Al-Qaeda on the Run in Iraq ?

Pan-Arab al-Hayat has been closely reporting on the ongoing war between al-Qa'ida and Sunni groups that reject al-Qa'ida's extremist agenda. According to the latest reports, the conflict has turned into open warfare, with al-Qa'ida's affiliates pronouncing their Sunni opponents as apostates and collaborators.

The significance of declaring Sunni opponents as apostates lies in that it gives al-Qa'ida a "legal right" to eliminate its enemies. Much in the same way that al-Zarqawi had pronounced the Iraqi Shi'a to be non-Muslims, launching a horrific wave of sectarian mass-killings.

The conflict in the Sunni areas has several dimensions, on one hand, local and tribal forces see al-Qa'ida's extreme violence against Iraqi Shi'a to be detrimental to the Sunnis of Iraq and as inviting repression against Sunni civilians and Sunni areas. That has led to intense clashes between al-Qa'ida's members (especially in the cities of Anbar) and tribal forces supported by the government.

On the other hand, Sunni insurgent groups who say that they resist the American occupation, but do not attack Iraqi civilians, such as "the Islamic Army" or "the Brigades of the 1920 revolution," also perceive al-Qa'ida as an extremist faction that stains the reputation of the resistance and undermines its support among the populace; in addition to al-Qa'ida's totalizing tendencies (Al-Qa'ida had demanded that all Sunni groups pledge allegiance to its "Islamic State of Iraq.")

After a period of covert confrontations, including assassinations and counter-assassinations, al-Hayat said that anti-al Qa'ida Sunni groups have finally announced their public opposition to al-Qa'ida and its "Islamic state," and declared that they will unite their efforts within an organization called “the Front for Struggle and Reform."

The conflict is leading to further fragmentation within al-Qa'ida, al-Hayat said, with splits announced within the organization of Ansar al-Sunna, one of the main allies of al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

Clearly, one of the objectives of the new front is to further marginalize al-Qa'ida and its affiliate organizations (such as Ansar al-Sunna) and to present a "new face" for the resistance in Iraq, with the new front announcing, in its first statement, that it does not engage in attacks against Iraqi civilians.

The conflict is leading to further fragmentation within al-Qa'ida, al-Hayat said, with splits announced within the organization of Ansar al-Sunna, one of the main allies of al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

Lastly, al-Hayat also noted that, in the context of this emergent Sunni-Sunni conflict, al-Qa'ida in Iraq has been recently publishing frequent statements announcing the assassination of Sunnis accused of “apostasy” and being "agents" of the occupation. These individuals, the newspaper added, tend to support armed groups that oppose al-Qa'ida’s agenda.

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