By Lex, Posted on January 15, 2007
“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.
Another insurgent commander told me: “At the beginning al-Qaida had the money and the organisation, and we had nothing.” But this alliance soon dragged the insurgents and then the whole Sunni community into confrontation with the Shia militias as al-Qaida and other extremists massacred thousands of Shia civilians. Insurgent commanders such as Abu Omar soon found themselves outnumbered and outgunned, fighting organised militias backed by the Shia-dominated security forces.
The U.S. military is reporting a dramatic and unexpected increase in the number of police recruits in Anbar province, the center of Sunni insurgent activity in Iraq.
In the past two weeks, more than 1,000 applicants have sought police jobs in Ramadi, the provincial capital. Eight hundred signed up last month in Ramadi, said Army Maj. Thomas Shoffner, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Those figures compare with only “a few dozen” recruits in September, the U.S. military said.
In announcing his new Iraq strategy last week, President Bush said previous efforts to establish security in the country failed partly because there weren’t enough Iraqi and American security forces.
U.S. commanders attribute the sudden increase in police applicants to the support of local tribal leaders and a deepening rift between Sunni tribesmen and extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.
That’s progress of a sort, although it’s much too early to start doing handsprings. While the Shi’a dominated interior ministry and police in Bagdhad – thought to be thoroughly penetrated by Moqtada Sadr’s Mahdi army – are a significant part of the sectarian problem there, al Anbar is much more uniformly Sunni territory and police officers inclined to mischief couldn’t merely take the cross-town bus.
If the tribes of western Iraq can truly divorce themselves from the Qaedist loonies – and their own revanchist dreams of political dominance – the car bomb factories get shuttered and the principle provocation to the Shi’a militias is removed.