October 13, 2004

Oust Zarqawi?

Like I mentioned a few days ago, a split seems to be forming within the mujahideen shura in Fallujah, and some of the city's residents are getting ready to boot out Abu Musab Zarqawi terrorist group, Monotheism and Jihad. This wouldn't be the first time local insurgents in Fallujah have expelled foreign fighters, but it's obviously a pretty major development.

I'm still not sure about this obsessive focus on Zarqawi though. Karl Vick's reporting in The Washington Post makes Zarqawi out to be some chief mastermind, holding the city hostage, imposing his stringent Wahhabi brand of Islam on a town of otherwise well-meaning and pleasant Fallujans. But even without the foreign fighters, Fallujah has a good number of young Salafist clerics who command large audiences on Friday nights; Zarqawi certainly isn't the only source of militant fundamentalism in the city. Of course, Fallujans all want to talk about Zarqawi because they know the Americans are all focused on Zarqawi, but that doesn't mean Zarqawi's everything. Home-grown insurgents are all over the place: The Albuaisa tribe in particular, which comprises almost a fifth of the city, has sent hundreds of fighters into battle against the U.S. over the last year. These local insurgents certainly aren't as audacious or as well-funded as outside groups like Tawhid al-Jihad, but they're just as determined.

Don't get me wrong, if the U.S. and Allawi's interim government can isolate the foreign lunatics, drive them out, and negotiate a peace treaty with the rest of the city, that's obviously great news. But the cheerleaders should know that Zarqawi is a relatively minor problem, one that will have more significance here at home than in Iraq. The Sunnis still have no real political representation: The largest Sunni political group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, plans to boycott the elections. If, come January, the city feels like it hasn't received a fair shake, there will be no end of insurgents ready to cause havoc.
-- Brad Plumer 1:58 PM || ||