Monday, July 10, 2006

Counter current

The violence continues in Iraq. This report indicates a number of Iraqis were killed today in multiple car bombings and in an attack by armed gunmen on a Baghdad bus. Newspaper headlines across the country blared out the cause of this recent uptick in violence: Sectarian Violence!

Strategy Page offers hope with this insight:

The Shia terror against Sunni Arabs has a name, Abu Deraa. He's being called the "Shia Zarqawi" for organizing death squads to take revenge after Sunni Arab suicide bombs kill Shia. This desire for vengeance, and the unwillingness of Shia to fight Shia, has, until recently, allowed a low level civil war to go on unchecked. But now the Shia are ready to fight their own, and in the last week, Shia and Kurdish police and soldiers fought Shia radicals, led by men like Abu Deraa. The Sunni Arab community know Abu Deraa by name, and have even posted pictures of him. That hasn't changed anything, because Abu Deraa's death squads still roam central Iraq, killing Sunni Arabs. Several dozen died in Baghdad yesterday, pulled from their cars, identified as Sunni Arabs, and killed on the spot. But now, with Zarqawi dead, and most of the country at peace, more and more Sunni Arab tribal chiefs, politicians, business leaders and clerics are resigned to Shia domination. That means giving up the Sunni Arab warlords, gang leaders and terrorist chiefs, the people that make most of the violence happen. It's not like the Sunni Arab leadership can just push a button, and make their bad guys go away. In Arab culture, the process moves a lot more slowly, and involves lots of talking, coffee, promises, deceit and drama. Apparently the drama has been convincing, because the Shia politicians running the country have persuaded Shia military and police units to go after Shia death squads.

The key is time. There simply is and can not be any substitute for it: All of this is going to take months to play out. There will be cries of "Betrayal!" from the Shia community. Some Shia cops and soldiers will balk at busting fellow Shia, even if the perps are stone killers with dozens of bodies on them. However, the national leadership has agreed that peace with the Sunni Arabs, and an end to the vengeance killings, is necessary. Making this happen is the next crucial battle in the war.

A committment to ending this and the political will to follow through gets us a large part of the way to the goal. The question is, do we posses the patience to wait?

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