Thursday, September 13, 2007

Check out this new US ally (tragic update)

It's been less than a week and the man pictured here with the president has been killed. In retrospect my irreverent post comes across as snarky, but the fact is this man would have been the target of an American attack earlier in the war. His assassination illustrates the madness of this war as much as anything else.

"The assassination was carried out by means of an explosive device placed on the car [of Sheikh Abu Risha]," Hamid al-Hayess, a fellow member of the Al-Anbar Awakening Council, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq. "The car flipped over, which led to the death of the sheikh, God be merciful. Sheikh Abu Risha, as you know, was the strongest [force for] national reconciliation, the termination of sectarian violence, and [the defeat of] Al-Qaeda in western Iraq. He was considered to be the spiritual, and physical leader of that area."

The assassination came hours before Bush is due to deliver a televised address outlining his future strategy for Iraq.

The Pentagon called Abu Risha's death a "tragic loss" and expressed hope that the movement he led against Al-Qaeda will survive him.

Al-Anbar security chief Colonel Tariq al-Dulaymi told Iraqi state television that Abu Risha was on his way home when he ordered his convoy to stop so he could help a handicapped man he saw sitting on the side of the road. "Soon after he got back in his car the bomb exploded," the police chief said.

He is now officially a martyr. In the case of martyrdom, Mark Anthony had it wrong: the good lives on and the evil is oft interred with their bones.

[First posted September 8...]

...The pictures themselves speak volumes: look at Bush's shit-eating grin and Abu Risha's detached contempt, and figure out which is the supplicant in this scenario.
An hour with Bush was really quite a coup for Sattar Abu Risha. The head of the Anbar Salvation Council has a rather unsavory reputation as one of the shadiest figures in the Sunni community, and as recently as June was reportedly on his way out. As a report in Time described him,


Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front's impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom.

Marc Lynch is a political science professor at Williams College, Williamstown, MA.

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