The al-Qaida Irony

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, after spending eight days in Iraq, provide us with the most cogent and believable of the optimistic observations of post-invasion Iraq yet written. It seems ironic in the extreme that a major reason, if not the reason, for this apparent turn in fortune is the evolving nature of the impact in Iraq of al-Qaida which did not exist there prior to our attack.

In an excerpt O’Hanlon and Pollack say:

In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

These groups have tried to impose Shariah law, brutalized average Iraqis to keep them in line, killed important local leaders and seized young women to marry off to their loyalists. The result has been that in the last six months Iraqis have begun to turn on the extremists and turn to the Americans for security and help. The most important and best-known example of this is in Anbar Province, which in less than six months has gone from the worst part of Iraq to the best (outside the Kurdish areas). Today the Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies. Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor.

And who is crippling al-Qaida? Sunni Iraqi sheiks and their forces, commonly known as Sunni militias, also known as Sunni insurgents.

Citizens of Iraq, not the U.S. Army, are turning this around, though we are helping.

Click the headline to read this very welcome piece in its entirety.

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