[Marxism] Sunni-Shiite unity against Zarqawi
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Sun Aug 14 06:34:34 MDT 2005
Iraqi Sunnis Battle To Defend Shiites
Tribes Defy an Attempt by Zarqawi To Drive Residents From Western City
By Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, August 14, 2005; A01
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
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.''
Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders and armed followers of Zarqawi have clashed
before in the far west, and Sunnis and Shiites in western cities have
sympathized with one another over what they have said are attempts by
foreign fighters to spark open sectarian conflict. But Saturday's clash in
Ramadi was one of the first times Sunni Arabs have been known to take up
arms against insurgents specifically in defense of Shiites.
The dramatic show of unity in the western city came as Sunni and Shiite
Arabs and ethnic Kurds in Baghdad continued negotiations over the country's
constitution. They were trying to meet a Monday deadline but failing to
resolve some key differences.
President Jalal Talabani, who has hosted days of closed-door talks among
Iraq's factional and political leaders, said he remained hopeful the
deadline could be met. "There will be no postponing of any issue," Talabani
told reporters. "God willing, tomorrow the constitution will be ready."
Disputes over federalism -- particularly whether Shiites should be allowed
to have a separate federal state in the south equivalent to the one the
Kurds have established in the north -- remain the biggest obstacle. Sunni
Arabs rigidly oppose the division, expressing fears that it would split
Iraq and leave their minority stranded in the resource-poor center and west.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad sat with faction leaders throughout the
day, pushing for completion by Monday, said a Sunni Arab constitutional
delegate, Salih Mutlak.
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.
Washington and the U.S.-backed Iraqi transitional government have worked to
split mainstream Iraqi Sunnis from the radical foreign fighters, hoping to
draw them away from the insurgency and into the political process that many
rejected after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government
At midday Saturday, men with grenade launchers and AK-47s still could be
seen in Ramadi's two contested neighborhoods, Sejarriyah and Tameem.
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.''
Separately Saturday, Zarqawi's movement posted statements in Ramadi
pledging to kill Sunni clerics in the west for urging Sunnis to take part
in the country's next elections.
"We, al Qaeda in Iraq, announce that we will apply the religious punishment
for apostasy upon whoever calls for creation of the constitution. You,
preacher at the podium of prophecy, be a speaker of truth, doer of good and
rallier for the rule of sharia," or Islamic law, the statement said.
Similar threats led the majority of Iraq's Sunni voters to boycott
elections in January, weakening their position when the country's factions
began crafting a constitution.
If the draft constitution is finished by Monday as scheduled, and Iraqis
agree in an Oct. 15 vote to adopt it, Iraq will hold elections Dec. 15 for
its first full-term government since Hussein was toppled.
Missing the deadline would risk greatly aggravating political instability
and violence that have claimed thousands of Iraqi and American lives since
Existing law requires the current government to dissolve if the deadline is
not met, opening the way for the election of a new government, which would
take another try at writing a constitution.
Around the country on Saturday, bombings and ambushes killed at least 12
Iraqis and wounded more than a dozen, according to the Associated Press and
the Reuters news agency.
Late Saturday, the military announced the deaths of five U.S. soldiers,
three of whom were killed in a roadside bomb attack while on patrol Friday
night in the northern town of Tuz. One soldier died when a roadside bomb
detonated in Baghdad Saturday. Another was found dead from a gunshot wound
in the Iraqi capital, according to an Army statement. On Sunday, one
soldier was killed and three wounded by a roadside bombing in the western
town of Ruteah.
Also in Baghdad, a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle was left burning in the
Sadr City district, Reuters reported. The U.S. military said the armored
personnel carrier was set on fire by a roadside bomb, but there were no
reports of American casualties. Local police said an Iraqi civilian was
killed in the explosion.
Special correspondents Omar Fekeiki and Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.
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