Captain's Quarters Blog

« An International Force? | Main | Israel: Return Soldiers And Move Hezbollah Away From Border »

July 17, 2006
America's Stock Rises Among The Sunni -- As They See The Alternative

The New York Times reports on an interesting development among the Sunni in Iraq, who had bitterly opposed the American presence in their country. They have discovered mathematics and demographics -- and realized that the Shi'a outnumber them almost 3-1. This epiphany has led to a growing sentiment among the former ruling class of Iraq that the Americans may be the only thing standing between them and oblivion:

As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq.

The Sunnis also view the Americans as a “bulwark against Iranian actions here,” a senior American diplomat said. Sunni politicians have made their viewpoints known to the Americans through informal discussions in recent weeks.

The Sunni Arab leaders say they have no newfound love for the Americans. Many say they still sympathize with the insurgency and despise the Bush administration and the fact that the invasion has helped strengthen the power of neighboring Iran, which backs the ruling Shiite parties.

But the Sunni leaders have dropped demands for a quick withdrawal of American troops. Many now ask for little more than a timetable. A few Sunni leaders even say they want more American soldiers on the ground to help contain the widening chaos.

In fact, the Sunnis have started to call for the US to increase the number of troops in Iraq, especially in what was once called the "triangle of death". The insurgent attacks on Shi'ites and their shrines has created a huge backlash of anger, resulting in increasing support for militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which has Iranian backing. The Mahdis cannot stand against American forces or even the new Iraqi security forces, but they can conduct terrorist attacks and assassinations.

The US launched an offensive against Sadr's militia this month, and hope to dial down the violence by sidelining Sadr. However, the root of Sunni danger comes from the Sunni refusal to engage early in the political process. They have no one to blame but themselves. Had they quit supporting the Ba'athist dead-ender insurgencies and joined in the electoral process from the beginning, they would have more political influence than they do now. The Shi'a and the Kurds practically begged them to participate, and even ensured that they got better representation on the constitution committee and in the executive branch than their votes ensured.

Now that shortsightedness has come back to haunt them. Since so few volunteered for the Iraqi security forces, few Sunnis serve in the officer corps or in the enlisted ranks. They continue to fight against the Americans in some places, failing to coalesce behind a coherent strategy for their own survival.

This development does point out one particular fact, one missed by Edward Wong and Dexter Filkins. The Sunnis see us as the "strong horse" of Iraq. One of the dynamics of Arab culture, besides the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shi'a, is the natural attraction towards strength. Arabs value it above almost all other secular virtues, as do many other cultures, and will try to align themselves with the strongest horse in the race. We seem to have dispensed with the dismissive analysis of Osama bin Laden of the US as a paper tiger; the Iraqis have seen proven false in the three-year crucible of Iraq.

We should consider the effect a pullout will have under these conditions. A stable US presence might avoid a larger sectarian conflict. If we can convince the Sunnis to work under our protection while still maintaining good relations with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the mainstream Shi'ites, we can ensure stability for Iraq into the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Forgot to credit Michelle Malkin with the hat-tip; make sure you read her take on this, and follow the links. Also, the Commissar is not sure whether this is a positive development, nor when Bush and Cheney flipped the toggle switch from "EXPLOIT" to "ASSIST".

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 17, 2006 9:41 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference America's Stock Rises Among The Sunni -- As They See The Alternative:

» Sunnis Learn A Hard Lesson from The Strata-Sphere
In what is probably the first large scale indication the US policy in Iraq is finally turning a corner we see the Sunni’s in Iraq ‘moderating’ their stance by asking for more US presence to quell the violence. It is no surprise three... [Read More]

Tracked on July 17, 2006 11:20 AM

» Web Reconnaissance for 07/18/2006 from The Thunder Run
A short recon at what’s out there that might draw your attention.Justice Soldier writes Summertime ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 18, 2006 9:15 AM

» Web Reconnaissance for 07/18/2006 from The Thunder Run
A short recon at what’s out there that might draw your attention. [Read More]

Tracked on July 18, 2006 9:15 AM


Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!