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IRAQ - The Key Sunni Demand.

This may also explain why the primary condition for a ceasefire set by the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS, the political arm of the Sunni Arab insurgency) was a US "troop pullout from most urban areas and an end to military checkpoints and raids". AMS leader Isam al-Rawi explained: "The Americans and British must leave all residential areas... This is very sensitive for our feelings. When they retreat to military bases outside the major cities, the Iraqis will no longer be meeting military tanks and trucks in the streets and highways, and they will no longer be afraid their homes will be invaded at night".

The prospect of a civil war is horrendous, but Schwartz said: "the ongoing American violence is massive enough that it would take several Bloody Wednesdays every week to match it. This, of course, is a possibility, but a more reasonable guess would be that, in a trade-off between the end of US violence and an escalation in the civil war, the result would actually be a decline in civilian casualties in Iraq. But a quick US withdrawal would be less likely to produce a civil war than leaving American troops in place as a barrier against such a development. The killing and imprisonment policies of the occupation itself are the main generating and sustaining force for the rising levels of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. The sooner the occupation ends, the sooner Iraqi civil violence is likely to begin to subside".

Broadly, there are two tendencies in the Sunni Arab insurgency against US occupation. While they share the goal of expelling the US, their strategies and tactics are fundamentally different. One which many Iraqis designate a "nationalist resistance" seeks to expel the US from their communities by attacking US patrols and checkpoints with roadside explosives and hit-and-run attacks. The other is the neo-Salafi jihadi line, which would never hesitate to kill Sunni Arabs taking part in the US-backed political process.

In the first tendency, an operation is a success when it ties down US troops and therefore prevents them from manning checkpoints, marching through neighbourhoods, or conducting house-to-house searches. While their attacks often kill innocent bystanders, they do not purposely target civilians, and often condemn those who do, calling them terrorists and outlaws.

The neo-Salafi tendency, which includes Sunni Arabs as well as Wahhabi Kurds and Turkomans, fights to weaken the resolve of the US and of Iraqis who, by their definition, help the occupation. To jihadis, an operation is a success if it inflicts a huge toll in casualties or scores a propaganda victory against the US or its supporters. Their tactics are to intimidate and demoralise their opposition.

Using the ancient Sunni Islamist concept tattarrus (as explained in news1cIraqSalafJul4-05), they mount spectacular attacks on US forces, the Iraqi military and police, Iraqi government officials, as well as Shi'ite Arabs civilians - the latter being their favoured target, particularly during Shi'ite religious rituals.

In general, neo-Salafis try to intimidate Iraqis away from voting in elections, participating in local government, or joining the police or the military. Beyond this terrorist purpose, the leaders of the jihadis - notably Zarqawi in Iraq and al-Qaeda's trans-national network's head Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri - seek sooner or later to create a universal Sunni caliphate to rule the world. Zarqawi and others of his neo-Salafi persuasion believe that Shi'ites are the main barrier to such a super-state which, in the long run, must defeat all its non-Sunni enemies.

They therefore focus their terrorist attacks on the Shi'ite Arabs who support the US-backed government, as well as on the Kurds in the north who support the government more avidly than any Shi'ite group but whose security in Kurdistan is far better than in the rest of Iraq. In this way, the jihadi leadership hopes simultaneously to undermine Shi'ite support for the US-sponsored government and to weaken the Shi'ites in what they consider to be a larger, longer-term confrontation.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Strategic Balance in the Middle East
Date:Oct 3, 2005
Words:658
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