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June 01, 2007

Red Reddish-Puple on Red: Sunni Tribal Fighters Join Insurgents In Street Battles Against Al Qaeda

It may seem like good news, but, on the other hand, it actually is good news.

Sunni tribal fighters have joined nationalist insurgents fighting al-Qaeda in vicious Baghdad street battles, their commander told AFP on Friday, as residents reported two days of intense clashes.

Sunni militants, who would once have sympathised with Al-Qaeda's war against American and Iraqi government troops, have instead this week been locked in battle against the Islamists in the lawless Amiriyah neighbourhood.

"We dispatched around 50 of our secret police from Anbar to Amiriyah, and started to hit Al-Qaeda there. We killed a lot of them," Sheikh Hamid al-Hais, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council, said in a telephone interview.

"A similar operation will be launched in Al-Ghazaliyah against Al-Qaeda today. We have sufficient information on places they are in, and we will punish them," he said, adding that his forces were fighting in plain clothes.

The Salvation Council is the armed wing of an alliance of Sunni sheikhs from the western Iraqi province of Anbar, where they have funnelled tribal gunmen into the Iraqi security forces in order to fight Al-Qaeda extremists.

Many of these Sunni militants are former insurgents once hostile to the US military and Baghdad's Shiite-led government but, angered by Al-Qaeda's attacks on civilians and tribal leaders, they have now changed sides.

US commanders see this as one of the most positive recent developments in
Iraq, which is in the grip of vicious series of overlapping civil conflicts, and hope now to persude former insurgent groups to join a peace process.

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the number two US officer in Iraq, told reporters Thursday that about four-fifths of the militants currently fighting American forces were thought to be ready to end their campaigns.

"So we want to reach back to them," he said. "And we're talking about ceasefires and maybe signing some things that say they won't conduct operations against the government of Iraq or against coalition forces."

This takes a lot of of the "cave in" edge off the US's negotiation with indigenous insurgents for a ceasefire.

As (I think) Yitzakh Rabin said, "One doesn't make peace with one's allies; one makes peace with one's enemies."

Three points on the proposed ceasefire:

1) Our primary goal is to end or at least greatly reduce the insurgency, not necessarily to hunt down and kill every insurgent. The latter is one possible means of achieving the actual goal -- but a likely unattainable one. Another possibility -- which seemed almost impossible, but seems more possible every day -- is to broker the long-sought "political solution" to the senseless Sunni insurgency.

And I do mean "senseless" -- what they seek they cannot acheive under any conceivable scenario (re-taking Iraq for themselves), and, in fact, their idiotic murder of American troops has brought them to the brink of putting Iraq in the hands of Shi'ite extremists who will slaughter them wholesale on a level rivaling or perhaps exceeding Saddam's famous ethnic pacification prgorams.

It is possible that the specter of precisely that they have long fought and murdered for -- the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq -- has, err, "awakened" them to simple military/political/demographic/economic reality.

2) Politics, and war, are the art of the possible, as they say. We're reducing the ambition of our mission in Iraq, and one ambition, which probably never was a terribly-high-priority one in any event, can be safely jettisoned. If we ever dreamed of tracking down and killing and/or bringing to justice every Sunni "insurgent" who killed Iraqi civilians or US troops before, surely we no longer entertain much hope for that scenario coming to pass.

3) Our top priorities are 1) Killing Al Qaeda and 2) preventing Iraq from becoming a Sadr-led Iranian satrapy. To the extent giving up a lesser priority helps us achieve our biggest ones, it's a fair trade.

4) It is simply an unfortunate fact that justice and peace are often at odds in war and revolution. Certainly we gave up on justice in allowing the heinous Haitan dictators Papa and Baby Doc an easy exit from that country and cushy berthings in other countries, but in exchange we avoided a lot of bloodletting which would have occurred had we insisted on bringing these monsters to justice.

Is it better than a wicked man never receive the justice he deserves, or that hundreds or thousands of good men die in pursuing that justice? It's never been an easy call, but utilitarian pragmatism strongly weighs in favor the option that leads to the fewest number of deaths. Not in all cases, but in most.

If our former llesser enemies are now fighting our current greatest enemy, it's unambiguously good news, and I welcome them to the fight.

All is not forgiven, but our highest-priority goals cannot be forgotten, either.

More: US News & World Report:

Several indications point to US progress at co-opting Iraq's Sunni minority, which has been the backbone of the insurgency in that country. Tired of the random violence wrought by al Qaeda terrorists, some Sunni political leaders and communities appear to be allying themselves with the US in an effort to rid themselves of al Qaeda. If those trends are confirmed, they could amount to a key watershed for the US mission. Meanwhile, US military leaders have sought to arrange separate ceasefires with different Sunni groups. The Washington Times reports, "A battle raged yesterday in western Baghdad after residents rose up against al Qaeda and called for US military help to end random gunfire that forced people to huddle indoors and threats that kept students from final exams, a member of the district council said." The AP says the Amariyah fight "reflects a trend that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trumpeting recently to the west in Anbar province." Many Sunni tribes "in the province have banded together to fight al-Qaida, claiming the terrorist group is more dangerous than American forces." The Washington Post notes the mayor of the Amiriyah neighborhood, Mohammed Abdul Khaliq, "said in a telephone interview that residents were rising up to try to expel al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has alienated other Sunnis with its indiscriminate violence and attacks on members of its own sect."

I quote that and bolded that line to make a small point. It's often the case in war -- as it was in World War II -- to portray the enemy as some sort of unstopppable Terminator-like super-soldier that simply cannot be defeated.

We've been noting that America seems tired of war, that we're losing our resolve, etc.

It's less often mentioned that our enemies -- including the Sunni insurgents who have to live on the battlefields they've created -- might themselves be tiring of war, too.

They're not, as liberals would have it, unstoppable, innumerable Legions of Relentless Death (as Nazi symps like Charles Limberg, and pre-Russian-invasion Communist symps told us of the Nazis, when they were trying to dissade America from taking action against Stalin's then-ally) .

They are human, and as such, they can be killed, and they can weary of death of hardship.

I don't know if this applies to Al Qaeda so much, who don't seem quite human to me, and can also be part-time "Islamic Warriors" as their passions may dictate, killing a few innocent people here and there, then going back home for a while. These people (and I use that term advisedly) must be hunted and killed to a man.



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posted by Ace at 01:10 PM

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