Monday, August 27, 2007


The original Anbar Awakening stories were coming out last summer when initial reporting indicated that the tribal forces were starting to arrange local and temporary cease fires with US forces. These tribal forces wanted a deal with one of their foreign enemies to go after their other foreign enemies, AQI and other foreign jihadis because those guys were a greater economic threat. AQI and their supporters were trying to muscle in on either direct smuggling routes, or the usually more lucrative protection racket. Throw in the lack of respect for local customs, and we get the Anbar Awakening Story where the enemy (with a fat wallet) of my enemy is one of my bankers strategy seems to be paying off in a short term drop in violence.

However AQI has never been a big part of the Sunni Arab insurgencies against the US military and the Baghdad central governments. Most estimates have AQI and other foreign jihadi groups as being responsible for less than 10% of the violence, with the remainder being Sunni Arab nationalists, ex-Baath'ists, criminal gangs, neighborhood defense groups, and Shi'ite militias. So what else may or may not change if AQI is marginalized... well Hannah Allam at McClatchey is saying not much:

Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province.

fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military's recent alliance with some Anbar tribes — 200 new projects are scheduled — provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn....

A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi sub-contractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he'll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash payments in exchange for the supply convoys' safe passage....

One senior Iraqi politician with personal knowledge of the contracting system said the insurgents also use their cuts to pay border police in Syria "to look the other way" as they smuggle weapons and foot soldiers into Iraq.

"Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency," the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was aware of the "insurgent tax" that U.S.-allied contractors are forced to pay in Anbar,....

"The insurgents always remind us they're there," the contractor said. "Sometimes they hijack a truck or kidnap a driver and then we pay and, if we're lucky, we get our goods returned. It's just to make sure we know how it works.

"Insurgents control the roads," he added. "Americans don't control the roads - and everything from Syria and Jordan goes through there."[emphasis mine]

As Cernig pointed out earlier this week, reporting over at the Atlantic and through a grunt's blog shows that more of the same is happening. The reason why violence is down in Anbar is that the protection rackets are the undisputed champions of Anbari economic life, and the US military is funding and protecting leading members of these rackets.

So combine this with the hints of a coup, how are we promoting democracy again?

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