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The militants dismantling Iraq's borders and threatening regional war are far from united – theirs is a marriage of convenience between extreme religious zealots and more pragmatic Sunni armed groups.For now, they share a common enemy in Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Iraq's Sunni minority accuses of marginalizing and harassing them. The question looms over who will triumph: The Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which aims to carve out a modern-day caliphate, or myriad Iraqi Sunni armed factions, who fight based on a nexus of tribal, family, military and religious ties, and nostalgia for the past before the 2003 U.S. invasion. They point to the lessons of Syria's 3-year-old civil war, where a unified ISIS leadership entrenched itself as the force to be reckoned with in eastern Syria. They warn that even the Sunni revolt against Al-Qaeda during the last decade in Iraq would not have succeeded without the decisive punch of American firepower. The high-level official said that as ISIS has raced on from Mosul, other Iraqi Sunni groups have seized much of the newly gained rural territory because ISIS is short on manpower.ISIS has the best arms, while tribal fighters, including members of the Islamic Army and Mujahedeen Army, are bolstering ISIS' numbers in the offensive on the Baiji refinery, a second Iraqi security official said.ISIS is careful to keep an upper hand with its Sunni peers.
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