January 16, 2007


'The jihad now is against the Shias, not the Americans': As 20,000 more US troops head for Iraq, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, the only correspondent reporting regularly from behind the country's sectarian battle lines, reveals how the Sunni insurgency has changed (Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, January 13, 2007, Guardian)

One morning a few weeks ago I sat in a car talking to Rami, a thick-necked former Republican Guard commando who now procures arms for his fellow Sunni insurgents.

Rami was explaining how the insurgency had changed since the first heady days after the US invasion. "I used to attack the Americans when that was the jihad. Now there is no jihad. Go around and see in Adhamiya [the notorious Sunni insurgent area] - all the commanders are sitting sipping coffee; it's only the young kids that are fighting now, and they are not fighting Americans any more, they are just killing Shia. There are kids carrying two guns each and they roam the streets looking for their prey. They will kill for anything, for a gun, for a car and all can be dressed up as jihad." [...]

"Its not a good time to be a Sunni in Baghdad," Abu Omar told me in a low voice. He had been on the Americans' wanted list for three years but I had never seen him so anxious; he had trimmed his beard in the close-cropped Shia style and kept looking towards the door. His brother had been kidnapped a few days before, he told me, and he believed he was next on a Shia militia's list. He had fled his home in the north of the city and was staying with relatives in a Sunni stronghold in west Baghdad.

He was more despondent than angry. "We Sunni are to blame," he said. "In my area some ignorant al-Qaida guys have been kidnapping poor Shia farmers, killing them and throwing their bodies in the river. I told them: 'This is not jihad. You can't kill all the Shia! This is wrong! The Shia militias are like rabid dogs - why provoke them?' "

Then he said: "I am trying to talk to the Americans. I want to give them assurances that no one will attack them in our area if they stop the Shia militias from coming."

This man who had spent the last three years fighting the Americans was now willing to talk to them, not because he wanted to make peace but because he saw the Americans as the lesser of two evils. He was wrestling with the same dilemma as many Sunni insurgent leaders, beginning to doubt the wisdom of their alliance with al-Qaida extremists.

Another insurgent commander told me: "At the beginning al-Qaida had the money and the organisation, and we had nothing." But this alliance soon dragged the insurgents and then the whole Sunni community into confrontation with the Shia militias as al-Qaida and other extremists massacred thousands of Shia civilians. Insurgent commanders such as Abu Omar soon found themselves outnumbered and outgunned, fighting organised militias backed by the Shia-dominated security forces.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 16, 2007 10:45 AM

Sheesh. Took the Sunnis long enough to realize that they couldn't win against the Shia, and that the American offer of fair play for all was the best that they would ever get. But they've made their bed, and will likely get nothing now.

Posted by: John Thacker at January 16, 2007 4:34 PM

They'll get a burning bed.

And I'm still waiting for this version of the Iraq narrative to make the evening news.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 16, 2007 4:42 PM


Do you think Katie is going to expound on the differences between the Sunni and the Shi'a? I doubt if she knows, and I doubt if she can spell partition.

Posted by: ratbert at January 16, 2007 4:54 PM

Wow! Confused enemies.

Who could have seen this coming?

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 16, 2007 5:01 PM
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