Sunday, July 13, 2014

U.S. and Iraqis Try to Fragment Extremist Group

By ERIC SCHMITT and ALISSA J. RUBIN, NYT, JULY 12, 2014

WASHINGTON — American and Iraqi officials are seeking ways to exploit emerging fissures between the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and Iraqi extremist groups that allied with it to seize much of northern and western Iraq over the past month.

The groups, which follow the Sunni branch of Islam, made common cause with ISIS, whose members are also Sunni militants, to fight Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. The Shiites are the majority in Iraq, and there is deep distrust between them and the Sunnis.

Recently in Mosul, ISIS has rounded up members of Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath Party, whom the group saw as potential rivals. Residents in Salahuddin Province are chafing under harsh Islamic law that ISIS has already started putting in place. Former Baathists are suspected in last week’s assassination of the ISIS emir in Diyala Province.

In short, the marriages of convenience formed among ISIS and Baathists, Sunni nationalists, Sunni tribal groups and Sunni jihadists to fight a common enemy — the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki — are coming under strain. Those fissures are being watched closely as the United States military’s Central Command is expected to deliver to the Pentagon this week a classified report on whether Iraq’s shattered security forces can rally to combat the threat.

(More here.)

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