Monday, September 1, 2008
Anbar Handed Over
The US handed over Anbar province today, with great pomp and circumstance, in hopes of parading the success of the Sunni Awakening Councils, the Surge, and overall US efforts over the past three years. This is the 11th of 18 provinces, and was once the bloodiest.
While it is a triumphant sign of progress, worry remains in the next few months. The Sunni Councils may be used to their autonomy, and may be averse to being ruled by a Shiite-dominated central government. An influx of mostly-Shiite Iraqi troops may cause sectarian tensions in the region, that would derail the mopping up of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Elections are coming in October, and Sunnis are quite unlikely to make the same mistake as in 2004 when they boycotted the election. But the elections will bring a dramatic change to the Iraqi parliament--total Shiite domination will end if the election goes as planned. If Shiites get too worried about this, violence may flare beforehand, and Al-Qaeda is sure to be planning attacks for the weeks before and day of the election. The next six weeks will be pivotal.