Monday, June 11, 2007

U.S. finding unlikely ally in Iraq

The New York Times reported Monday that the United States is cooperating with Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Some insurgent groups have grown tired of the more radical actions committed by groups sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and have turned to the U.S. for weapons.

This has been widely implemented over the last few months in western Iraq, in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar (the Times called it the "Anbar Model"). Once the most restive location in the country, and most dangerous for U.S. forces, Anbar has quieted down significantly. Sunni tribes have turned most of their attention from attacking U.S. forces and focused their energies on extremist Jihadist groups in the region.

Certainly, many of these insurgents have previously targeted U.S. forces, and many have American blood on their hands. Almost all resent the American occupation of Iraq, but have put aside these concerns - for the time being - in order to combat Islamist terrorists in the country.

General David Petraeus' pragmatic approach towards these groups demonstrates innovative thinking that all previous American commanders in the country have failed to show.

The Baghdad Surge, which seemed to have initial potential, has sputtered after Moqtada al-Sadr reemerged into the public sphere. Death squad killings are nearing pre-Surge levels, and many Sunnis in mixed enclaves in Baghdad are being forced out by Sadr's Mahdi Army and other Shiite militant groups, including the Badr Brigades of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

While some complain that the U.S. is now supporting both sides in a civil war, the reality is far more complex. There is more than one civil war, with intra-sectarian fighting nearly as prevalent as inter-sect conflict.

Timetables for withdrawal would be disastrous for U.S. interests in the region. Domestic politics should not be an arena for foreign policy disputes. The base of the Democratic Party, and its presidential candidates, must put aside the possibility of political gains for such a vital foreign policy task. Pragmatic and nuanced actions, such as these temporary alliances with some Sunni insurgents, show that there is still a chance for a measured success in Iraq.

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