Arming The Sunnis Out In The Open
For several years, the Iraqi government has been pleading with the United States to increase the amount and firepower of the weapons and equipment provided to the Iraqi army and police forces so that they could stand on their own. Until recently, the Americans resisted out of fears that those weapons would be used against us. Similarly, Sunni tribal leaders in the Anbar province have asked the Americans for years to provide them with weapons and military assistance so that they could eliminate Al Qaeda before it is too late. The NYT now reports that General Petraeus is actively arming and supporting Sunni insurgent and tribal groups to fight Al Qaeda, yet some of these insurgent groups now being armed by the Americans had previously fought and killed American soldiers. Should we be concerned over this development, or is this a necessary part of playing catch-up for years of Rumsfeldian mistakes?
The Washington Post reports this morning that those same Sunni tribal leaders we are now arming and relying upon years after they first requested assistance are now splintering into disagreements, rife with fractured loyalties and a willingness to turn those weapons against us.
As the NYT notes, we are arming the Sunnis to allegedly fight Al Qaeda, but these same Sunnis say openly that they will also use these weapons to fight the Shiite central government should it be necessary. As such, arming the Sunnis is making political reconciliation all the more difficult if not impossible with the Shiites, who feel that the Americans have ulterior motives in arming former Baathists and other Sunni insurgents amidst reports that Dick Cheney has been in the region pushing Sunni states to bankroll anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian activities inside Iraq and elsewhere.