Since the Cairo meeting, Sunni leaders and clerics, who largely boycotted the last election in January, have urged their followers to go to the polls Thursday and publicly voice their opposition to Zarqawi. Now the rallying cry in Sunni mosques all over the Sunni heartland is that the community must vote "in order not to be marginalized."
Joining Iraqi forces against the spread of Al Qaeda is necessary in paving the way toward social harmony and stable democracy. At least 10 members of the Iraqi Islamic Party have been reportedly killed since the party announced in October its decision to run in the election. Sunni leaders and clerics have accused Al Qaeda of carrying out most of the killings. After the assassination of two prominent Sunni clerics last month, the Association of Falluja Scholars, a Sunni group, pointed a finger at Zarqawi's followers whom they labeled as "collaborators with the occupation." Those strong words voiced by hard-line clerics, who support the nationalist rebellion, reveal deepening schisms with Zarqawi cohorts.
Further, a coalition of nationalist guerrillas in the Anbar region have released a joint statement urging fellow Sunnis to vote Thursday and warning Al Qaeda militants not to attack voters. This warning is another indicator of the widening rift between homegrown Iraqi fighters and the Al Qaeda network, who have been, until recently, cooperating in their efforts to expel US forces.