Iraq Sunnis Revolt Against al-Qaeda

An encouraging headline: “Sunnis revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq.”

U.S. troops battled al-Qaida in west Baghdad on Thursday after Sunni Arab residents challenged the militants and called for American help to end furious gunfire that kept students from final exams and forced people in the neighborhood to huddle indoors. Backed by helicopter gunships, U.S. troops joined the two-day battle in the Amariyah district, according to a councilman and other residents of the Sunni district.

The fight reflects a trend that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trumpeting recently to the west in Anbar province, once considered the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. Many Sunni tribes in the province have banded together to fight al-Qaida, claiming the terrorist group is more dangerous than American forces.

An interesting development, to say the least. Still, we’ve seen numerous signs over the past couple of years that Iraqi Sunnis are at odds with al Qaeda and other radical elements and it hasn’t mattered. There are so many radical groups in Iraq, Sunni and Shiite, that even the removal of al Qaeda from the equation would not curb the violence.

It would be far more encouraging if there were a strong Sunni-Shia alliance against the radicals. So far, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Well James, you from the safety of being in the US and not in Iraq, seem to have a better perspective than those who are current in theater and fighting those groups. I guess you have not noticed how the Shieks of Anbar have turned against AQ. You probably did not pay any attention to al Qaeda calling the Sunni area of Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iraq. Seems they were a bit premature. My guess is the Iraqi Sunnis are a bit more secular than the radical al Qaeda. Dr. Joyner, have you been listening to Harry Reid more than you should?

  2. Michael says:

    There are so many radical groups in Iraq, Sunni and Shiite, that even the removal of al Qaeda from the equation would not curb the violence.

    So what you’re saying is that even if we do defeat the terrorists in Iraq, eliminating Al Qaeda completely, we still won’t be able to withdraw?

  3. Still, we’ve seen numerous signs over the past couple of years that Iraqi Sunnis are at odds with al Qaeda and other radical elements and it hasn’t mattered. There are so many radical groups in Iraq, Sunni and Shiite, that even the removal of al Qaeda from the equation would not curb the violence.

    This vastly underplays what is going on.

    Because not only are the Sunni tribes and insurgent groups fighting AQ, but they’re working with the Americans.

    This has never happened before. If the relationships hold, the traditional Sunni insurgency could be over.

  4. Michael says:

    Because not only are the Sunni tribes and insurgent groups fighting AQ, but they’re working with the Americans.

    This has never happened before. If the relationships hold, the traditional Sunni insurgency could be over.

    True, a good development for us. But the main reason Sunni groups haven’t been helping us fight al Qaeda before is because we were getting help from Shiite groups to fight the Sunni groups. Now that we’re fighting the Shiite groups, the Sunni groups want to help us, but al Qaeda doesn’t want them helping us, so Al Qaeda turns against the Sunni groups, who are now helping us fight al Qaeda and probably the Shiite groups in the future.

    Oh, and at some point we may be simultaneously defending the Kurds from Turkey, while helping Turkey fight the Kurds. I don’t know why people don’t think we have a plan to stabalize Iraq.