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A reader in Iraq writes:

You state that it is unclear why the violence levels are dropping in Iraq. I tried to explain why it is happening. I didn't intend to convince you - there is little hope of doing that since you are not able to see what I see 24 hours a day over here. I'm just giving you a heads up so you know what to look for as the story unfolds. I will reiterate a couple of points: 

What is happening has little to do with the surge.  The surge helps, but it could just as easily have lead to more violence not less.

The main driving force is the Awakening Movement that is sweeping the country.  Al-Anbar has changed so completely that it is hardly believable.  The Sunni parts of the rest of the country lag behind Al-Anbar and the Shia parts lag behind them, but I assure you the Awakening Movement is taking hold everywhere.  And after the tribes clear the bad guys out of an area, they start right in forming parties and engaging good old fashioned messy, chaotic and dirty politics.

An Arab democracy is being formed here.  Forming political parties and coalitions is the new growth industry.  It is staggering just how enthusiastically Arabs take to this sort of thing.   

I'll leave you once again with the the quote from Sheikh Sattar.  Recall that Sattar was a small time Sheikh and one time insurgent from Al-Anbar (Anbar was by far the deadliest place to be during this war), who rid Al-Anbar of the insurgency and created the idea of the Awakening which has spread to all of Iraq:

"The Sahawa [Awakening] began because people thought the Americans were the enemy.  We rose up and let the people see the truth - let them see that the Americans are here to help us.  That was the true Awakening" - Sheikh Abdul Sattar Albu Risha, 26 May 2007.

We are winning this war.  A year from now much of today's conventional wisdom will have been turned on its head.

From a long way away, the promised reconciliation is not occurring. But wars are opaque; they change quickly; Iraq remains a mystery to most of us. If the Shiites begin to mimic the Sunnis in Anbar, then we have a new ball-game. Here's another nugget of news that strikes me as a big deal:

In the city of Ramadi in Anbar Province, more than 40 Shiite tribal and political leaders met with Sunni tribal leaders in a significant display of support for the Sunni alliance fighting against the insurgent group called Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign led.

The three-hour meeting, to which the Shiite political and tribal leaders traveled in American military helicopters, was organized by the Awakening Council, a coalition of Sunni tribes in Anbar that have begun fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for control of the province.

It was the first time that Shiite political leaders had traveled to Anbar to meet with the Sunni coalition at a gathering of sheiks.

Hmmm.

(Photo: Iraqi Shiite leader Ammar Hakim (L), a leading figure of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), meets with Iraqi Sunni Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the brother of slain leader Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, 14 October 2007 in Ramadi. The two leaders are figure heads of their community and their meeting heralds the determination to bridge the gap between the Shiite and Sunni communities in Iraq. They met under the protection of the US Army. Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was assassinated 13 September in a car bomb attack, almost a year after he formed the Anbar Awakening Conference, a coalition of 42 Sunni tribes who along with US troops fought Al-Qaeda in Anbar. Sheikh Ahmed was elected to replace his brother. By Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty.)                   

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