January 13, 2007


A reader wrote and asked me to mention this article, Fighting Back, by Martin Fletcher, on the struggle for Ramadi. Happy to oblige. I won't even try to comment on the confused situation there. But, as ever, we see that the al-Qaeda are monsters, and those who think we should give up fighting them and retreat to "safety" are utter fools.

....Sheikh Sittar is a wealthy man. He owns homes in Oman and Dubai and several luxury cars. He and the other tribal leaders unquestionably prospered under Saddam Hussein, as did Ramadi’s many Baathists. Few cities had more cause to lament the dictator’s downfall, US troops made matters worse with their insensitive early conduct and al-Qaeda skillfully exploited the people’s anger with its promise to expel the infidel.

As al-Qaeda’s fighters tightened their grip on Ramadi, they became increasingly repressive and challenged the tribal leaders’ power. Soon they were kidnapping and beheading innocent people as part of a campaign of extortion and intimidation.

Some sheikhs fled to Jordan and Syria. Sheikh Sittar’s father and three brothers were killed, his father during the holy month of Ramadan, and he says he has himself survived several kidnap attempts. This summer a fellow sheikh was ambushed and beheaded by al-Qaeda supporters, who piled insult on injury by keeping his body so it could not be buried immediately, as demanded by custom.

“We began to see what they were actually doing in Anbar province. They were not respecting us or honouring us in any way, said Sheikh Sittar, speaking through an interpreter.” Their tactics were not acceptable.”

During the late summer he began enlisting his fellow sheikhs in a movement called the Sahawat or Awakening, whose goal is to drive al-Qaeda from Anbar province.

The US military wooed the sheikhs over what one US officer described as “hundreds of cups of chai and thousands of cigarettes”. They agreed that their chosen instrument should be the police force, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats against anyone who dared to sign up. In June there were only 35 recruits; in July Sheikh Sittar sent 300 members of his 30,000-strong Resha tribe for training....

Here's another good piece by Fletcher...

Posted by John Weidner at January 13, 2007 4:36 PM
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