|The Awakening Council fighters have been accused
of weakening “legitimate resistance” [EPA]
US-funded Awakening Council groups in Iraq have announced the formation of a political party, aimed at ensuring a strong Sunni presence in the Baghdad area ahead of crucial local elections.
Abu Azzam al-Tamimi, leader of the most influential Awakening Council near the capital, announced the formation of the Iraqi Karama (Dignity) Front on Monday, saying that the party “would fill the political gap in the country”.
Analysts say his statement reflects rising competition between different groups to lead the country’s Sunni Muslim community.
The newly created Iraqi Karama Front includes most of the prominent leaders from the councils in Amiriya, Ghazaliya, Khadra, Taji, Abu Ghreib, in addition to a number of former army officers and prominent tribal figures, al-Tamimi said.
The political party will seek peaceful means, shun violence and reject any sectarian identity that may strip it of its political content, he said.
The party is reported to have close ties with the Islamic Party of Tariq Hashimi, the Iraqi vice-president, who has been pushing for a bigger Sunni representation in future governorate elections.
But other Sunni groups, especially the influential Muslim Scholars Association (MSA), have accused the members of the councils’ militias of being used to weaken “legitimate resistance against the American occupation”.
The groups have drawn recruits from major armed “resistance groups”, including the Islamic Army and the Iraqi Hamas, who were mainly angered by al-Qaeda’s killings of civilians, especially in al-Anbar province and Baghdad areas.
They have also gained support by offering financial compensation, attracting many of the unemployed.
No date has yet been set for Iraq’s local elections.