US to abandon outreach to Sunnis?

Washington Post:

The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds, who won elections and now dominate the government, according to U.S. officials.

The proposal, put forward by the State Department as part of a crash White House review of Iraq policy, follows an assessment that the ambitious U.S. outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have backfired, alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq, according to sources familiar with the State Department proposal.

Some insiders call the proposal the "80 percent" solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Until now, the thrust of U.S. policy has been to build a unified government and society out of Iraq's three fractious communities. U.S. officials say they would not be abandoning this goal but would instead leave leadership of the thorny task of reconciliation to the Iraqis. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the deliberations.

What is curious about this story is its omission of some of the real progress in dealing with the Sunnis. The majority of the Sheiks of the Anbar tribes have banded together to fight al Qaeda. Sunni legislators worked closely with US representatives in shaping the Iraqi constitution. This post has links to many of the stories on the Sunnis involvement int he fight against al Qaeda in Anbar. It is just strange that the Washington Post is ignoring these stories some of which ran in that paper.

David Ignatius has a somewhat more coherent description of the change in the out reach agenda.


... Some officials have concluded that Khalilzad's approach made Iraqi Shiites fear that America was abandoning them, without achieving any meaningful reduction of the Sunni insurgency. A few officials argue flatly that it's time for America to take the Shiite side in the Iraqi conflict. "National reconciliation is a fallacy,'' one senior intelligence analyst said in an interview this week, insisting that in Iraq, "You have to pick a winner.''

On the political level there may be some basis for this argument, but out in the field where the insurgents are alienating the Sunnis and the Shia the outreach program is the main way to deal with the insurgency. In fact that is what counter insurgency warfare is all about. Perhaps the real problem with these two stories is that if fails to separate the counter insurgency operations from the political sparring in Baghdad.


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