As Anbar Counts Votes, Sheiks Voice Defiance
Tribal Leaders Threaten Reprisals If They Lose
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 5, 2009; A10
RAMADI, Iraq, Feb. 4 — In a palatial house replete with guns, flags and other manifestations of tribal power, America’s key ally in once-volatile Anbar province explained what he would do if the counting of votes in Saturday’s election failed to show his party as the victor.
“We will form the government of Anbar anyway,” vowed Ahmed Abu Risha, his voice dipping to a quiet growl. The tribesmen seated in his visiting room, where photos of U.S. generals and Sunni monarchs adorn the walls, nodded in approval. “An honest dictatorship is better than a democracy won through fraud,” Abu Risha said.
Here, in the cradle of the Sunni insurgency, tribal leaders nurtured and empowered by the United States appear ready to take control the old-fashioned way — with guns and money — if their political ambitions are frustrated.
. . . Ever since they turned against the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq more than two years ago, a dozen of the sheiks who founded Awakening have considered themselves the saviors of Anbar. Enriched by U.S. contracts and courted by U.S. military commanders eager to preserve security gains, the tribes are more powerful than at any time since the demise of Iraq’s monarchy half a century ago.
Another deal with the Devil. We made hundreds of those during the fifty years of Cold War and, apparently, have learned nothing from the disastrous results across Africa, much of the Middle East and Asia.
American diplomacy is election-cycle based. Like the bulk of our nation, whose failure or success rides on quarterly economic results, we frame our wars and skirmishes in terms of expediency. It was expedient to arm the warlords of Anbar and get the hell out, so we could trumpet success in Iraq.
Now, in similar fashion to our economic disaster at home, we are on the brink of military disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first shoe has dropped in Anbar.