Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Iraqi resistance form political alliance


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Iraq's new coalition: the insurgents


Seumas Milne in Damascus
Wednesday July 18, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Seven of the most important Sunni-led insurgent
organisations fighting the US occupation in Iraq have
agreed to form a public political alliance with the aim of
preparing for negotiations in advance of an American
withdrawal, their leaders have told the Guardian.

In their first interview with the western media since the
US-British invasion of 2003, leaders of three of the
insurgent groups - responsible for thousands of attacks
against US and Iraqi armed forces and police - made clear
that they would continue their armed resistance until all
foreign troops were withdrawn from Iraq, and denounced
al-Qaida for sectarian killings and suicide bombings
against civilians.

Speaking in Damascus, the spokesmen for the three groups -
the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi
Hamas - said they planned to hold a congress to launch a
united front within the next few weeks and appealed to Arab
governments, other governments and the UN to help them
establish a permanent political presence outside Iraq.

Abu Ahmad, spokesman for Iraqi Hamas said: "Peaceful
resistance will not end the occupation. The US made clear
that it intended to stay for many decades. Now it is a
common view in the resistance that they will start to
withdraw within a year. "

The move represents a dramatic change of strategy for the
mainstream Iraqi insurgency, whose leadership has remained
shadowy and has largely restricted communication with the
outside world to brief statements on the internet and to
the Arabic media.

The last three months have been the bloodiest for US
forces, with 331 deaths and 2,029 wounded, as the
28,000-strong "surge" in troop numbers exposes them to more
attacks; the death toll inflicted by insurgents is widely
recognised as having been a key factor in the growing
political pressure in Washington for withdrawal from Iraq.

Leaders of the three groups - who did not use their real
names in the interview - said the new front, which brings
together all the main Sunni-based armed organisations
except al-Qaida and the Ba'athists, has agreed the main
planks of a joint political programme, including a
commitment to free Iraq from all foreign troops, rejection
of any cooperation with parties involved in the political
institutions set up under the occupation, and a declaration
that all decisions and agreements made by the US occupation
and Iraqi government are null and void.

The aim of the alliance - which includes a range of
Islamist and nationalist-leaning groups and is currently
called the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance - is
to link up with other anti-occupation groups in Iraq to
negotiate with the Americans in anticipation of an early US
withdrawal. The programme envisages a temporary
technocratic government to run the country during a
transition period until free elections can be held.

The insurgent groups deny support from any foreign
government, including Syria, but claim they have been
offered funding and arms from Iran and rejected it because
of suspicion of Iranian motives. They say they have been
under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to unite and
claimed to have had indirect contacts with France about
creating the conditions for establishing a political
presence outside Iraq.

"We are the only resistance movement in modern history
which has received no help or support from any other
country," Abdallah Suleiman Omary, head of the political
department of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, told the
Guardian. "The reason is we are fighting America."

Central to the new alliance - which also includes the
powerful Jaish al-Islami, Jami (the Iraqi Resistance
Islamic Front), Jaish al-Mujahideen and Jaish al-Rashideen
- is opposition to the murderous sectarianism that has
gripped Iraq under occupation, and the role of al-Qaida in
particular.

All three Sunni-based resistance leaders say they are
acutely aware of the threat posed by sectarian division to
the future of Iraq and emphasised the importance of working
with Shia groups - but rejected any link with the Shia
militia and parties because of their participation in the
political institutions set up by the Americans and their
role in sectarian killings.

Abd al-Rahman al-Zubeidy, political spokesman of Ansar
al-Sunna, a salafist (purist Islamic) group with a
particularly violent reputation in Iraq, said his
organisation had split over relations with al-Qaida, whose
members were mostly Iraqi, but its leaders largely
foreigners.

"Resistance isn't just about killing Americans without any
aims or goals. Our people have come to hate al-Qaida, which
gives the impression to the outside world that the
resistance in Iraq are terrorists. We are against
indiscriminate killing, fighting should be concentrated
only on the enemy," he said.

He added: "A great gap has opened up between Sunni and Shia
under the occupation and al-Qaida has contributed to that."

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