The 'Sunni Awakening' in Anbar:

Was it the product of the 'surge'? Or did it
occur well before the surge, having been
referred to in Bush's January 10, 2007,
speech announcing the planned surge?


July 23, 2008


"Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing Al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders [in Anbar] have begun to show their willingness to take on Al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to up the pressure on the terrorists. America’s men and women in uniform took away Al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan — and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq." -- from President George W. Bush's January 10, 2007 'speech to  the nation' in which the planned 'surge' to take place months later was announced


The so-called Sunni awakening began in Anbar province in Iraq, with tribal leaders leading the way, "encouraging thousands of their followers to join the hated Iraqi police and make common cause with the equally reviled US military.[1] Anbar, once the heart of the infamous Sunni Triangle, is now one of the safer provinces in Iraq," Martin Fletcher wrote September 10, 2007, in the UK's Times Online.[2]

"The US military is now trying to replicate the success of Anbar in other Sunni areas by recruiting thousands of Sunni males into groups of 'concerned citizens' determined to take back their neighbourhoods," Martin wrote.[2]

This "is an astonishing development," Martin wrote,[2] "but as far as bragging rights go it has its limits. For a start, it began months before the 'surge',[3] though the deployment of an additional 30,000 US troops probably emboldened more ordinary Sunnis to tackle the extremists in their midst.

"More importantly, it has done little to remedy Iraq’s most pressing problem – its sectarian civil war. The anti-American insurgency may be finally losing heat, and al-Qaeda may be off-balance, but those Shia-Sunni emnities that al-Qaeda ignited through deliberate slaughters of Shias show no sign of abating.

"The surge has managed to contain those emnities. It has reduced the sectarian violence significantly by moving US troops out of their huge bases and into 29 combat outposts in Baghdad’s worst troublespots. But while it has largely frozen the battle lines in place, there has been little corresponding effort to reconcile Shia and Sunni and heal those festering hatreds," Martin wrote.[2]



Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Sam Dagher, "Sunni Muslim sheikhs join US in fighting Al Qaeda. Iraqi tribal support is linked to drop in violence in Anbar Province," Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Martin Fletcher, "A ‘Sunni awakening’ – and a recurring nightmare," Times Online (UK), September 10, 2007.
  3. Leila Fadel, "Security in Iraq still elusive," McClatchy Newspapers, September 10, 2007.

External articles