Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Amid the Senate's all-night pillow fight and other Iraq grandstanding, real things are happening on the ground in Iraq. They consist of more than just a surge of U.S. troop levels. Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have engaged us in a far-reaching and fundamental political shift. Call it the 20 percent solution.

Ever since the December 2005 Iraqi elections, the U.S. has been waiting for the central government in Baghdad to pass grand national accords on oil, federalism and de-Baathification to unify and pacify the country. The Maliki government has proved too sectarian, too weak and perhaps too disposed to Iranian interests to rise to the task.

The Democrats cite this incapacity as a reason to give up and get out. A tempting thought, but ultimately self-destructive to our interests. Accordingly, Petraeus and Crocker have found a Plan B: pacify the country region by region, principally by getting Sunnis to join the fight against al-Qaeda.

his has begun to happen in Anbar and Diyala. First, because al-Qaeda are foreigners. So are we, but -- reason No. 2 -- unlike them, we are not barbarous. We don't amputate fingers for smoking, decapitate with pleasure and kill Shiites for sport.

Third, al-Qaeda's objectives are not the Sunnis'. Al-Qaeda live for endless war and a reborn caliphate. Ultimately, they live to die. Iraqi Sunnis are not looking for a heavenly date with 72 virgins. They are looking for a deal, and perhaps just survival after U.S. troops are gone.

That's why so many Sunnis have accepted Petraeus' bargain -- they join our fight against al-Qaeda and we give them weaponry and military support. With that, they can rid themselves of the al-Qaeda cancer now. And later, when the Americans inevitably leave, they'll be better positioned to defend themselves against the 80 percent Shiite-Kurd majority they are beginning to realize they may have unwisely taken on.

The bargain is certainly working for us. The recent capture of the leading Iraqi in al-Qaeda's Iraq affiliate is no accident, comrade. You capture such people only when you have good intelligence and you have good intelligence only when the locals have turned against the terrorists.

The place of his capture -- Mosul -- is also telling. Mosul is where you go if you've been driven out of Anbar and Diyala and have no other good place to go. You don't venture into the Shiite south or the purely Kurdish north where the locals will kill you.

The charge against our previous war strategy was that we were playing whack-a-mole: they escape from here, they re-establish there. Petraeus' plan is to eliminate all al-Qaeda sanctuaries.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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