Iraq: Progress on the Sunni Front


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This week General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will report to Congress on progress in Iraq. What to expect is no mystery, even if the NIE is:

By all accounts, Petraeus’s view that a “pause” is needed this summer before troop cuts can continue has prevailed in the White House, trumping concerns by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others that the Army’s long-term health could be threatened by the enduring presence of many combat forces in Iraq.

And that would be because “the surge” has worked so well, or didn’t, or something. Meanwhile, one of the belated surefire surge signs o’ success is the shift of tribesman in Sunni areas from “those who kill U.S. troops” to “those who are paid not to kill U.S. troops.” Those, in other words, who’ve become our pals. So what has our blood and treasure bought in that neck of Iraq? Thought no one would ever ask:

The insurgents have been driven out of her southwest Baghdad neighborhood, but the 30-year-old shop assistant is still frightened. A year ago Al Qaeda in Iraq ruled the streets outside her home, and Mahdi Army militia units kept the area under relentless attack. Now the Iraqis who helped get rid of the killers are the ones who scare her. The Americans imposed order a few months ago by recruiting and paying local men to turn in the names of suspected jihadists. Similar armed groups have popped up all around the city. Each has its own bizarre rules; some threaten to kill women who don’t wear veils in public. The shop assistant is in mourning for her brother, who was killed last May, but she’s asking for trouble if she wears black more than three days running. According to the new enforcers in her neighborhood, anyone who dresses in mourning is committing blasphemy by questioning the will of God.

As Newsweek explains:

America’s efforts to disengage from Iraq have led to some messy compromises. After years of trying without success to wrest Sunni areas from Qaeda control, U.S. ground commanders appear to have done it at last—but only by granting sweeping powers to sheiks and local leaders who can keep the peace. Now Iraq’s Sunni areas have been chopped into fragments, each one run by a different tribal ruler with different views on law and society. In some parts of Baghdad the situation changes visibly from block to block. No one can say how many of these leaders abuse their powers, or if their little sectors can ever be put back under the purview of a centrally controlled government. “We are becoming like Afghanistan was in the ’80s,” says Zainab Salbi, the Iraq-born founder and CEO of the activist group Women for Women International.

So here’s a picture Newsweek printed of Iraq:

And here’s Afghanistan under the Taliban:

These developments, Newsweek points out, are unlikely to be made much of this week. But we ought to have an idea of the freedom and democracy our President and his followers claim to be fighting for.

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