During his visit to Iraq last week, President Bush carved out an hour to sit down with Shaykh Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, the controversial head of the Anbar Salvation Council who had become a symbol of America’s Anbar strategy. The pictures from that photo-op were likely the Shaykh’s death warrant: Abu Risha was assassinated today, even as Bush prepared to use the Anbar strategy’s “success” to justify our continued involvement in Iraq.
David Petraeus was quick to blame al-Qaeda for the stunning murder, a leap to judgment emblematic of all which is wrong with America’s current views of the Sunnis of Iraq. In reality there are a plethora of likely suspects, reflecting the reality of an intensely factionalized and divided community which little resembles the picture offered by the administration’s defenders. Leaders of other tribes deeply resented Abu Risha’s prominence. Leaders of the major insurgency factions had for weeks been warning against allowing people such as Abu Risha to illegitimately reap the fruits of their jihad against the occupation. The brazen murder of America’s closest Sunni ally in Iraq was as predictable as it was shocking, and carries a powerful message to both Iraqis and Americans about the real prospects for the long-term success of the American project. [complete article]