Thursday, September 13, 2007

Abu Risha's place in history

Western readers' introduction to the late Abu Risha was in a memorable NYT article back in November, now regrettably behind a pay-wall, but an outline of it is still available to my premium customers here. Two points are worth remembering. First: Abu Risha's arch-enemy was the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) Harith al-Dhari. It was Dhari whom abu Risha had sued for calling his group a band of thieves and highway robbers, and it was Dhari whom abu Risha, backed up by the NYT in that memorable performance at the Mansour Hotel, called a thug.

The second point worth remembering from those days is that there was a lot of discussion and skepticism among the tribes and other Sunni groups whether abu Risha was a good choice as a unifier of the tribes. Here's my summary of part of what Al-Hayat had to report on that score, also back in November:
This Al-Hayat piece also cites remarks by Khalif Alyan, a leader in the Iraqi Accord Front, which is the biggest of the Sunni coalitions in parliament. Alyan's remarks are particularly interesting as an expression of the new Sunni rejection of the Maliki government [this was just after the disputed vote in parliament on the federalism-procedures law]. Alyan said the followers of his group would object to joining in the Anbar Salvation Council if any of the tribes were to accept Iraqi government support or US support. And he said he was skeptical of the ability to Abu Risha to actually bring the tribes together in the way that he claims to be able to do. Alyan added that the clan leaders in Ramadi and other cities in Anbar that he has spoken to object to the idea of any group "based on Abu Risha". And to drive the point home, he said if the Salvation Council ends up accepting Iraqi government or US government support, the result will be fitna or all-out civil war in Anbar.
Making allowances for the fact that in those days there was still room for contemplating Sunni acceptance of assistance from the US-backed Maliki administration (rather than the US directly), the breakdown was like this: Abu Risha and those ready and anxious for support from the US side; versus those who rejected the idea of US support and saw acceptance of US support as a prelude to fitna.

As things worked out, Abu Risha got all the US support anyone could dream of, sealed with that famous Bush handshake, while on the other side, Dhari's AMSI has taken on the role of a would-be leader/coordinator of the combined Sunni resistance, namely the groups that have consistently fought the US in Iraq since 2003.

But my point is that it has been apparent since at least November that this was abu-Risha the collaborator on the one side versus the principled Sunni-resistance on the other.

But "resistance" isn't an allowed expression in American media, and so the cartoon-version of this for Western consumption was "locals fighting AlQaeda". And that's why I recommend people refer back to the introductory article in the New York Times linked to above, because there you have the images to go with it: the charismatic figure in the flowing robes and the rest of it.

What Petraeus has been doing in Washington is merely extending that cartoon story about helping Abu Risha and the other virtuous locals fight the outsiders (now described as AQ and the Iranian agents). Meanwhile, if the Americans were ever to be serious about arranging for an orderly withdrawal from harms way, they would need to negotiate this with the people who have defeated them, namely the Sunni resistance. But even if other parts of the cartoon-story get debunked, still the resistance is merely referred to as those who are "killing American troops", and this is by way of chilling any idea of negotiating with them. The point is not that they are killing American troops, which is what resistance movements do, but rather that they need to be negotiated with.

What it is is flim-flam: Inundate the Americans with stories about the humanitarian efforts being exerted by our troops to save Iraqis from each other, and shut the hell up about the fact that the main struggle, against the domestic resistance, has been lost and the troops need to withdraw.


Anonymous gj said...

Badger, far from forcing a US retreat the assassination has probably put paid to Petraeus's just announced plans to withdraw several marine brigades from Anbar before Christmas?

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing if not prompt! At least proper attention is being paid.

1:58 PM  
Blogger badger said...

that from Eugene O'Neill's famous play? literate bunch around here.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous lysander said...

@ gj

I think the surge troops pretty much have to go by next year simply as a matter of troop rotation. The idea was to spin it as a timely withdrawl after a successful mission stablizing Anbar.

Now they'll just have to leave with (less than) nothing to show for it. A big embarrassment and a harder sell for the war.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

6:50 PM  
Anonymous gj said...

Lysander ... imo, depends on whether or no the Anbar awakening shows signs of wobbling after this assassination. If so the withdrawal of marines before Christmas would only exacerbate the wobble and its hard to see Petraeus risking that after seeing how much of his testimony relied on the so called Anbar "success".

I think we are about to find out if the awakening has any "legs" or not. But the better legs it appears to have the quicker and the more the US will withdraw not the other way around - going by this President's record.

(btw - as I understand the President's powers he can order the military to provide whatever number of troops he thinks he needs - and that 15 month tours of duty can be extended?)

1:18 AM  

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