The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunni Tribal Leaders in Iraq Turning on Al Qaeda...in droves
If only they would listen.
Sheikh Hussein, as well as other sheikhs interviewed for this piece, said the turning point for the tribes was in September when Al Qaeda in Iraq declared the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq, a shadow state that in pockets of the country has established Islamic sharia courts and tried to provide some social services. The declaration was a direct challenge to the centuries-old tribal system that has prevailed in most of Iraq. As a result, the terrorists once seen as allies against the American invaders have also come to be seen as invaders.
"Think about it in our terms," Colonel Welch said. "If I invite you to my home as a guest, and I give you a place in my home, then you slap around my family, it is a huge blow to my sense of honor, dignity, and rrespect. It is deeper than pride. You have bitten the hand that fed you."
Despite the rising antipathy toward Al Qaeda, the tribal sheikhs in the Sunni regions in particular are very clear that their new alliance with the Americans is merely a tactical one. Sheikh Hussein summed it up: "We would like America, a friend, to rebuild the country. This is what we want, what the tribes want. But to stay here as a military force indefinitely is unacceptable." For Sheikh Hussein, however, the prospect of a speedy exit is also unacceptable. At a luncheon at a home of one of his cousins, he asked this reporter, "Please, tell the Democrats for now to stop pressuring Bush."