The Blog

Sunni Skies Ahead?

Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents are turning against al Qaeda, and that's not a bad thing.

12:00 AM, Jun 12, 2007 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
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All of these stories, by the way, underline how incredibly important it is for us to be there and to be taking an active role, as we are now doing. We are serving as the bridge between the Sunni insurgents and tribal leaders and the Shia government. Before the end of last year, there were virtually no Sunnis willing to step on that bridge. Now, five months into the surge, tens of thousands are walking on it. It will take time to get them all the way to the other side, and it is possible that the Shia government will ultimately make it impossible. But one thing is certain: if we pull out now or abandon the current approach, the bridge collapses and it's the end of the story. But make no mistake about it: this is a strategy for success, if it works. We get them to start by working with us against a common enemy (can you believe it--AQ is the common enemy between us and the Sunni Arab community?), then we work to gain their trust, then we work to make the current government comfortable dealing with former insurgents (and almost any government would be initially resistant, by the way, to negotiate with former rebels), then we work to transfer the insurgents' trust in us to trust in the government, and work to make that trust reciprocal and permanent. It will take time and good fortune and hard work, and it may fail. In the meantime, violence is way down in Anbar and people who had been our sworn enemies are now swearing to fight al Qaeda both in Anbar and in Baghdad. Any objective observer would see these for the positive signs that they are.

Frederick W. Kagan is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Finding the Target: The Transformation of the American Military (Encounter).