Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Our "Allies" the Insurgents

In the post below I refer to the "local conditions" in Anbar province that have made some sort of peace there possible. Ambar is of course the heart of the Sunni insurgency, and the home of major Sunni insurgent groups. Due largely to al Qaeda's efforts to muscle in on their territory and aggressive efforts to control the insurgency, some Sunni insurgent groups and tribes have turned against al Qaeda. We have been more than happy to accomodate them on this venture, operating on the old principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. By some, this is considered a "success" for our strategy in Iraq. Unfortunately, though the Sunni insurgents have proven to be allies of convenience against al Qaeada, it's clear that they still regard us and the Shiite dominated government we back as the greater enemy and they are in all liklihood biding their time until the moment is right to deal with us again. Marc Lynch (whose analysis of Iraq I cannot recommend highly enough) summarizes two statements by leading insurgent groups and explains why these statements make clear that the Sunni insurgents still are not interested in any reconciliation with the Iraqi government and by extension, us:

Insurgency statements like these, while obviously crafted for public consumption, should have a sobering effect on those who claim to believe that the current American 'Sunni strategy' is on the road to success. Sure, some insurgent groups have been willing to take American weapons in order to rout their local rivals and to beef up their capabilities in advance of an anticipated showdown with the Shia militias (and Iraqi government) when the Americans finally leave. I long ago pointed out the real grievances that these groups had against an over-aggressive al-Qaeda (Islamic State of Iraq) muscling in on their territory, and I have no doubts that the strategy of arming 'former' insurgents and Sunni tribes is having some effect at the local level. But this has little to do with the insurgency's overarching strategy or its views of either the American presence or the current Iraqi government. Listen to what the leaders of the insurgency groups actually say, not to what American spokesmen project upon them: the major insurgency factions remain committed to fighting until the Americans withdraw and the current political system is revised.

In other words, little of substance has changed. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and any help we can get containing them is useful (although al-Maliki is none too happy with us arming his enemies.) But it must also be understood that our presence in Iraq has drawn al Qaeda to the country like bees to honey, and that an argument that withdrawal would do just as much to destroy al Qaeda as staying to fight al Qaeda can be fairly made. In addition it remains clear that the primary motivating factor of the Sunni insurgents is our presence in the country. This does not mean that peace will bloom across Iraq merely upon our exit, as the Sunni insurgents real enemy is the Iraq government and the Shiite blocs of power that compose that government. But it does mean that our presence in the country is a highly aggravating irritant, not a source of stability, and we do not possess the military power to impose our will upon the insurgents. These facts make stability an unlikely result of the surge.

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