Did Petraeus betray us? He certainly deceived us about al Anbar; the surge had nothing to do with the defeat of al Qaeda of Mesopotamia there. And those weapons he’s giving away in Al Anbar will certainly be used to kill Americans.
Way beyond any “success” claimed by Petraeus, what’s happening in Anbar is once again a replay of what happened in eastern Afghanistan in 2001. Local tribes profit from US largesse – and weapons – and then proceed with their own tribal and/or nationalist agenda. What matters for all these players, most of all, is restoration of Sunni power. The Dulaimi tribe and sub-clans, armed by the Americans, as soon as they have a chance, will try to topple the US-sponsored puppet government in Baghdad.
Petraeus has not been able to seduce or bribe Sunni guerrillas. Far from it: leading groups such as the Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance make it very clear their enemies remain the US occupation, the Maliki government and al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers.
This summer, three of these groups – the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Hamas – formed the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance, a public political alliance basically to throw out all of Petraeus’s troops, block any collaboration with occupation-endorsed political institutions, and declare null and void any agreement between the US and the Iraqi government.
By this time, way into the “surge”, Petraeus had certainly figured out that Anbar was not a relevant war theater anymore. He can use it to spin the “success” of his counterinsurgency methods, but he knows the three really relevant, internal wars in Iraq, for the near future, will be in Baghdad (between Sunnis and Shi’ites), in Basra (between Shi’ite militias, to see who gets to control the oil) and in Kirkuk (between Kurds and Arabs/Turkomans, for the same reason).
So why not spice it all up with some extra divide and rule – to justify an eternal US presence? Arming Sunni tribals in Anbar, under these circumstances, makes sense. The occupation does not need to fight Sunnis in oil-deprived Anbar. The Bush administration is now full steam ahead on fighting Shi’ites – both in Iran (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) and in Iraq (from the Maliki government to Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army). Shi’ites in both Iran and southern Iraq are sitting over a wealth of oil. The Sunnis are needed to advance this agenda.
A (minor) problem is what Iraqi Sunnis think of all this. According to the latest BBC/ABC News poll, no less than 97% of Iraqi Sunnis want a unified, centralized Iraq with Baghdad as capital. Only 56% of Shi’ites want it, not to mention only 9% of Kurds. No less than 98% of Sunnis are against the Maliki government. And no less than 92% of Sunnis are in favor of attacks against occupation troops, including, of course, all those Dulaimis now supported by the Americans.