Iraqi Reconciliation

As mentioned in before in many posts, the focus of the political fight here about Iraq is on national reconciliation. But it should be noted that despite the fact that it still hasn’t happened on a national level, reconciliation is happening in Iraq.

A prefect example of that is in Diayla province where the provincial capital of Baquba was the declared “capital” of al Qaeda in Iraq a few short months ago. COL David Sutherland, who commands the 3rd BCT of the 1st Cavalry Division specifically addressed the reconciliation process in a recent Bloggers Roundtable. Note how that process is working even in this ethnically diverse area with all religious factions present:

The second issue is the reconciliation effort taking place across Diyala. Unlike Al Anbar, which is predominantly Sunni, in Diyala, we have 25 major tribes from all sects and Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish. And we also have over 100 subtribes within this province. All are competing for resources and for power. Reconciliation in Diyala attempts to eliminate all the riffs in the society that al Qaeda about 18 months ago attempted to exploit.

As such, reconciliation goes on between not only tribes, but villages, within families, cross religious sex and even between the police and the army.

It is not necessarily been easy, however, the provincial government has six active reconciliation initiatives within the province with more than 250 tribal leaders who have signed the provincial reconciliation agreement. This represents all but three of the major tribes, and those three major tribes that have not signed is due to proximity as they are closer to KRG and the northern portion of Diyala.

The people that are participating, they understand that the future of Iraq will depend on their willingness to put aside these differences and come together to reject the extremism and build on a united Iraq. They also are doing this because they miss their neighbors their neighbors that have been displaced, living in Karbala, and they see they realize that for thousands of years they’ve lived together and they’re sick and tired of the violence. As more people join the reconciliation efforts and begin to experience improvements in security and services, others who have not joined this peace effort are now beginning to seek agreements to enjoy the same benefits.

Basically the tribal leaders are realizing that if they don’t participate, they’ll be left behind as security and services improve. As a result of these reconciliation agreements, we’ve seen a drop of significant violent acts of more than 50 percent in the Diyala River Valley and a 71 percent drop in the (inaudible) area. Overall, we’ve seen a decrease in violent acts of 56 percent since the first part of June. Local government is now focusing its reconciliation efforts in a move to Muqdadiyah area where the Iraqi security forces and my soldiers are currently conducting combat operations to clear the al Qaeda from the perceived safe haven that they thought they had in this town of approximately 80,000 people.

Lastly, there are incredible changes taking place throughout Diyala but especially in the provincial capital of Baqubah, which a few months ago was declared as the most dangerous city in Iraq. Today, five months after that declaration by CNN, this city is a much different place. Before the people were afraid to come out of their houses or to walk to the markets, gunfire was a common sound and the streets were empty after 1200. Every day the fear of being kidnapped or killed was always there. The people had not received their public distribution system of food rations since August of ’06 and violence, both sectarian and terrorist, was tearing the province apart.

The influx of troops to Diyala beginning in March of this year allowed the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces to clear areas considered al Qaeda safe havens, establish a permanent presence in a series of joint patrol basis and provide humanitarian assistance to the people. Currently the public distribution system of food, which is the Iraqi subsidized food program, is functional in all five of the qadhas in the province. The local government and the security forces are continuously providing humanitarian assistance to the most remote areas where PDS might not have been able to reach the population on a regular basis. Local businesses are beginning to open and jobs are now becoming available. One of these businesses, a flour mill, is currently producing flour that is available throughout the province.

And a total of five flour mills are now open within Baqubah. Rice is also being produced locally and is now available to the citizens and a work program to clean the city of Baqubah is under way and producing extremely significant results, and that is being run by the local leadership in the city.

I wanted to put a significant portion of COL Sutherland’s answer up here (there’s more and you ought to read it) because it is important. It’s important because it outlines how the Surge has been successful in doing precisely what it was supposed to do. In the space it has provided, local and provincial governments have been “stood up” and are functioning. There is economic progress and businesses are beginning to again function. Unemployment is dropping. Citizens have taken charge of their area through the “concerned citizen” program. And the local leaders and tribal shieks have realized that by banding together and “reconciling” their differences, they can indeed bring peace to their area and region.

That’s reconciliation in a nut-shell. And while I understand the politics over here when it is discussed and why those opposed to the war insist nothing is being accomplished in that realm at a national level, I also know they’re ignoring huge progress at local and provincial levels. It is also why I’m optimistic about Iraq. It’s one thing to try to force reconciliation on the people from the top down. Frankly that’s not a very effective way to do it. In fact, the most effective way to reconcile is the way it is being done now … from the bottom up. And I’m of the opinion that when the central government finally gets its act together concerning this issue, they’ll simply tie the bow on the package, because for all intents and purposes, reconciliation on a national level will be a done deal.

First published at QandO. Please come visit us.

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