Sunni group declares truce with al-Qaida faction
Stars and Stripes June 8, 2007
After several months of bloody “red on red” street skirmishes and heated Internet squabbling, Iraq’s two largest Sunni insurgent factions may have buried the hatchet and renewed their focus on attacking American and “Iranian” targets.
At dawn on Wednesday, fighters with the Islamic Army of Iraq — an organization of nationalist Sunni insurgents with strong ties to Saddam’s Baathist regime — reportedly began a cease-fire with al-Qaida in Iraq after a very public spat that threatened to break their years-long alliance.
The agreement was announced on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network Thursday, during an interview with an Islamic Army spokesman, Ibrahim al-Shimmari.
“This agreement is based on a cease-fire between the two parties that bans all armed acts and all other activities that could cause attrition,” Shimmari told the network. “We hope that relations between the Islamic Army and al-Qaida return to the early days of Jihad when we were very close to those brothers,” Shimmari said.
In addition to ending all military and kidnapping operations aimed at each other, the cease-fire stipulates that the two factions will quit all critical propaganda campaigns and establish a judicial committee to settle their grievances.
The cease-fire, Shimmari said, “aims to safeguard Islamic blood and not give a chance to Iraq’s enemies from America and Iran.”
Sunni insurgent groups like the Islamic Army often use the word “Iran” or “Safawi” to refer to Iraq’s own Shiite-dominated government.
The reported cease-fire marks the first public effort on the part of insurgents to stem an almost yearlong trend of division and defections within the Sunni insurgency. In addition to fighting between the Islamic Army and al-Qaida, numerous tribal sheiks in Iraq’s western Anbar province have allied themselves with coalition forces, saying they are fed up with al-Qaida’s heavy-handed treatment of local Sunnis and attacks targeting Iraqi civilians.
Dealings between al-Qaida in Iraq and the Islamic Army began to deteriorate after the death of al-Qaida commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi exactly one year ago.
Unlike the Islamic Army, whose stated goal is to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, al-Qaida front groups like the Islamic state of Iraq aim to establish a seventh-century style Islamic caliphate in much of Iraq and use it to launch similar wars throughout the Arab world. Islamic Army fighters and commanders complained that al-Qaida fighters were growing increasingly belligerent toward them, and accused the Islamists of imposing “strange laws and verdicts” and of kidnapping and ransoming wealthy Sunnis.
In April, Shimmari accused al-Qaida of killing 30 Islamic Army fighters and assassinating the leader of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Harith Dhaher al-Dhari.
The two groups parted even further when Shimmari and other spokesmen said they did not accept al-Qaida’s claim of having established an Islamic state in Iraq and said too that they did not rule out the possibility of negotiating an end to insurgency with the U.S. government. Shimmari’s group singled out the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, for failing to correct these problems and demanded that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden step in and resolve the dispute.