As fractious as American politics may seem, we in the land of the brave can count our blessings. At least we’re not as divided as the enemy.
Recent reports suggest that the Surge Plan has had results that nobody but actual experts in counter-insurgency foresaw: The Sunni insurgents, pushed to ever more drastic actions, have found their ranks divided by what degree of extremism they can morally stomach. Naturally, the Spirit of September 11th – al-Qaeda – has been the vanguard of vileness. Many of the big headline grabbing strikes, most notably the use of chlorine tankers as chemical bombs, have been theirs. But that kind of desperation is too much even for some of the desperate, and now many nationalist Sunni groups have broken ranks from “The Base”. It seems that Petraeus’ military solution is not only keeping Baghdad safer, its literally forcing the enemy to fight themselves over how to fight us.
Now the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigade, two of the most powerful Sunni nationalist insurgent groups, are engaged in rhetorical and actual combat with the increasingly isolated – but still really well funded, thank you, Saudi Arabia – al-Qaeda.
Looks like the military solution’s been making progress. If only the political solution could say the same. But whatever tact the White House and the State Department are taking with the Iraqi government, they’ll failed to compel the Iraqi leadership to satisfy their disgruntled and frightened Sunni representatives. Now several Sunni ministers have threatened to leave, claiming their basic needs – security and infrastructure chief among them – were not being addressed in the slightest by Nouri al-Maliki’s government, let alone the larger issues of oil revenue sharing and legal protections. President Bush headed them off by calling the Vice President, al-Hashimi, and promising the frustrated ministers a trip to Washington. But the people Bush really needs to be talking to are the Shia running the show in Baghdad.
Claims of the Shia-majority government stalling and short-changing the Sunni are not new. But at this crucial juncture, they must be resolved. The catastrophic bombing of the Iraqi parliament, likely an inside job, demands that the political seed of Iraq be stronger than ever if the new ground Petraeus’ surge lays is to prove fertile.
If nothing is done to provide the Sunni population of Iraq with a fair share of security and revenue, the Iraqi government is doomed to destruction in civil war. No amount of American firepower can solve that, only sustain it. Therefore the White House must lean harder to get the Shia in the government moving, using incentives such as direct aid to the Sunnis, earmarked aid, or defense agreements with the Sunni population in the event of Civil War to affect change. It must be an honest, straightforward and bold declaration – not the sugar-coated notions of “freeform democracy” we’ve enjoyed putting our faith in up until this point. Democracy’s what happens when the war is over. For now, the reality is that the Iraqi government is wholly dependent on our aid, and we need to start using that aid and influence to end this conflict.
United behind the Surge Plan, the US military can be proud to have scored such a telling blow by forcing the enemy to fight amongst themselves and redefine their posture.
Now the US government must exploit those initial gains. The extremists must be hit hard, and this will happen. Those that offer talks, like the Islamic Army of Iraq, should be confronted, not ignored – given the recalcitrant leadership, this is less likely than it is necessary. And above all, the Iraqi government has to be given the harsh news:
The old adage that a house divided cannot stand is as true today as ever, and that just as America is in this investment for the long haul, we will not shirk from fixing it ourselves – with or without the help of the Shia representatives dragging their feet in Baghdad.