Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

Sway Moderate Sunni Tribes to Begin Iraq Victory, Paper Suggests

“There is no security without us,” Iraqi tribes are fond of saying, according to a paper released Tuesday by CNA Corp., a nonprofit research and analysis organization.

That’s a lesson the United States learned in turning back al-Qaida in Iraq and would be wise to heed again now that its successor, the Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL), is gaining ground in the country, Patricio Asfura-Heim writes.

“As was the case during the years of heavy American presence in Iraq, a key to security going forward will be to peel away moderate Sunni tribes from the insurgency, turn them against the terrorists, and begin a legitimate national reconciliation process between Iraq’s Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish populations,” the paper by Asfura-Heim suggests.

The point of the paper is to provide a primer to how tribes in the Al Anbar province function — from a structural level to how conflicts are resolved — by an author who was embedded with the U.S. Marines there in 2007.

The paper continues:

While the path to enduring stability in Iraq involves effective national-level political accommodations, the task at hand is to extirpate ISIS to create space for negotiations among Iraq’s various political and ethnic factions. Doing so will require partnering with local tribal forces in Sunni areas—and, if current news reports are accurate, the Obama administration is already considering ways to do so. If the president decides to take such actions, it will be critical for those implementing such a decision to understand the features of tribalism in Iraq and the role that tribal leaders play both in mobilizing the population and in resolving conflict.

Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Saudi Arabia and others to reach out to those Sunni tribes. But those tribes aren’t fans of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and one leader has said they won’t enter the fight until he’s gone.

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