Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Problems with Reporting on al-Qaeda in Iraq

Case in point, this article from the WashingtonTimes.

The article is titled Al-Qaeda linked Sunnis claim bombing. The bombing that is that killed 9 American soldiers.

The article however correctly notes the following:
The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militants that includes al Qaeda in Iraq
The group is the Islamic State of Iraq. The group is an umbrella organization of native Iraqi Islamist Sunni resistance. al-Qaeda in Iraq is part of this umbrella. Hence the title as al-Qaeda linked.

The other main organization of Sunni resistance is the Islamic Army of Iraq. Confusing no doubt. The Islamic Army is not Salafist...it does not seek a Caliphate.

Not to mention criminal gangs and more importantly that these groups are small cells of fluid membership and the lines are not as clear as such categorization lends credence to.

[For some great up close coverage, this video from PBS Frontline (The Gangs of Iraq). Warning some graphic imagery and descriptions of torture, bodily mutilation, and murder. There's a horrific and profound scene of an unarmed man shot lying on the ground screaming "There is no god but God", the Islamic confession of faith].

So it's not un-true the title of the article that is, but the impression it gives I think it unhelpful. That al-Qaeda is going around blowing things up in Iraq, in fact doing the most important attacks. al-Qaeda has generally merged with Salafi Sunni Iraqi resistance.

Continuing to talk as if "al-Qaeda" in Iraq means something is problematic at best, counter-productive in worse situations, a cover for continued occupation at its worst.

Islamic State of Iraq is not going to attack US domestic soil. It is not that kind of "al-Qaeda". There is going to be intra-Sunni conflict between the criminal gangs, the Salafi puritanical jihadis, the "secular" or Muslim Brotherhood-like Baathist jihadis (Islamic Army of Iraq), and the tribal leaders in Anbar. Not to mention each is going to fighting the now dominant Shia government and in certain cases the Kurds (e.g. Kirkuk).

Different thinkers point to different Sunni groups coming out of that fight victorious, but regardless there is not enough local support for full-on Taliban like Salafism in Iraq. Nor the Middle East or Arab world in general.

The reason they gain strength is because of the American occupation.

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