In a speech at the 84th National Convention of the Marine Corps League, Vice President Cheney affirmed his support for the “Anbar Model” in Iraq.
The main battle in Iraq today is against al Qaeda…
Our military estimates that 80 to 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by foreign-born al Qaeda-sponsored terrorists…
[T]here is unmistakable progress inside Iraq. More locals are getting into the fight. More good intelligence information is coming in. And in al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the turnaround in recent months has been extraordinary. Late last year, some critics were saying that al-Anbar was lost to the terrorists. But the United States Marine Corps had another idea. They went into al-Anbar and did careful, painstaking work to confront the killers and to build confidence in the general population. Today, with the help of local Sunni sheiks, we have driven al Qaeda from the seat of power in al-Anbar. And we’re now trying to achieve the same results in other parts of Iraq.
As I have suggested in a previous post, all these sweet little lies about the primacy of al-Qaeda within the Iraqi insurgency are best understood as a coded confession that the US has retreated from its confrontation with the larger Sunni Arab nationalist insurgency.
Perhaps, as Michael Schwartz argues, this represents a major victory for the insurgency:
We should be clear that this a major setback for the U.S. plans, made necessary by the miserable failure of the surge. The basic agreement is that the U.S. will turn over the fight in these communities to these new recruited “former” insurgents. Or, put another way, instead of U.S. troops trying to pacify these neighborhoods, they will let these local residents police their own communities. But, keep in mind, these local residents are nothing more than the militiamen/insurgents who have been fighting the U.S. So right away, we see that this is a retreat by the U.S. from these cities and neighborhoods…
In other words, this is a huge victory for the insurgents, who have mainly been fighting to get the US out of their communities for the entire war.
Or maybe the US has simply coopted the “soft underbelly” of the resistance (see comment by Alison) even as the “true” resistance fights on and continues to draw the fire of the US military.
Doesn’t the difference here turn on a crucial question: what price Anbar?
There are a range of possible answers:
Schwartz argues for an insurgent victory because he thinks the US got nothing for its “cooptation” effort:
What is the U.S. asking in return? For the expulsion of the jihadists (who organize carbombings and other terrorist acts against civilians) from these communities. This is pretty easy for many of these insurgent groups to agree to, since so many of them hate the jihadists, both because the don’t approve of attacking Iraqi civilians and because the jihadi try to impose their particular form of their fundamentalism on the host communities.
Nevertheless, he seems to think the US will subsequently try to win back control of Anbar and will abrogate the alliance.
If, however, the US were to abide by the terms of the alliance, it would seem to follow that the insurgent victory would be complete. After all, according to Schwartz, they have been fighting for nothing more than local community control and policing power (“fighting to get the US out of their communities”).
Implicitly, Schwartz seems to suggest that the Sunni insurgency never wanted–and presumably will not win–the restoration of its pre-invasion national political dominance.
In other words, the Sunni insurgency will not demand that the US dump the Shiite-led Maliki government as a condition of alliance.
In a previous post, I suggested that the “Anbar Model” represented a slow-moving anti-Shiite coup in Iraq.
I still think that is a plausible scenario.
But maybe Cheney loves the “Anbar Model” precisely because the US pays no price at the level of national politics.
Perhaps Cheney sees in Anbar a victory because the “tribal figures” at the center of the alliance have abandoned the demand for the restoration of Sunni Arab national political dominance.
The “Anbar” allies simply represent the reconcilable (“soft underbelly”) of the resistance that has conceded the triumph of the Right Zionist plan to deliver Iraq into the hands of the Shiite majority.
If so, then it is little wonder to find that some leading Sunni political figures smell a rat in the Anbar Model. According to the Washington Post, January 27, 2007:
Saleh al-Mutlak, parliamentary leader of the secular Sunni party known as the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, described the confederation of Sunni sheiks as a “very dangerous movement” that is assuming official powers in the absence of a functioning government. “They wanted political cover from our front, but we said no,” he said. “We don’t mind that they fight al-Qaeda, but any movement should be official, and not tribal….”
Cheney gets to co-opt the Sunni Arab insurgency without abandoning the Shiite-led government that is, among other things, doing Cheney’s bidding on the oil front.
Hence, Cheney’s ability to affirm both the Anbar Model and Shiite rule in Iraq. As he told the Marine Corps League:
We are there because, having removed Saddam Hussein, we promised not to allow another brutal dictator to rise in his place.
So much for “Saddamism Without Saddam.”