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March 12, 2006
Insurgent Split Into Gang Warfare In Anbar

I missed this report yesterday in the London Telegraph, but it bears repeating -- especially since it didn't get any attention from the American media today. Native insurgents and Iraqi civilians have apparently declared war on the al-Qaeda insurgents led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They have achieved significant victories against the foreigners, driving them out of Anbar and forcing them back to the border ... the Iranian border:

Insurgent groups in one of Iraq's most violent provinces claim that they have purged the region of three quarters of al-Qa'eda's supporters after forming an alliance to force out the foreign fighters.

If true, it would mark a significant victory in the fight against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'eda in Iraq, and could partly explain the considerable drop in suicide bombings in Iraq recently.

Wait! Suicide bombings in Iraq have dropped considerably? Our media hasn't told us this. I wonder why.

The claims were partly supported by the defence ministry, which said it had evidence that Zarqawi and his followers were fleeing Anbar to cities and mountains near the Iranian border. ...

In reaction, the insurgent groups formed their own anti-al-Qa'eda militia, the Anbar Revolutionaries. The group has a core membership of 100 people, all of whom had relatives killed by al-Qa'eda. It is led by Ahmed Ftaikhan, a former Saddam-era military intelligence officer.

It claims to have killed 20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathisers. Many more are said to have fled. The United States has confirmed that six of Zarqawi's deputies were killed in Ramadi.

This reaction could easily have been predicted, and should surprise no one. The AQ terrorists received welcomes from Iraqis who either supported the Saddam regime or resented the invasion of foreign troops into their country. They worked together to attack Americans and their Coalition partners. However, when even the insurgents saw that the country had transformed to democracy in a wave of purple fingers, the calculation changed for both sides. Zarqawi saw that attacking Americans not only was difficult but also ineffective; the Americans weren't leaving and had managed to protect themselves well enough to keep casualties lower than Zarqawi wanted. Meanwhile, the native insurgents saw that their suppression of Sunni participation in the new government had badly marginalized themselves, and pressed for complete Sunni engagement in the next election.

These two issues caused a huge split between the erstwhile allies. Zarqawi began targeting Iraqis instead of Americans, running up large death tolls in order to convince America of the futility of its mission. At the same time, the Sunnis pressed for greater participation -- and wound up making targets of their own people, especially in Baghdad where Sunnis and Shi'a mix. The AQ terrorists ran up a large debt of honor in their indiscriminate killing of Iraqis, and that finally reached a tipping point in February after the Askariya shrine bombing. Instead of touching off a civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites, Zarqawi touched off a gang war between AQ and the native insurgencies -- a gang war he is now losing, and apparently badly.

Zarqawi, meanwhile, has headed towards Iran, a rather revealing direction. It is reminiscent of the tactics used by AQ in Afghanistan; rather than stand and fight, they ran away into the hills and decided to make videos while others fought for them. Will Zarqawi be the next video star?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 12, 2006 8:19 AM

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