Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Opinionator

By Tobin Harshaw

War, too, makes for strange bedfellows, and the Bush administration is dealing today with the complications that inevitably ensue from such indiscretions: The Times reports that United States commanders are “arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past”; The Washington Post reports that “A tribal coalition formed to oppose the extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, a development that U.S. officials say has reduced violence in Iraq’s troubled Anbar province, is beginning to splinter”; while the Baltimore Sun finds that “Sudan has secretly worked with the C.I.A. to spy on the insurgency in Iraq - an example of how the United States has continued to cooperate with the Sudanese regime even while condemning its role in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians in Darfur.”

Good? Bad? Just the usual fog of war? On the Sunni alliance, former Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah has mixed feelings:

Having seen efforts to divide radical groups through material inducements (Marxist groups and paramilitary groups in Latin America, primarily), it seems clear that the U.S. will have to offer the Sunnis something tangible to make such an alliance more than a one-night stand where there is deep remorse on all sides almost immediately….

The question is, to me, if the U.S. arms Sunni groups who are fed up with the violence of the al Qaeda groups, and are willing and able to take them on directly, how does one insure they don’t eventually turn that fire back on U.S. troops?

The answer is that the Sunni groups will have to have some stake in the emerging political system of Iraq, something that they don’t now feel they have.

Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark is impressed that “American military officials seem to understand the complex motivations of those insurgency groups far better than they did even quite recently, and are at least trying to work with them.” However, he doesn’t find the fracturing of the Anbar alliance that mysterious: “It has become increasingly clear the extent to which the U.S. funded, armed, and guided the alleged Anbar Awakening. It was obvious from the beginning that whatever the real irritation they felt with al-Qaeda, the Anbar Salvation Council was a racket, created and paid for by US forces to provide local cover, rather than representing real Sunni political developments.”

“Turns out that the C.I.A. is using Sudanese spies against the Iraqi guerrillas,” notes Juan Cole, who doesn’t seem to be surprised or shocked. “Bush sees no enemies among the oil states, only opportunities to be exploited. Most Americans don’t realize that Bush has also de facto deployed Iran-trained Badr Corps fighters against the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, as well. So Iran and Sudan are the great bogeymen in Bush rhetoric, but the pillars of his Iraq policy in reality.”

Well, seeing as professor Cole has never, as far as I know, had a kind word for the White House, perhaps his finding that the administration’s actions are at least consistent amounts to a tiny bit of respect. In any case, it’s as close to bedfellows as those two sides will ever get.