In the Arena

Today in Iraq

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This is a terrific story in the Washington Post about the difficulties of the U.S. military’s new tribal strategy. One sheik says he wants to fight Al Qaeda and gets a money deal from the U.S…A second sheik says, no, the first sheik was just pretending. He gets a money deal, too, and says he’s going to use the money to buy arms on the black market. So much for the U.S. contention that we’re not arming the tribes. And who knows who these people actually are, and who they’re fighting. My guess: Once the foreign extremists are kicked out, the Sunni tribes will resume fighting the Shi’ites, and probably us, too.

It does seem clear that the Sunnis have turned against the jihadi movement, whether the extremists call themselves Al Qaeda or whatever, for entirely understandable reasons: they don’t want a Taliban-style government.

But it seems equally clear that the Iraqis themselves are not going to stop fighting if and when the foreign fighters are dispatched…And remind me, again, what’s our rationale for being there if Al Qaeda has been defeated?