Monday, October 30, 2006

Al-Qaeda gaining on the national resistance: Mutlak

Saleh al-Mutlak, leader of the second-biggest Sunni coalition in Parliament, the National Dialogue Front, said on Sunday that US tactics are causing AlQaeda to make gains at the expense of the Iraqi national resistance. He said US prisons in Iraq are in effect schools for new AlQaeda recruits, turning moderate Iraqi civilians into radicals. And he said some existing members of the Iraqi national resistance are starting to lose confidence in the resistance, and are joining AlQaeda. Fundamentalists used to comprise no more than two to four percent of the resistance, Mutlak said, but "AlQaeda is growing day by day in Iraq. That is a fact." Moreover, he said, the recent passage of the law on procedures for creation of federal regions has "emboldened AlQaeda to establish governments in those areas they controlled", with the idea of establishing that "we have our region", in the form of the Islamic Emirate. Mutlak described this as a frightening development, adding that AlQaeda plans to use these as launching bases for further gains.

The remarks were reported in Arabic by Reuters on Sunday, and were picked up by Al-Hayat in its Monday edition. The interview took place in Amman, where there have been reported contacts between the US and the national resistance. Mutlak has been promoting these talks, and these remarks are by way of warning that delays will be to the benefit of AlQaeda, whose aims the national resistance does not support. The interview wasn't picked up by any of the mainstream US papers, because it doesn't fit. Readers of the US media only would have no way of knowing that there is an Iraqi national resistance, there being only a vague category of "Sunni insurgents", a phrase often used to blur the distinction between the domestic resistance on the one side, and AlQaeda on the other. (See the earlier post here called "Meet the resistance" and prior posts).

Here is what Fareed Zakaria has to say about the Sunnis in his latest fatwa:
The Sunnis, for their part, seem consumed by their own anger, radicalism and feuds. They remain so incensed with the United States for their loss of power that they have been, until recently, blind to the reality that if not for U.S. forces, they would be massacred. What political leadership the Sunnis have is weak and does not appear to have much leverage with the insurgents. There is no Sunni with whom to make a deal.
The Sunni political parties are not "consumed by their own ...radicalism". They are threatened by the radicalism of AlQaeda, and what Mutlak is saying is that it isn't crystal clear which side of that divide the US administration is really on.

(Mutlak isn't the only one who thinks US policies in Iraq are continuing to nourish AlQaeda. See the fine summary by AbuAardvark the Academic of a recent piece in Al-Quds al-Arabi for the overall picture). What is new here is that a moderate Sunni leader is complaining that this American-nourished AlQaeda popularity is eating into the domestic Sunni base, with which, supposedly, the US is interested in negotiating.


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