Iraqi Sahwa forces ready to assist Mauritania in fight against al-Qaeda

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, pictured above, told Mawtani a Sahwa delegation will travel to Mauritania to provide the government with security assistance. [Ali al-Saadi/AFP]

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, pictured above, told Mawtani a Sahwa delegation will travel to Mauritania to provide the government with security assistance. [Ali al-Saadi/AFP]



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The Iraqi Sahwa Council recently announced it plans to send a delegation, pending government approval, to assist the Mauritanian government in its bid to fight al-Qaeda and other armed groups.

The decision comes following a visit by the Mauritanian Minister of Defence to Baghdad in late September, where he asked Iraq for help in applying the Sahwa experiment against al-Qaeda to the West African country, according to Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, head of the Iraqi Sahwa Council.

"The Sahwa formed a delegation comprising 21 Sahwa leaders who will visit Mauritania to meet its influential tribal leaders and social figures," Abu Reesha said.

"During the meetings, the delegation will discuss the reasons behind the revolt of the Iraqi people – and the tribes in particular -- against al-Qaeda and the scope of the damage al-Qaeda's presence in Iraqi territory inflicted on them," he told Mawtani.

The delegation is also slated to give security, military and technical guidance to the Mauritanian security services, "which will help them a great deal in battling the terrorists, particularly since this guidance succeeded in Iraq", according to Abu Reesha.

Al-Qaeda's ideology and its fighting methodology are the same in all countries of the world, he said, so "this information and guidance will have a serious effect in defeating terrorism at the hands of our brothers in Mauritania".

The delegation, under the auspices of the Iraqi Defence Ministry, will head to Mauritania when the Iraqi government gives the go-ahead, he said.

The 'best fighting weapon'

Sheikh Raad al-Sabah, military commander of the Iraqi Sahwa forces, told Mawtani the Sahwa experiment "succeeded to a large extent because of its popular base, which was the springboard for triumph over al-Qaeda".

"The Sahwa, as a revolutionary experiment by the Arab and Islamic people, could succeed and achieve victory over al-Qaeda because it represents moderate, middle-of-the-road Islam, and shows another aspect of tribalism that calls for peace and order, and rejects violence and terrorism," he said.

"Al-Qaeda knows that the best weapon against it is the force of the Arab-Islamic street," he said. "We in Iraq have gained strength from tribal and religious leaders and the sons of cities and villages."

According to al-Sabah, transferring the Sahwa experience to Yemen, Mauritania or any other nation can reduce al-Qaeda attacks in that country by 60%, as occurred in Iraq after the Sahwa forces were born.

"Sahwa fighting [methodology] is fiercer and more damaging to al-Qaeda cells because its members joined out of absolute faith in their cause, not for material gain or a position," said Dhari al-Ersan, military commander of the Fallujah Sahwa forces.

"We can consider the Iraqi Sahwa as an Arab Spring against al-Qaeda, which can be cloned again in other countries, and can attain the same goals achieved in Iraq," he said.

Thamer al-Tamimi, the Iraqi government advisor for Sahwa affairs, said the Sahwa forces in Iraq defeated al-Qaeda plans to establish its own state, which would have threatened regional security and served as the organisation's base for launching international attacks.

The Sahwa forces were able to do that by stripping al-Qaeda from its popularity and by inflicting heavy losses on the organisation, he added.

"Thus, we believe al-Qaeda can be easily defeated by the people themselves, in a popular revolt," he said. "Therefore, the Sahwa experiment would be very useful in any Arab or Islamic country."

Utilising the Mauritanian camel unit

Mauritanian political analyst Hamadi Ould Dah told that launching counter-terrorism co-operation between the two countries is extremely important at this stage.

Mauritania can benefit from the Iraqi Sahwa experiment provided that the major differences between Iraqi and Mauritanian societies are taken into consideration, he added.

"In this context, it is possible to utilise the Mauritanian camel unit, a special military unit which was the nucleus of the Mauritanian army in the 1960s," Ould Dah said. "It has strong links to [Mauritanian] cultural and social structure, and from a military point of view, it has the same function as other army units."

He said these units know the desert, are more adjusted to the local climate and use military uniforms that are linked to Mauritanian cultural identity.

"They use camels in their movement into remote areas, and maintain strong ties with the Bedouin," Ould Dah added. "This force could use the Sahwa experience in the fight against al-Qaeda, or it could be used for border security where terrorists have set up camp, particularly in northern Mali."

Raby Ould Idoumou in Nouakchott contributed to this report.



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