Al-Qaeda vs. the Insurgency

AL-QAEDA vs. THE INSURGENCY….The Washington Post reports today about a story that’s been developing in Iraq over the past few weeks: the looming breakup between al-Qaeda in Iraq and the rest of the Sunni insurgency.

Key Sunni militant groups are severing their association with al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group that claims allegiance to the organization led by Osama bin Laden….The Sunni insurgency in Iraq has long been fractious, in part because secular nationalists, tribal leaders and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and army have rejected al-Qaeda’s tactics, particularly beheadings. But the emerging rift represents the Sunni groups’ most decisive effort since the 2003 invasion to distance themselves from al-Qaeda in Iraq.

….What the split means for the United States and its efforts to pacify Iraq remains unknown.

It’s hard to say what this all portends, but a couple of days ago Marc Lynch made a point that’s worth keeping in mind: this splitup means that opposition to al-Qaeda is no longer the same thing as opposition to the Sunni insurgency. So if you read a story saying, for example, that tribal leaders are “turning against al-Qaeda,” this may or may not really mean anything. It might be good news, but it also might mean only that the local shaykhs are taking sides in an internal dispute — but are no less committed to fighting American forces. Something to keep in the back of your mind as you scan the news.