Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sunnis Won't Oppose ISIS

Peter Van Buren explains the hole in Obama's ISIS strategy in The American Conservative.

There is no path by which America can succeed in its goals in Iraq—repel ISIS and keep the country together—without the active participation of the Sunnis. It is very unlikely that will happen.

Obama’s strategy rests on the assumption that the Sunnis can be bribed and coerced into breaking with ISIS, no matter the state of things in Baghdad. That’s hard to imagine. As with al-Qaeda in Iraq during the American occupation years, the Islamic State is Sunni muscle against a Shia government that, left to its own devices, would continue to marginalize, if not simply slaughter, them. In 2006, U.S. officials did indeed convince Sunni tribal leaders into accepting arms and payments in return for fighting al-Qaeda. That deal, the Awakening, came with assurances that the United States would always stand by them.

America didn’t stand. Instead, it turned the program over to the Shia government and headed for the door marked exit. The Shias reneged on the deal. Once bitten, twice shy, so why, only a few years later, would the Sunnis go for the same bad deal? It appears they will not, and that by itself suggests the current Iraq war will not succeed. It is foolish for Obama to expect otherwise.

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