Quick, name a province in Iraq. No, me neither, at least not one except the much touted “Anbar”. Anbar, where the sheiks were allegedly won over to the “American side” after they turned from the insurgents they originally backed, is one of the few places outside of Baghdad mentioned regularly in the American media last year. All of it is going like clockwork in Anbar province where our pals the sheiks are making the trains run...,
As the violence has faded, an argument has been raging over who speaks for Iraq's Sunni Arab minority: the province's largely secular and fiercely independent tribal leaders who resisted the US invasion or the main Sunni political party, an Islamist group led by former exiles who cooperated with the Americans from the start.
In slightly more than a year, Anbar's sheiks have helped accomplish what US military might, and endless rounds of political negotiations, could not: driving out the extremists who had flourished in Iraq's western desert since the invasion in 2003. Pockets of resistance remain in Anbar, but the US command says many of the Sunni insurgents, now allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq, are seeking new sanctuaries north of Baghdad.
Now, the sheiks say, it's payback time. They want more schools, better healthcare, clean water, and reliable electricity for their war-ravaged province. They want jobs for their followers. And above all, they want a stake in government for their Iraqi Awakening Conference movement.
That “payback” is what really has me worried. And notice the last sentence quoted below.
The sheiks accuse the Iraqi Islamic Party, which controls the local councils in most Sunni areas, of hijacking development funds and monopolizing jobs for their own supporters.
"There is corruption up to here," Sheik Hameed Farhan Hays said, raising his hand to his forehead, after delivering his speech during a recent visit by a representative of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.
Leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party countered that the sheiks had only themselves to blame for boycotting the 2005 elections that ushered in representative government in Iraq. And they challenged the sheiks to take their accusations of corruption to court.
Whether true or not, the accusations underscore the mistrust between the two sides. For now, it is a war of words. But some worry that the dispute could escalate.
“Countered that the sheiks had only themselves to blame for boycotting the 2005 elections that ushered in representative government in Iraq.” Notice that in this statement the fact that the elections were boycotted, elsewhere in the story it says that fewer than five percent of the voters installed the Islamic Party, resulting in an unrepresentative government unacceptable to a good portion of the 95% of the population, is less important than the process. The problems on the ground today are considered to be less important fact than that the election was done and an unrepresentative government resulted. That kind of thinking, ignore reality when it’s tidier to look at process, isn’t peculiar to Iraq, it is one of the favorite tools of political gamesmanship in all places. Unfortunately, when the sides are armed and fighting, it looks like a more impressive argument here than on the ground there. Here no part of reality was to get in the way of the iconic purple fingers of PR.
Accounting for local peculiarities the problems of local power and politics in Anbar are a picture of the entire country.
Iyad Samarrai, the Islamic Party's secretary-general, said he was as unhappy about the vote as they are. The boycott gave the majority Shi'ites and ethnic Kurds a disproportionate share of provincial council seats in mixed parts of the country, as well as in the national parliament.
More Sunnis voted in the December 2005 parliamentary polls, which eased the imbalance at the national level, but new provincial elections have been postponed pending agreement on a law setting out the relationship between national and regional governments. The bill is one of several key power-sharing measures that have stalled in parliament.
“The bill is one of several key power-sharing measures that have stalled in parliament.” How long does something remain “stalled” before it’s given up as dead?
The DC establishment, with the aid of our most respected media organizations, is already burying the “benchmarks” that were used to stall ending American participation in the Iraqi civil war. Their posturing about the great success in Anbar will be similarly covered up as the parties there jump start the infighting and realign. If the sheiks changed sides once, they’re quite able to change them again as the shifting power politics make them recalculate their advantages. Do you think the insurgents would not reunite with them for temporary advantage? Do you think loyalty to Americans will prevent that? Anbar will disappear from the news. Here it will disappear except when they have to report on an American who gets killed there. And that will feature mostly in the local news. The networks and flagship papers, that’s small potatoes for them.