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Report: Iraqi insurgency more confident, coordinated

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(CNN) -- A few large groups using sophisticated communications increasingly have come to dominate Iraq's insurgency, a report released Wednesday said.

The report from the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that tries to solve conflicts, noted the insurgency "no longer is a scattered, erratic, chaotic phenomenon."

"Groups are well organized, produce regular publications, react rapidly to political developments and appear surprisingly centralized," the report said.

It noted the insurgency, a predominately Sunni Arab movement, has grown "more confident, better organized, coordinated, information-savvy."

"That it has survived, even thrived, despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, suggests the limitations of the current counter-insurgency campaign," the report said. It added that the insurgents' emergence "carries profound implications for policymakers."

The report, "In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency," used voluminous insurgent communications culled from Web sites, videos, tapes and leaflets.

Advice for U.S.

The study was critical of the United States fighting "an enemy it hardly knows," and called its labeling of insurgency groups as Saddamists, Islamo-fascists "gross approximations and crude categories."

It said U.S. and Iraqi forces must "reach out to the Sunni Arab community, amend the constitution and build a more inclusive policy."

Its release came a day after an Australian TV network broadcast previously unpublished images of apparent prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. (Details)

The report advised the United States and Iraqi government to listen to what the insurgents are saying and halt practices that harm the U.S.-led coalition's credibility and bolster insurgent legitimacy. Bad conduct plays into the hands of insurgents, it said.

"The harm from excessive use of force, torture, tactics that inflict widespread civilian injury and reliance on sectarian militias outweighs any military gain," the report said.

The United States also must hold the new Iraqi government accountable, stressing that relations "depend on disbanding militias, halting political killings and respecting human rights," the study advised.

The report also urged the United States to make "repeatedly clear at the highest level" that Iraqi's oil resources "belong to the Iraqi people and no one else," and that withdrawal will occur as soon as the new government requests it.

Sunni Arabs have opposed Kurdish and Shiite demands for autonomous regions, arguing that they won't be able to benefit from the oil riches in those areas.

Four main groups identified

The report identified four main groups behind the insurgency: al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; Jaish Ansar al-Sunni; the Islamic Army in Iraq; and the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance. Two other less sophisticated levels were cited as well.

"Over time they have developed recognized, proficient and uninterrupted channels of communication through which, among other things, they regularly take responsibility for armed operations," the report said of the four groups.

From May 2003 to the present, three phases "in the evolution of the insurgents' discourse" emerged, the report said.

"Competition between groups for greater visibility generated increasingly bloody and controversial deeds, which in turn initiated vigorous internal debate from mid-2004 to mid-2005 and ushered in the current phase of apparent consensus on critical issues," it found.

The report said insurgents "have been effective at ... generating new recruits and mobilizing a measure of popular sympathy among its target audience."

Other trends cited:

  • A "gradual convergence around more unified practices and discourse and predominantly Sunni Arab identity."
  • "There is little sign of willingness by any significant insurgent element to join the political process or negotiate with the United States. While covert talks cannot be excluded, the publicly accessible discourse remains uniformly and relentlessly hostile to the occupation and its 'collaborators.' "
  • "The groups appear acutely aware of public opinion" and are "increasingly mindful of their image."
  • "The insurgents have yet to put forward a clear political program or long-term vision for Iraq."
  • "The insurgency is increasingly optimistic about victory."
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