It is now clear that the tactic of weaning tribal and village support away from Sunni insurgent groups is working quite well. With a minimum of babble about the "freedom agenda" the armed forces are going about the business of using existing local leadership and group identity to pit traditionalist and secularist Sunni potential against takfiri jihadist groups in western and central Iraq. Money, a recognized status as part of a winning combination, a certain amount of protection from the rapacity of the Shia run police, all of those things contribute to the ability of US commanders to attract the willing cooperation of tribal sheikhs, village mukhtars and provincial politicians. In Iraq tribal identity is so pervasive in much of the country that the influence of these networks of real or fictive kinship can not be ignored. In some cases the Dulaimi relationships of the leaders are clearly a major factor. Tribal groups like the Shammar, who stand outside that grouping should not be ignored either.
Diyala, Salahuddin and the area just south of Baghdad are proving to be fertile ground for application of methods of influence and control as old as the tribes themselves. It continues to be ironic that many in the US government think that they have discovered something "new" in these methods.
In these stories from the LA Times, the process of "cat herding" is well depicted as well as the resulting generation of combat power in defense of village and small town life. "Concerned Local Citizens" must sound amusing in Arabic.
All of this is to the good, and such developments can be seen as setting the scene for a gradual but steady withdrawal of US ground forces down to the short term residual force I have written of before.
BUT, will the government that we Americans largely created (purple thumbs and all) prove equal to the task of re-integrating all these Sunni Arab "ralliers" into the national body politic? If the government can do that, then there is likely to be a future for a united Iraq. If not, what? An inevitable military coup? De facto partition? It is not yet clear what that future will be.. pl