Wolfowitz rejected Sunni overtures in Iraq in '04 by calling them 'Nazis'
Heads in the Sand
The so-called Sunni Awakening, in which American forces formed tactical alliances with local sheikhs, has been credited with dampening the insurgency in much of Iraq. But new evidence suggests that the Sunnis were offering the same deal as early as 2004—one that was eagerly embraced by commanders on the ground, but rejected out of hand at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
by David Rose WEB EXCLUSIVE May 12, 2009 The history books will record that the so-called Sunni Awakening—when many of Iraq’s Sunni tribes, in return for money and other considerations, began cutting deals with American forces and turned away from their nationalist insurgency—got under way in late 2006. The Sunni tribes, concentrated in Anbar province, had long been the backbone of the insurgency. In the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arabs had exercised a domination far out of proportion to their numbers (some 20 percent of the population), and after the American-led invasion, suddenly excluded from power and influence, they exacted a bloody revenge. After the Awakening, the Sunnis helped obliterate al-Qaeda’s networks in most of Sunni Iraq, a development that many believe did more to dampen the violence than the subsequent “surge” in American troop numbers. Having reached a peak in 2006 and early 2007, the casualty rates for combatants and civilians quickly plummeted.
Molly Bingham on Iraqi insurgents: “Ordinary Warriors,” July 2004.
What the history books should also record, revealed here for the first time, is that the Sunni insurgents had offered to come to terms with the Americans 30 months earlier, in the summer of 2004, during secret talks with senior U.S. officials and military commanders. The Sunnis were gathered by an Iraqi named Talal al-Gaaod, a Sunni sheikh and wealthy businessman based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The American officials included Jerry H. Jones, then a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and later serving as an expert on transitional government to Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates; the late ambassador Evan Galbraith, Rumsfeld’s special envoy to Europe; Colonel Mike Walker, the head of civil affairs for the Marine Corps in Iraq; and James Clad, then a counselor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (which was seeking to foster economic development in Iraq) and later the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for South and Southeast Asia. These men were desperate to pursue the Sunni contacts, and took serious risks with their own careers in order to do so. They were supported by officers close to the top of the U.S. military, including Lieutenant General James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps commander in Iraq and today the commandant of the Corps. For a variety of reasons, some of them petty, some of them ideological, and some of them still obscure, these men were blocked by superiors in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House.