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In Iraq, Sunni insurgents still aim to oust U.S., Shiites

In an interview, a member of the Islamic Army of Iraq speaks of his group's long-term goals.

By Sam DagherCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / April 10, 2008

Check: US Army Staff Sgt. Chad Caldwell searched an Iraqi after a recent attack. General Petraeus cited Mosul as a city where Sunni insurgents are strong.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP



Abu Abdullah had slipped into the capital to pick up a stash of weapons, most likely smuggled here via Iran or Syria by an ever-multiplying number of dealers.

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He arrived on March 27, just before a three-day curfew cleared city streets during fighting with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. His aim, he said over a recent lunch of mazgouf, or grilled fish, was to make it out alive and return to western Anbar Province to rearm his compatriots in the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI), a powerful Sunni insurgent group formed shortly after the US invasion.

This week, Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told Congress of two main threats to Iraq's stability: Iran-backed Shiite militias and Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Little was said about the broader state of the Sunni insurgency, other than a fleeting mention by General Petraeus of the IAI in the northern city of Mosul and Mr. Crocker's reference to Syria "harboring individuals who finance and support the Iraqi insurgency." .

But homegrown Sunni insurgent groups not directly tied to AQI remain committed to fighting US forces and driving Iraq's Shiite led-government from power. While they have assumed a lower profile, they benefit from the support of former regime figures and militant Sunnis abroad as well as the proliferation of weapons and ammunition flowing from Iran and Syria.

They have also made significant inroads into the Sunni militias, dubbed "Sons of Iraq," created by the US military to fight AQI. While Petraeus said again Wednesday that these US-backed militias had "some former insurgents," the IAI's Abu Abdullah, who goes by a nickname, says he would not dream of moving around if it were not for help from these militias and Sunni elements inside government security forces.

Echoing concerns about the true allegiance of these US-funded militias, Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware raised the prospect in his remarks Tuesday that these groups may one day "turn their guns on us."

Requests to the US military in Iraq for comment on the activities of non-AQI insurgent groups have gone unanswered.

Insurgent's view of US presence

In an interview, Abu Abdullah revealed a complex picture of a Sunni insurgency that appears to support US efforts to diminish AQI's reign, yet is deeply opposed to the American-led effort here.