Sunni Exit Plan?
Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle has a very important article today on Sunni Iraqi’s own exit plan for the US, which is much more nuanced than one might have imagined.
‘ “It’s impossible for them or us to fix an exact schedule” for troop withdrawal, said Isam al-Rawi, a leader of the Muslim Scholars Association, a group of 3,000 Sunni clerics. “That is not the important thing right now. There are other steps that are much more necessary to calm the situation.”
Largely unnoticed amid the U.S. political debate, al-Rawi and other Sunni leaders close to the insurgency have reached tacit consensus over the broad outline of an interim program to reduce the violence, stabilize the country and thus enable the U.S.-led coalition troops to begin a gradual withdrawal. While differences remain on some points, there is wide agreement on these steps:
— A troop pullout from most urban areas and an end to military checkpoints and raids. “The Americans and British must leave all residential areas,” said al-Rawi . . .
— Overhaul of the Iraqi Army and National Guard . . . Sunni Arabs point out that these two institutions are almost completely composed of members of their ethnic enemies — the Kurdish peshmerga and the Shiite militias. “These people want to humiliate the Sunni,” al-Hashimi said. “The Army and National Guard must be professionalized. They cannot be dominated by members of the party militias . . .”
— Release of prisoners. The number of Iraqi prisoners in American military custody has grown rapidly in recent months, with as many as 15,000 Iraqis behind bars, according to U.S. estimates. ‘