The return of the Sunnis
One of the clearest signs of victory in a counterinsurgency is when the insurgents lay down their arms to join the political process. Reuters reports that the Sunnis are formally getting set to rejoin the government.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Parties that walked out of Iraq's government last year have agreed to rejoin, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday, in what could amount to a long-awaited political breakthrough.
The main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, said it intended to submit a list of candidates for cabinet positions within days and could be back in Maliki's government soon. Its return has been a major goal of the United States.
This development doesn't mean plain sailing, but it is a beginning. The reality is that each political faction will have to be purged of its extremist elements, often by members of the same community. Achieving a working democracy means not only choosing for, it also means choosing against.
"Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that reconciliation has proved a success and all political blocs will return to the government," Maliki's office said in a statement after Maliki met visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
One of the key steps toward creating a functioning state is to assure all citizens that government will protect them. In the case of Iraq, this means convincing the Sunnis that a Shi'ite majority government will uphold the rule of law rather than the customs of tribal allegiance. Maliki had to convince everyone that while he might be a Shi'ite, he was Iraqi first and foremost.
The Accordance Front quit Maliki's Shi'ite-led government last August, at a time when most violence in Iraq pitted minority Sunni Arabs against majority Shi'ites.
But violence between those two communities has fallen sharply, and the Front signaled it was drawing closer to Maliki by backing his crackdown on Sadr's Shi'ite Mehdi Army militia, begun last month.
Front spokesman Salim al-Jubouri told Reuters the group intended to submit a list of candidates for cabinet posts "in a few days," which the cabinet could then present to parliament.
"Our return to the government is very close," he said.
The Iraqi government and the coalition must walk the fine line that keeps Iraq together while avoiding the error of uncritical appeasement that trades momentary quiet for long term danger. This stop-and-go, fix-and-flank process was very much in evidence in the way the Iraqi Government dealt with the Mahdi Army. The goal was to disaggregate it from the mainstream of Shi'ite politics without provoking the Shia community in its entirety.
After having been accused of creating a new Gaza by building giant walls in Sadr City, the US has announced it has no intention to "beseige" it.
BAGHDAD (AFP) — American and Iraqi forces building a wall in Sadr City have no plans to besiege the east Baghdad Shiite bastion where they have been battling militiamen for weeks, a US general said on Thursday.
"Our purpose is to secure only the southern part of Sadr City, to prevent rockets being fired towards the Green Zone from the area," Major General Jeffery Hammond, commander of US forces in Baghdad, told a news conference.
His comments came amid angry demands in parliament by members of the political bloc of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militiamen dominate Sadr City, that the "siege" of the area be lifted.
Of course denying the intention to "beseige" Sadr City is probably a term of art which are more a reference to the walls than to anything else. There will undoubtedly be no siege. But there will probably be no letup in "leadership" operations and anti-mortar and rocket operations. The walls are there to impede the movement of men and equipment across lanes. To reduce the flexibility of Sadr's forces. But they do nothing to hinder the US forces which can travel by air. In fact, as Bill Roggio reports, the pressure on recalcitrant Shi'ite militias and their Iranian backers has gotten heavier. They're getting killed, captured and otherwise totaled. But they're not being beseiged.
Taken together these two developments should how two tactics -- aggregation, or bringing people together, and disaggregation, which is separating the insurgents from their mass base -- can work hand in hand. It's an old idea and we all know it. Even the writers of the Bible knew all about aggregation and disaggregation, or at least the Byrds did.
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven ...
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together ...
A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing. ...
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!
The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.