Charles Krauthammer

You hardly hear about that from the anti-war Democrats in the Senate. But you did hear it from someone closer to the scene: Shiite lawmaker and close Maliki adviser Hassan al-Suneid. He is none too happy with the new American strategy. He complained bitterly about the overtures to Sunni groups in Anbar and Diyala. "These are gangs of killers," he told the AP. Petraeus is following a plan according to a "purely American vision."

How very true and very refreshing. We had been vainly pursuing an Iraqi vision that depended on people like Suneid and Maliki to make the grand bargain. So now, the American vision. "The strategy that Petraeus is following might succeed in confronting al-Qaeda in the early period but it will leave Iraq an armed nation, an armed society and militias," said Suneid.

Again, he is precisely right. His coalition would not or could not disarm the militias. So Petraeus has taken on the two extremes: (a) the Shiite militias and their Iranian Revolutionary Guard enablers, and (b) al-Qaeda, with the help of local Sunnis.

For an interminable 18 months we waited for the 80 percent solution -- for Maliki's Shiite-Kurdish coalition to reach out to the Sunnis. The Petraeus-Crocker plan is the 20 percent solution: peel the Sunnis away from the insurgency by giving them the security and weaponry to fight the new common enemy -- al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Maliki & Co. are afraid we are arming Sunnis for the civil war to come. On the other hand, we might be creating a rough balance of forces that would act as a deterrent to all-out civil war and encourage a relatively peaceful accommodation.

In either case, that will be Iraq's problem after we leave. For now, our problem is al-Qaeda on the Sunni side and the extremist militias on the Shiite side. And we are making enough headway to worry people like Suneid. The Democrats might listen to him to understand how profoundly the situation is changing on the ground -- and think twice before they pull the plug on this complicated, ruthless, hopeful "purely American vision."


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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