For four days this month, U.S. Marines were onlookers at just the kind of fight they had hoped to see: a battle between suspected followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a foreign-born insurgent, and Iraqi Sunni tribal fighters at the western frontier town of Husaybah.The Sunni's lost four KIAs and al Qaeda 11. From the description of al Qaeda's conduct in town, they are not likely to win any hearts and minds, and are apparently pushing the Sunnis into the pro US camp. Democracy and freedom certainly look more attractive.
In clashes sparked by the assassination of a tribal sheik, which was commissioned by Zarqawi, the foreign insurgents and the Iraqi tribal fighters pounded one another with small weapons and mortars in the town's streets as the U.S. military watched from a distance, tribal members and the U.S. military said.
The fighting at Husaybah was a dramatic sign of the fractures in support and allegiance the foreign fighters are experiencing, several Iraqi political leaders and other Iraqis said. The battles also revealed what appeared to be fissures within the network's top leadership, they said.
The experiences of Husaybah's residents illustrate why tension has emerged between local Iraqis and the foreign fighters.
Families who had the means to escape the town began to flee in April, as Zarqawi's followers started building up their operations there, a Husaybah educator said. His name was withheld because of the threat of retaliation.
Zarqawi's fighters squatted in the newly abandoned homes, eating the food that the families left behind, the educator said. He said foreign Arabs had ordered women in the town to wear all-enveloping scarves and robes and forbidden young men to wear Western clothes. The outsiders closed music stores and satellite-dish vendors, he said.
"I am convinced and confident that the Americans will be able to get rid of these paupers without shedding blood of innocent people," said Alaa Muhammed, a resident of Husaybah. "We have become prisoners and slaves here."