The Guerrillas who Came in from the Cold
Al-Hayat [Ar.]: 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.]
[Cole: 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.]
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.
Meanwhile an internet posting of audio claiming to be the voice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi called on the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) to reject the political process rather than joining it. Guerrillas have killed IIP workers.
US troops were used to arrest an Iraqi journalist working on a story for a British news organization about corruption in defense contracts in Iraq. This is very troubling on all sorts of levels. US troops do not have a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq and do not have a constitutional right to arrest civilians without a warrant. And, the US military should not be harassing journalists reporting on contract fraud.
Will blog more Monday afternoon