Next in Iraq: Sunnni civil war?

US and Iraqi officials are in contact with representatives of some Sunni insurgent groups to build an alliance against al-Qaeda in Iraq, outgoing US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad announced March 26, saying he is cautiously optimistic that “success is possible.” Khalilzad admitted he had flown to Jordan for meetings with representatives of the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades. (Reuters, NYT, March 26) In Ramadi, Col. John W. Charlton boasts that a new anti-Qaeda Sunni alliance, the Anbar Salvation Council led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, has cut attacks in the city by half in recent months. But the leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, describes the Anbar Salvation Council as “thieves and bandits.” US forces in Anbar report growing gun battles between rival Sunni militias in Ramadi. They used to describe such skirmishes as “red on red” fighting—battles between enemies. Now they call it “red on green.” (AP, March 26)

The day before Khalilzad’s announcement, attackers stormed a Sunni mosque in Haswa, a mixed Sunni-Shi’ite town 35 miles south of Baghdad, blowing up the minaret and setting the building on fire. Attackers blew up its minaret and set the mosque on fire, police said. The attack was said to be in revenge for the destruction of a Shi’ite mosque in the town the previous day. Police said at least four people were wounded in the attack. Attackers struck a second Sunni mosque in Hawsa at the same time, inflicting minor damage. (AlJazeera, March 25)

See our last posts on Iraq, the sectarian cleansing, and the more and more signs of Sunni civil war.