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September 06, 2007


Ben P


All of this is very interesting and it suggests - but does quite answer - an important question I have never seen answered - at least in English language media.

That is: what is the precise relationship of the tribes to the the major insurgent groups (outside of the ISI)? This seems to suggest - and I sense too - that Sunni groups like the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades are not fundamentally "tribal," although they rely on tribal networks extensively. (espeically considering that the AMS is quite heavily linked to the 1920s in particular)

This gets to my sense that things like the Anbar Awakening is much more complicated than is portrayed in the English language media - that there are actually significant differences in end-goal amongst the various participants. That some are quite "mercenary" and are perfectly willing to be coopted by whoever gives them a lot of money/patronage, while other individuals have a much more instrumentalist view of what they are doing. I think the number of "instrumentalists" rises everywhere outside Anbar.

My sense is that people/tribal leaders like Abu Risha in Anbar was never in the insurgency, while other members of the Anbar council deeply mistrust/resent figures like Risha, because they see him as lacking principles and that he is perfectly willing to "sell out," so to speak.

Anyway, I'd like to see what you know/your take is on the question of the relationship between tribes and the mainstream insurgency and the degree to which they are separate phenomenon.


The US has been defeated and wants to leave Iraq, but is only searching for a way to deny the jihad its victory; factional strife is its exit strategy. The resistance is on the brink of a great victory, argues the AMS, which only increases the danger of complacency.

Well, well. I just got back from Kagan's event at the American Enterprise Institute. He and his panelists paint quite a different picture. Much to their surprise, the Surge coupled to the Awakening has been so successful that they've cleaned Al-Qaida out everywhere except the upper Tigris valley, and the pursuit of them by American and Iraqi forces continues at this moment. The Sunni insurgency is dying: either they are joining the security forces (some were insurgents as recently as last month!) "or they go down with Al Qaida." The Iranian and Syrian networks supplying them are now under coalition pressure.

Even the Shia militias are feeling the heat and calming down. But as of right now the Sunni insurgency appears to be nearly over, and Sunni-Shia political dialogue has picked up remarkably. Senator/Colonel Graham even went so far as to predict that it will be days, not weeks, before we witness significant Sunni-Shia political progress.

I hope to write this stuff and more at my blog later. Ciao!


About that "fascinating point" Lynch points to here, the absence of anti-Shia rhetoric from the AMS statement...how are the various Shiite factions likely to interpret it?

Will they take it, as Lynch appears to, as a statement by a leading Sunni Arab group that the battle to end the occupation and prepare a "political program" -- albeit one that is as yet content-free -- takes precedence over sectarian differences? Or will they assume that this is part of a Sunni Arab two-faced two-step to accelerate the American departure so that Sunni Arab dominance can be restored?

Given the record in Iraq, what should we expect?

Andrew R.

It seems to me somewhat unlikely that very many Shi'ite groups (even those that oppose the U.S. occupation) would make any common cause with folks saying that the Ba'ath party is the only legitimate government of Iraq.

Saeed Uri

Really goo analysis. One question that I might ask the insurgency and leaders of the Sunni political organizations is what is their commitment to democracy like? Does it even exist? Do they believe in the Islamist agenda of a caliphate or are they willing to work in the system that was created by the US? I know that there are constitution problems, and even a need for elections but will they be supported by the insurgents once the US leaves Iraq?

Also in regards to the Sunni Shia relationship, once the US leaves will it be fine and dandy? I would think once the sunni's unite (if they are able too) won't the shia's feel threatened (it is not like hate does not exist between the two). A scenario that I could see happening would be an extension of what is happening today. What I mean is the Iraqi army, which is used to fight "terrorist" today, will also be used to fight "terrorist" tomorrow.
The final sentences of your post I think are the most important to the future of the Middle East and could create a huge problem if Iraq becomes a failed state. The world is not really considering the future of Iraqi refugees, the creation of Israel created .7 million refugees, the destruction of Iraq created millions. How will they affect the future of the Middle East and more importantly that of the "free world" is it not our fault that their lives are what they are today? Will they not be a huge pool so groups like Fatah al Islam and Al Qaeda will be able to recruit from? It will only decrease support of the western idea of a nation state, since it is not working for them, and increase faith in the idealist idea of the return of an Islamic Caliph. I really think that this is a topic that needs to be worked on more than any other problem that a failed Iraq will create. Iran, Syria, Sunni's and Shias might be todays problem that we are "band aiding" but the Iraqi refugees will be a problem that needs to be handled today before it is exploited by people with intentions contrary to our beliefs.


According to military pov websites (eg Long War Journal) the US and ISF have just started an offensive against ALQI in the northern areas of Salahaddin, Ninewa, Diyala and Kirkuk involving a combined US/ISF force of 26,000. These are apparently the regions ALQI has retreated to after the Diyala/Baquba offensive and where the most recent major suicide bombings of civilians have been occurring.

Clearly while Bush is president the US will stay on the offensive and will only be forced to withdraw if the democratically elected Iraqi Government asks it to, not by substantive negotiations with the insurgency, although there's sure to be some face saving window dressing.

Consequently the significant negotiations for the Sunni insurgency will surely be between it and the Iraqi govt in which the Sunnis can set a govt demand for a US withdrawal timetable as part of a final deal where the insurgency ceases its attacks on the Shiites, accepts the new post Baath political/demographic realities and makes the most of it?

That nitty gritty reality might explain the absence of anti Shiite rhetoric?

Saaed Uri's point about the Iraqi refugees is interesting but aren't they in the main Sunni professional middleclass with the means to support themselves in Syria or the Sunni arab states? Am happy to be corrected by others more knowledgeable, but unlike more familiar refugee crises eg Kosovo I haven't seen much coverage of poor refugees flooding into UN camps and creating a humanitarian crisis? It rather seems that the Sunnis with the means to do so have been acting common sensibly?

Marc - the insurgency seems to be now taking the Awakening sheikhs as a significant political threat to their leadership of the Sunnis? What's your assessment? And it would be interesting to know how Al Jazeera and the new Arab media is reporting these developments?


Thank you VERY MUCH, Marc Lynch.

We now see we didn't leave the link to our preliminary announcement of this -- we called then the "National Front of Liberation" -- here a week ago in vain.

This is MOST helpful indeed, and certainly the path to keep the eye on.

We'll repost this of course and should you keep going on like this, add you to our most recommended links :)

Our most warmest regards,




Having now had a close look at the AMSI wire, the case certainly looks somewhat different than you put forth in your analysis.

Perhaps you should check out this:

IRAQ: On AMSI Open Letter and the Forming of the Jihad Islamic Front of National Liberation

(Of course anyone interested can take a look at it, certainly bringing forth some points of interest concerning the intentions of the IR)

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