US arms Sunni insurgents

I strongly believe that any successful path forward in Iraq and the Middle East will require a strategic coming to terms with the newfound complexity of the region's ancient battle between Sunni and Shiite that was fundamentally altered by our installation of the first Shiite-led Arab government in the history of the region. It is clear, in retrospect, that despite intelligence warnings, the leaders of our government simply didn't understand what they were doing in Iraq, and had no real idea of what was going after to happen after the initial and successful acts of our military.

A big and important piece in the Times today details our latest efforts to gain the upper hand in this new complex regional dynamic - our government is now arming Sunni militias in Iraq. Of course, Sunni militias have killed more American troops than any other force in Iraq, and they the sworn enemies of the Shiite-led Maliki government. Confused? I think, my friends, so is our government.

Consider these graphs near the end of the story:

General Lynch said American commanders would face hard decisions in choosing which groups to support. “This isn’t a black and white place,” he said. “There are good guys and bad guys and there are groups in between,” and separating them was a major challenge. He said some groups that had approached the Americans had made no secret of their enmity.

“They say, ‘We hate you because you are occupiers’ ” he said, “ ‘but we hate Al Qaeda worse, and we hate the Persians even more.’ ” Sunni militants refer to Iraq’s Shiites as Persians, a reference to the strong links between Iraqi Shiites and the Shiites who predominate in Iran.

An Iraqi government official who was reached by telephone on Sunday said the government was uncomfortable with the American negotiations with the Sunni groups because they offered no guarantee that the militias would be loyal to anyone other than the American commander in their immediate area. “The government’s aim is to disarm and demobilize the militias in Iraq,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Mr. Maliki. “And we have enough militias in Iraq that we are struggling now to solve the problem. Why are we creating new ones?”

In a major op-ed in the Post today, Henry Kissinger joins the global chorus begging the Administration to start putting more effort and faith in a regional political reconciliation process that really is the only possible way we can improve a battle with the kind of complex politics described above (sorry for no link here - couldn't find it on the Post site this am).