seized control of towns and villages throughout the Euphrates river valley along the 250 km stretch from Falluja, 50 km west of Baghdad, to the Syrian border. But the Neo-Salafis' strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and violent rule has alienated traditional-minded Sunnis, including groups which have supported the insurgency against US forces. The US says its 30,000 troops in Anbar cannot defeat the insurgency on their own.

US military commanders were on Sept. 30 quoted as saying sectarian violence had increased - particularly in Baghdad - since the start of Ramadan. Colonel Sean MacFarland, commander of US forces in Ramadi said the Neo-Salafi insurgency could be beaten but probably not until after US troops left the country. He said: "An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat in a finite period of time. It takes a lot of persistence. Perseverance is the actual term that we like to use". MacFarland commands the 1st Brigade, 1st Armoured Division. He said in a video-teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon: "Who knows how long this is going to actually last? But if we get the level of violence down to a point where the Iraqi security forces are more than capable of dealing with it, the insurgency's days will eventually come to an end. And they will come to an end at the hands of the Iraqis, who, by definition, will always be perceived as more legitimate than an external force like our own".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Date:Oct 2, 2006
Words:406
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