U.S. forces have amassed an additional 1,500 troops for another security crackdown in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Arab center in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. The Ramadi operation, as yet unconfirmed by the U.S. military, is part of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s security offensive on the heels of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death. Multinational forces cordoned off the city and used loudspeakers to warn citizens of impending attacks (al-Jazeera, June 15). Which insurgents, however, are the multinational troops targeting and what can they expect as they step up attacks against insurgents embedded in Ramadi?
Insurgent groups operating in Iraq are a mix of the usual suspects as well as more obscure groups. Prior to al-Zarqawi’s death, there were rifts between his organization—al-Qaeda in Iraq—and indigenous Iraqi insurgents in the Anbar area. Evidence has shown that he was driven from Anbar by Iraqi tribal elements and indigenous insurgents frustrated with his modus operandi. Al-Zarqawi’s departure, however, did not stop insurgent groups affiliated with him and al-Qaeda from continuing operations in Ramadi. Below is a sampling of groups that the multinational forces may face during the Ramadi crackdown.
Ansar al-Sunnah is an infamous and deadly Iraqi insurgent group that received wide coverage in Terrorism Focus and in the international media. Ansar al-Sunnah was formed out of the remnants of Ansar al-Islam and the influx of foreign and indigenous Iraqi insurgents (Terrorism Focus, December 20, 2005). Ansar al-Sunnah recently released a video entitled, “The Lions of the Nomads in the City of al Ramadi.” In the video, Ramadi is described as a “salient city giving the American forces a taste of defeat.” The video includes an interview with the emir of the First Western Region of Ansar al-Sunnah, Abu al-Laith al-Dalimi, and the military head of Ramadi, Abu Abdullah al-Dalimi. Both reiterated their commitment to continue jihad in Ramadi.
Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC)
The MSC is an umbrella network of various insurgent groups formed by al-Zarqawi and loyal to al-Qaeda. The MSC has released numerous statements detailing their operations in Ramadi. They are still cohesive, but their strength is unclear in the wake of al-Zarqawi’s death. Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, the emir of the Mujahideen Shura Council, issued a statement on June 16 assuring supporters that jihad will continue in greater force. The general leadership of the Global Islamic Media Front also recently called on other insurgent groups to unite under the MSC so as to strengthen the jihad effort.
The Mujahideen Army
This is another relatively well-known group that has condemned ethnic separatism, but has also claimed responsibility for sniper attacks against U.S. forces and attacks on checkpoints in the area. The Mujahideen Army, however, has not claimed responsibility for an attack in Ramadi since October 2005.
The Conquering Army in Iraq
The Conquering Army, also known as the al-Fatihin Army, issued two videos recently that showed rocket attacks on an American barracks in Anbar. They also claimed responsibility for detonating IEDs in the main street of Ramadi, damaging an armored vehicle. The al-Fatihin Army is a breakaway faction of the Islamic Army in Iraq. The al-Fatihin Army has claimed responsibility for assaults on government checkpoints in Ramadi as well as IED detonation attacks on U.S. forces.
Other groups that have been active in Ramadi include the Islamic Army in Iraq, a group that has clashed with al-Qaeda and the MSC in the past, and local groups calling themselves Promoting Virtue and Banning Vice regiments. Few attacks have been issued in the Islamic Army’s name since 2005, so it is unclear if they are still operating in the area or if their fighters have melded and merged with other insurgents groups.