Monday, June 30, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 30 Jun 2008

From NPR, Insurgents Turn Themselves In to U.S., Iraqi Troops.

Iraq's Salahuddin province has been known for years as a violent stronghold of Sunni insurgents, including al-Qaida. But lately it has been relatively quiet. U.S. military units there say that's because former rebel fighters are turning themselves in by the hundreds — including some who had been the most virulently anti-American leaders.

One of the most prominent insurgents to come over to the American side is Mullah Nadhum al-Jubouri. Jubouri was a spokesman for the Islamic Army of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group that was once closely allied with al-Qaida.

Guarded by a group of masked gunmen, the cleric called for holy war against the Americans and for the defense of Sunnis, a call that was widely understood to mean attacks against the Shiites.

Mullah Nadhum, now 30, doesn't deny his violent past, but he says militants took up weapons because they believed they were defending their country against the occupation. He says his group eventually broke with al-Qaida because it rejected al-Qaida's terrorist tactics of attacks against Iraqi civilians.

Mullah Nadhum now leads a U.S.-funded force that guards against al-Qaida and other insurgent groups. He says he threw his lot in with the Americans after he realized that Iraqi insurgents were being manipulated by Syria and Iran to create chaos in Iraq.

One reason that Mullah Nadhum has become an American ally is that the local American military commander, Lt. Col. Bob McCarthy, has set up a program that allows fighters to turn themselves in and "reconcile" with the Army. McCarthy's 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry unit of the 101st Airborne Division has lost five men in fighting with insurgents since January.

Gradual Process of Reconciliation

McCarthy's intelligence officer, Capt. Christian Wollenburg, says the reconciliation was a gradual process that started with word of mouth among local sheiks after McCarthy's unit and Iraqi army units made serious inroads against the insurgents.

He says that after the first few insurgents turned themselves in and found that they were treated fairly by the Americans, more came in. The unit and the court system in Balad worked out a formal plan for dealing with former militants. ...

Read the rest or listen to the whole story here.