In an interview on Aljazeera on Friday, Shaikh Harith al-Dhari of the Association for Muslims Scholars called on Iraqi tribal fighters to cease attacking “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.” He said that 90% of al-Qaeda in Iraq was Iraqi Sunnis and that ways should be found to dialogue and reason with them. He decried the willingness of tribal leaders to attack the organization, saying that such infighting only benefitted the Occupiers. Al-Dhari has in the past been highly critical of “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” for its strategy of targetting Iraqi civilians it considers collaborators with the Occupation. Al-Dhari may now feel, however, that the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction, with pro-American Sunnis fighting anti-American Sunnis. He said, “al-Qaeda is of us and we are with it.” More on this issue in Arabic at Sawt al-Iraq. Al-Dhari’s willingness to see the violent, foreign-inspired group as essentially Iraqi and as a group one could dialogue with is startling and, I think, puts him beyond the pale in mainstream Iraqi politics (he is in Amman, Jordan, and I think there is an arrest warrant out for him.) In spring of 2004, I remember a poll done that showed that 25% of Iraqis admired him, and his were among the highest numbers in the poll. He may still have a following among Sunni Salafis, but he is no longer a national figure.
The news of an agreement between Shiite clerical leaders Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militias (the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army, respectively) have been literally sniping at one another, seems to me rather thin on specifics. It mainly seems to be a ceasefire called by leaders who are distant from the street scene and who likely don’t actually control a lot of their paramilitary commanders. Two provincial governors belonging to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [led by al-Hakim] have been blown up recently, presumably by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. Whether this rather pro forma ceasefire can hold long seems to me very much up in the air.
McClatchy reports from late Saturday, “Clashes erupted between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi army in Al Washash area, Iraqi police said. The clashes started on the background of building a separating wall in the area. Two people were injured.”
Since a lot of government security forces have been infiltrated by Badr Corps militiamen, this fight was actually probably between Sadrists and Badr security forces. It raises question about the efficacy of the Hakim/Sadr pact. [sorry for the earlier corrupt code mentioning ‘Bin Laden.’ Typo.)
Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abdul Aziz, who was running the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)while his father underwent chemotherapy for cancer in Iran, points to the simple but crucial element of trust among Iraq’s political leaders as a prerequisite for any progress on creconciliation. He says that it is currently lacking, and that one group blocks the proposals of another purely out of knee-jerk distrust of members of another sect or ethnicity.
Reuters reports civil war violence in Iraq on Saturday.