Saturday, February 26, 2005

Play Nice, y'hear...

Provocative article by Bill Lind at DNI.

I maintain that setting a fixed date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq is, on balance, ill-advised. However, Lind also latches onto something that I think has merit - I brought it up in a post here shortly after the Iraq election - namely the necessity to try to decouple Sunni nationalist insurgents from foreign jihadists. First of all, the domestic Sunni insurgency is the main problem - the notion that foreign fighters represent the main force enemy is not readily substantiated by the empirical evidence available. On top of this, the foreign fighters "swim" in a "sea" provided by a Sunni population that either turns a blind eye or offers tacit support. Drawing the Sunni into a broad political settlement will drain the sea and deprive the foreign fighters of freedom of movement and logistical support rendering them, if not entirely impotent, then at least much less of a problem. In other words - solve the Sunni problem and you'll have pretty much solved the foreign jihadist problem too.

On this basis, I think it's extremely important for the new Iraqi government to appease from a position of strength and offer numerous concessions in an attempt to draw the bulk of the Sunni population under the broad inter-communal umbrella that is emerging. Whether the Americans (a la the British in Malaya regarding the Malay/Chinese ethnic split) or the Iraqi government (possibly while overtly picking a few policy fights with the Americans to increase credibility) should take the lead on this I'm not sure (I suspect the latter). Recent news reports coming out of Iraq seem to hint that this may be exactly what is happening.

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