“Its not a good time to be a Sunni in Baghdad,” Abu Omar told me in a low voice. He had been on the Americans’ wanted list for three years but I had never seen him so anxious; he had trimmed his beard in the close-cropped Shia style and kept looking towards the door. His brother had been kidnapped a few days before, he told me, and he believed he was next on a Shia militia’s list. He had fled his home in the north of the city and was staying with relatives in a Sunni stronghold in west Baghdad.
He was more despondent than angry. “We Sunni are to blame,” he said. “In my area some ignorant al-Qaida guys have been kidnapping poor Shia farmers, killing them and throwing their bodies in the river. I told them: ‘This is not jihad. You can’t kill all the Shia! This is wrong! The Shia militias are like rabid dogs – why provoke them?’ ”
Then he said: “I am trying to talk to the Americans. I want to give them assurances that no one will attack them in our area if they stop the Shia militias from coming.”
This man who had spent the last three years fighting the Americans was now willing to talk to them, not because he wanted to make peace but because he saw the Americans as the lesser of two evils. He was wrestling with the same dilemma as many Sunni insurgent leaders, beginning to doubt the wisdom of their alliance with al-Qaida extremists.
At a meeting between Sunni insurgent commanders:
A heated discussion was raging. One of the men, with a very thin moustache, a huge belly and a red kuffiya wrapped around his shoulder, held a copy of the Qur’an in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. I asked him what his objectives were. “We are fighting to liberate our country from the occupations of the Americans and their Iranian-Shia stooges.”
“My brother, I disagree,” said Abu Omar. “Look, the Americans are trying to talk to us Sunnis and we need to show them that we can do politics. We need to use the Americans to fight the Shia.”
The taxi driver commander, who sat cross-legged on a sofa, joined in: “If the Americans leave we will be slaughtered.” A big-bellied man waved his hands dismissively: “We will massacre the Shia and show them who are the Sunnis! They couldn’t have done anything without the Americans’ support.”
Sadly, Abu Omar disappeared suddenly. Probably killed, although his body has never been found.
If this report at The Guardian is accurate, it seems that there is quite a debate going on within the Sunni insurgent ‘community’ about how to deal with the Americans (and about the wisdom of taking on the Shia). The Sunni ‘insurgents’ have made a deal with Al Qaeda which, as everybody could have told them, was a major mistake. The Shia are more numerous, have more money, more influence in the government, etc.
In short, the Sunnis cannot win this battle. The only way for them to live in peace, to live in safety, is to work with the Americans as much as possible or at least to not attack them. Once the American forces completely withdraw, the Shia militias and Sunni militias will not be hindered by anything and… as I see it, this will result in a terrible masacre at – especially – the side of the Sunnis.
That this debate exists, is a good sign. It is a sign that there might still be hope that the Sunnis will change their behavior. If the Sunnis would stop working with Al Qaeda, if they would stop attacking American soldiers, it will become more easy for the U.S. to protect them, to rebuild those areas, it will make life more easy for the Sunnis themselves, etc. Lets hope that like minded people (like minded to Omar that is) win this debate. If they do, the situation has the potential to improve. Perhaps even quite significantly.
That is, if al-Maliki, however, actually dedicates himself to protecting the Sunnis as well. About al-Maliki, from the L.A. Times:
Iraqi political figures said Friday that Maliki also had failed to consult the leaders of other political factions before announcing the appointment of Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar.
The appointment is highly significant because it is Maliki’s first public move after President Bush’s announcement that he was sending more troops to Iraq. The prime mission of those troops is to reduce violence in Baghdad, much of which is blamed on sectarian fighters.
As the Iraqi commander for the capital, Qanbar would play a central role in that campaign, and any ties he might have to sectarian groups could undermine the new U.S. effort.
Maliki’s decision to push through his own choice for one of the country’s most sensitive military posts â€” and to reject another officer who was considered more qualified by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey â€” has renewed questions about the prime minister’s intentions.
“It’s a delicate situation,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker who questioned the choice of Qanbar. “It’s very dangerous if it turns out that he has affiliations,” he said, naming Maliki’s political party and the anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr.
As I wrote yesterday, I’m not so sure whether al-Maliki actually wants to stop the Shia militias.
Also: an interesting read at the Washington Post: Battling With Sadr for Iraqi Soldiers’ Hearts.
And another interesting read at the WaPo. It ain’t positive.
A few hours before another mission into the cauldron of Baghdad, Spec. Daniel Caldwell’s wife instant-messaged him Thursday morning. President Bush, Kelly wrote, wanted to send more than 20,000 U.S. troops and extend deployments in Iraq. Eight weeks pregnant, she was worried.
Caldwell, a tall, lean 20-year-old from Montesano, Wash., wondered whether he would miss the birth of his child. He walked outside and joined his comrades of Apache Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, Stryker Brigade. They, too, had heard the news.
Moments before he stepped into his squad’s Stryker — a large, bathtub-shaped vehicle encased in a cage — Caldwell echoed a sentiment shared by many in his squad: “They’re kicking a dead horse here. The Iraqi army can’t stand up on their own.”
An important part of Bush’s plan is that “the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can produce a well-disciplined, impartial army capable of taking the lead in securing Baghdad”.
American troops on the Iraqi army:
“We’re constantly being told that it’s not our fight. It is their fight,” said Sgt. Jose Reynoso, 24, of Yuma, Ariz., speaking of the Iraqi army. “But that’s not the case. Whenever we go and ask them for guys, they almost always say no, and we have to do the job ourselves.”
“You do have corruption problems among the ranks,” said Sgt. Justin Hill, 24, of Abilene Tex., the squad leader. “I don’t know what they can do about that. They have militias inside them. They are pretty much everywhere.”
An interesting, but grim as Hot Air puts it, read.
Some Iraqis, at least, seem to be happy with more U.S. troops, but – in the end – they have to do it themselves. They must stop relying on the U.S. forces.
Will that ever happen, or are the problems too big and too fundamental?
“The general feeling among us is we’re not really doing anything here,” Caldwell said. “We clear one neighborhood, then another one fires up. It’s an ongoing battle. It never ends.”
Lastly, also read Jason Steck’s post: Strategic Command.