Wednesday, September 19, 2007

sunnis vs. sunnis

In a reminder of how amorphous "the enemy" in Iraq really is, after a two day battle Al-Qaeda in Iraq forces wrested control of a small village on the Diyala river from the rival Brigades of the 1920 Revolution. Both are predominantly Sunni, but they have different agendas.

While 1920's stated goal is to create an Iran-like Islamic state of Iraq, they probably do so as a broad recruiting and motivational tool more than anything else. The leadership consists largely of Saddam loyalists, probably Fedayeen Saddam and ex-republican guard. They are focused primarily on guerilla attacks vs. the occupational coalition, and can be considered a nationalist movement. They are also among the Sunni groups that have been bought off to some extent recently by the occupational forces.

AQI tends to be more foreign-born, and with more of a religious, sectarian agenda. They are less popular within the civilian population because of their tendency to conscript men to their ranks and impose their version of Sharia law wherever they go, which includes the liberal taking of wives and killing of heretics (such as Shiites or Yazidi). In some cases they act as a mercenary force for the local warlords in order to enjoy some freedom of action.

This ferocious internecine warfare indicates several things:

1. that Al Qaeda would be among the first to perish in Iraq after an American withdrawal;

2. that the violence in Iraq is not all sectarian by any means,

3. that there are strong feelings of Iraqi nationalism.

All three of those things run counter to the conventional wisdom seen on much of the main media outlets in America these days.

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