Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cole op-ed

Two posts on two must read articles on Iraq--one an op-ed from Juan Cole and the other inside the Sunni insurgency from the Guardian.

First Cole (my emphasis):

The guerrillas know they cannot fight the U.S. military head-on. But they do not need to. They know something that the Americans could not entirely understand. Iraq is a country of clans and tribes, of Hatfields and McCoys, of grudges and feuds. The clans are more important than religious identities such as Sunni or Shiite. They are more important than ethnicities such as Kurdish or Arab or Turkmen. All members of the clan are honor-bound to defend or avenge all the other members. They are bands not of brothers but of cousins. The guerrillas mobilized these clans against the U.S. troops and against one another. Is a U.S. platoon traveling through a neighborhood of the Dulaim clan, where people are out shopping? They hit the convoy, and the panicked troops lay down fire around them. They kill members of the Dulaim clan. They are now defined as the American tribe, and they now have a feud with the Dulaim. Members of the Dulaim cannot hold their heads up high until they avenge the deaths of their cousins by killing Americans.

And this then key passage:

U.S. soldiers cannot stop the Sunni Arab guerrilla cells from setting bombs or assassinating people. That is clear after nearly four years. And since they cannot stop them, they also are powerless to halt the growing number of intense clan and religious feuds. The United States cannot stop the sabotage that hurts petroleum exports in the north and stops electricity from being delivered for more than a few hours a day. President Bush in his speech Wednesday imagined that guerrillas were coming into neighborhoods in Baghdad and in the cities of Al-Anbar province from the outside. He suggested that, as the solution to this problem, U.S. and Iraqi troops should clear them out and then hold the city quarters for some time, to stop them from coming back. But the guerrillas are not outsiders. They are the people of those city quarters, who keep guns in their closets and come out masked at night to engage in killing and sabotage.

And on the new economic revival:

The guerrillas often make $300 a month, a very good salary in today's Iraq. There is little likelihood that Bush's jobs program will generate many jobs that will draw Iraqis away from their guerrilla groups and militias. For a lot of them, serving is a matter of neighborhood protection or ideological commitment. Not everything is about money.

So what to do?

Since the Sunni Arab guerrillas cannot be defeated or stopped from provoking massive clan feuds that destabilize the country, there is only one way out of the quagmire. The United States and the Shiite government of Iraq must negotiate a mutually satisfactory settlement with the Sunni Arab guerrilla leaders. Those talks would be easier if the guerrillas would form a civil political party to act as their spokesman. They should be encouraged to do so.

Bush's commitment of more than 20,000 troops is intended to address only one of the guerrillas' tactics, taking and holding neighborhoods. At that, he is concentrating on only a small part of the Sunni Arab territories. The guerrillas do not need to hold such neighborhoods to continue to engage in sabotage and the provocation of artificial feuds.As long as the Sunni Arabs of Iraq are so deeply unhappy, they will simply generate more guerrillas over time. Bush is depending on military tactics to win a war that can only be won by negotiation.


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