Pressure Grows on al Qaeda in Iraq

Two insurgent groups believed to be the biggest in Iraq have declined to join the council however. The Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of Ansar al Sunna are still operating independently. The Islamic Army in Iraq has long had its differences with al Zarqawi. They oppose suicide attacks and the targeting of civilians. Four Iraqi insurgents who claimed to be part of the Islamic Army in Iraq told The New York Times about a battle between the two groups in October. U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials also confirmed to the paper that there were clashes between al Qaeda in Iraq and Iraqi insurgent groups like the Islamic Army in Ramadi, Husayba, Yusifiya, Dhuluiya and Karmah.

The other group, the Army of Ansar al Sunna, has cooperated with al Qaeda in Iraq in the past. It's still unclear why the group did not agree to be part of the new council, but it could represent yet another effort to marginalize al Qaeda in Iraq.

Target of Opportunity?

The growing split between Iraqi militant groups and tribes on one side and al Qaeda in Iraq on the other may provide an important window of opportunity for the U.S. diplomats and the Iraqi government. The Sunni campaign against al Zarqawi may represent the only way to eject al Zarqawi and his violent jihadists from Iraq since combat operations against the group by U.S. forces have failed to stop the terrorist attacks. Al Hayat reported that tribal leaders in al Anbar were already preparing for a dialogue with the government and the multicoalition forces this week. The paper had also reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari had agreed to replace the U.S. forces in Ramadi with local Iraqi forces as part of a deal in which the tribes promised to tighten the noose on foreign fighters. The deal was reached during a meeting between the prime minister, tribal leaders, and U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, according to the newspaper. The pressure on al Zarqawi occurs at a time of delicate negotiations between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni parties to form a new government and underline the importance of fully including the Sunni minority in the political process.

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