OSC: Former Sunni Insurgent Turns to Politics

The USG Open Source Center reports on the way a former Sunni guerrilla leader of the Islamic Army, Abu Azzam Tamimi, is now turning to civil politics. He has formed a political party to contest the provincial elections this fall. I view this development as extremely positive and am hoping that the provincial elections in the Sunni areas will be a turning point in the return of Iraq to relative peace. If Tamimi can bring with him other former insurgents into provincial power, they might decide they can get more at the ballot box than via bombings.

OSC Report: Iraq — Former Sunni Insurgent Turns to Party Politics
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq has certified former insurgent Abu-Azzam al-Tamimi’s recently created Iraqi Dignity Front (IDF) to run in the upcoming provincial elections, potentially making him the first former Sunni insurgent to lead a recognized political party. Al-Tamimi has not announced the specifics of his party’s political platform but has warned against a US withdrawal in light of the Iranian “occupation” of Iraq. He has also called on the government to bring more Awakening Council members into the security services. Identified by several pan-Arab media sources as a former leader in the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI), Al-Tamimi led the Awakening Council in the Abu Ghurayb District of Baghdad prior to the establishment of the IDF last April. Abu-Azzam al-Tamimi (Al-Jazirah, 13 January)

On 3 June, the Independent High Electoral Commission updated its official list of registrants for the upcoming provincial elections and included the IDF led by Thamir Kadhim al-Tamimi. Al-Tamimi, who is also referred to as Abu-Azzam, told Al-Hayah — the influential, Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily — that the IDF consisted of tribal shaykhs, Baghdad Awakening Council leaders, “technocrats,” and former elements of Sunni insurgent groups, specifically the IAI, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, and the Mujahidin Army (19 April).

Al-Tamimi expressed his wish to “create a new political balance” in the current political arena, which has been, as he termed, “paralyzed and controlled by sectarian leaders” (Iraqi National News Agency, 2 June).

Al-Tamimi justified joining the political process by saying: “Through experience, we realized that the rifle might play a certain role, but what is most important is the role played by politics” (Al-Jazirah, 20 April).

He recently alluded to a possible political alliance between the IDF and several already-established political groups, including former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi List, Salih al-Mutlak’s Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, and Adnan al-Dulaymi’s General Conference of the People of Iraq, a constituent of parliament’s largest Sunni bloc (Al-Bayan, 2 June).

Al-Tamimi has not announced his party’s specific platform but has consistently echoed the key concerns of the main Sunni political parties: the “Iranian occupation” of the country and the inclusion of greater numbers of Awakening Council members in the security services.

He complained: “Whenever there is a chance for the achievement of security and stability, we discover, unfortunately, that Iranian organizations work directly and indirectly against it” (Al-Sharqiyah, 29 April).

Al-Tamimi also warned that “the departure of US forces from Iraq now will be the biggest gift presented to Iran under the current circumstances” (Al-Jazirah, 24 March).

Criticizing the Iraqi Government’s “slow” progress in fulfilling its pledge to incorporate 20 percent of Awakening Council members into the security services, Al-Tamimi said the government security forces “should not be monopolized by anyone” (Al-Jazirah, 24 March).

Several pan-Arab print and broadcast sources have identified Abu-Azzam al-Tamimi as a former leader in the IAI, a label he has implicitly confirmed. Pan-Arab and Iraqi sources began reporting on his role within the Awakening Councils by January.

Muhammad Abu-Rumman, identified in an interview with Al-Arabiyah — the largely Saudi-financed pan-Arab satellite channel — as “a specialist in Islamic groups’ affairs,” characterized Al-Tamimi as one of the “leading figures in the Islamic Army” who “contributed to the establishment of the Awakening Councils” (19 April).

In an interview with Al-Arabiyah, Al-Tamimi said that “Iranian interference, which I consider more dangerous than that of the United States,” caused some IAI members to “reconsider their position” and “form a truce agreement with US forces” (18 January).

In an interview with the Qatari Government-financed pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazirah, Al-Tamimi lauded the Awakening Councils’ efforts to achieve security, saying “life has now returned” to areas where Awakening Councils are active and that “they are defending their cities, children, and tribes against the renegade enemies” (24 March).