Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tamimi: Let's abandon arms for politics "at this stage"

The Qatari paper AlArab conducted an interview with "Abu Azzam" Al-Tamimi, real name Thamer Al-Tamimi, recently the head of the Abu Ghraib regional Awakening, and the man who a couple of days ago announced he was heading a new "Iraqi Honor Front" to act as the political arm of the Iraqi Awakening councils. (This is the same man who was earlier interviewed, also by AlArab, in connection with his disagreements with the Islamic Army in Iraq, to which he used to belong).

In the new interview, Tamimi explains the thinking behind the Iraqi Honor Front, including an admission that many members will be former armed-resistance fighters who have decided to give up the armed struggle for the time being; opposition to American-sponsored legislation including the Oil and Gas Law; and control of resources by the central government.

He said this new political front will include different types of people, including "technocrats, officers in the former army, and tribal leaders, in addition to Awakening leaders from all over Iraq. He repeated the basic orientation, namely that "there are parallel regional interventions, which perhaps surpass [in importance] the American occupation." And having admitted that a lot of his people are former armed-resistance activists, he said a condition for joining the political front is not to belong to any armed party or faction. And the interviewer explains:
He invited the members of armed Iraqi factions to turn to political activity and to abandon armed activity at this stage, and he said this: "We are convinced that the current stage is the stage of political activity, and there is no place for weapons at the present time. Otherwise why would we abandon arms and resort to politics. And for that reason I call on armed groups to leave their armed activities in the current stage, and to take up politics, and in this way we will work toward the expulsion of the occupier.
With respect to pending legislation (should his group win seats in the next general election), Tamimi said:
"The Honor Front absolutely rejects any law that aims to tie Iraq to the operations of the occupation, and that includes the Oil and Gas Law." And he stressed that the Front demands that the riches of Iraq are to remain in the hands of the central government, and not be at the free disposition of any person or entity."
Tamimi's only reference to the Mahdi Army in this interview is to insist that no Awakening group participated in the recent fighting against them, nor did Maliki ask for such participation; and that his Front supports any moves to impose law and order.

Finally, there appears to be some disagreement about who speaks for the Awakenings in this. The AlArab interviewer, concluding with a thumbnail biography, says Tamimi used to be a field commenter with the IAI, then headed the Abu Ghraib area Awakening, "before being given responsibility for arming of the Awakening forces throughout Iraq". But in an AlHayat article, another Awakening leader, from Taji (north of Baghdad), spoke about the aim of forming a political bloc including most of the Awakening leaders from Baghdad and the province, and he added: "It would be natural that the key person [or decision maker] in this would be Ahmed abu Risha, leader of the Iraqi Awakening, and the person who supervises all of the Awakening Councils in Iraq."

The Taji Awakening leader (who recommends abu Risha in this way) is also the source for AlHayat's report to the effect that the Interior Ministry, with the agreement of the Americans, has asked for renewed applications from Baghdad-area Awakening rank and file for employment with the Interior Ministry, described as a move to fill the gap left by around 1300 Sadr sympathizers who are being kicked out. (Same link as above). The report says the idea is that roughly two-thirds of the Baghdad Awakening people would be eligible for this government employment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aloha Badger! Excellent article! I assume Tamimi is Sunni, therefore, Sunni are being encouraged to join the Interior Dept. in place of the Shi'a Sadrists who departed/kicked out? I'm the new poster at M&C, trying to fill Lurch's big shoes! CTuttle

2:31 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Buenas !
Yes, Tamimi is Sunni, but this whole Awakenings-shift is still a little up in the air for me.

(1) For instance, I don't know how solid this "we're hiring Sunnis" arrangement is, because it would represent quite a shift, and if it's real, it must be part of some kind of a arrangement with other parts.

And (2) I also don't know the relationship of Tamimi (former IAI who is saying these nationalist-sounding things and talking about giving up arms "for now") and Abu Risha (the brother of the Abu Risha who was bumped off right after that photo-op with Bush in the Anbar desert, you remember). They could be rivals with different politics, (Tamimi more resistance-oriented, Abu Risha, being from a family of traders/highway-bandits, more of a paid agent, would be my first guess), but I'm not completely confident about that either.

Today's post was mostly just for background reading, ahead of exciting events to come.

3:41 PM  
Blogger annie said...

i find it really weird they may be trying to recruit 'awakened' sunnis to go into sadr city to battle w/'rouge militias'. this stinks big time. compartmentalizing their armed forces by sect for the americans to pick and choose which forces can be relied on for certain missions..scary. unless i am reading it wrong.

4:50 PM  
Blogger badger said...

That would certainly be one plausible, and sickening, as you say, answer to my question (1) above. But today was the first I've read about any "we're hiring Sunnis" policy, and I guess I'm into my "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" space...

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the Mahdis and al-Sadr is that he hasn't been able to pull them together as a cohesive, disciplined political and military force even after 5 years of opportunity. There is no common ideology binding them together, as for example was the case of North Vietnam.

The Sunni insurgency fragmented for much the same reason. How many political "fronts" have been announced over the past 18 months? Must be up to five or six from the archives here alone?

On the other hand the Iraqi government's armed forces have so far shown few signs of fragmentation and have clearly acquired a great deal of combat experience and confidence since the onset of Maliki's Baghdad Security Plan in Jan 07.

Unity of purpose will always win out over disunity. It appears that even the obvious unifying aspect of occupation has not been enough to overcome all these sub groups different agendas?

8:10 PM  
Blogger Bruno said...

[annie] "i find it really weird they may be trying to recruit 'awakened' sunnis to go into sadr city to battle w/'rouge militias'. this stinks big time."

Annie, I was ranting about this possibility long ago, as early as 2005, that the US would turn one resistance faction on the other and implode Iraq in a sectarian war.

Try find Seymour Hersh's article "The Redirection" for more information. Here's another good one: Biddle's Pivot:

"What this means, in effect, is that it is time to start tilting toward the Sunnis. If the Shi'ites continue to defy U.S. efforts to shape the political landscape of postwar Iraq, then we must play the Sunni card, employing force if necessary:"

1:24 AM  
Blogger badger said...

good point. On US promotion of inter-factional fighting, see also essays posted here from time to time by Qalamji, Mukhtar, Kubaysi and others, including comments on the two-stage history of Shiites harassing Sunnis starting 2003, then Sunnis harassing Shiites more recently. A big issue (assuming you're both right) is going to be how they manage the latter under a Shiite government. Squaring the circle, so to speak.

(As everyone knows, gj/bb/barbara is featured in a lot of places, gloating over every Iraqi difficulty as another sign of the inevitable triumph of Cheney-style democracy in the region)

4:48 AM  
Blogger annie said...

On the other hand the Iraqi government's armed forces have so far shown few signs of fragmentation

really? you must have missed the fragmentation in basra.

and have clearly acquired a great deal of combat experience and confidence since the onset of Maliki's Baghdad Security Plan in Jan 07.

really? Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American’s Plea

A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

Desertions in Sadr City

Iraqi soldiers on Tuesday after abandoning their posts on a joint mission with American troops in the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.

Capt. Logan Veath, a company commander in the 25th Infantry Division, pleaded with the Iraqi major who was leading his troops away from the Sadr City fight, urging him to return to the front.

That approach was intended to build up the Iraqi military’s fighting capacity and put an Iraqi face on the operation in Sadr City,

you really think they have acquired a great deal of combat experience ???? what a joke! iraqis hardly need combat experience???? they have had more combat experience from the iran/iraq war than american soldiers.

it is not for lack of combat experience. it is more likely lack of will to be the 'face', the cannon fodder for the invader.

The problem with the Mahdis and al-Sadr is that he hasn't been able to pull them together as a cohesive, disciplined political and military force even after 5 years of opportunity.

don't you find it rather amusing the puppet government backed by the global superpower, after 5 years of opportunity has been unable to reel in sadr's undisciplined political and military force???

if what you say is true, i'd say that speaks more towards the weakness of the superpower than the fragmentation of their enemy.


thanks for the references bruno and badger.

8:43 AM  
Blogger annie said...

Five years into the American effort to build a self-sustaining Iraqi Army, these failures to stand and fight have proven an embarrassing setback to American and Iraqi officials.

..... his phone had rung again, he said. It was the Mahdi Army militia, the group his men were fighting, on the line.

“We know where you live,” they had told him.

“If they come to my house, they can kill my whole family,” he said.

On the phone they had read a roster of names of the men in his battalion. “I don’t even have access to that,” he said. “They could only have gotten it from my senior commanders.

“Our senior officials, they are thieves,”
he said.

The American plan has been to let the Iraqis lead the fight, with United States soldiers in a support role. But the Iraqi captain said his men were no match for the more heavily armed militia: “The Mahdi Army, they have much better equipment than we do.”

His company was below half-strength and shrinking by the day. It was down to 70 men from a normal roster of 150. Five had been wounded in the past week, others had been lent to another company. And then there was the desertion problem, made worse by the threatening phone calls from the Mahdi Army to his men.

Most of my soldiers have family inside Sadr City,” he said. “Their tribes and cousins and relatives are there. They can’t fight in Sadr City.”

silly gj

9:24 AM  
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