Is President Bush starting to shift his support back toward the [Sunni] clans of Al-Anbar, because he feels he committed a great sin by ignoring their interests for so long? Could it be that he was so ignorant of the fabric of Iraqi society that having judged the Sunnis for having committed the gravest sins, he dismissed those who had for so long led Iraq? Instead, he decided to bet on the Shiites, thinking that in this way he could secure their loyalty - oblivious of the consequences of siding with a tribe [the Shiites] which, according to social and political analysts, has never been capable of building a coherent government, because it encompasses so many factions with divided loyalties that they find it impossible to gather them all under one umbrella.
It's good that the Superpower can learn from its mistakes and alter its strategy, albeit belatedly, in an Iraq that the Americans have used to field test their worst-ever political management during wartime.
America came to realize that the Al-Anbar tribes were succeeding in repelling and pursuing al-Qaeda members - a success that had eluded the armies of the U.S. and its allies. In fact, they have been so successful, that a stream of important families and clans have flooded into the region for protection - which has also limited the human and material losses for President Bush. And the clans have done so despite the bitterness they feel over the treatment they received from U.S. commanders, who have inflicted indiscriminate destruction and the deliberate killing and annihilation of entire families throughout Al-Anbar.
More importantly, the initiative to protect their land and their people was their own, and came about when the [Sunni] clans decided to link together out of a conviction that survival depended upon unity. When all of a sudden Washington became interested in the region, it never expected to find the Al-Anbar clans resisting al-Qaeda, since the U.S. considered them to be allies.
This may have been the case in the very beginning - but it ceased to be true when the clans of Al-Anbar came to realize that they were victims of America and al-Qaeda alike.
The other matter that could overturn current political and military thinking is that in the course of the ongoing conflict, America has finally come to understand the role of Iraq's clans, communities of sons, son-in-laws and cousins, these are alliances and affiliations that combine Arab Shiite and Sunni tribal elements. The ties amongst them may often be severed along sectarian lines, but if a major crisis emerges or events like the Persian-Arab conflict are rekindled, they can be revived.
When Saddam Hussein waged war against Iran as the enemy of Arab Iraq, the Shiites were at the forefront of the army. If the current trends in this war continue, this could happen again. Tribal alliances could replace sectarian alliances, factional alliances, or even semi-nationalistic alliances. Furthermore, most of Iraq's tribes aren't pastoral nomads living in the desert, but exist mainly in large villages and agricultural areas - which gives the right to defend their land - which is an objective that the tribes share with historically urban communities. Most Iraqis come from rural tribal zones and others belong to nomadic tribes. But the bonds between these two major sections of society are strong and enduring.
We are not, as might be believed, looking for a tribal alternative to the sectarian and ethnic divisions that already exist; all such divisions are harmful to the Iraqi people playing with people's sentiments could easily prove dangerous in every Iraqi village. But if the tribes can serve to bring unity out of diversity, that would benefit all sections of society.