Sunday, May 27, 2007

Perspective: Sunni resistance warms to Muqtada

WASHINGTON - Nationalist Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bid to unite Sunnis and Shi'ites on the basis of a common demand for withdrawal of US occupation forces from Iraq, reported last weekend by the Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan, seems likely to get a positive response from the Sunni armed resistance.

An account given to Pentagon officials by a military officer recently returned from Iraq suggests that Sunni tribal leaders in al-Anbar province, who have generally reflected the views of the Sunni armed resistance there, are open to working with Muqtada.

According to Raghavan's report on May 20, talks between Muqtada's representatives and Sunni leaders, including leaders of Sunni armed-resistance factions, began last month. A commander of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Abu Aja Naemi, confirmed to Raghavan that his organization had been in discussions with Muqtada's representatives.

Muqtada's aides say he was encouraged to launch the new cross-sectarian initiative by the increasingly violent opposition from nationalist Sunni insurgents to the jihadis aligned with al-Qaeda. One of his top aides, Ahmed Shaibani, recalled that the administration of US President George W Bush was arguing that a timetable was unacceptable because of the danger of al-Qaeda taking advantage of a withdrawal. Shaibani told Raghavan that sectarian peace could be advanced if both Muqtada's Mahdi Army and Sunni insurgent groups could unite to weaken al-Qaeda.

Read the rest at Asia Times