Iraqi Sunnis Defending Shiites


Interesting development:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 14 — Rising up against insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, Iraqi Sunni Muslims in Ramadi fought with grenade launchers and automatic weapons Saturday to defend their Shiite neighbors against a bid to drive them from the western city, Sunni leaders and Shiite residents said. The fighting came as the U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldiers.

Dozens of Sunni members of the Dulaimi tribe established cordons around Shiite homes, and Sunni men battled followers of Zarqawi, a Jordanian, for an hour Saturday morning. The clashes killed five of Zarqawi’s guerrillas and two tribal fighters, residents and hospital workers said. Zarqawi loyalists pulled out of two contested neighborhoods in pickup trucks stripped of license plates, witnesses said.

The leaders of four of Iraq’s Sunni tribes had rallied their fighters in response to warnings posted in mosques by followers of Zarqawi. The postings ordered Ramadi’s roughly 3,000 Shiites to leave the city of more than 200,000 in the area called the Sunni Triangle. The order to leave within 48 hours came in retaliation for alleged expulsions by Shiite militias of Sunnis living in predominantly Shiite southern Iraq.

“We have had enough of his nonsense,” said Sheik Ahmad Khanjar, leader of the Albu Ali clan, referring to Zarqawi. “We don’t accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis, regardless of their sect — whether Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs or Kurds.”

…The fighting in Ramadi suggested a potentially serious threat to Zarqawi’s group, al Qaeda in Iraq, which is made up of Sunni extremists from inside and outside Iraq. The insurgency has increasingly targeted Shiite civilians along with U.S. and Iraqi forces, particularly with grisly suicide bombings that have killed scores of Shiites at a time. Zarqawi’s followers see Shiites as rivals for power and as apostates within the broader Islamic faith.

…Masked men distributed leaflets that declared the city’s tribes would fight “Zarqawi’s attempt to turn Ramadi into a second Fallujah,” referring to the nearby city that U.S. forces wrested from insurgent control in November. Statements posted on walls declared in the name of the Iraqi-led Mohammed’s Army group that “Zarqawi has lost his direction” and strayed “from the line of true resistance against the occupation.”

A grateful Shiite resident of Ramadi said he was not surprised at the threats by Zarqawi’s followers or the defiance of them. “So many ties of friendship, marriage and compassion” bind Shiites and Sunnis in Ramadi, said Ali Hussein Lifta, a 50-year-old air-conditioning repairman and a resident of Tameem.

“We have become in fact part of the population here, and this we are going to convey to the rest of Iraq and to those who want to instill division between Sunnis and Shiites,” Lifta said. “We are happy to know that the ties with the Sunnis have become so strong that the Zarqawis and their terrorism cannot affect them.”

This is really not that new of a development as reported by the NYT on June 21st of this year:

Late Sunday night, American marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: in the distance, mortar and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them.

In the dark, one spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer. “Red on red,” he said, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

“There is a rift,” said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. “I’m certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don’t want against innocent civilians.”

These terrorists will be defeated, it may take some time but the Iraqi people will not let this freedom go to waste.

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