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Iraq's Shadow Intel Service

Shiite members of the Iraqi government have staffed and funded a 1,200-member strong "shadow" intelligence service meant to counter the Sunni-dominated Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS).

With agents operating nation-wide, the service – built by Minister for State and National Security Sherwan Waili – is reportedly providing information on al-Qaida and former regime elements that is not being supplied by the INIS.

There are questions of legality that have to be addressed and the general fear is that the shadow INIS will exacerbate sectarian strife. At least one US official suggested that Waili’s group was formed because of Shiite (and by extension Iranian) inability to co-opt the INIS, though supporters of the shadow service counter that it is merely an alternative to Sunni bias.

Bombing Unites Iraqi Parliament

With an al-Qaeda-aligned group claiming responsibility for the bombing in the Iraiqi parliament's cafeteria last week, rather than divide Sunni and Shi'a ministers, the attack has instead served to unite ministers of parliament. This echoes a trend in Anbar province among Sunni tribes who have begun to ally with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces in efforts to defeat al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. "They have realized that those people are not working for Iraq's interests. They realized that their operations might destroy Iraq altogether," said Alaa Makki, a Sunni MP.

While Sunni and Shi'a MP's expressed solidarity following the attacks, that unity did not transcend to the most radical Shi'a bloc headed by Muqtada al-Sadr, believed to be in Iran since the beginning of the US 'surge' into Baghdad. Saleh Hassan Issa al-Igaili, an MP from the Sadr group, said that the Sadr bloc will quit the Iraqi government over "the group's demand for a timetabled exit of US-led foreign troops." But the timing is curious, as both the al-Qaeda bombers and Sadr's Iranian benefactors seek chaos in Iraq for their own purposes. Iraqi parliamentary unity after the al-Qaeda bombing is a disturbing development to both.

The growing Sunni tribal tide against al-Qaeda is led by Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, head of the Anbar Salvation Front. The New York Sun's Eli Lake said of al-Rishawi, "This guy, Sheikh Al-Rishawi - who's lost a lot of family members to al-Qaeda - is incredibly enthusiastic about hitting them in every way. Which means not just militarily, but going to the media and saying 'I'm a real Iraqi, and these guys are invaders and foreigners.'" And al-Rishawi's popularity, power and respect among the Sunni Iraqis of Anbar is paying dividends, as he has been setting up Emergency Response Units throughout Anbar. The ERU's are "teams of 750 men whose goal is to stabilize Anbar's trouble spots and provide intelligence to American troops."

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