In an about face, Suunnis want US to remain in Iraq

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Revmitchell, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. Revmitchell

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    Feb 18, 2006
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    BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 16 — As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.
    The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq.
    The Sunnis also view the Americans as a “bulwark against Iranian actions here,” a senior American diplomat said. Sunni politicians have made their viewpoints known to the Americans through informal discussions in recent weeks.
    The Sunni Arab leaders say they have no newfound love for the Americans. Many say they still sympathize with the insurgency and despise the Bush administration and the fact that the invasion has helped strengthen the power of neighboring Iran, which backs the ruling Shiite parties.
    But the Sunni leaders have dropped demands for a quick withdrawal of American troops. Many now ask for little more than a timetable. A few Sunni leaders even say they want more American soldiers on the ground to help contain the widening chaos.
    The new stance is one of the most significant shifts in attitude since the war began. It could influence White House plans for a reduction of the 134,000 troops here and help the Americans expand dialogue with elements of the insurgency. But the budding accommodation is already stirring a reaction among the Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of the population but were brutally ruled for decades by the Sunnis.
    In Adhamiya, a neighborhood in north Baghdad, Sunni insurgents once fought street to street with American troops. Now, mortars fired by Shiite militias rain down several times a week, and armed watch groups have set up barricades to stop drive-by attacks by black-clad Shiite fighters. So when an American convoy rolled in recently, a remarkable message rang out from the loudspeakers of the Abu Hanifa Mosque, where Saddam Hussein made his last public appearance before the fall of Baghdad in 2003.
    “The American Army is coming with the Iraqi Army — do not shoot,” the voice said, echoing through streets still filled with supporters of Mr. Hussein. “They are here to help you.”
    Sheik Abdul Wahab al-Adhami, an imam at the mosque, said later in an interview: “Look at what the militias are doing even while we have the American forces here. Imagine what would happen if they left.”
    Even in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, where insurgents are carrying out a vicious guerrilla war against foreign troops, a handful of leaders are asking American commanders to rein in Iraqi paramilitary units. Sheiks in Falluja often complain to American officers there of harassment, raids or indiscriminate shooting by Iraqi forces.
    A year ago, the party of Tariq al-Hashemi, a hard-line Sunni Arab who is one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, was calling for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops.
    “The situation is different now,” Mr. Hashemi said. “I don’t want the Americans to say bye-bye. Tomorrow, if they were to leave the country, there would be a security vacuum, and that would lead inevitably to civil war.”
    Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, has been at the forefront of American efforts to bring Sunni Arabs into the political process. Part of that strategy is to crack down on Shiite militias and push for amnesty for some guerrillas.
    This month the American military has stepped up operations against the Mahdi Army, a volatile Shiite militia, and the top American commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said last Wednesday that the Americans would hunt down “death squads” that are a driving force behind the rising bloodshed.
    Some Shiite leaders deride the American policy toward Sunnis as appeasement. “This strategy will destroy their goal of establishing democracy in Iraq,” said Abbas al-Bayati, a prominent Shiite legislator. “Compromising with the insurgency will encourage the insurgents to do more and more violence in the region.”
    Investigations into possible wrongdoing by American troops in two major cases — the deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha last November, and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the killing of her family in Mahmudiya in March — have ignited anger among Sunnis, but not nearly to the same degree as they might have in 2004, when the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal emerged. But back then, Iraq had not crept to the brink of full-scale civil war.

    Khalid al-Ansary and Ali Adeeb contributed reporting for this article
  2. Bro. Curtis

    Bro. Curtis
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    Oct 25, 2001
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    Of course they want us to stay. We're the only force strong enough to stand up. Reminds me of an op-ed piece I read where citizens in Lebanon were actually looking forward to Israel coming & restoring order to the border towns.

    Of course they want us to stay. Iran can't use Iraq as a staging area, while we're there.

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