Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chai and cigarettes

This is from Martin Fletcher of The Times, which is how he refers to himself throughout the article ("A convoy of five US military humvees... sped The Times to a large compound on the northeastern edge of Ramadi").

While the world’s attention has been focused on Baghdad’s slide into sectarian warfare, something remarkable has been happening in Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate.

A power struggle has erupted: al-Qaeda’s reign of terror is being challenged. Sheikh Sittar and many of his fellow tribal leaders have cast their lot with the once-reviled US military. They are persuading hundreds of their followers to sign up for the previously defunct Iraqi police. American troops are moving into a city that was, until recently, a virtual no-go area. A battle is raging for the allegiance of Ramadi’s battered and terrified citizens and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences.
What is refreshing in this story is the way that al-Queda committed the error that the Americans are always (at least accused of) committing: not understanding local conditions. They managed to antagonise the local bigwigs, not surprising really since, like the old Left, they are the vessels of The Truth.
"They were not respecting us or honouring us in any way, said Sheikh Sittar, speaking through an interpreter.” Their tactics were not acceptable.”
The Americans, on the other hand spent time “hundreds of cups of chai and thousands of cigarettes” on building a relationship that could be fundamental in the struggle for Iraq.

(via Instapundit and The Fourth Rail)

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