The New York Times has an interesting piece on how native Iraqi insurgents are rejecting al-Qaeda:

According to an American and an Iraqi intelligence official, as well as Iraqi insurgents, clashes between Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Iraqi insurgent groups like the Islamic Army and Muhammad’s Army have broken out in Ramadi, Husayba, Yusifiya, Dhuluiya and Karmah.

In town after town, Iraqis and Americans say, local Iraqi insurgents and tribal groups have begun trying to expel Al Qaeda’s fighters, and, in some cases, kill them. It is unclear how deeply the split pervades Iraqi society. Iraqi leaders say that in some Iraqi cities, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and local insurgent groups continue to cooperate with one another.

The only thing that al-Qaeda and the native Iraqi insurgency share is a desire for America to be out of Iraq. What the Iraqis are realizing is that if that happens, al-Qaeda will become the occupiers, and unlike the Americans, al-Qaeda has no problem with killing Iraqis en masse. The brutality of al-Zarqawi and his band of thugs has made the Iraqis realize that al-Qaeda doesn’t give a damn about the future of Iraq.

Some of the insurgents can be negotiated with and would lay down their arms. Some are helping us fight al-Qaeda, even if they also don’t like us. Some of them may need to be brought to heel by the Iraqi Army someday. But for the moment, the military is wisely taking the adage about the “enemy of my enemy” to heart.

The native Iraqi insurgency is also beginning to realize that the US won’t be pushed out of Iraq by force. As long as al-Qaeda is active in Iraq, the Americans will stay to fight. If al-Qaeda is gone and the insurgency lays down arms, the Americans are likely to leave. As we slowly reposition our forces and let the Iraqis take over security duties, it not only leaves us freer to concentrate our forces, but reduces the power of the insurgency itself. It no longer becomes about occupation but about a group of thugs attacking their fellow Iraqis.

This insurgency has always been a game of inches, and while the only chance that the terrorists have would be a US pullout, the balance of power continued to shift towards the Iraqi people. The political horsetrading in Iraq has been difficult, and will continue to be so as the conflicting wishes of the Sunnis and the Shi’ites force both to compromise.

However, all sides have embraced the political process. The Shi’ite bloc has to work with either the Sunnis or the Kurds to form a coalition, and neither side wants to see the Sunnis spark civil war – and the Sunnis themselves know that in a conflict, they will inevitably lose by demographics alone.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has failed. They haven’t sparked a civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites, and they’re continuing to alienate the people of Iraq with their senseless brutality. Meanwhile the average Iraq simply wants to go on with their lives. The people have embraced the democratic process as the legitimate path of change, and the more that momentum continues the more Iraqi civil society will develop over time. The insurgency, while vicious, is ultimately futile since the insurgents cannot do much other than destroy – and the Iraqi people are rightly sick of suffering under the deprivations of constant warfare.

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