Iraqi Officials Blame Al-Qaeda/Ba'ath Alliance for Recent Attacks
In a related story, Agence France Presse is reporting that former loyalists of Saddam Hussein's regime are using Islamic language and Islamic groups as cover for their aims:
Fugitive henchmen of Saddam Hussein have adopted the cover of influential Muslim mystic groups to pose a real threat to stability in ethnically divided northern Iraq, Iraqi and U.S. commanders say.
The so-called Sufi orders have a large historical following in the disputed oil-rich region, and commanders say that the exploitation by Saddam loyalists of the orders’ extensive network of lodges holds more dangers than al-Qaeda.
“They have a pretty significant long-term potential to be a threat to the powers that be,” said Major Chuck Assadourian, the intelligence chief of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who is based outside the oil city of Kirkuk.
Known as the Army of the Followers of the Naqshbandiya Order, or JRTN from its Arabic acronym, the insurgent group operates under the cover of the order’s many lodges across Kirkuk and neighbouring provinces, and counts Saddam’s fugitive number two Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri among its leaders.
In the coming weeks there will be greater Iraqi and U.S. understanding of the status of Ba'ath party loyalists, their possible involvement in recent attacks, and the status of their reportedly decreasing presence in Syria and Iraq.
Whether or not recent attacks can be blamed on an al-Qaeda/Ba'ath alliance, which is at this point certainly debatable, it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to provide evidence of such cooperation, as false allegations of al-Qaeda cooperation with former Ba'athists undermines credible evidence of such cooperation and damages a fragile public trust in government officials.