As we slowly prepare for an Iraqi offensive in the fullness of time and Western training efforts, the proto-Awakening in Anbar is being slaughtered and intimidated:
As Sunni tribes have been forced to choose sides – pro-IS or anti-IS, with many shades of gray in between – new divisions have brought accumulating blood feuds and a scale of slaughter in Anbar Province that is tearing at Iraq’s Sunni social fabric like never before.
Local leaders say IS intimidation is undermining the ability of any tribe to fight back, by using sleeper cells and systematic cleansing of anti-IS figures within the tribe.
The result is that IS is proving much more difficult for the tribes to take on than was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) , whom home-grown Sunni groups fought during the Sunni “Awakening” of 2006-2008 with support from the US.
Why yes, this is a problem:
ISIL is too powerful in the Sunni Arab regions that ISIL controls for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to risk rising up absent powerful Iraqi government forces coming to their rescue.
Thus, the hope that Iraqi forces could sail back into their lost regions taken by ISIL on a wave of Sunni Arabs angry at ISIL cannot take place. Angry the Sunni Arabs may be at ISIL brutality. But the Sunni Arabs cannot risk rising up before liberation is at hand.
So now we have the task of mounting an offensive into ISIL-held territory to the north and west of Baghdad, with Sunni Arabs at best rising up once the frontline reaches them.
The destruction of potential Sunni Arab allies and their alienation from a Shia-led Iraqi government that fails to support them against ISIL is one motivation to rush a planned offensive into Anbar earlier than we think Iraqi troops will be ready.
Will we rigidly stick to the plan timetable that calls for retraining before moving while potential allies needed for the fight and vital for the post-fight rebuilding of Iraq are destroyed by ISIL?