Video: ‘The only real winner of this war was Iran’

By Terrorism analyst
Dateline NBC
updated 8/13/2009 12:45:18 PM ET 2009-08-13T16:45:18

In a videotaped response to questions from NBC News (on this page) , a spokesman for Sunni insurgents in Iraq suggests that America's revamped diplomatic approach under the administration of President Barack Obama may be causing some of America's most vocal opponents in the Middle East to reappraise their tenor towards the United States.

Speaking from an undisclosed location in Baghdad, Dr. Ibrahim al-Shammari-official spokesman for the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI)-praised President Obama for promoting the ideals of "a shared community and mutual respect" between Muslims and non-Muslims, and called upon him to put these words into action.

The IAI is arguably among the top four most influential Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. It has carried out hundreds of attacks on U.S. military forces, civilian contractors, the Iraqi government, and Shiite paramilitary groups. On its Web site, http://iaisite-eng.org/, the insurgent group posts videos of attacks for which it claims credit.

Its operations have included a 2003 missile attack on a DHL company aircraft attempting to land at Baghdad International Airport and the 2005 downing of a Russian-built transport helicopter (followed by the summary execution of the crash survivors). The IAI is also responsible for creating a propaganda video series known as "Juba Sniper,” or "Baghdad Sniper."

In his videotaped response, al-Shammari, who kept his face concealed, commented on President Obama’s recent address to the Muslim world in Cairo: "His speech was presented in a polite and respectful language. It was very emotionally charged, and it offered respect towards Islam. The visit to our region was marked by an American modesty that we have never witnessed before."

Appealing directly to the American public, the IAI spokesman declared, "the world is large enough for all of us to thrive, and you can achieve your interests without further war, bloodshed, and wasted money…. If America or President Obama wants to start a new policy according to the platform he introduced, which we support and agree with, which is living together as a community and respecting each other, or promoting shared interests, we support that and welcome it highly."

Separately, Dr. al-Shammari also denied Iraqi government claims of Sunni insurgent involvement in a spate of recent deadly bombings across central and northern Iraq. "Among our unchanging policies is our pledge to steer clear of crowded residential areas, commercial interests, schools, hospitals, and similar locations," he insisted. "We do not benefit from these actions; to the contrary, they harm our reputation. The ones who benefit are the sectarians."

Al-Shammari squarely blamed Al-Qaida's network in Iraq for carrying out regular "assassinations, arson, and bombings": "The reality is that we have only reached this crisis because of the actions taken by Al-Qaida… The danger posed by Al-Qaida is that it exists within the Sunni community, and it has nonetheless worked to destroy that community for unknown reasons."

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