September 19, 2007:
The trend in Iraq is unmistakable. "Concerned
Citizen" groups are forming throughout the country armed and able to stop
attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Six months ago, these groups were united
together as an insurgent network, which was a mix of nationalists, Islamists,
and former Iraqi soldiers fighting Coalition Forces. Today, they have taken
oaths to end their fight against the Iraqi Government and against AQI, are
registered in a biometric (fingerprints, DNA, eye scan) database, and are being
recruited into the Iraqi Army and Police. Six months ago, many of these
fighters were members of one of the largest insurgent organizations in Iraq.
The 1920 Revolutionary
Brigades were formed not long after the Fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The
group was synonymous with the Islamic Resistance Movement (IRM). Some reports
indicated that a similar group was formed as an anti-Saddam movement in the
1980's. The group was a nationalist movement with the goal of expelling
Coalition Forces from Iraq. The group did not conduct large-scale attacks on
civilians like AQI, but rather focused on attacks directed at Coalition Forces.
During the elections in 2005, they followed through with their ideology and
defended the polls against AQI.
The relationship between AQI
and 1920 has always been strained, although 1920 was a larger organization and
maintained some support for AQI. However, AQI saw 1920 as needing to abandon
their nationalist ideals and embrace Islamism. In their fight against the
Coalition, they were untied. They worked together until the Coalition grew to
include larger portions of the new Iraqi Security Forces.
Other cracks in the
relationship between 1920 and AQI started in 2004 in Fallujah. There, 1920
appeared as a victor in the First Battle of Fallujah. With the rush of
Islamists into the city after the April battle, 1920 was forced to accept
sharia law. Members of 1920 were tortured, tried, and executed at the hands of
the AQI predecessor, Jama'at Tawhid wa Jihad.
The next crack occurred with
an exchange of words, then bullets, between the groups concerning their uniting
under a single banner. The quasi-relationship ended with the March 28
assassination of the Military Emir of the Group, Harith al-Dhari. The victim
was also the nephew of another al-Dhari, who is a key politician in the
Association of Muslim Scholars. At this point, the separation widened and the
two groups broke into skirmishes.
In early 2007, 1920 then split
into the Islamic Jihad in Iraq, and the Islamic Conquest. Within a month, the
Islamic Jihad went back to being the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade and the Islamic
Conquest became Hamas in Iraq. This split appeared to be in name only.
In June 2007, 1920 decided
that "the enemy of their enemy was their friend" during the Battle of Baqoubah.
The first steps in real reconciliation occurred with US forces providing ten
AK-47s to 1920 fighters. Since then, 1920 has joined forces with Coalition
Forces. They have forsworn attacks on the Coalition, taken up arms against Al
Qaeda, and are joining Iraqi Security Forces. 1920 has become the Baqoubah
Guardians, the Knights of the Two Rivers, the Freedom Fighters, and, most
importantly, Iraqi soldiers and police.