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Knowing the Enemy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In a move that surprised many, the US military acknowledged on Sunday that its officials have met with insurgents in Iraq . But who are the groups perpetuating violence across the country?

A year ago, US military forces were claiming that Afghan Arab fighters were entering Iraqi in their droves, yet denied that they represented the major force driving the insurgency. Instead, the US command insisted its forces were being targeted by groups loyal to the former regime of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

It is only in the last few weeks that the US stance has shifted dramatically. The military is finally admitting that thousand of Arab fighters are active in Iraq and pose a real threat, especially in the North and Central regions. This truth has been known to us despite their constant denials. During the second battle for Fallujah, the US military issued a number of statements minimizing the role of foreigners in the fighting and estimating their numbers to be “close to 4000 as most of the arrested were Iraqis, with only 28 foreigners.” Of those, “six were Egyptian, six Syrian; three were Saudi, another three Sudanese, two Jordanian, and one fighter each from Libya , Britain , Yugoslavia , Tunisia , Palestine , and Iraqi Kurdistan.”

One of the reports in the media included amazing detail on the twenty mosques in the city, out of a total of one hundred thirty three that were being used by insurgents to fight US forces and store ammunition. The report also spoke highly of the fighters’ high organization after “the discovery of centers to counterfeit passports, ID cards, credit cards, and vehicle registration plates.” Are we to believe that the US military failed to understand its enemy? Or, was it withholding information on insurgents to avoid publicizing their cause?

The one thing we are sure of, however, is that politicians need to know the facts on the ground to formulate their policies accordingly. In addition, an increased knowledge of one’s opponents and their needs complicates matters and make events harder to control. In the case of Iraq , if the rumor that insurgents hail from foreign countries proves to be true, internal criticism of the current political system will be dismissed. The solution becomes an agreement between the US and Iraq ’s neighbors to halt the influx of foreign fighters.

However, if the insurgency turns out to be made up of Iraqis, the political solution will be to enhance communication and negotiate with the fighters so a peaceful Iraq can become a reality. Of course many of the fighters reject outright US military presence in the country. This problem can be addressed by a timetable that ensures the departure of US forces if the violence subsides. Others demand participation in the political process. They should be incorporated into local politics without infringing on the rights of any current participants.

To be honest, all opposition factions in Iraq can be brought into the fold. As for foreign powers, whether independent or supported by neighboring countries, a successful solution is almost impossible to attain because their unique cause is violence.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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