Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunni and Shia banding together to fight al-Qaeda

So much for that civil war that we've heard so much about:

Despite persistent sectarian tensions in the Iraqi government, war-weary Sunnis and Shiites are joining hands at the local level to protect their communities from militants on both sides, U.S. military officials say.

In the last two months, a U.S.-backed policing movement called Concerned Citizens, launched last year in Sunni-dominated Anbar province under the banner of the Awakening movement, has spread rapidly into the mixed Iraqi heartland.

Of the nearly 70,000 Iraqi men in the Awakening movement, started by Sunni Muslim sheiks who turned their followers against Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are now more in Baghdad and its environs than anywhere else, and a growing number of those are Shiite Muslims.

Commanders in the field think they have tapped into a genuine public expression of reconciliation that has outpaced the elected government's progress on mending the sectarian rift.

"What you find is these people have lived together for decades with no problem until the terrorists arrived and tried to instigate the problem," said Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne unit in the Iskandariya area south of Baghdad. "So they are perfectly willing to work together to keep the terrorists out."


"Sunnis-Shiites, no problem," said Obede Ali Hussein, 22, who stood at a checkpoint built by the U.S. Army along the Diyala River. "We want to protect our neighborhood."

Eventually, the politicians will see that reconciliation is necessary because the people will demand it. And then where does that leave Reid and the rest of the Democrats who have desperately been trying to surrender?