Success Amongst the Sunnis
The turnabout began last September, when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia….But those who have been paying attention know that the dynamic is not entirely new. The Sheiks didn’t decide, four years after the invasion of Iraq, that they could instantly trust the Americans in their midst. They made their decision only after observing years of dangerous and thankless work done by American soldiers and civilians to improve the lives of oridnary Iraqis. And after close and direct contact with both sides, the Sheiks decided that the future offered by America was better than the one offered by Al-Qaida.
For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival.
The council sought financial and military support from the Iraqi and American governments. In return the sheiks volunteered hundreds of tribesmen for duty as police officers and agreed to allow the construction of joint American-Iraqi police and military outposts throughout their tribal territories.
A similar dynamic is playing out elsewhere in Anbar, a desert region the size of New York State that stretches west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Tribal cooperation with the American and Iraqi commands has led to expanded police forces in the cities of Husayba, Hit, Rutba, Baghdadi and Falluja, officials say.
The surge is working, not just because of extra manpower in Iraq now, but because it builds on the foundation created by those who were gutting it out in Iraq at the same time many at home were declaring that there was no hope at all. And just as it would have been a mistake then, it would be a mistake now for Congress to forsake the civil society of Iraq, to abandon the work that has been done to build it up so far, and to bolster the position of those who would destroy it.