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What’s going on in Anbar province?

September 18th, 2007

Here is a video published by al jazeera and produced by BBC filmmakers that I highly recommend watching. The filmmakers have gotten the views of local US military commanders, local Sunni leaders and displaced Shiites. They have footage from the Anbar province that has been too dangerous for media to enter during this war. There isn’t reliable information from US sources, but I find Al Jazeera’s version quite plausible. Check it out (you may want to skip to the first two minutes of introduction and go right to the documentary itself):

And then you can also watch the second part here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsQ6twcWevY

Given the failures of the central government in Iraq, the Bush administration has taken a new tactic: working directly with tribal leaders. To tout the success of this new approach, President Bush himself went to Anbar province in early September and General Petraeus pointed to the decline of violence as evidence that the surge is working. But Sheik Abu Risa, the man who met with Bush and is credited for pulling together the local coalition, was killed yesterday by roadside bomb. What’s going on?

The Bush administration version of the story is that Al Queda is responsible for his death. His death is a blow to our efforts, but it demonstrates why we can’t let the terrorists win.

Al Jazeera has a different version of the story. Indeed, there has been remarkable peace in Anbar, but it has come at quite a cost. The local Sunni tribes have killed or displaced the 15,000 Shiite families that used to live there. According to Al Jazeera, Sheik Abu Risa was just a front man who has rise to power came from his role in dolling out US construction money. He was finally killed by real Sunni sheiks who resented his connection to the US. And Al Jazeera worries that the weapons that the US provides to the former insurgents will only add more fuel to an impending civil war in Iraq.

We need to be asking ourselves: how big is the refugee problem in Iraq? what is causing it? How can it be fixed? Is the surge a dangerous band-aid or the new solution touted by the Bush administration? I have to say that this report makes me even more skeptical about the success of the surge.

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