Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"A long and many-sided struggle": Major Sunni faction says Iran is the current priority

(This is revised and expanded from an earlier post that had a different title).

A regular spokesman for the Islamic Army of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Shammari, responded to interview questions in a new Qatari newspaper called Al-Arab*, about the latest BinLaden speech, rumors of negotiations with the awakenings and/or the Americans, the reasons for the recent decline in attacks on the occupation forces, and current priorities in this "long and many-sided struggle". On the BinLaden speech, he said the time has gone by for that kind of platitudes. What BinLaden has called "mistakes" are more properly called sins and crimes, and he should have addressed that issue clearly and directly with a view to rectification. He didn't do so, and instead the result of the speech has been an escalation in AlQaeda attacks on the IAI in Samara, Latifiya and other places, Shammari said.

He said there have been no negotiations between the IAI or anyone representing them with either the awakening councils or the Americans. "When has a resistance group ever sided with the occupier... And don't forget", he reminded the interviewer, "you are not talking about people who arrived in Iraq on the backs of the American tanks. We are on the other side ..." As for talking with the Iraqi government, he said: "There is no government in Iraq such that we could have any relationship with it..." Specifically, the interviewer asked if it was possible for the Iraqi resistance to pick someone from among well-known political or religious figures to represent them in negotiations with the Americans, to which Shammari replied: "Absolutely not. The group has a Political Office which is its official representative, and if there were to be negotiations with the Americans or with any international party, the only authorized party on our side would be the Political Office."

The lengthiest answer was on the reasons for the decline in attacks in American forces in recent months. The questioner suggested this might be owing to a diminution in attacks by a weakened AlQaeda, but Shammari said it is owing to the preoccupation by the IAI and other factions with these AlQaeda attacks on them:
This is not a forced retreat, but it is a temporary tactic [on the part of the resistance] relating to battlefield management in this long and many-sided struggle, and of course it is known that the decline in the influence of AlQaeda isn't the cause the diminution in operations [against the occupation forces], but rather [the reason is] that AlQaeda is focusing on the other factions with a view to starting a jihad against the mujahideen. And naturally this is the most serious kind of danger for the mujahideen, because this comes from our own flesh and blood who are familiar with us in a way that the occupation-enemy is not, and this has become the priority for AlQaeda, against whatever of the other factions, but in particular against the Islamic Army in Iraq...
And Shammari names people well-known in the IAI who have been killed by AlQaeda, calling this a "general war" AQ has launched against the IAI in Iraq, not limited only to certain areas, and which has compelled the IAI to end its policy of patience, and reply in kind. Shammari explains that it is this overall preoccupation with AlQaeda on the part of the IAI and the other jihadi factions [with the AlQaeda attacks] that has had an effect on the overall jihadi scene, adding: "this is because AlQaeda, and particularly since the death of Abu Musab [al-Zarqawi] has taken on a hidden agenda, and they are no longer interested in the concerns of the rest of the mujahideen".

But probably the most enlightening in terms of strategy was this exchange on the relative importance of the Americans and the Iranian threats.
Interviewer: Have you thought about what could happen in Iraq after the Americans withdraw? Have you thought about the Iranian danger?

Shammari: The Iranian danger needs no proof or explanations, because it is a paramount reality on the ground. We have a clause in out political program in which we say Iraq is under two occupations, the Iranian and the American, and the most dangerous and difficult is the Iranian. And in fact we were the first to warn of this, and we have called on our brothers in all of the other jihadi factions to support this so that now the Political Office of the Iraqi Resistance supports this, with a slight modification in the draft. The leadership of the Islamic Army has issued an order to all of the operational units to the effect that the operational units must bring their programs into line with the political program of the group. ...We have not neglected the Iranian occupation at all, in fact we have formed special forces to target them...

Interviewer: There is a new reality that has been imposed on Iraq, with Baghdad changed demographically from a Sunni city, and there is the same situation in a number of other regions, not to mention the propositions about federalism, which it is feared could lead to the break-up of Iraq. What are you doing about these critical [or thorny] issues?

Shammari: As I have said to you, the struggle is long and it has many parts, and we are dealing with these parts in the appropriate way, without haste. God willing, the result will go to the strong
*The paper should be available at www.alarab.com.qa, but seems to be currently busy or something. The interview text, however, is also reproduced here.


Blogger NonArab-Arab said...

Any mention of how IAI defines "Iranian occupation"? Do they differentiate (by name, or more generally) between Shi'a factions?

2:40 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Excellent question. I don't think I've ever seen a reference to anything like that not only in the IAI but anywhere in Sunni-resistance literature (outside of the jihadi boards, where they do talk about Hakim and Sadr by name). I'd like to think one reason for that is because any specific identification would risk being applied too widely (think Juan Cole on the "Sunni guerilla movement" when talking about AQ incidents), and after all these are people a nationalist realizes are going to be his compatriots.

6:40 AM  
Blogger David said...

"Omar al-Baghdadi" said last month that the focus is on war against "apostates" - pretty much what Shammari says from his side.
The line that Iran is the paramount danger bothers me, though. He doesn't support it with argument and it could go in a bad direction.

9:25 AM  
Blogger badger said...

No! Your assumption is wrong. The ISI is at war against apostates. Shammari is talking about political war against the occupation and the people who help them (including ISI) and against Iran. It's easy to get misled. For instance the above question was actually about whether IAI or others actually define "Iranian occupation" in terms of Shiite groups. But the questioner isn't assuming the IAI is fighting Shiites because they're Shiites, which is what you're suggesting. On the contrary.

10:20 AM  
Blogger David said...

Sorry, my comment was not precise. What I mean is that "al-Baghdadi" declared war on "apostasy." Shammari makes clear that ISI includes the national resistance among the "apostates."

9:02 AM  

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