TRIBAL COALITION IN ANBAR SAID TO BE CRUMBLING
A tribal coalition formed to oppose the extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, a development that U.S. officials say has reduced violence in Iraq’s troubled Anbar province, is beginning to splinter, according to an Anbar tribal leader and a U.S. military official familiar with tribal politics.
In an interview in his Baghdad office, Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, 35, a leader of the Dulaim confederation, the largest tribal organization in Anbar, said that the Anbar Salvation Council would be dissolved because of growing internal dissatisfaction over its cooperation with U.S. soldiers and the behavior of the council’s most prominent member, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Suleiman called Abu Risha a “traitor” who “sells his beliefs, his religion and his people for money.”
Abu Risha, who enjoys the support of U.S. military commanders, denied the allegations and said the council is not at risk of breaking apart. “There is no such thing going on,” he said in a telephone interview from Jordan.
Lt. Col. Richard D. Welch, a U.S. military official who works closely with the tribal leaders in Iraq, said that relations inside the group were strained and that he expected a complete overhaul of the coalition in coming days.
U.S. military leaders hailed the creation of the nearly nine-month-old Anbar Salvation Council, first known as the Awakening, as one of the most important developments in the four-year war, signaling that insurgents and the local population in Anbar, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, have begun to see al-Qaeda in Iraq as their worst enemy, rather than the United States and its allies.