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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For U.S. and Sunni Allies, a Turning Point

In the rush to hand over power to the Iraqi central government, declare that Iraq is stable and the central government is capable, declare that the IA and the IPs are ready to handle security, declare a second (counterinsurgency) victory, and pull-out, the U.S. is once again on course to destroy the limited progress they have made in Iraq since the summer of 2006. This progress, whose underlying strategy was developed in 2006 by the civil-military relations team of 1st Armored Divisions's 1st Brigade Combat Team(+), and approved for implementation by COL(P) Sean MacFarland in Al Anbar, is something that was due in part to the Sunni allies in the Sons of Iraq (in addition to a whole host of other factors). Notice how this began before the famed surge.

Now with violence (at least in Baghdad and Al Anbar) down, coupled with Western journalists not reporting on frequent attacks in their Baghdad backyards (they never travel to areas where violence has recently been up like the previously quasi-tamed Tal Afar, Mosul, Basra, and parts of Diyala), the U.S. is once again about to make a tactical error with bad strategic effects. Instead of continually attempting to prop up a central government that cannot rule a country whose territorial boundaries were created by colonial line drawing, the U.S. needs to keep encouraging programs that allow the different groups in Iraq to self govern their own areas. The U.S., of course, will not do this because they fear that Iraq, although supposedly a federalist nation-state like the United States, will break apart into 18 separate countries or 3 separate countries with strong provincial governments along sectarian lines. God forbid the Iraqis develop a system of government that relies on traditional tribal leadership. Here is a look back on the late CPT Travis Patriquin’s presentation outlining his strategy for Al Anbar, which serves as an elementary introduction to the underlying tribal based strategy that began the Al Anbar Awakening and the influence of the Sons of Iraq: How to Win the War in Al Anbar

Another question to ask is what has the U.S. done lately to help out the 18 provincial governments? Nothing. If the U.S. continued to allow grassroots security initiatives (e.g. the Sons of Iraq protecting their areas from Shiites and the Shiite dominated central government), this may lead to a true federalist state or, إن شاء الله, the dissolution of the nation-state of Iraq into three separate nation-states each with strong provincial governments along the lines of Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish. If the latter happens, إن شاء الله, then the U.S. would still have more Arab allies (Sunni Iraqis) and more Sunni allies in general (the Kurds).

What then is preventing the U.S. from doing this? It is often stated that neoconservatives believe that Iraq must be the beacon of democracy in the Middle East. What is not stated is that the neocons main goal is to get Iran to follow suit, after, of course, Iraq is the dreamed of Shiite beacon. We already have Sunni nation-states that tolerate us (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, etc.), what neocons want is a stable Shiite Iraq influencing Iran. Allowing for federalism to take root in Iraq, which might lead to partition, would not help the neocon cause. Ironically, the states' rights argument that conservatives often advocate for in America is exactly what they don't want the provinces in Iraq to have.

The best option is to continue to allow the Sons of Iraq to remain autonomous and not be handed over to the incompetent, Iranian-influenced, Shiite government. So what if Iran gains more influence over Shiites in Iraq and so what if there is a Shiite crescent spanning from Lebanon to Iran? Shia Islam is the minority form of Islam across the world! Aren't we supposed to be winning over the majority of the followers of Islam, winning over Sunnis to enlist them for help in fighting radical terrorist organizations like the Sunni Al Qaeda and Sunni Hamas, and showing Muslims that we are not on a Christian and Jewish crusade in the Middle East intent on wiping out Islam? Wouldn't showing support for the Sunnis in Iraq (to include the Kurds) make us look better to the majority Sunni states of Pakistan, Syria, Indonesia, and dare I say it, Palestine? We need to support the world majority Sunnis over the minority Shiites even if it means a Shiite crescent from Hezbollah dominated Lebanon, through Shiite Iraq, and Shiite Iran. With this support we could possibly win over the support of the majority of Muslims, who are Sunni, possibly win over the support of the majority of Palestinians, who are Sunni, and relegate Shiites to three disjointed areas with different goals (Hezbollah - anti-Israel, Shiite Iraq - who knows what their true goals are, and Shiite Iran - goal of a larger theocracy – maybe? - but are distrusted across the Arab world because they are Persian).

Here is are a few excerpts from the article:
"The big issue that concerns us is what happens if the [Shiite Iraqi] government drops the ball and stops paying these guys," said Capt. Parsana Deoki, 32, of New York. "You'd have up to 400 SOI without jobs, without an income. That presents a problem. They have military training and access to weapons -- unemployed, with weapons, young men with an established chain of command. You can fill in the blanks…"

But Sons of Iraq leaders say their relationships with police commanders have been forged under heavy U.S. pressure and remain beset by mutual distrust.
"I feel sorry to say this," said Zaied Subhi, a Sons of Iraq leader. "There is no trust between us…"

U.S. soldiers see Sons of Iraq leaders as extraordinary sources of intelligence, but what makes them so attractive as allies -- their connections to the insurgency -- is also what makes the prospect of their dissolution so alarming…
If the Sons of Iraq are effectively dissolved, with GEN Odierno's approval, it looks like GEN Odierno will get his chance to fight another conventional battle against a reconstituted Sunni insurgency… this, I think, is the first mistake of the reign of GEN Odierno caused in part by military officers allowing neoconservative strategic goals to shape policy in Iraq.

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