The Chicago Tribune has an excellent report on a familiar story: the revolt of former Sunni insurgents against the murderous al Qaeda thugs who for a time dominated much of Sunni Iraq. The Tribune tells the story of Amariyah, a Baghdad neighborhood that was the scene of an al Qaeda reign of terror until a former insurgent leader named Abul Abed killed the local al Qaeda commander:
The next day, a firefight erupted. Al Qaeda fighters closed in on Abul Abed. Most of the 150 men who had joined him fled. Holed up in a mosque with fewer than a dozen supporters, Abul Abed thought the end was near.
“The blue carpet was soaked red with blood,” he recalled. Then the imam of the mosque called in American help.
A friendship was born.
Al Qaeda has been getting hammered in Iraq for a while now, but a big unanswered question remains:
[Abul Abed] acknowledged that many of his men once fought Americans and now work closely with them.
“They recognize that they made a big mistake,” he said. “They realize that they were on the wrong path and that they wasted many chances with what they did.”
The implications of creating this network of trained, armed paramilitaries loyal not to the government but to an assortment of local strongmen have yet to be played out. *** “That’s the big intangible that makes me nervous,” said Col. Martin Stanton, who oversees the reconciliation and engagement effort. If there is no progress on getting the paramilitaries regular jobs with the security forces and delivering services to Sunni areas, Sunni frustrations will continue to mount, he said.
One challenge follows another, but the defeat that al Qaeda is currently suffering can only be a good thing.
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