Last updated on: 5/27/2009 8:47:00 AM PST
What was the insurgency in Iraq?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) The World Factbook report on Iraq (accessed on Feb. 27, 2007) described the insurgency in Iraq as:

"...an insurgency against the Government of Iraq and Coalition forces is primarily concentrated in Baghdad and in areas north, northeast, and west of the capital; the diverse, multigroup insurgency consists principally of Sunni Arabs whose only common denominator is a shared desire to oust the Coalition and end US influence in Iraq; a number of predominantly Shia militias, some of which are associated with political parties, challenge governmental authority in Baghdad and southern Iraq"

Feb. 27, 2007 - Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - The World Factbook 

The Iraq Study Group described the insurgency in Iraq in its Dec. 6, 2006 "The Iraq Study Group Report":

"Most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency. The insurgency comprises former elements of the Saddam Hussein regime, disaffected Sunni Arab Iraqis, and common criminals. It has significant support within the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has no single leadership but is a network of networks. It benefits from participants' detailed knowledge of Iraq's infrastructure, and arms and financing are supplied primarily from within Iraq. The insurgents have different goals, although nearly all oppose the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. Most wish to restore Sunni Arab rule in the country. Some aim at winning local power and control."

Dec. 6, 2006 - Iraq Study Group Report (1.72 MB)  
Iraq Study Group (ISG) 

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) described the insurgency on its website in an Aug. 15, 2006 posting titled "Guide: Armed groups in Iraq":

"Tracking the insurgency's size and make-up is notoriously difficult, with groups constantly appearing and disappearing, and allegiances shifting...

The incentives driving individual insurgents are equally disparate - from religious zeal to economic gain, nationalist feeling and anger at the loss of loved ones to the conflict. Virtually all insurgent groups share the goal of attacking US forces, but other goals vary - with some elements apparently aiming to foment civil war. Estimates of the number of insurgents are impossible to confirm. By 2006, US military estimates ranged from 8,000 to 20,000, although Iraqi intelligence officials have issued figures as high as 40,000 fighters plus another 160,000 supporters.

Fighters have been found among the insurgents from countries including Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. Foreign nationals are widely considered to account for less than 10% of the insurgency, but their role is high profile.

 Some Sunnis have also formed informal militias, which operate as private defence forces in certain neighbourhoods where Shia militias are thought likely - or known - to carry out attacks."


Aug. 15, 2006 - BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) 

The International Crisis Group (ICG) discussed the makeup of the insurgency in Iraq in its online Feb. 15, 2006 Middle East report "In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency":

"The Four Main Groups. Based on the data Crisis Group collected, four groups stand out. Over time, they have developed recognised, proficient, and uninterrupted channels of communication through which, among other things, they regularly take responsibility for armed operations.

  • Tandhim al-Qa'ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (al-Qaeda's Organisation in Mesopotamia). Formerly al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), the group has been shaped by the personality of its purported founder, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. It claims to have fifteen brigades or battalions (Katiba, plural Kata'ib) operating under its banner, including two 'martyrs' brigades, of which one allegedly comprises exclusively Iraqi volunteers. Tandhim al-Qa'ida releases daily communiqués, runs two official websites (both of which were shut down as of December 2005), and publishes a short monthly magazine, Siyar A'lam Al-Shuhada' (Biographies of Great Martyrs), as well as one that appears more erratically, Sawt al-Jihad (Voice of Jihad)...

  • Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna (Partisans of the Sunna Army). The group reportedly is an offshoot of Jaysh Ansar al-Islam (the Partisans of Islam Army), a jihadi organisation previously based in Iraqi Kurdistan and which by most accounts has ceased to operate in the country. (Tellingly, a group claiming affiliation with Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna publishes a magazine in Kurdish.) Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna claims to have some sixteen brigades, and it too releases daily communiqués, ran a website until it was shut down in November 2005, and publishes a monthly compilation of its military wing's communiqués, Hasad al-Mujahidin (the Mujahidin's Harvest), as well as al-Ansar, its political branch's magazine. It is a profoundly salafi [Islamic fundamentalist] group, despite a simultaneous emphasis on patriotic themes, and is said to be at least as radical as Tandhim al-Qa'ida.

  • Al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-'Iraq (the Islamic Army in Iraq). Thirteen brigades have claimed allegiance to this group, which also issues daily statements, runs a website (shut down in November 2005 and subsequently reactivated), and publishes al-Fursan, a monthly magazine of up to 50 pages. Again, a highly salafi discourse blends with a vigorously patriotic tone. It is widely seen in both Iraq and the West as one of the more nationalistic of the armed groups.

  • Al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-'Iraqiya (the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance), known by its initials as Jami' (mosque or gathering). According to a credible source, it could be more akin to a 'public relations organ' shared between different armed groups, rather than an armed group in itself. It issues weekly updates of claimed attacks, has a comprehensive website and publishes a lengthy, monthly magazine, Jami'. Deeply nationalistic, but with a salafi taint, its discourse counts among the more sophisticated of the groups."

  • Feb. 15, 2006 - International Crisis Group (ICG)