January 23, 2007

BAD FOR BUSINESS:

Sunni sheik declares war on the insurgency: A business-minded tribal leader in Al Anbar forges an alliance with U.S. forces (Tony Perry, January 23, 2007, LA Times)

At 35, he is younger than many sheiks. And his Sunni Arab tribe is not one of the largest in Al Anbar province. But Sheik Sattar Bazeaa Fatikhan projects the aura of power and seriousness that comes to a man who has taken a stand.

After Sunni insurgents killed his father and four of his brothers last year, Fatikhan declared war against the insurgency.

He convened a summit of about a dozen prominent sheiks. From that meeting came a document called "The Awakening," in which Fatikhan persuaded all but one sheik to join him in opposition to the insurgency.

The sheiks pledged to encourage young men to join the police force and even the Shiite-led army. The document states that killing an American is the same as killing a member of their tribes. Since the gathering, Fatikhan said, the sheiks have "eliminated" a number of insurgents. [...]

Fatikhan, who wears tailored suits when not in traditional clothing, understands U.S. politics. He told a visiting journalist, "Please take a message to the Democrats: Let the American forces stay until we can hold Iraq together. Then we will have a party when American forces go."

Outside Fatikhan's meeting room, other sheiks, some much older, waited to talk to him. So did Iraqi police officials. The sheik's bodyguards were nearby.

He offered his American and British visitors sweet tea and insisted that they stay for a lunch of goat, rice and sauces.

"The terrorists are not here for the interests of Iraq," Fatikhan said. "We don't need them here to say they're here to defend us. If Iraq was in danger, the real people of Iraq would stand up and defend Iraq."

He referred to the U.S. and Britain as "the two great nations."

British Lt. Gen. G.C.M. Lamb was quick to return the compliment.

"Baghdad was once considered the center of the civilized world, so I believe we have three great nations engaged in a great purpose," Lamb said.

"The British had an empire and lost it," he added, "and so we have learned that we do not know everything, that there is wisdom in many places."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2007 12:00 AM
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