First Published: 2012-04-12


Iraq Sunni insurgents have new target: Iran


Sunni insurgents vow to fight Iran with same force they fought American soldiers in Iraq.


Middle East Online

By Mohamad Ali Harissi - BAGHDAD

Sunni insurgents who battled American soldiers in Iraq until their long-time enemy withdrew last year have turned their wrath on a new target: Shiite Iran.

The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime on April 9, 2003, the dissolution of the Iraqi army and ruling Baath party and the rise to power of Shiites after 80 years of Sunni domination, buoyed Iraqi and Arab jihadists.

Four months after most US troops left Iraq, the jihadists had to find a new reason to sustain their continued presence -- enter Iran and the Shiite-led Iraqi regime.

"Armed groups always need to find an enemy in order to justify their existence," said Hamid Fadel, a professor of political science at Baghdad University.

In the run-up to the 9th anniversary of the fall of Saddam's regime and the start of US occupation, militant groups issued a plethora of statements attacking Iran and Shiites.

The Islamic Group in Iraq, a coalition of 17 insurgent groups formed in 2010, said in a statement that "we will fight Iran with the same force that we fought their brothers, the Americans."

The United States was "forced" to leave Iraq "to a worse occupier, the greedy Persian coward," said the statement posted on jihadist websites.

"It has become clear beyond any doubt that Iran occupies Iraq through its traitor agents," it added.

The statement played on the centuries-old hostility between Arabs and Persians, as well as the outrage of Sunnis in Iraq who lost their power to the majority Shiites after the 2003 US-led invasion.

That anger is reinforced by the fact that some of Iraq's current leaders lived in exile in Iran during the 1980-1988 war between the two countries.

Another group of jihadists, the Banner of Right and Jihad, vowed to continue "fighting the enemy" and urged God to grant it victory over "America and its (followers) the Safavids," in a derogatory reference to Shiites.

For its part, the Murabitun Jihad Brigades asked for God's blessing in securing "a final victory over the (followers) of the occupation and its agents represented in the government" of Iraq.

And the Islamic Army in Iraq said the US left "behind them an uglier, more brutal and ignorant occupation, where the graves are full of the innocent bodies of Sunnis."

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Al-Qaeda's front organisation, said that it had carried out 195 attacks against "the Safavid army and police" between December 28 and February 24.

Fadel said the new strategy of Sunni insurgents has a "regional dimension."

"The majority of the groups that portray Iran as the enemy are probably in contact with countries in the region that are in conflict with Iranian politics, or with the Baath party, which rejects the political process," Fadel said.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Saddam's vice president and the highest-ranking member of his regime still on the run, poured oil on the fire in a video posted online last week,

Duri charged that that Iran plans on "taking over Iraq and then destroying the nation."

Meanwhile, Shiite armed groups who also battled the US "occupiers" now face no opponent and have decided to enter politics.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, which has been accused of killing US troops, announced in December that it would join the Iraqi political process.

And Jawad al-Hasnawi, an MP from the Sadr movement whose Mahdi Army armed fought pitched battles against American and Iraqi forces, told AFP "the number one enemy of the Sadrist movement now... is corruption, unemployment and dictatorship."


Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe