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In Iraq, the Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy

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The New York Times has a fascinating piece about the widening rift between the indigenous Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and al-Zarqawi's foreign-infiltrated al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The article details a serious of battles and incidents that have inflamed tensions between the two groups, principally over al Qaeda's indifference to high levels of civilian casualties that, among other things, have quelled public support for the Iraqi insurgency.

On the Times website, the subtitle given to the story is "The clashes present a rare opportunity to enlist local insurgents to cooperate with Americans and Iraqis against Al Qaeda." Reading that, one concludes that either some crafty Baghdad-based DoD public affairs officer is finally making some headway in spinning the Administration's Iraq story and/or that the recent reports of growing contacts between the military and the insurgents may be bearing fruit.

But perusing the entire Times story, there's nothing remotely encouraging about what the al Quaeda-insurgent rift means for the US. While the American forces want insurgent cooperation against al Qaeda, the Iraqi insurgent interviewed says that while he's happy when the US forces kill al Qaeda members, "It is against my beliefs to put my hand with the Americans."

Meanwhile, al Qaeda and its insurgent enemies are locked in cycles of vicious killing and revenge, but the bloodshed is only making Iraq more difficult to control. A Sunni cleric who is part of a group that are outraged at the number of Sunni civilian victims of al Qaeda's holy war is quoted as saying "If you want jihad, the American military is there."

The article states:

American and Iraqi officials believe that the conflicts present them with one of the biggest opportunities since the insurgency burst upon Iraq nearly three years ago. They have begun talking with local insurgents, hoping to enlist them to cooperate against Al Qaeda, said Western diplomats, Iraqi officials and an insurgent leader.

OK, so American officials are encouraged that al Qaeda which, by all accounts, had no active presence in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion, is now -- in addition to attacking US forces and undermining Iraqi public confidence in the country's transition -- locked in deadly conflict with other insurgent groups that are gradually beginning to hate al Qaeda to a degree that may ultimately approach the enmity they have for us?

If that's the good news, what's the bad news? This is. See Democracy Arsenal for more.