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The most important news this week is headlined in the New York Times, “Iraq Takes Aim at Leaders of U.S.-Tied Sunni Groups”, an account of how the war-torn country is on the brink of a major escalation in violence and proof that our intervention in a civil war may have been doomed to failure from the onset.
McCain was wrong when he claimed that the Surge set the stage for the Anbar awakening. As we know now The Awakening began the year before The Surge (see “Uneasy Alliance Is Taming One Insurgent Bastion”).
According to the New York Times:
The (Shiite dominated Iraq) government’s rising hostility toward the Awakening Councils amounts to a bet that its military, feeling increasingly strong, can provide security in former guerrilla strongholds without the support of these former Sunni fighters who once waged devastating attacks on United States and Iraqi targets. It also is occurring as Awakening members are eager to translate their influence and organization on the ground into political power.
The United States has been hedging their bets by training the 95% Shiite Iraqi army and paying the Sunni guerrillas to fight Al Qaeda and former Saddam supporters.
Now an Awakening leader, quoted in the New York Times, says “Some people from the government encouraged us to fight against Al Qaeda, but it seems that now that Al Qaeda is finished they don’t want us anymore. So how can you say I am not betrayed?”
If the following isn’t a recipe for an endless civil war, I don’t know what is:
The Shiite controlled Iraqi government thinks it can squash the Sunni Awakening forces.
Knowing full well how to wage a guerrilla war against a much larger army, feels with justification that it has been disenfranchised and betrayed.
The Sunnis could easily ally themselves with Al Qaeda, Iran, or both.
The United States has agreed to honor its commitment to do what the Shiite Iraqi government wants and withdraw its forces by 2011.
There is a good chance that the level of violence will increase over the coming months. If this happens it will not be due to Al Qaeda, but to the escalation of a civil war. This is why the United States should set a firm non-contingent timetable for withdrawal.