Iraq: Sunni vs. Sunni, Shiite vs. Shiite, Democrat vs. Democrat

posted at 8:40 am on February 26, 2007 by Allahpundit

The surge is starting to open rifts. None of the players within each group seem sure yet how to respond to it, so they’re taking advantage of each other’s momentary uncertainty to jockey for power.

1. Shiites vs. Shiites. Why has Sadr played ball with the security plan so far? Because, the Times speculates, it lets him wound two birds with one stone — his Iranian sponsors and his disloyal underlings, each of whom has direct links to the other and could threaten his power if he outlives his usefulness to them. So he’s sending to message to Tehran by dropping a dime on the rogue members:

In perhaps his boldest move yet, Mr. Sadr has assisted the joint Iraqi-American campaign against parts of his militia, signaling whom to arrest and telling others to flee, said two Mahdi commanders and a Shiite politician in Baghdad. On his own, they said, Mr. Sadr has “frozen” more than 40 commanders, including about 20 with links to Iran…

They said the cleric allowed the arrests of members of his own militia, or suspended them himself, because evidence showed that they had not obeyed his orders and because he wanted to show Iran, American officials and his militia that he was a strong leader who must be respected and feared…

“Iran puts Moktada al-Sadr between two pressing sides,” he said. “On one hand, they are helping him and they have the ability to take that away. At the same time, they’re undermining him by helping people below him.”

According to Sadr aides and Mahdi commanders, Mr. Sadr’s recent purges aim to put Iran on notice that he is in charge and independent. They said he also wanted to remind members of his militia that he would use every available tool, including Iraqi and American troops, to maintain control of the militia, the source of any political power he wields.

Sadr’s problem in lying low is that he’s not the only game in town. Some of the Shiite leaders who spoke to the Times claim that SCIRI gets more help from Iran than he does. If the surge can’t protect Shiites from Sunni jihadis then Iran may try to capitalize by getting SCIRI to fill the security vacuum in hopes of shifting public loyalties to a more controllable Shiite group and freezing Sadr out. Perhaps sensing that, Sadr released an angry statement after today’s university bombing denouncing the security plan and clearing some rhetorical space for him to increase the Mahdi Army’s presence on the streets again.

A Shiite MP interviewed by the Times claims Iran is also funding some Sunni groups for essentially the same reason corporations donate to both Republicans and Democrats. That makes sense — the more attacks there are on Shiites, the more the U.S. suffers and the more attractive Iran’s Shiite proxies appear as a security alternative.

Iraq’s NSA insists that Iran’s meddling in the country has now ceased, but of course, he’s the same Sadrist tool who attended Saddam’s funeral, insisted in phone calls to Fox News and CNN that it went off without a hitch, then denounced it as a disgrace when the cell phone video hit the Internet.

2. Sunni vs. Sunni. The Baghdad surge gets all the headlines, but 4,000 Marines are on their way to Anbar to clear out Al Qaeda’s influence in the west. The battle for Ramadi, ground zero of the Sunni insurgency, is on tap for April. Petraeus is trying to bring some of Saddam’s Baathist ex-generals on board for the fight and stands a chance of doing so, thanks to the fact that many of the Sunnis whom AQ is supposed to be “protecting” have come to roundly, sorely despise them. Which explains why we’re now seeing things like this:

At least 37 Iraqis were killed Saturday in a highly unusual insurgent bomb attack against Sunni Arabs as they were leaving a mosque.

A preacher at the Sahaba mosque in Habbaniya, 40 miles west of Baghdad, had delivered a blistering sermon a day earlier condemning Al Qaeda activities in Iraq, an official in the town said…

Shiite Muslims are the main Iraqi targets of the Sunni-led insurgency. But police and residents in the Sunni Muslim-dominated area said the people had largely aligned against Al Qaeda militants operating in the region. They said most of the young men in the village, between Fallouja and Ramadi, were employed in the police and the army — unusual for Al Anbar province, long a hotbed of insurgent activities.

The AP has a long, worthy piece about the escalating “fratricide” between pro- and anti-jihadi Sunnis, but what they’re really describing is Anbar’s version of a civil war. There’s dissension in the ranks of the jihadis themselves, too, a subject I touched on Friday. The Sunnis’ problem is that the jihadis are the closest thing they’ve got to an army, so if they move against them and crush them, they end up defenseless against the Sadrists in and out of the government (unless, of course, the Saudis intervene).

The Shiites can count on the protection of the police, who are led by Shiites, and on their miliitas, including the powerful Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Kurds of northern Iraq are protected by their traditional mountain guerrillas, called the peshmerga.

Many Sunnis — who were favored under Saddam — now feel vulnerable without a homegrown armed faction on their side. A “senior defense source” told the Times of London that many of the sheikhs in Ramadi have already lined up with the U.S. in preparation for the coming attack

“Groups like al-Qaida in Iraq exploit these fears among Sunnis and tell them things like, ‘We are here to protect you,’” said Alani, the security analyst.

If Petraeus can bring some of the Baathists in, maybe that’ll galvanize the locals. According to a “senior defense source” who spoke to the Times of London, many of the sheikhs in Ramadi are already lined up with the U.S. in preparations for the coming assault on the city.

Should be a piece of cake. Like Murtha says, the Sunnis can purge AQ anytime they want, at the drop of a hat, no?

3. Democrat vs. Democrat. And speaking of Spanky, behold as his klutzy egomania alienates the Blue Dogs and puts the slow bleed in mortal jeopardy:

The story of Murtha’s star-crossed plan illustrates the Democratic Party’s deep divisions over the Iraq war and how the new House majority has yet to establish firm control over Congress. From the beginning, Murtha acted on his own to craft a complicated legislative strategy on the war, without consulting fellow Democrats. When he chose to roll out the details on a liberal, antiwar Web site on Feb. 15, he caught even Pelosi by surprise while infuriating Democrats from conservative districts…

“He stepped all over Speaker Pelosi’s message of support for the troops,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.). “That was not team play, to put it mildly.”

Even after that Web appearance, some senior Democratic aides say Murtha might well have been able to save his plan if he had quickly laid it out before the Democratic caucus and marshaled Democratic leaders behind a defense. Instead, the House recessed for a week, Murtha disappeared from the media, and Democratic leaders were silent, saying they could not discuss Iraq legislation because no real plan existed.

In the face of an unanswered Republican assault, the Democratic rank-and-file cracked — on the left and the right.

Tough spot for Pelosi, who’s not only caught here in the schism between centrist Dems and the anti-war left but who may have to oppose Murtha on his pet issue. She backed him for majority leader when he didn’t have the votes and embarrassed herself in the process; that’s how deep her loyalty to him runs. Having to defang the slow bleed would be painful for her, I’m sure. And incredibly amusing for us.

I leave you with the words of another Democrat who’s not actually a Democrat anymore, thanks to that schism I just mentioned: “[W]e must not make another terrible mistake now. Many of the worst errors in Iraq arose precisely because the Bush administration best-cased what would happen after Saddam was overthrown. Now many opponents of the war are making the very same best-case mistake–assuming we can pull back in the midst of a critical battle with impunity, even arguing that our retreat will reduce the terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq.”

Exit question: Is the GOP headed for a civil war itself?


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Is the GOP headed for a civil war itself?

No, they will stay home and sulk just like the did this past election.

The problem is that I agree with them about the lack of quality candidates. We are in a “Bob Dole, it is his turn” era again. It is not quite a Bush the elder “I don’t care if I win” era yet.

TwinkietheKid on February 26, 2007 at 8:54 AM

Is this site deliberately ignoring the new FOX show “It’s Out There” or, did I miss something?

Babs on February 26, 2007 at 9:13 AM

The surge is starting to open rifts.

Uhh, no. Rifts have been there for along time. Internecine fighting has been there too for the last year. The only thing that’s changed is the level of internecine violence.

Iraq is looking more like Lebanon every day.

NPP on February 26, 2007 at 9:39 AM


Is this site deliberately ignoring the new FOX show “It’s Out There” or, did I miss something?

Babs on February 26, 2007 at 9:13 AM

Conservatives DO NOT self-promote. You know that Babs.

Griz on February 26, 2007 at 9:52 AM

Excellent post, Allah
Thanks for the detailed research.

rockhauler on February 26, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Sadly, many Dem leaders think they have a mandate from the November elections to pull out as quickly as humanly possible, damn the consequences and put a positive spin on it. They read polls as obtusely as possible to further their agenda and maintain the glorious spotlight that bureaucrats so dearly enjoy. They do not think ahead to the disaster that awaits us if we do not subdue the militia and destroy the terrorists.
Happily, there are some of us left who have the ability to anticipate the damage to our country if we leave w/o stability in Iraq. The consequences of immediate pullout would be disastrous. Why this is not obvious, even on a humanitarian level if not a security standpoint, boggles the mind.
I have faith there are enough sensible people in Congress to reject Murtha’s idiotic proposal.

SouthernDem on February 26, 2007 at 10:08 AM

If the Religious Right does not start being a little pragmatic, they’re on a dark road to disenfranchising themselves completely. It’s one thing to be pushed to the sidelines, and it’s another thing to be pushed out of the game entirely.

The Religious Right has absolutely no power over the Left, but they have enough political clout to ruin the GOP’s day. I hope that by election day they’ve come to realize that it’s much easier to catch the ear of a president you put in power than to try and thwart a president who is undermining you.

Lehosh on February 26, 2007 at 10:21 AM

Great stuff, Allah. Iraq has so many competing factions right now it’s hard to keep on top of them all, and most of the MSM don’t even try. You’re doing good work here.

We are in a “Bob Dole, it is his turn” era again.

Only if McCain is the nominee. I don’t see how you could say that about a Giuliani or Romney nomination.

Dudley Smith on February 26, 2007 at 10:37 AM

We are in a “Bob Dole, it is his turn” era again.

I think with Madam Hillary it’s the Dems who are in that position. Hillary Dole ’08!

Mojave Mark on February 26, 2007 at 10:42 AM

They really need to listen to Lieberman, though I doubt that will happen.

JammieWearingFool on February 26, 2007 at 10:45 AM

NPP,

Uhh, no.

Ah, so there isn’t a Shiite monolith ready to slaughter the Sunnis and annex Iraq to Iran at the first opportunity.

that’s good to know.

Pablo on February 26, 2007 at 10:45 AM

SouthernDem on February 26, 2007 at 10:08 AM

I think the logical democrats will think that way, they know stability is utmost. Just wading through the extremists takes its toll on the political system.

Lehosh on February 26, 2007 at 10:21 AM

These two posts are from the opposite political spectrum, but they say the same thing. Extreme groups cannot be allowed to control either party. The extreme religous right has lost its power because of “overplaying” there hand, and the left is going through that now. It just take time for the Dems (as it did for the Rep) to began to realize that those factions do more harm than good.

right2bright on February 26, 2007 at 10:54 AM

Ah, so there isn’t a Shiite monolith ready to slaughter the Sunnis and annex Iraq to Iran at the first opportunity.

that’s good to know.

Can’t tell if you’re being snarky here or not, but yes, the Shiites are not monolithic and neither are the Sunni’s. Never have been, particularly in Iraq, but it’s only become obvious and reported on in the press recently.

Internecine conflict is getting worse but I’d be very hesitant to say it’s because of the surge. The surge is probably a factor, but correlation =/= causality, and interfaith groups, particularly among the Shia, have been building toward open conflict for some time now.

NPP on February 26, 2007 at 11:16 AM

The whole idea of a surge is to convince various factions that violence is not the best way to handle their disputes. Also, we have to convince the people that the gov’t can, eventually, provide them security.

As for the Christian conservatives, someone needs to tell them that the best they can hope for is a gov’t that doesn’t try and wipe out all religious references. Everyone is disappointed with the choices but there are enough to have some variety. We just need to find our Obama. A young, clean, articulate conservative who can get on the cover of Seventeen.

Bill C on February 26, 2007 at 11:20 AM

Exit question: Is the GOP headed for a civil war itself?

got my fingers crossed.

jummy on February 26, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Exit question: Is the GOP headed for a civil war itself?

No.

The Christian right is not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. Rudy seems to be on track to take the nomination, which James Dobson will certainly not like, but what choice does he have? The Christian right has two issues: Gay marriage (Not controlled by the President)and Abortion. Rudy already came out in support of originalist judges. Can they really complain? I’m a Christian and Rudy’s support for originalist judges put me at ease. He can be pro gay marriage as much as he wants to no Federal bill to support or legalize gay marriage will make it through Congress. I am confident that the anti-federalist in Americans will keep that from happening. The Christian right is not going to pass on an opportunity to replace a LC justice with an originalist, that just is not going to happen. Oh and Rudy will make his appearance in front of the Christian right at the right time, when it helps him get the nomination (which he doesn’t seem to even need), and won’t hurt him in the general election. *That was a long winded no, heh.*

Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 11:58 AM

I wish the very best to the Shiite, Sunni, and the Left that is trying to kill the other in their civil war. May they all have every success, and leave Americans out of it.

omegaram on February 26, 2007 at 12:36 PM

…The Christian right is not going to throw the baby out with the bath water…
Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 11:58 AM

I’m not so sure. To my eyes and ears there have been even more “If it’s [Romney] [Rudi] [McCain], I’m staying home…” than there were in ’06. And statistically, in the close races, the stay-at-home Repubs were indeed the deciding factor.

On the left, they seem even more demanding of an anti-war absolutist than the right is a strong social conservative. This far out, the tides will change several times before selections are made, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see independent runs on both the left and the right.

eeyore on February 26, 2007 at 12:42 PM

RE: eeyore

The stay at home vote I beleive to be a myth. Unless you can show me some statistical data that points to a drop in conservative turnout rather than the conservative center voting for conservative Democrats that ran on conservative issues. Advantage Rudy.

Wouldn’t a left fringe opponent play into Rudy’s hands? Let the furthest right section do what it will. The conservative and even left center wants nothing to do with Hillary. Obama’s support from Hollywood types makes him distasteful to the conservative center.(the Grammys and Oscars saw to that)And then theres the Bradley effect. Who was the last President that won without a single conservative southern state? Advantage Rudy.

You are right we have a long way to go. From what I can see Rudy’s camp is playing it very deftly. He does not have a serious contender on the right. McCain for some reason wants to alienate himself while Rudy is putting potential supporters at rest with his statements about judges. McCainwent from corpse mode on one interview to a totally different style in another interview. His camp seems weak and unsure of the image they want to portray. If these trends continue Rudy walks into the nomination. The general election is only close if Obama can get the nomination with as little mudslinging as possible AND Obama must court southern states, and shamelessly so. It is the only way to overcome the Bradley effect. Advantage Rudy.

Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 1:11 PM

Someone made an interesting comment on one of the Sunday AM talkfests, re how the parties pick their candidates: “Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans want to fall in line”.

Great quote, on its face, light-hearted. After a bit of thinking, quite insulting to both parties. With just enough truth to be provocative.

honora on February 26, 2007 at 1:34 PM

…The stay at home vote I beleive to be a myth. Unless you can show me some statistical data…
Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 1:11 PM

Following the ’06 election, I accepted the analysis of Michael Barone, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of nationwide voting stats, sometimes going back generations. What I remember him saying was than in some of the closest races, Rep turnout was further below average Rep turnout than the Dem margin of victory. I admit I simply take Barone at his word when it comes to stats. Add your point on the persuadable conservative center and you have a lock.

The rest of your argument is a plausible scenario. My later point was – what if the right convinces perhaps Tancredo to make an outside spoiler run (I don’t know if he would), and the KosKids convince someone (who…Murtha?) to be the anti-Hill or Oby candidate? Chaos ensues.

eeyore on February 26, 2007 at 2:23 PM

The rest of your argument is a plausible scenario. My later point was – what if the right convinces perhaps Tancredo to make an outside spoiler run (I don’t know if he would), and the KosKids convince someone (who…Murtha?) to be the anti-Hill or Oby candidate? Chaos ensues.

eeyore on February 26, 2007 at 2:23 PM

I believe if you look at recent history, the actual candidate who got the nomination was way down in the polls at this stage–Clinton, Dole for sure.

honora on February 26, 2007 at 2:41 PM

…the people had largely aligned against Al Qaeda militants operating in the region. They said most of the young men in the village, between Fallouja and Ramadi, were employed in the police and the army — unusual for Al Anbar province, long a hotbed of insurgent activities.

Actually there have been “red on red” battled being fought in Anbar for more than a year. Check out Roggio’s archives.

SouthernDem wrote: “there are some of us left who have the ability to anticipate the damage to our country if we leave w/o stability in Iraq.”

Sadly, SD, none of you are running your party. Your leaders are far too deep into swamp fever to be rational anymore. Nancy Pelosi is a specific case in point.

georgej on February 26, 2007 at 3:32 PM

honora on February 26, 2007

Oh look. The plagiarist troll is back!

georgej on February 26, 2007 at 3:33 PM

Re: eeyore

I do not have any data on turnout either. My main disagreement with those statistics even if they are accurate is that you have to take into account Republican turnout in response to the Democratic candidate, and this is a Presidential election. Alot more is on the line and two years of the Blue dogs ankle biting Bush has to have some effect on Republican turnout.

Tancredo can’t spoil a thing now. Was he not given to alarmist hyperbole, and actually articulated his position effectively he could run a decent campaign. His soundbites from the past year put him on the fringe. Same with Murtha.

The netroots only hope is Silky Pony and we know he’s not going anywhere, not with Hollywood backing Obama. The Christian rights only hope does not exist; Tancredo is not going to carry the Christian rights flag, no way no how. I used to only see the fringe left and blue dogs being marginalized, but now the furhter right groups are going to get squeezed out as well.

Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 3:35 PM

honora on February 26, 2007

Oh look. The plagiarist troll is back!

georgej on February 26, 2007 at 3:33 PM

Yes I am, nice to know I am missed.

Seems even retirees such as myself don’t have as much free time as “consultants” do.

honora on February 26, 2007 at 3:54 PM

Someone made an interesting comment on one of the Sunday AM talkfests, re how the parties pick their candidates: “Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans want to fall in line”.

Great quote, on its face, light-hearted. After a bit of thinking, quite insulting to both parties. With just enough truth to be provocative.

honora on February 26, 2007 at 1:34 PM

Isn’t it curious that I would have said just the opposite: “Republicans want to fall in love, Dems want to fall in line.”
We’re all hoping for another Ronald Reagan while the Dem faithful just seem to walk in lockstop with whomever the Party elevates, regardless of their platform or ideology.
All you need to do is look at Kerry, Murtha, Pelosi or even Oscar Boy.
Dems will support candidates happily that advocate abortion on demand, big government, high taxes, amnesty for illegals and anti-American appeasement foreign policy while Conservative and Republican voters are pretty consistent in what they want in a candidate–Lower taxes, smaller government, border controls and muscular American defense, to name just a few.
The last election showed us how this worked, which was very badly, but the independents that had come over with RR and even GWB, fell back into line and voted for the Dems even though very few of them supported what these voters wanted–more war and more immigration control.
Because the Dem candidates hid or disguised their platforms, they made it easy for the faithful to join the march of the lemmings over the cliff and here we are.

Jen the Neocon on February 26, 2007 at 4:01 PM

Theworldisnotenough on February 26, 2007 at 3:35 PM

I think you’re correct on the marginalizations. But will the marginalized on both sides just sit out the election, or feeling the expression of their committment so necessary, will they come up with 3rd party challenges from one or both directions? (If it were both, that’s where my “chaos ensues” comment came from)

eeyore on February 26, 2007 at 4:27 PM

Isn’t it curious that I would have said just the opposite: “Republicans want to fall in love, Dems want to fall in line.”

Well the point is, at least from my POV, that either is problematic. Falling in love is not a rational process, falling in line is perhaps too rational a process. Just thought it was interesting.

honora on February 26, 2007 at 4:30 PM

Honora:

“Yes I am, nice to know I am missed.”

It’s like missing not having the black plague.

“Seems even retirees such as myself don’t have as much free time as “consultants” do.”

Too busy spending your welfare check down at the bingo parlor?

georgej on February 27, 2007 at 12:33 AM