Iraqi Rebels Dividing and Losing Support

CSM – Iraqi rebels dividing, losing support (via Memeorandum)

Fallujah is now emerging as a symbol of the splintering Iraqi resistance. The mutilation of six Shiites widens the divide.

In April, with anger swelling at the US occupation and a Marine-led assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah,thousands of Shiites provided assistance to their Iraqi brothers in the city. Adnan Feisal Muthar filled up his truck with food and drove it to Fallujah to help residents rendered homeless by US bombing. His uncle and two of his sons donated blood for the wounded. “We wanted to help the people there,” says Mr. Muthar. “They were Iraqis and they were suffering.”

But the city west of Baghdad is no longer a sympathetic rallying place for a unified Iraqi resistance. It is now seen as run by intolerant and exclusivist Sunni imams who are seeking to turn it into a haven for Al Qaeda ideologues. Fallujah is emerging as a symbol of the disparate nature of the overall insurgency inside Iraq. Many Shiites, like the Muthars, have stopped supporting it. Since two of Muthar’s brothers and four of his cousins – all members in a family trucking cooperative – were tortured and murdered in the resistance stronghold three weeks ago, he’s changed his mind about how the US handled Fallujah. “They should have done whatever it took to take that place over,” Muthar says. “It’s been left in the hands of people who call themselves Muslims but they’re not. They’re simply inhuman.”

The killingsand mutilations of the six truckers (some could only be identified by family members from old scars) have shaken many Iraqis. While some Iraqis had mixed feelings about the similar killing and mutilation of four US security contractors, in April, these latest murders have inflamed the Shiite community here, and alienated others. “It makes me very uncomfortable to say this, but if the American’s weren’t around [to attack] we would be fighting among ourselves,” says a young native of Fallujah who participated in attacks against US forces last year but has since quit the resistance, saying he’s been disillusioned by a disregard for civilians shown by some insurgents. He was particularly disturbed by the mutilation of the Shiite truck drivers. “We can’t be satisfied with this new group – they execute alleged spies in the streets without any evidence at all, sometimes it’s just payback for a personal dispute. Those Shia were innocent men.”

A deeply religious Muslim himself, he says fighters inside Fallujah are now badly split between people like himself who were opposed to the occupation on nationalist grounds and what he calls “extremist Salafys,” the catchall term used for the branch of Islam espoused by Al Qaeda and most in Saudi Arabia. He says most of the men in the movement are Fallujah locals, but he says small pockets of Saudis, Syrians, and Yemenis fight with them. US and Iraqi officials believe that Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to Al Qaeda, has made the city a base of operations. “It’s like the ghost of the Baath is hunting us down. These guys who used to serve Saddam have grown long beards and wear skullcaps and say they want an Islamic state,” he says. “In April we were all struggling side by side, but now it’s about their own political interests.”

Quite interesting and seemingly in accordance with several other stories I’ve posted of late, including the StrategyPage piece this morning.

InstaPundit reader Richard Goodrich observes that this may prove the wisdom of the Marines abandoning Fallujah, which he along with many others (including yours truly) thought disastrous.

Bird Dog, posting at Tacitus, puts several recent events together and muses,

How many other terrrorists are ready to say uncle? How many have already done so? It’s not like these guys have retirement parties, with the retiree getting a gold RPG. With the surrender of one of al Qaeda’s principals, do those who are talking down the war have any basis for claiming that we’re creating new batches of terrorists?

An interesting question. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe the supply of jihadists will run out any time soon. Still, with the Iraqis (and Saudis) putting an Arab face on the counter-terrorism war, there’s at least a shot.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Hmm. Where are Joe Marshall and L-Shuffle? I would have thought they’d surely have a comment on this one!