Monday, January 09, 2006

Claims of responsibility

It is important to note which party claims responsibility for which attacks in Iraq. There has been an effort in recent weeks for Sunni nationalist (or Baathist) groups to distance themselves from civilian attacks. Juan Cole provides a translation of an Arabic media source (Al Hayat) in the professor's morning update:
Sources close to the guerrilla groups in Iraq told the pan-Arab, Saudi-backed London daily, al-Hayat that new disputes have exploded between it and the organization "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, after he carried out last Thursday's bombings in Karbala and Ramadi. Dozens of Shiite and Sunni civilians were killed. The Iraqi guerrilla groups told al-Hayat that they would not unite with the Zarqawi group, as a result.

The Iraqi guerrilla groups say that they only attack the Occupation forces and avoid attacks on civilians, whereas Zarqawi deliberately targets the latter, having adopted a policy of launching a war against the Shiites. His group rarely tangles with the Americans, al-Hayat says, whereas the Iraqi guerrillas killed 5 Americans over the weekend and shot down a Blackhawk helicopter near Tal Afar. [This is the first claim I know of by the ex-Baathists to have shot down the helicopter.]

Iraqi guerrillas were especially upset about the bombing of potential police recruits in Ramadi, since some of the men belonged to the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. The guerrillas had given them permission to enlist under a secret agreement they had reached with the Americans via the mediation of tribal chieftains, stipulating that the guerrillas would dominate the security services, the police and army in the Sunni Arab provinces, as an element in an over-all settlement. The guerrillas would be able to place their men in the security services of Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah provinces. In return for their accepting this deal, the Sunni Arab guerrillas would also get the release of their commanders from American prisons, along with the release of some Baathist prisoners from the former regime. (Saddam and some of his worst henchmen are excluded from this deal.)

If this agreement shows signs of working out, the two sides will sign a wide-ranging formal political agreement. The conference planned for Baghdad to continue the work of the Cairo conference last fall is part of the negotiating plann.
The increased desire of insurgents to bolster their legitimacy by attacking United States forces may explain the Blackhawk attack -- either the attack in itself or the claim of responsibility. This supposed agreement is quite interesting. It precludes al Qaeda, I believe, and today there was another al Qaeda attack on police forces, New York Times:
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near a checkpoint about half a mile from a ceremony, which was attended by the American ambassador and Iraq's interior and defense ministers. The blasts, which came about four minutes apart just before noon, were heard at the ceremony but did not interrupt it.
The interior ministry is not a popular organization in the Sunni Arab part of Iraq, so there may be few recriminations.

Cole also is doubtful that al Qaeda has been responsible for all recent civilian attacks:
Since there are too few foreign fighters under Zarqawi to account for all the attacks on civilians around the country, I conclude that a lot of them are actually carried out by the Neo-Baathists or Iraqi Salafis, who then blame them on Zarqawi. They thus get to pose as national heroes with clean hands. And Zarqawi gets to boast about being ubiquitous. And Dick Cheney gets to threaten us with al-Qaeda in Iraq (there was no al-Qaeda operating in Iraq before Cheney opened up the possibility by invading the country). So everyone is happy with this lie. But it isn't a plausible one. All this is not to say that there aren't tensions between Zarqawi's people and the ex-Baath captains in the provinces.


Post a Comment

<< Home