October 12, 2007

Another Sunni Success Story

Now that the Democrats have decided to give up on forcing a surrender in Iraq, more stories about progress in Iraq have started hitting the wires. The AP focuses on another Sunni tribal chief who has decided to throw in his lot with the Americans, and the area of Youssifiyah has put violence aside:

Thirteen members of Sheik Faisal Chilab's family were slain by militants. The U.S. military arrested him twice. Three of his four sons also were detained.

So the sheik struck a deal with the U.S. military.

The Sunni clan chief would bring 500 tribesmen to help battle al-Qaida in Iraq and Shiite militiamen in their part of a former shooting gallery dubbed the "triangle of death" south of Baghdad. In return, the Pentagon put them on a monthly payroll that's almost on par with what the Iraqi government pays entry-level policemen and army soldiers.

Their alliance — built more on mutual needs rather than shared ideology — offers a glimpse of Washington's fragile and complicated strategy of teaming up with former enemies.

For the moment, it has showed significant dividends by uprooting extremists from strongholds across central Iraq as local tribes grew tired of the heavy hand of groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq or became suspicious of Shiite factions showing too much loyalty to Iran's theocrats.

The AP wants to suggest that Chilab and his clan will splinter with the Americans over what comes after the fighting. However, in their description, the fighting has already ceased. Chilab's efforts have already helped drive terrorists out of the Youssifiyah area, and family members have begun returning to the area. The only issues still outstanding revolve around freeing family members from Iraqi government detention, which the National Assembly is addressing in this session, and improving the infrastructural issues that have plagued the Triangle area since the invasion.

Even if they split from the Americans, the point will mostly be moot. The establishment of the alliances drove the terrorists out of the area, and Chilab won't welcome them back to disrupt life all over again. Indeed, the effort of Chilab's clan has improved relations between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the critical area of Youssifiyah already, even without formal engagement with the central government. They even have good relations with Iraqi Army soldiers now, primarily Shi'ite, who have relaxed among them after AQI departed the area.

Doubtless the open issues will continue to create anxiety and dissent if not addressed. With AQI gone, however, the US forces can now focus on the infrastructural problems in the area. Chilab won't want to return to war if he and his family can live in peace while the new ties forming between the sectarian communities continues to grow. That's what the surge purchased in Iraq -- the time for these ties to develop and for peace to become a habit.


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