U.S. urged to win backing of Sunni tribes

Friday, August 22, 2003

The U.S. military has been urged to win the support of Sunni tribal leaders to its low intensity war against insurgents in Iraq.

The Washington-based Brookings Institution said in a report that the loyalty of Sunni tribal leaders is vital for the stabilization of Iraq. The report said tribal leaders could tip the balance in the insurgency war led by supporters of deposed President Saddam Hussein in cooperation with Al Qaida-aligned fighters.

"The support of such tribal groups is particularly important in the countryside, but it may also be helpful in the large towns," the report, authored by Amatzia Baram, a leading expert on Iraq and a government consultant, said. "Such support could be extremely useful as coalition forces face growing agitation from a few influential radical Shi'ite clergy and daily armed attacks coming from Sunni Arab supporters of the Baath regime embittered by the loss of their privileges and hoping to bring Saddam back to power.

[On Thursday, the U.S. military reported the capture of a commander of the Fedayeen Saddam militia, Middle East Newsline reported. The military identified the commander as Rashid Mohammed, accused of organizing Fedayeen operations in Baqouba in the Sunni Triangle.]

Entitled "The Iraqi Tribes and the Post-Saddam System," the report said many in Iraq's leading tribes seek to avenge the brutality of the Saddam regime and could cooperate with the United States. Baram cited several tribes, including Saddam's own family, who have held numerous grudges against the former regime.

Albu Nasir was identified as one of a group of tribes known as the Tikritis and which included Saddam's relatives and in-laws. The report said Saddam's brutalities have divided the tribe into pro- and anti-Saddam elements. The anti-Saddam elements have been alarmed by the rising Iranian influence among neighboring Shi'ite communities.

"Members of these disgruntled sub-tribal groupings may prove invaluable to the United States in providing information about weapons of mass destruction, financial transactions, hide sites, or other regime activities," the report said.

One branch of the Albu Nasir tribe that could cooperate with the United States has been led by Maj. Gen. Omar Haza. Haza was tortured by the Saddam regime and the general's family was said to have been involved in the assassination attempt against the president's older son, Uday in 1996.

"Ultimately, given the nature of Saddam's brutal regime and uncontrollable paranoia, it is not surprising that there are many other individuals and clans among the Albu Nasir who are alienated, if not deeply hostile to him and his nuclear family," the report said.

Saddam rewarded tribal loyalty with cash grants, weapons and an unofficial license to smuggle goods to and from the country. The report cited Saddam's favorite tribes, which provided soldiers for elite military units, as the Jubbur and Luhayb in Sharqat, the Obeid in Al Alam and the Al Azza from Balad.

The report urged the United States to grant tribal supporters with a degree of independence from the central authority in Baghdad for the next two years. Tribal leaders should be wooed and bribed for their support in a policy that had been pursued by the Saddam regime.

Baram said democracy should be implemented selectively in tribal areas and employed as a means to penalize uncooperative sheiks. He said free elections should be imposed in towns controlled by uncooperative or disloyal tribal leaders in a message that would be understood by their rivals.

The report warned the United States not to confiscate light weapons from tribes. But heavier weaponry such as rocket launchers, machine guns, mortars, artillery pieces, and armored personnel carriers should be seized in exchange for financial reward.

"Indeed, the intent would be not only to deprive the tribes of their ability to employ large-scale violence for political purposes, but also to make clear that only the central authority in Baghdad will be allowed to exercise military power," the report said. "Similarly, the central authority must make a maximal effort to shut down looting, robbery, attacks on other tribes, or any use of violence for political purposes."

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover

Back to School Sweepstakes