Sunni Groups at Odds with Each Other

The USG Open Source Center reports on wrangling between two Sunni groups, the more urban and small-town Sunni fundamentalists of the Iraqi Accord Front [al-Tawafuq] and the more rural, tribal Anbar Salvation Counci [ASC]. The two groups, both of whom oppose the very violent extremists among the Salafi Jihadis [whom the US insists on calling ‘al-Qaeda’), are now being pitted against one another by the Shiites at both the federal and provincial levels.

OSC Report: Iraq — Tawafuq, Tribes at Odds Over Cabinet Seats, Local Power
Iraq — OSC Report
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 . . .

Iraq — Tawafuq [Iraqi Accord Front], Al-Anbar Shaykhs’ Battle Over Cabinet Seats Reflects Local Rivalry Recent verbal sparring over cabinet seats between officials from the [Sunni religious] Tawafuq Front — the largest Sunni bloc in the government — and members of the Anbar Salvation Council (ASC), a group of Anbar tribesmen that has been fighting Al-Qa’ida, has brought the ongoing political friction between the two groups in Al-Anbar governorate into the national arena. The ASC’s presentation to Prime Minister Al-Maliki of a list of names of potential candidates to fill the vacancies left by Tawafuq’s early August withdrawal from the cabinet coincides with escalating calls by the ASC to dissolve the local Anbar governing council, which is dominated by the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) — one of Tawafuq’s three constituent parties. In response to the ASC’s political maneuvering, Tawafuq officials have attempted to discredit the ASC, distinguishing it from “true” shaykhs such as Ahmad Abu Rishah — head of the Anbar Awakening Conference (AAC) — while touting their bloc’s “legitimacy” throughout Iraq and its support in Al-Anbar governorate.

Taking their demands for change within Al-Anbar to the national level, the ASC [Anbar Salvation Council] delegation on 10 November gave Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki a list of candidates to fill the cabinet seats vacated by Tawafuq’s withdrawal (Al-Hayah, 12 November). (1) The delegation — led by Hamid al-Hayis, head of the ASC, and Ali al-Hatim Sulayman, head of the Al-Dulaym tribes — defended what Sulayman cast as the ASC’s right to the vacant seats, given that “the Anbar shaykhs are the ones who resisted the Takfiris and Al-Qa’ida” (Sawt al-Iraq, 14 November).

Sulayman said that “whoever pays the price with his blood must take something in return” (Sawt al-Iraq, 14 November). Sulayman also claimed that, despite calls for assistance, Tawafuq did not help in the tribes’ fight against Al-Qa’ida (Al-Hayah, 15 November).

Asserting that the ASC was already “part of the government,” Al-Hayis said that “we are not taking the place of anyone. We are deserving, and the government must answer our demands” (Al-Sabah, 12 November). Tawafuq, Tribal Leaders Spar in Al-Anbar

The ASC’s meeting with Al-Maliki coincided with its escalating calls to change the IIP-dominated local government in Al-Anbar on the grounds that it is “sectarian” and “corrupt.”

Sulayman charged the Anbar governing council with embezzlement, saying “not one dinar” of the reconstruction funds had benefited the people (Al-Hayah, 15 November).

Shaykh Muhammad Awda al-Mutlaq, a tribal leader who has attended some ASC meetings, said that if the government does not appoint “those who fought Al-Qa’ida” to lead Al-Anbar, “we will drop the fight against Al-Qa’ida and stay at home” (Al-Mu’tamar, 13 November).

In contrast, Abu Rishah’s Anbar Awakening Conference — which together with the ASC holds nine of the 49 seats on the local council — has not been observed to comment on the ASC’s demands, despite a claim by Al-Hayis that Ahmad Abu Rishah had withdrawn his people from the local council in a boycott of Tawafuq and the IIP (, 15 November). Tawafuq Officials Seek to Discredit ASC

In an apparent effort to counter the ASC’s political maneuvers, Tawafuq’s official spokesman and leaders of its constituent parties have attempted to discredit the ASC, charging that the ASC delegation that visited Al-Maliki does not represent the “genuine” tribes in Al-Anbar.

Official spokesman Salim al-Juburi drew a distinction between those who met with Al-Maliki and “the true shaykhs,” such as the AAC’s Ahmad Abu Rishah and shaykhs of the Al-Bu Fahd, Al-Bu Mahal, Al-Bu Alwan, and Al-Bu Isa tribes (, 11 November). He dismissed the delegation as being from the “Salvation Council which (the late) Abd-al-Sattar Abu Rishah dissolved” (Al-Hayah, 12 November).

Asked whether ASC members would occupy Tawafuq’s seats, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi — who heads the Iraqi Islamic Party — stated that “the others” would only “represent themselves,” whereas Tawafuq was “elected by no less than two million” and “represents the conscience of those who elected it” (Al-Jazirah, 11 November).

In an interview with Radio Sawa, Khalaf al-Ulayyan, who heads the National Dialogue Council, rejected the ASC’s meeting with Al-Maliki, saying that the group lacked “widespread representation in the Iraqi public” ( www. irakna. com, 15 November).

At the same time that Tawafuq and the ASC have been exchanging barbs, Tawafuq has also been highlighting its close ties with Al-Anbar and Abu Rishah’s Awakening Conference.

Abd-al-Karim al-Samarra’i, Tawafuq MP and a leader in the IIP, praised the “great, strong ties between Tawafuq Front personalities and the Al-Anbar governorate” ( www. altawafoq. com, 15 November).

After Al-Hashimi attended a Fallujah tribes conference, the IIP TV channel reported that “Anbar tribes and figures confirmed their stand on the national demands and the project of the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, calling on active political forces to support it” (Baghdad Satellite Channel, 12 November).

Abd-al-Salam al-Ani, chairman of Al-Anbar governing council, claimed there was tribal support for the Al-Anbar council, saying that Abu Rishah’s AAC is “with us” (Radio Sawa, 14 November).

(1) The ASC had reportedly given Al-Maliki a list of names shortly after Tawafuq’s August withdrawal, which led Abd-al-Sattar Abu Rishah, the late head of the AAC, to declare the ASC “dissolved” (Al-Sharqiyah, 14 August). ‘

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