SUNSET IN ANBAR?….Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni sheikh most closely associated with the Anbar Awakening, was murdered today by a bomb planted near his home. AP says, naturally enough, that “suspicion fell on al-Qaida in Iraq.” Maybe so. But even within the Sunni tribal community itself Risha was a polarizing, overbearing figure who often claimed to speak for all Sunnis everywhere — an attitude that made him plenty of enemies among other Sunni leaders. Marc Lynch explains:

There’s no reason to assume that al-Qaeda killed him — I’d guess that one of the nationalist insurgency groups, the ones which current American rhetoric pretends don’t exist — is a more likely suspect. Other tribes deeply resented him. The major nationalist insurgency groups had recently issued a series of statements denouncing people who would illegitimately seize the fruits of their victorious jihad — of whom he was the prime example. All those photographs which swamped the Arab media showing him shaking hands with President Bush made him even more a marked man than before.

His murder graphically demonstrates that the other groups threatened by the American Anbar strategy were never going to just sit back passively and allow it to succeed — an obvious strategic point which has always seemed to elude surge advocates.

Marc’s epitaph for this grisly murder could apply equally to the entire American effort in Iraq. The Anbar strategy, he says, relied “on a whole series of best-case scenarios in which nothing could go wrong.” Unfortunately, “In Iraq, something always goes wrong.”

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