April 03, 2006

IRAQ: StrategyPage says to watch the trends, not the headlines:

What you see in the Iraq news, is not what you get. The news business demands startling headlines, to attract eyeballs. It's business, as the eyeballs are rented to advertisers to pay for it all. But the reality of the news is less startling, and consists of trends. These are the current trends in Iraq.

After three years, the Sunni Arabs, who long dominated Iraq, most recently under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, are giving up. It took so long because of a quirk in Arab culture, one that encourages the support of lost causes. The term "cut your losses and move on" is not as popular in the Arab world as it is in the West. But even the slow learners in the Sunni Arab community had to finally confront some unfavorable trends. Chief among these was;

The Kurds and Shia Arabs have formed a national police force and army that is far more powerful than anything the Sunni Arab community can muster. Over the last year, Sunni Arabs realized that the police and army were in control of more and more Sunni Arab towns. This was a trend that could not be ignored. Added to that was the number of Kurds and Shia Arabs who had lost kin to Sunni Arab terror over the last three decades. Many of these people want revenge, and they all have guns. Many, especially those that belong to the police, or militias, are taking their revenge. The Sunni Arabs want protection, for they cannot muster enough guns to defend themselves. Now the Sunni Arabs want the Americans to stay, at least until there's some assurance that the Kurd and Shia Arab vengeance attacks have died down.

The alliance with al Qaeda was a disaster. These Islamic terrorists were obsessed with causing a civil war in Iraq, and they insisted on doing this by killing lots of Shia Arabs. The Sunni Arabs didn't want to kill lots of Shia Arabs, they wanted to rule them all once more. But that raised another contentious issue. While some Sunni Arabs were in favor of an Islam Republic, which al Qaeda insisted on, most Sunni Arabs wanted a more secular Sunni Arab dominated government. This dispute was never resolved, as the split between al Qaeda and the Sunni Arab community widened. At the moment, al Qaeda is not welcome in most Sunni Arab areas. That's "come near this place and we'll kill you" not welcome. This after al Qaeda tried to terrorize the Sunni Arab tribal leaders into compliance. Killing Sunni Arab tribal chiefs didn't work.

You can't kill enough Americans to scare them into leaving. . . . The trend was that the Americans were much better at killing Sunni Arabs than Sunni Arabs were at killing Americans.

Read the whole thing, including the point at the end -- made here before, too -- that the biggest threat to civil society in Iraq is not insurgents, but corruption. Greg Djerejian, meanwhile, is less positive, though of late he seems to be more and more interested in intra-right-wing-punditry battles.

And The Officers' Club looks at what the Jill Carroll captivity tells us about the current state of the insurgency.

UPDATE: Riding Sun notes that the current plan seems to be working better than many credit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Green has further thoughts.