Thursday, February 01, 2007

Send This Sheihk a Case of Marlboros

Whatever is happening in the big strategic picture, in places on the ground, some guys in Ramadi are making progress and a local Sheihk takes an unprecedented and dangerous stance to try to bring the violence to an end.

RAMADI, IRAQ — At 35, he is younger than many sheiks. And his Sunni Arab tribe is not one of the largest in Al Anbar province. But Sheik Sattar Bazeaa Fatikhan projects the aura of power and seriousness that comes to a man who has taken a stand.

After Sunni insurgents killed his father and four of his brothers last year, Fatikhan declared war against the insurgency.

He convened a summit of about a dozen prominent sheiks. From that meeting came a document called "The Awakening," in which Fatikhan persuaded all but one sheik to join him in opposition to the insurgency.

The sheiks pledged to encourage young men to join the police force and even the Shiite-led army. The document states that killing an American is the same as killing a member of their tribes. Since the gathering, Fatikhan said, the sheiks have "eliminated" a number of insurgents.[spin]

Drinking tea and smoking Marlboros, Fatikhan listened to questions and then gave an unvarying response: The U.S. military and Iraqi tribes must unite to rid Sunni-dominated Al Anbar province of men who would "try to engineer our future with mortars and roadside bombs."

For U.S. forces, Fatikhan's stand is a significant boost in a bitter fight with insurgents who, until recently, controlled large segments of Ramadi, the provincial capital.

Army Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, credits Fatikhan and other sheiks for an increase in police enrollment, a decrease in insurgent recruitment and new courage among Iraqi forces.

A year ago, insurgents blew up every police station in Ramadi, and officers were afraid to return to duty. The U.S. military rebuilt many of the stations. During a recent attack, Iraqi police officers stood their ground.

"They would not be intimidated," MacFarland said. "Why? Because their sheik, whom they respect, told them, 'You must do this.' "

Among all the noise and clutter, as has always been the case, groups of men keep chugging along, doing what they need to do.

This sheihk's family was killed by the insurgents/terrorists. He refers to them as "foreigners". Very likely that his father was simply trying to support his family and tribe by doing work to get money; from the Americans and Iraqi government most likely. In the world of Iraq, insurgents/terrorists don't see the people as "neutral". As once said by the President of the United States, the insurgents actually live by, "You are with us or you are against us." Doing business with the government or Americans, regardless of motivation is "against" the terrorists.

Just like the concern about American's losing the war by losing the hearts and minds when they take actions that injure or kill an Iraqi that results in his family or tribe joining the opposition, it stands the same for the terrorists. In this case, they made a big mistake thinking they could intimidate or eliminate the power of this sheihk. They obviously underestimated the power of this sheihk and the power of family.

A lesson we should not forget.

Hat Tip: Jules Crittendon

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