“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Turning Point?

The Guardian is reporting the good news that the western tribes in the Anbar region are driving out Saudi and Syrian al-Qaeda.

If there is a turning point in the Iraqi violence, this could be the start:
Al-Qaida in Iraq is being pushed out of its strongholds in Anbar province after three days of fighting with Iraq's fiercely independent tribes. A number of al-Qaida fighters have been killed and captured, including Saudis and Syrians. The clashes erupted after a new grouping calling itself the Anbar Rescue Council - which claims to represent a large number of Anbar tribes and sub-clans - said it intended to clear the province of the terrorist group. It also follows a meeting between tribal leaders and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, last week in which they asked for government support and arms in their fight against al-Qaida. The fighting also comes as the Iraqi government has said it believes it is close to capturing the organisation's new leader in Iraq, Abu Ayoub al-Masri. Although the power struggle has not reduced the number of attacks against the US-led coalition in Anbar province, it points to a complex reordering of the lines of conflict in the so-called "Sunni Triangle".
From Falluja, where the notoriously fractious Bou Eisa clan have turned against al-Qaida, to the city of Qaim, where it is the Bou Mahal who are pursuing them, they are being being pushed out of their old strongholds in the rural west.
Apparently, Maliki has been offering the tribal sheikhs up to $5,000 a month and weapons while al-Qaeda "emirs" have been undermining the traditional powers of the tribal leaders, interferring with civil engineering projects and cutting off government ration trucks.
"People just got sick of it," said one Anbar resident. "They were setting up their own checkpoints, taking property and houses for their use. They were killing not just police and army but clerics they did not agree with and tribal leaders."
I would bet Iraqi women are behind this change. Don't mess with the baby's milk!

In a related story the BBC report on the New Iraqi plan to curb violence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced a new four-point plan aimed at reducing sectarian violence.

The plan to set up local security committees in areas around the country was agreed after intensive talks with top Sunni and Shia politicians.

It seems that al-Maliki's efforts to enlist the western tribes against al-Qaeda are bearing fruit and it would be easy to become overly optimistic. There are so many variables which must fall into place but if there is to be any lasting peace and stability in Iraq, it must be a product up of a "bottom up" effort. The plan seems to be that ordinary Iraqis take things into their own hands and restore stability and security to Iraq. Of course, there are no guarantees that the tribal guns won't once again be turned on coalition forces but for now, a defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq will be huge.


  1. It just seems like 3M should have a product called al-Maliki.

  2. How many operators have the Syrians and Saudis working in the province? Certainly some. Let us hope the new Iraqi tough love interrogation techniques can jar some useful information loose. Let us hope the Bush administration is smart enough to use it.

  3. whit & buddy,

    re: Fatah v. Hamas

    Watch out, now. Dr. Rice is on the case as this is written.

    Oh, we'll send money in any event to any winner.