The Sunni Awakening in Iraq

The Bush Administration is touting the success in Iraq of the Sunni Awakening, a program through which the local Sunnis are being encouraged to abandon support of al-Qaeda in favor of money and arms from the U.S. These groups are outside the purview of the Iraqi Army or Police forces, usually led by local warlords or community leaders.

So, essentially we have an oppressive Shiite majority and a threatened Sunni minority stirring up trouble. We originally helped the Shiites overthrow their government and now, not pleased with the outcome (sectarian violence and social strife), we’re arming and funding the Sunnis in an attempt to counterbalance the situation. Honestly, has the Administration never read a history book?

In the 50s, the U.S. aided in the overthrow of a left-leaning government in Iran and installed the U.S.-controlled Shah in its place. When the 1978-79 revolution occurred, resulting in a situation we couldn’t control with unwanted results, the U.S. threw its support (money, training, and weapons) to a Sunni strongman in Iraq named Saddam Hussein. This is the point where we’re back to, in miniature, in Iraq.

What happened next in the 80s? This Hussein fella got a little out of control, so we decided Iran was the lesser of two evils and sent Col. Oliver North there to sell them weapons (but it was for a good cause: fighting a left-leaning (although democratically-elected) government in Nicaragua). The whole while Iranians and Iraqis were killing each other in a drawn-out, pointless war.

Hussein continued to cause problems internationally , including invading Kuwait in 1990 (instigating the war we Americans know as Desert Storm, where ironically the Iraqis were using American weapons and know-how against us) and ordering genocidal actions against Iraqi Kurds, while the Iranians took advantage of the attention paid to Iraq in order to surreptitiously begin developing nuclear capabilities.

Looking at the past, can we infer where the situation in Iraq is headed? We have an ineffectual Iraqi government, a powerful theocratic Iranian-backed strongman in Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite majority armed to the teeth (with insurgency support from Iran, ironically using American weapons and know-how against us), a Sunni minority that is becoming better armed and organized through the Awakening movement, and a separatist Kurdish movement, all sitting on a sea of $150-a-barrell oil. And McCain wants to stay the course?

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