November 4, 2007

The al-Anbar Shaykhs Ask for Funding

The al-Anbar Shaykhs Ask for Funding
It will be money well spent.

Tribal shaykhs in al-Anbar governorate have asked the United States to provide additional funding to assist them in the reconstruction of their battle damaged cities and towns. These are the tribal leaders that have allied with American forces to virtually eliminate al-Qa’idah in Iraq as a viable threat to the country’s security.

This will be money well spent, on several levels. The shaykhs are the key to the recent successes in al-Anbar province, via the “Anbar Awakening” movement in which they decided to turn on the al-Qa’idah in Iraq terrorists who had tried to establish an Islamic state in the Arab Sunni areas of Iraq. The shaykhs had differing motives to reject the Islamists – some saw the Islamists as a threat to their established tribal/clan/family way of life, others did not like the presence of outsiders establishing parallel court systems, and others did not like the risk of losing lucrative incomes from control of contracts and businesses in the region. Whatever the motives, they shaykhs’ cooperation with the Americans was the prime reason for the devastating blows dealt to al-Qa’idah by the American military and Iraqi security forces.

From the fighting in 2003 through the present day, whether the fighting was between Iraqi insurgents, al-Qa’idah fighters or American troops, the area is devastated. Cities like al-Fallujah were almost destroyed as American forces moved through them in pursuit of insurgents and terrorists. Artillery and air strikes leveled many of the buildings and crippled much of the infrastructure. Unfortunately, it was necessary in the removal of the hostile elements.

Now that al-Anbar is almost on the verge of pacification, the shaykhs should be rewarded for their cooperation – belated as it may have been. They took risks to side with the Americans and the central government in Baghdad. That reward should come in the form of funding to rebuild the cities and infrastructure to be sure, but should also include American support for some of the shaykhs’ demands of the Iraqi government. The United States should push for the passage of the long-awaited mineral resources law, allowing Baghdad to control and equitably distribute the country’s oil revenues.

An ancillary benefit of supporting the shaykhs’ requests for funds is the goodwill that it will generate among the surrounding Arab states, all with Sunni majorities. Providing increased police presence, repairs to the infrastructure and concessions from the Shi’a-dominated government in Baghdad will allay concerns among countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan that they might have to provide support to their Sunni brethren.

The shaykhs were key players in securing al-Anbar province and dealing a blow to al-Qa’idah. The funds are a fair way to acknowledge that contribution.