Saturday, September 08, 2007

Anbar Province “Success”

The Iraqis of Anbar province are being used by President Bush to demonstrate the success of the troop surge. These Sunnis used to be aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq, and up until recently were classified by the U.S. as part of the insurgency that were attacking the U.S. military. On Friday in Australia President Bush said:

“You may have heard, on my way down here I stopped in Iraq -- stopped in Anbar Province. Anbar was an al Qaeda stronghold. Their leaders of al Qaeda had announced that they were going to establish a safe haven from which to launch further attacks on my nation -- for starters. It was a part of Iraq that was dangerous and, the truth of the matter is, the a lot of the experts in my country had said was lost to al Qaeda.

I went there because al Qaeda has lost Anbar. The opposite happened. Anbar is a Sunni province that once had people joining al Qaeda -- they're now turning against al Qaeda. Why? Because people don't want to follow a dark vision.”

Frederick Kagan in The National Review wrote that, “Anbar, as everyone knows, has been one of the hotbeds and the most important base for both the Sunni rejectionist insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq since 2003.” These Sunnis were the same people who were loyal to Saddam Huessein, the madman who justified the U.S. invasion into Iraq in the first place. Further, up until recently, these Sunnis were classified as insurgents who fought alongside al Qaeda in Iraq to attack Americans. So these Sunnis have become our allies.

Two important facts to note are that these Sunnis are opposed to the U.S., and that their resistance to al Qaeda in Iraq happened long before the surge. The troop surge had just begun to take place in January of 2007, but it was in September of 2006 that the Sunnis began to turn on al Qaeda in Iraq to bring stability to the Anbar Province. Back on April 29th of 2007, Kirk Semple reported in the New York Times:

“The turnabout began last September, when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

Among the council’s founders were members of the Abu Ali Jassem tribe, based in a rural area of northern Ramadi. The tribe’s leader, Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, said in a recent interview that members of his tribe had fought in the insurgency that kept the Americans pinned down on their bases in Anbar for most of the last four years.

‘If your country was occupied by Iraq, would you fight?’ he asked. ‘Enough said.’”

And to the first point of how strongly these Sunni’s could be classified as allies to the U.S., Semple wrote:

“But while the anti-American sheiks in Anbar and Al Qaeda both opposed the Americans, their goals were different. The sheiks were part of a relatively moderate front that sought to drive the Americans out of Iraq; some were also fighting to restore Sunni Arab power. But Al Qaeda wanted to go even further and impose a fundamentalist Islamic state in Anbar, a plan that many of the sheiks did not share…

…For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival.”

Now the U.S. is supporting and supplying these Sunnis in Anbar with intelligence and military assistance (the same Sunnis who were classified as insurgents last year). A senior official in the defense department is quoted in The Washington Post last Tuesday as saying, “There are those inside the Maliki government that might want to characterize this as arming a Sunni opposition to the Shia-based Maliki government.” In addition to the same Sunni leaders who controlled Anbar Province under Saddam Hussein now being tempted to use these weapons to try and reclaim the Iraqi government, is it not also a distinct possibility that these insurgents of the previous 3 years of the war might end up using the weapons provided by the U.S. military against our same U.S. military after al Qaeda in Iraq has been neutralized?

Further, this relative peace takes place in a highly homogenous region of Sunnis, not a diverse city with major sectarian strife like, say, Baghdad.

This is the “success” story of the surge that will probably be the highlight of Petraeus’ report to Congress, and the justification for maintaining the surge troop levels in Iraq.


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