RAMADI, Iraq -- A group of Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq's beleaguered Anbar province said yesterday that they intend to form a national party to oppose such insurgent groups as al-Qaida in Iraq and to re-engage in Iraq's political process.
The announcement came after 200 sheiks said to represent 50 tribes met here and agreed to form a provincial sheiks council and hold the first convention next month of their new party, called Iraq Awakening. Sheiks from three other provinces will attend, organizers said.
The driving force in the new party, Sheik Abdul-Sattar abu Risha, said in an interview that the tribal leaders would be pushing a slate of candidates in Anbar provincial elections later this year, as well in the next round of national parliamentary balloting scheduled for 2009.
One purpose of the party, he said, is to promote a better image of U.S.-led forces "to the Iraqis here." He added that tribes also will participate in a U.S.-backed effort to re-establish a court system in Ramadi. Sheik Sattar is a leader of the Abu Risha tribe inside the larger Al-Dulaimi tribal confederation.
U.S. military leaders here said they were cheered by the announcement because cooperation from sheiks in Al Anbar in recent months has contributed to a rise in Iraqi police and army recruitment and a sharp reduction in insurgent attacks on U.S. soldiers and their Iraqi allies.