Abu Abdullah, a former Iraqi military officer who was briefly jailed during Saddam Hussein's rule for his Islamic sympathies, says he first joined the insurgency shortly after the US-led invasion in 2003 and belonged at the time to a group known as the 1920 Revolution Brigades. He left that group to join the IAI in May 2004 after he realized the Brigades were being swayed by the secular ideology of Hussein's Baath Party. One IAI goal is to turn Iraq into a state similar to Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a puritanical form of Sunni Islam.
He says most Sunni Arab insurgent groups, including IAI, sympathized and in some cases cooperated with AQI when it was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who was killed in a US airstrike in June 2006.
Abu Abdullah says clashes with AQI began when its new leader, Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also known as Abu Ayub al-Masri, along with the Islamic State of Iraq, started targeting Iraqi insurgents. He blames Iran for infiltrating AQI after Zarqawi's death.
He says the situation pushed Sunnis to the brink of a protracted internal battle, so siding with the US military to root out AQI and preserve Sunni unity made sense.
"Some people joined ... while others are still in the resistance.… We wanted to prevent [discord] among Sunnis, and to unite our front," he says.