Sunni-al-Qaida rift gets more interesting

You had probably heard about the increasing tension between Sunnis and foreign terrorists, but this piece that just moved is one of the more interesting, and promising, developments I’ve heard about lately:

Sunnis Revolt Against al-Qaida in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) – U.S. troops battled al-Qaida in west Baghdad on Thursday after Sunni Arab residents challenged the militants and called for American help to end furious gunfire that kept students from final exams and forced people in the neighborhood to huddle indoors.

Backed by helicopter gunships, U.S. troops joined the two-day battle in the Amariyah district, according to a councilman and other residents of the Sunni district.

The fight reflects a trend that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trumpeting recently to the west in Anbar province, once considered the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. Many Sunni tribes in the province have banded together to fight al-Qaida, claiming the terrorist group is more dangerous than American forces.

Three more U.S. soldiers were reported killed in combat, raising the number of American deaths to at least 122 for May, making it the third deadliest month for Americans in the conflict. The military said two soldiers died Wednesday from a roadside bomb in Baghdad and one died of wounds inflicted by a bomb attack northwest of the capital Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Dale C. Kuehl, commander of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, who is responsible for the Amariyah area of the capital, confirmed the U.S. military’s role in the fighting in the Sunni district. He said the battles raged Wednesday and Thursday but died off at night.

Although al-Qaida is a Sunni organization opposed to the Shiite Muslim-dominated government, its ruthlessness and reliance on foreign fighters have alienated many Sunnis in Iraq.

The U.S. military congratulated Amariyah residents for standing up to al-Qaida.

"The events of the past two days are promising developments. Sunni citizens of Amariyah that have been previously terrorized by al-Qaida are now resisting and want them gone. They’re tired of the intimidation that included the murder of women," Kuehl said.

A U.S. military officer, who agreed to discuss the fight only if not quoted by name because the information was not for release, said the Army was checking reports of a big al-Qaida enclave in Amariyah housing foreign fighters, including Afghans, doing temporary duty in Iraq.

U.S.-funded Alhurra television reported that non-Iraqi Arabs and Afghans were among the fighters over the past two days. Kuehl said he could not confirm those reports.

11 thoughts on “Sunni-al-Qaida rift gets more interesting

  1. Syd

    I sincerely hope that is a occurring and that mass numbers of Iraqis are turning on any violent radical fundamentalists stirring up the storm in their country. It would certainly be a good sign for their future, but need I remind us that the track record of government sources when it comes to news from Iraq is anything but stellar.
    I was taken for a ride once and will never get over falling for it when Colin Powell looked straight into the camera at the UN and shook that little bottle of powder and showed those trumped-up pictures and swore that Iraqis were IMMINENTLY about to produce WMDs and attack the US. I won’t go down that road again with any administration.
    So let’s not jump for joy just yet. The bodies are still stacking up and our government and their puppets in Iraq have zero credibility. The only way we’ll ever know what’s really going on in Iraq is after we get our asses out of there.

  2. Brad Warthen

    OK, not to get started, but just one point: Whatever else folks who want to get us out of Iraq might think it would achieve, how on Earth could anyone think we would be MORE likely, rather that LESS, to know what’s going on there when we are no longer there?

  3. Mike Cakora

    Syl –
    Rep. John Murtha has recommended re-deploying US forces in Iraq to Okinawa. They would certainly be safer, but I don’t think that they’d be able to keep up on local events in Iraq from there.
    While this horse is long deal, the Bushies never called Iraq an imminent threat. Bush repeatedly stated that one must act before the threat is imminent. He repeated that shortly before the invasion in his State of the Union Address on 1/28/2003:

    Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

    In retrospect Powell and his folks are not happy with Powell’s presentation at the UN, but Powell’s then chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, acknowledges that the British, French, and Germans all signed on:

    I can’t tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and us thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the U.N. on 5 February 2003 was the truth. I can’t. I’ve wrestled with it. [But] when you see a satellite photograph of all the signs of the chemical-weapons ASP–Ammunition Supply Point–with chemical weapons, and you match all those signs with your matrix on what should show a chemical ASP, and they’re there, you have to conclude that it’s a chemical ASP, especially when you see the next satellite photograph which shows the UN inspectors wheeling in their white vehicles with black markings on them to that same ASP, and everything is changed, everything is clean. . . . But George [Tenet] was convinced, John McLaughlin [Tenet’s deputy] was convinced, that what we were presented [for Powell’s UN speech] was accurate…

    But didn’t the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INF) dissent?

    People say, well, INR dissented. That’s a bunch of bull. INR dissented that the nuclear program was up and running. That’s all INR dissented on. They were right there with the chems and the bios.

    Them’s the facts as we sees ‘em.

  4. Mike Cakora

    There’s good news from Anbar, too, based on success in Ramadi.
    Reading about Iraqis frustration with their government, I wonder how their parliament matches up against our legislature?
    Here’s Michael Yon’s latest from Hit, Anbar Province, Iraq.

    Many people in Hit directly attribute the resurrection of this city in large part to the courage of Iraqi Police General Ibrahim Hamid Jaza (General Hamid), who took an aggressive stand against the Al Qaeda (AQI) terrorists who had brazenly made Anbar province a home base and slaughter pad with their marketplace car bombs, beheadings, and reputation for hiding bombs intended to kill parents in the corpses of dead children they’d gutted.
    Over time, AQI provided ample demonstrations of their ruthless and reckless abuses of power over civilians, shooting people for using the Internet, or watching television, or other “moral transgressions” such as smoking in public. AQI’s claim of fundamentalist piety proved to be a thin veneer that was quickly eroded by blatant drug, alcohol and prostitute use. The people of Anbar rejected AQI, but AQI was still strong and well-armed, so rejection was only a first step.
    AQI operatives are not amenable to change, so there was killing to be done. General Hamid was one of the brave souls who took an early stand and went for their throats. In doing so, he demonstrated that the terrorists were also vulnerable. Some soldiers in the Task Force 2-7 began to jokingly refer to the general as “Bufford Pusser” because Hamid literally carried a big stick. But AQI wasn’t laughing; they beheaded Hamid’s son on a soccer field in the center of Hit in 2005.

    There’s more.

  5. mark g

    I wish I could find some glimmer of encouragement from Iraq, but I can’t. If that post is supposed to be promising, that highlights how desperate we are for any sign of good news.
    A must-read for understanding why we are where we are in Iraq: “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” Also a good read: “The End of Iraq.”
    The only thing more depressing than the situation in Iraq is the situation here– how apathetic and ill-informed the American public is about Iraq.
    I don’t agree with everything Cindy Sheehan had to say, but when she said the American public cares more about what’s happening on American Idol than what’s happening in Iraq, she had that exactly right.

  6. Mike Cakora

    Today’s OpinionJournal publishes a piece by Brad’s counterpart at Beirut’s Daily Star, Michael Young, entitled “Syria’s Useful Idiots” wherein he seems to ask “Is the US ready to abandon Lebanon in order to curry favor with Syria?” (The link is free.) It’s a good question that Young asks pretty well.

    Then there are those with little patience for Lebanese independence. Arguing that Syria is worth more to the U.S. than Lebanon, they advocate Washington’s ceding Lebanon to Syria as a price for constructive dialogue. For example, Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer now at the New America Foundation, recently told National Public Radio, where he appears regularly, that the Bush administration had “romanticized” the 2005 “Cedar Revolution.” This was his way of implying that the latter was worth discarding. For Mr. Leverett and others, a Lebanon free of Syria is inherently unstable, even as they disregard Syrian responsibility for that instability.
    In a March 2005 op-ed in the New York Times, as Lebanese took to the streets demanding a Syrian pullout, Mr. Leverett urged the U.S. to abandon efforts to establish a “pro-Western government” in Beirut. Instead, he proposed that “the most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage and empower [President] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him.”
    This makes for restorative reading today, as Mr. Assad’s regime pursues its destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian areas, ignores domestic reform and continues to detain thousands of political opponents in its prisons.

    Now Syria may have had nothing to do with al Qaeda’s move into Lebanon, may not have known about it, and might even think it’s a bad idea. Michael Totton has a link-rich, continuously updated entry on the current efforts of the Lebanese Army against al Qaeda and the other players in the act. Lebanon’s relatively tiny army seems to be doing rather well.

  7. Ready to Hurl

    Mike, we mounted around the clock B-52 bombing missions from Okinawa to Vietnam in the ’60’s and 70’s.
    Where do you think the B-52 bombing Tora Bora, Afghanistan came from? Okinawa
    In the run up to the invasion of of Iraq we launched aircraft from carriers, Diego Garcia (an island in the Indian Ocean), and mainland USA (Stealth– B-1s and B-2s, I think).
    As for putting boots on the ground, Murtha specifically cites bases in Qatar and Kuwait before talking about Okinawa.
    Note that the MTP interview that your reference is 6/18/2006– MONTHS after Murtha outlined his plan to withdraw to the HoR.
    BTW, here’s the text of his plan to withdraw released 11/17/2005:
    My plan calls:
    — To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
    — To create a quick reaction force in the region.
    — To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
    — To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
    [MTP transcript]
    REP. MURTHA: There’s many countries understand the importance of stability in the Middle East. This is an international problem. We, we use 20 million barrels of oil a day. China’s the second largest user. All these countries understand you need stability for the energy supply that’s available in the Middle East. So there’s many, many countries.
    MR. RUSSERT: Who?
    REP. MURTHA: Kuwait’s one that will take us. Qatar, we already have bases in Qatar. So Bahrain. All those countries are willing to take the United States. Now, Saudi Arabia won’t because they wanted us out of there in the first place. So—and we don’t have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We, we don’t have—we can redeploy there almost instantly. So that’s not—that’s, that’s a fallacy. That, that’s just a statement to rial up people to support a failed policy wrapped in illusion.
    MR. RUSSERT: But it’d be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.
    REP. MURTHA: Well, it—you know, they—when I say Okinawa, I, I’m saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly. And—and—when they don’t know we’re coming. There’s no question about it. And, and where those airplanes won’t—came from I can’t tell you, but, but I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t take very long for them to get in with cruise missiles or with, with fighter aircraft or, or attack aircraft, it doesn’t take any time at all. So we, we have done—this one particular operation, to say that that couldn’t have done, done—it was done from the outside, for heaven’s sakes.

  8. Ready to Hurl

    the Bushies never called Iraq an imminent threat.

    In Their Own Words: Iraq’s ‘Imminent’ Threat
    January 29, 2004
    The Bush Administration is now saying it never told the public that Iraq was an “imminent” threat, and therefore it should be absolved for overstating the case for war and misleading the American people about Iraq’s WMD. Just this week, White House spokesman Scott McClellan lashed out at critics saying “Some in the media have chosen to use the word ‘imminent’. Those were not words we used.” But a closer look at the record shows that McClellan himself and others did use the phrase “imminent threat” – while also using the synonymous phrases “mortal threat,” “urgent threat,” “immediate threat”, “serious and mounting threat”, “unique threat,” and claiming that Iraq was actively seeking to “strike the United States with weapons of mass destruction” – all just months after Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that Iraq was “contained” and “threatens not the United States.” While Iraq was certainly a dangerous country, the Administration’s efforts to claim it never hyped the threat in the lead-up to war is belied by its statements.
    “There’s no question that Iraq was a threat to the people of the United States.”
    • White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan, 8/26/03
    “We ended the threat from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.”
    • President Bush, 7/17/03
    Iraq was “the most dangerous threat of our time.”
    • White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 7/17/03
    “Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States because we removed him, but he was a threat…He was a threat. He’s not a threat now.”
    • President Bush, 7/2/03
    • White House spokesman Ari Fleischer answering whether Iraq was an “imminent threat,” 5/7/03

    “We gave our word that the threat from Iraq would be ended.”
    • President Bush 4/24/03
    “The threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction will be removed.”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 3/25/03
    “It is only a matter of time before the Iraqi regime is destroyed and its threat to the region and the world is ended.”
    • Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, 3/22/03
    “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.”
    • President Bush, 3/19/03
    “The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations.”
    • President Bush, 3/16/03
    “This is about imminent threat.”
    • White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03

    Iraq is “a serious threat to our country, to our friends and to our allies.”
    • Vice President Dick Cheney, 1/31/03
    Iraq poses “terrible threats to the civilized world.”
    • Vice President Dick Cheney, 1/30/03
    Iraq “threatens the United States of America.”
    • Vice President Cheney, 1/30/03

    “Iraq poses a serious and mounting threat to our country. His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 1/29/03
    “Well, of course he is.”
    • White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett responding to the question “is Saddam an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?”, 1/26/03

    “Saddam Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons. Iraq poses a threat to the security of our people and to the stability of the world that is distinct from any other. It’s a danger to its neighbors, to the United States, to the Middle East and to the international peace and stability. It’s a danger we cannot ignore. Iraq and North Korea are both repressive dictatorships to be sure and both pose threats. But Iraq is unique. In both word and deed, Iraq has demonstrated that it is seeking the means to strike the United States and our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 1/20/03
    “The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American. … Iraq is a threat, a real threat.”
    • President Bush, 1/3/03
    “The world is also uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq whose dictator has already used weapons of mass destruction to kill thousands.”
    • President Bush, 11/23/02

    “I would look you in the eye and I would say, go back before September 11 and ask yourself this question: Was the attack that took place on September 11 an imminent threat the month before or two months before or three months before or six months before? When did the attack on September 11 become an imminent threat? Now, transport yourself forward a year, two years or a week or a month…So the question is, when is it such an immediate threat that you must do something?”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 11/14/02
    “Saddam Hussein is a threat to America.”
    • President Bush, 11/3/02
    “I see a significant threat to the security of the United States in Iraq.”
    • President Bush, 11/1/02
    “There is real threat, in my judgment, a real and dangerous threat to American in Iraq in the form of Saddam Hussein.”
    • President Bush, 10/28/02
    “The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace.”
    • President Bush, 10/16/02
    “There are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.”
    • President Bush, 10/7/02
    “The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency.”
    • President Bush, 10/2/02
    “There’s a grave threat in Iraq. There just is.”
    • President Bush, 10/2/02
    “This man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined.”
    • President Bush, 9/26/02
    “No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/19/02
    “Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent – that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. And we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons.”
    • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/18/02

    “Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses. What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness.”
    • Vice President Dick Cheney, 8/29/02

  9. Mike Cakora

    Lots of “threats”, few “imminent”’s.
    I shall not surrender as Rep. Murtha would like to.
    On a more serious note, regardless of party affiliation, Murtha’s an old time thug who deals in pork and power. You have to admit that he limits his knowledge of foreign policy to the extent that his district or state can make a buck on it.
    Other than distance, the most outrageous aspect of his Okinawa remark is that the US has been planning for years to withdraw our forces to other bases in the area, primarily Guam, to ease tensions with the stinking Nips — oops, slipped into a Murthaism — our allies the Japanese.

  10. Ready to Hurl

    Mike, there’s no hope for you. You actually lived through the period of time when the administration was beating the imminent threat war drums loudly, distinctly and repetitively.
    I’ve presented a LONG list of their own statements proving the fact.
    You discount the statements that don’t contain “imminent.” You disregard the numerous statements that do. You ignore the statements where “imminent” would actually weaken the statement because the speaker is maintaining that Iraq IS ALREADY a threat– no “imminence” about it.
    You’re obviously in absolute denial or intellectually dishonest.
    In either case, it’s a waste of time to debate you.

  11. bud

    Mike, your last post was absolutely ridiculous. RTH vividly illustrated just how threatening Iraq was portrayed by the Bush administration in the weeks leading up to the war. Your credibility is shot when you suggest otherwise. If we’re going to have a discussion about facts on this blog let’s do so with at least a minimum amount of credible thought.
    This exchange shows how desperate the war supporters have become. They grope at any tiny little good news story in their vain attempt to justify the stay-the-course policy which continues to claim over 100 American servicemen every month. In a few days America’s occupation of Iraq will have lasted as long as World War I. Another wasted quagmire that solved nothing. If only people like Brad, Lex and Mike would wake up to the reality that their elected officials have failed us then perhaps we could move on to address the important issues of the day rather than this bogus war on terror nonsense.

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