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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: 'Collaborator' Label Stalks Sunnis

Council on Foreign Relations

April 27, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Two of the Sunni Arab community's senior political leaders, Tariq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, are mourning family members murdered in the past few weeks (Mail & Guardian) for political reasons. Even as Shiite militias are blamed for killing Sunni Iraqis more generally, moderate Sunnis increasingly are being targeted by the insurgent assassins who denounce them as "collaborators" with the U.S.-led occupation. Three other "apostates" were killed last Sunday, according to an Internet-posted video (Reuters). Last weekend, a video surfaced of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—who has been reportedly demoted in favor of the extremist Sunni-led Mujaheddin Shura Council—speaking out against Sunnis for participating in the political process (BBC).

The recent anti-Sunni violence comes as Iraq tries to get a government off the ground. Last weekend, parliament's largest Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, nominated Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as prime minister. Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld dropped by Baghdad to pay a surprise visit to the new premier, who now has thirty days to form a government acceptable to all of Iraq's political and ethnic factions. Rice said she found Maliki to be "very focused and very clear" (WashPost) but several experts, as this CFR Background Q&A explains, say he is too inexperienced and rough around the edges to lead Iraq through such a difficult and highly charged period.

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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