"Finally, we decided to cooperate with American forces and kick al-Qaeda out and have our own country," said the tough-talking, confident 21-year-old, giving only his nom de guerre, Abu Lwat. Then he offered another motive: "In the future, we want to have someone in the government," he said, holding his cigarette with a hand missing one finger.
Abu Lwat is one of a growing number of Sunni fighters working with U.S. forces in what American officers call a last-ditch effort to gain power and legitimacy under Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. The tentative cooperation between the fighters and American forces is driven as much by political aspirations as by a rejection of the brutal methods of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. officers and onetime insurgents said.
"This is much less about al-Qaeda overstepping than about them [Sunnis] realizing that they've lost," said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, a planner for the U.S. military command in Baghdad. As a result, Sunni groups are now "desperately trying to cut deals with us," he said. "This is all about the Sunnis' 'rightful' place to rule" in a future Iraqi government, he said.
Now that's just stupid. The Sunnis have "lost" nothing. After four years of fighting us they did not suddenly realize one morning that they were done, and it was time to come around to the "winning" side. In reality, Al Qaeda pushed too hard, assassinating Sunni tribal leaders in an effort to take over the broad insurgency and alienating their Sunni allies in the process, who have no turned against them. The Sunni groups are no "desperately trying to cut deals" because in fact when we leave, as they know is coming, they will turn against the Shiite-dominated government if that government fails to incorporate them between then and now, as it almost certainly will. I suspect that Ollivant knows better, but switched into propaganda mode when the reporter got to him. I'm sure the Sunnis would be quite happy to hear about his comments.
Again, there's nothing bad about this development. It's a positive sign, but a limited one. These cooperative insurgents are at least not killing American soldiers now. But their goals are not the same as ours. They will cooperate with us as long as they need us to fight Al Qaeda, and as long as we don't get in the way of their efforts to acquire political powers...which of course we will (and continue to do in other provinces, like Diyala.) This is not a huge victory, nor does it mean we're making any progress in Iraq.