Abu Risha Was a Fraud, So Is the "Peace" in Anbar

BBC documentary reporter Rick Rowley and cameraman Dave Enders went to Anbar Province embedded with the 7th Cavalry to film the new conditions since Sheik Abu Risha’s Iraq Awakening Council supposedly kicked Al Qaeda out of the area. What they found, you won’t see on American TV.

Al Qaeda was never a factor in Anbar, Abu Risha was a con man, and the so-called “peace” of Anbar is the result of ethnic cleansing by the Sunni of the Shi’ia who used to live there, all of whom have been either murdered or forced into exile.

With a fraud this big, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with Gen Petraeus’ statement to a group meeting of editors and reporters at the Washington Post the same day Bush made his speech last week. Petraeus referred to the new “Reconciliation” policy that had brought peace to Anbar, and said that “that current U.S. projections anticipate Iraq reaching nationwide ‘sustainable security’ by June 2009.” The clear implication was that the Reconciliation policy was going to be spread throughout the country, the expectation being that it would work everywhere as it had worked in Anbar.

bush-abu-risha.jpegThat same day, Abu Risha, the “sheik” who both Bush and Petraeus credited with forming the alliance between the US military and the local tribes that expelled Al Qaeda and quelled the insurrection, was killed by a bomb. He had just returned from Dubai, where he had been “on business”. That night, in his speech, President Bush, visibly moved, made a reference to Sheik Abu Risha’s importance – he had met with him the week before – and claimed that Al Qaeda was responsible for his death. The Bush-tamed news media dutifully aped the Administration line in their reports of Risha’s muder.

Abu Risha was regarded by Americans as a rare leader willing to stand defiantly alongside U.S. forces, while able to both cajole and intimidate his fellow Sunnis into agreement.

His Anbar Salvation Council organized tribal rivals into local defense forces united against the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, making the province less violent and encouraging U.S. commanders to promote similar efforts in other parts of the country.

At a time when Iraqi leaders have been all but unable to achieve political progress, U.S. officials saw the council as a sign that Sunnis could be persuaded to work with the government.

In fact, as Rowley and Enders discovered, he was nothing of the kind. As Greg Palast put it on his blog:

1. Sheik Abu Risha wasn’t a sheik.
2. He wasn’t killed by Al Qaeda.
3. The new alliance with former insurgents in Anbar is as fake as the sheik – and a murderous deceit.

The Iraq Awakening Council turned out to be a loose collection of real sheiks – the leaders of Anbar’s various Sunni tribes – who had collectively decided to use the US military and US money to help them “cleanse” their region of all Shi’ia. Abu Risha had no followers, had no tribe. Therefore he was not a “sheik”. Rowley asked a real sheik, Ali Hathem of Anbar’s dominant Dulaimi tribe, about Risha. Hathem snorted, “Where is his tribe?” and characterized Risha as a joke. “The Americans like to create characters like Disney cartoon heros.” Then he added that Risha was “no longer welcome” in Anbar. So if he wasn’t a sheik and the IAC was a fiction, who was he?

What he was, was a con-artist, a middleman who – taking a leaf from Ahmad Chalabi’s book – went to the US govt claiming to be the head of a great movement that would help them kick AQ out of Anbar if they would furnish money and guns to his alliance. Petraeus apparently leaped at the offer, and the US paid Risha $$Millions$$ for the fake IAC, rewarding Risha with $$Millions$$ more in “reconstruction contracts”. That’s why he was in Dubai the week before he was killed – he was looking after his new investments. Or else laundering the US money (Dubai is the money-laundering capital of the Arab world) he was trying to hide from the Anbar sheiks.

For it was apparently that money that got him killed. He cut his own deal with the US, defying the Anbar sheiks’ orders that, minus a finding fee of course, any money he extracted from the US was to come to them. But he double-crossed them, the reason Hathem announced Risha was “no longer welcome”. Palast again:

“Not welcome” from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a kiss on both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu Risha returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush?s hand-sheik was whacked.

On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, “fighting Al Qaeda” – and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was “killed by al Qaeda.”

***

Who got Abu Risha? Nothing – NOTHING – moves in Ramadi without the approval of the REAL tribal sheiks. They were none-too-happy, as Hathem, noted, about the millions the US handed to Risha. The sheiks either ordered the hit – or simply gave the bomber free passage to do the deed.

So who are these guys, the sheiks who lead the Sunni tribes of Anbar – the potentates of the Tamimi, Fallaji, Obeidi, Zobal and Jumaili tribes? Think of them as the Sopranos of Arabia. They are also members of the so-called “Awakening Council” – getting their slice of the millions handed out – which they had no interest in sharing with Risha.

But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were effective in eliminating “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.” Indeed, as US military so proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the sheiks declared their opposition to Al Qaeda – i.e. got the payments from the US taxpayers – Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.

Risha was killed for holding out on the Anbar sheiks he was supposed to be representing, and what’s going on in Anbar is the old Arab game of “tribute”. From time immemorial, the tribes of Arabia have blackmailed would-be conquerors by offering not to attack them if they paid tribute – the Sicilian Mafia learned the protection racket from them centuries ago – and what the Bush Administration has fallen into in its desperation to find Good News in Iraq is a version of the same old trap invaders of Arabia have invariably succumbed to – they’re buying peace.

But the peace they’re buying has a price: the Shi’ia minority. The Anbar tribes’ alliance with the US military has effectively given them control of the province and they’re using that control to “cleanse” the Shi’ia population. As Rowley reports, there isn’t a Shi’ia family left in Anbar. Whole families have been murdered, and the rest have fled for the protection of Muktada al-Sadr. They are now living in refugee camps without water, sanitation facilities, or much food, in areas considered too dangerous for NGO’s to operate.

The whole damn thing is a put-up job, a sham. See for yourself.

Part 1 of Rowley’s BBC report

Part 2

9 Responses to “Abu Risha Was a Fraud, So Is the "Peace" in Anbar”

  1. Damn good post, mick. Probably get more comment later on today.

  2. Mick Arran says:

    No doubt, and from which I will be unsurprised to learn that I’m a secret Al Qaeda agent, a hate-America traitor, and a librul Democrat defeatist. Unpleasant truth does that to some people.

  3. Macswain says:

    The question I continue to ask is why are we spending our money and sacrificing the lives and health of our troops to support a bunch of new Saddams? It’s not just limited to the Sheiks in Anbar but also the Shia who are fronted by al Maliki or al Sadr. Even the Kurds have split their territory into two so that each is governed by single party, heavy handed rule.

    The human rights abuses over the past 4 years appear to be surpassing the numbers Saddam amassed over 30 years.

  4. mick says:

    It’s not just limited to the Sheiks in Anbar but also the Shia who are fronted by al Maliki or al Sadr.

    Yes, I know. Maybe I should have made it clear that this game is being played by everyone in one form or another, which is typical of the Middle East. The US, which has no experience and obviously no ability to play both ends against a dozen middles, is hampered as well by an astounding short-sightedness and a dangerous naivete that will have the effect of driving us deeper and deeper into the quicksand. The prognosis isn’t pretty.

  5. Jeez Mick, it’s two in the afternoon and thus far our wingnut baiting seems to have been in vane (just throwing some snark while I’m still too busy to write or comment anything of substance.

  6. Macswain says:

    11:00 in the morning, you mean?

  7. True, there are many conservatives who have yet to even start their day.

  8. Eric Martin says:

    Maybe I should have made it clear that this game is being played by everyone in one form or another, which is typical of the Middle East. The US, which has no experience and obviously no ability to play both ends against a dozen middles, is hampered as well by an astounding short-sightedness and a dangerous naivete that will have the effect of driving us deeper and deeper into the quicksand. The prognosis isn’t pretty.

    Truer words Mr. Arran…

  9. Karen says:

    So does it mean that all they talked about peace is also a fraud and not true?

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