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Anbar Tribes Take Arms Against Insurgency / al-Qaeda

A big development in Iraq today as 25 of the 31 al-Anbar tribes have openly declared against al-Qaeda and the insurgency and have commited to fight them and rid their region of their violence.

“We held a meeting earlier and agreed to fight those who call themselves mujahedeen,” Mr. Rishawi said in an interview today. “We believe that there is a conspiracy against our Iraqi people. Those terrorists claimed that they are fighters working on liberating Iraq, but they turned out to be killers. Now all the people are fed up and have turned against them.”

The agreement came on a day when a series of coordinated suicide bombings rocked two of Iraq’s most volatile cities outside the capital.

It is important to note that the sizes and relative power of the tribes in Iraq varies greatly. It is not reported precisely which tribes are among the 25 and which 6 tribes remain in support of al-Qaeda and the insurgency, which is not an insignificant detail. However, that being said, one of the tribes among the 25 is a 'subset' of the largest tribe in Anbar and some numbers were mentioned in the article.

Mr. Rishawi said the 25 tribes counted 30,000 young men armed with assault rifles who were willing to confront and kill the insurgents and criminal gangs that have torn at the fabric of tribal life in Anbar, dividing members by religious sect and driving a wave of violent crime.

“We are in battle with the terrorists who kill Sunnis and Shiites, and we do not respect anyone between us who talks in a sectarian sense,” said Mr. Rishawi, the leader of the Rishawi tribe, a subset of the Dulaimi tribe, the largest in Anbar Province. Half of the Rishawi are Shiite and half are Sunni Arabs, he said.

Mr. Rishawi said the insurgents counted about 1,300 fighters, many of them foreigners and backed by other nations’ foreign intelligence services, though he declined to say which ones. [Emphasis added]

Kirk Sowell has been providing detailed coverage on developments in Iraq and noted this coming shift in early August.

One of the more interesting developments of 2005 was a kind of de facto alliance between the intensely anti-American MSA and the Sadriya. Yet over the past year, the MSA has gradually distanced itself further and further from foreign jihadists such as al-Qaeda and have at the same time come to blame Sadr’s Mahdi Army for both vigilante violence against Sunni militants and atrocities against Sunni civilians.

As reported in the international Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, MSA member ‘Asam al-Rawi blamed the failure of talks between the MSA and Shia leaders on the fact that militias had come to control some areas of Baghdad, an implicit reference to Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and al-Qaeda others. He then explicitly stated that this was the cause of the “spoiling of the close ties which had existed between the association and the Sadr faction.” Rawi was further quoted as saying that militia factions sought to destroy the reconciliation initiative of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, “calling on the necessity of the Sadr faction to recognize the initiative.” Al-Hayat went on to quote him saying that Maliki’s initiative had not yet succeeded, explicitly blaming the Shia militia.

Kirk will have more details on this news soon in an InBrief, including insight on how it is being reported and additional information provided by local Iraqi Arabic language media outlets.