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Signs of Sunni Conflict in Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Unmistakable signs of conflict are starting to manifest in Iraq’s Anbar province between the al Sahwa forces affiliated to the clans and the Islamic party which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) arm in Iraq. The outbreak of such a clash would be a blow to all that has been achieved concerning the security of one of Iraq’s largest provinces.

Anbar province, which has eight vital administrative zones in Iraq, was a symbol of resistance in the face of the US Army and it later became a symbol for the expulsion of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Moreover; it also became a symbol of the political shortcomings of Iraq’s Sunnis.

Despite reports that the conflict between the Sahwa forces and the Islamic party revolves around its police chief, the blatant truth is that it centers on influence and power between the Sahwa forces, which are characterized by simplicity and clarity, and the more organized and complicated Islamic party.

Simply put; the Sahwa forces are distinguished by the absence of a clear agenda and if they forge a political truce; it will not be at the expense of Iraq’s Arabism since they are clearer and more aware of the gravity of the Iranian ambitions and interference in Iraq. Furthermore, the Sahwa Council is also marked by its explicit hostility towards Al Qaeda and fundamentalist groups and it has raised, and will continue to raise arms against them and sacrifice its youth and elders [for the cause].

The Sahwa Council’s confrontation of Al Qaeda and its support of security has led it becoming Washington’s ally after Anbar province was one of the main strongholds of resistance against the US Army. Certainly, the power game is enticing to the Sahwa Council – that is a clan-related matter.

As for the Iraqi Islamic party; it is the complete opposite. The party is more like the Muslim Brotherhood, pacifying to the point of passivity; however, it is dangerous and capable of pouncing on any political ‘Taqiyya’*, whenever the opportunity presents itself. The party, which has also allied itself with the US, wants to have full Sunni monopoly of the Iraqi political process; however, the rising power of the clans is a reality that crowds the Islamic party.

The eruption of conflict between the Sahwa Council and the Islamic party would demolish all the security achievements, commercial prosperity and political ease in Anbar thus far. Furthermore, clashes would ruin the efforts of the rational Sunnis in Iraq who have long steered clear of the political process in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

This is why in the event of conflict in Anbar, which has an estimated population of 1.5 million or more and which has approximately 20 million weapon pieces, it would mean a serious setback to all that has been achieved on a political and security level.

Another danger presented in the case of conflict is that it would grant malicious hands in the region fertile ground through which to undermine security and stability accomplishments in Anbar at a time when a broader Sunni return to the Iraqi political scene was expected.

What Anbar needs today is an increased dose of political reality by the parties that are concerned about Iraq so that all the gains would not be lost in vain at a critical time that calls for activating the participation of all political sects, rather than absenting a party at the expense of another – especially since there are states in our region whose strength lies in the division of their opponents.

* Taqiyya is a Shia concept of dissimulation. It refers to a practice through which believers are allowed to conceal their faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion, however in this context it refers to hypocrites.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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