Deal between Iraqi Govt and Sunni leaders?
Juan Cole has today reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has struck a deal with Sunni leaders of the Dulaim tribe in Ramadi, which is concerned with security arrangements in that area of Anbar province. According to Cole's translation of the Al-Hayat article, the agreement is based on US troops withdrawing and being replaced by Iraqi troops from Anbar itself. In return the tribal leaders will put pressure on the foreign fighters who are loyal to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. This is indeed a good sign and shows the religious shia and sunni are prepared to work together and make compromises for a better future.
Cole compares it to a similar attempt to withdraw US troops in Fallujah back in the spring of 2004. Once the US had left, the guerillas took control of the city. However, this time around there are important factors which are a cause for hope. Back in 2004 Paul Bremer ruled Iraq and his ability to ensure his plan worked was limited by the fact that he was very simply an outsider, ruling the country with no mandate from the Iraqi people. Jafari, on the other hand, is Iraq's first elected leader since Saddam's fall and has shown a strong willingness to work with the Sunni Arabs, providing they aren't Baathists, something he and other shia leaders have described as a 'red line' they are not willing to cross. Indeed his advisers have already held talks with Adnan Dulaimi, the leader of the Sunni Arab block which did the best in the December 15th elections and the two sides are reported to agree on many key points with regard to the path they want the nation to take in the future.
Also, Ramadi's Sunnis have come to the rescue of their Shia brethren in the past, when the latter were being targetted by the fanatical Wahabi followers of Zarqawi. The Sunnis set up groups to protect the shia inhabitants from the Wahabis. This shows that they are willing to work with the shia and would work hard to ensure the agreement remained in place. As the article states,
The only sticking point is the agreement to work against the foreign fighters. The majority of fighters in Iraq are Iraqis themselves, and it is uncertain how much difference any crackdown on the foreign fighters will make. The main group to target should be the secular Baathist fighters, who are attacking Shias in the hope of provoking a civil war that will give them the chance to come back to power. They are separate from the resistance, who have limited themselves to only attacking the US troops in the country, and the agreement between Jafari and the Dulaim will not affect the 'rejectionists'. The Baathists, however, need to be dealt with in no uncertain terms.
Those who continue to work against the Iraqi nation will no doubt be devastated by this development, and it is important that this agreement works, in order that both sides learn to trust each other and work together for the long term benefit of Iraq.