As the Washington Post reports, the US military has given up on the goal of defeating the Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. Instead, we are giving them money, weapons and support in exchange for ratting out the foreign army of Saudi and Arab jihadists (whom George Bush refers to as "Al Qaeda") who have been drawn to Iraq by our occupation.
U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.
American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.
But interviews with ground commanders and tribal leaders offer a window into how the United States is financing a new constellation of mostly Sunni armed groups with murky allegiances and shady pasts.
This strategy of "paying them off there so we don't have to fight them over here" has provided some much needed breathing room for our forces allowing them to focus their efforts on the Saudi jihadists who are responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Iraqi civilians (but who are not responsible for a large share of attacks on US troops).
This strategy does not come without risks however. First and foremost, is the danger that the Sunni tribes will be better armed and prepared for the coming showdown with a Shiite-dominated government that they universally despise. These Sunni tribes aren't simply going to melt away once they've reduced or eliminated the Saudi jihadists who've occupied their areas. And they aren't likely to roll over and passively accept domination by a Shiite-run government that is bent on pursuing its own narrow, sectarian interest.
This doesn't sound like the "complete and total victory" rhetoric that George Bush frequently mentions in speeches mean to drum up support for his dismal and unpopular war. That sort of rhetoric implies that we're going to crush the enemy rather than pay them off and hand them weapons. Once again, we have a complete disconnect between right-wing rhetoric on the war and the actions on the ground in Iraq that reflect US policy (e.g., giving weapons to "terrorists"). No wonder the American people distrust this administration and have turned increasingly against the war when the rhetoric is so far removed from the reality.
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