Stay The Course
A sign of hope that all is not lost in Iraq or the war on terror:
Late Sunday night, American marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: in the distance, mortar and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them.
In the dark, one spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer.
"Red on red," he said, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.
Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.
A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.
"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."
The nationalist insurgent groups, "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the Jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.