9 years, 4 months ago
In Are We Bribing the Sheikhs? and Payment to Concerned Citizens: Strategy of Genius or Shame?, I discussed the expansion of one aspect of the Anbar model into the balance of Iraq, this aspect specifically being settling with the enemy and using his services to maintain regional or local stability and security. South of Baghdad this model is having success, but it has potential pitfalls which might have to be be addressed in the future.
JURF AL-SAKHR, Iraq; In this desolate tiny town in what was once called the Triangle of Death, signs of the violent past mix oddly with evidence of today’s more tranquil life.
Large plots of land emptied by car bombs sit next to refurbished buildings. A new water treatment plant looks out to blast walls that have not been necessary for months. A newly opened clothes shop is next to one that has been shut for ages.
The U.S. calls this former al-Qaida stronghold a paragon of post-surge Iraq. Violence has come to a near standstill. Yet the government that has emerged is far from the democratic republic once promised.
The town is run by deals among its anointed leaders, nearly all of them former Sunni Muslim insurgents. None was elected. No one pays any mind to what might be happening in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Parliament in Baghdad. Residents assume that the elected central government will never help them.
Instead, the insurgents-turned-leaders depend on an influx of money from the U.S. or from the provincial government to keep Islamic extremists from dominating the town again. So far, the U.S. military has spent $1 million, the cost of one of the military’s newest armored vehicles, on reconstruction projects and salaries for residents to secure the town and its surrounding area — 30,000 people in all. If the U.S. plan works, the next million will come from the Shiite-led provincial government.
U.S. officials acknowledge that their approach is tenuous, but one that so far has produced a big drop in violence. No U.S. soldier has been attacked since June, and they can now walk with some assurance of safety.
Residents reopened more than 40 shops and are sending their children to school. Townspeople are no longer locked in their homes.
But everyone agrees a major bombing, the assassination of a key figure or a lack of money could break the deal.
And it raises questions of what role the central government will have in Iraq. If residents reject that government, can Iraq stay together? Or will it become a series of fiefdoms run by unelected leaders backed by the United States?
U.S. commanders hail the turnaround here, saying they approached it in an Iraqi way.
“This place is about all kinds of agreements,