Bush and Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha

Good morning. It's a study Sunday for me. If you want to join in read on. What I will ask is that you visit the sites associated with the links. Their insight earns the nod.

Marc Lynch explains the photo above (other photo):

It's kind of lost in the shuffle of the coming battle over the various Iraq reports, but I find myself morbidly fascinated by the photos and reports which have circulated in the Iraqi press about Bush's meeting in Anbar with the controversial head of the Anbar Salvation Council Sattar Abu Risha. The pictures themselves speak volumes: look at Bush's shit-eating grin and Abu Risha's detached contempt, and figure out which is the supplicant in this scenario.

An hour with Bush was really quite a coup for Sattar Abu Risha. The head of the Anbar Salvation Council has a rather unsavory reputation as one of the shadiest figures in the Sunni community, and as recently as June was reportedly on his way out. As a report in Time described him,

Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front's impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom.

In June, Abu Risha's position in the Anbar Salvation Council came under a fairly intense internal challenge. As the Washington Post reported at the time,

Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, 35, a leader of the Dulaim confederation, the largest tribal organization in Anbar, said that the Anbar Salvation Council would be dissolved because of growing internal dissatisfaction over its cooperation with U.S. soldiers and the behavior of the council's most prominent member, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Suleiman called Abu Risha a "traitor" who "sells his beliefs, his religion and his people for money."

That's our guy. That's the pillar of America's Sunni strategy, and a key player in Fred Kagan's fantasy life. ... ..

Bush and Abu Risha

Then there is the coming insurgency strategy in Iraq. The open letter from the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), which Lynch calls "one of the most influential Sunni organizations in Iraq" is an eye full and worth a read. Here's a brief excerpt:

I mention the AMS open letter not only because it's an important political move within the Sunni community, and yet another signal of what the nationalist insurgency groups are trying to do - come together around a political program and form some kind of leadership which can act effectively in a post-American Iraq. I also mention it because it's important right now to emphasize that these groups are simply not going to sit back and allow the currently America-friendly tribal shaykhs to dominate Sunni politics. They see what's happening, and they are actively strategizing about how to frustrate the American plan to consolidate an "acceptable", supposedly pro-US leadership in the Sunni areas. The Sunni turn against al-Qaeda, and the current willingness to work with the US military, depended on a tacit agreement between the major insurgency groups and tribal leaders on the need to defend their turf. But reading recent insurgency literature makes it painfully clear that these groups remain committed to an American withdrawal (no matter what the Anbar Awakening crowd says) but also that they are deeply suspicious of the intentions and aspirations of those tribal leaders sitting down with Bush. It's pretty clear who they think is trying to "illegitimately steal the fruits of the resistance's victory". ... ..

AMS open letter to resistance

Missing Links has some very interesting (I would say important) news out of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, a half-brother of the Saudi king, said in an AP interview that there should be a political party in Saudi Arabia that includes reformists now in Saudi jails, and he accused a small group within the royal family of monopolizing power. Political parties are illegal in Saudi Arabia. Such criticism from within the Saud family is unheard of in recent times, and there are signs this reflects an important split within the family.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, editorially a staunch opponent of the Saudi regime, offers some background in its lead story this morning. The "small group" that Talal was referring to is the so-called "Sudairi" group, the core of which are seven sons of Abdulaziz ibn Saud, by the same mother who belonged to the Sudairi clan, and these include: Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Defence Minister and currently the crown prince; Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Interior Minister; and Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. (The famous Prince Bandar bin Sultan is a son of Prince Sultan the Defence Minister). These three the Al-Quds writer refers to as the "Sudairi triangle", and sources told him that the Prince Talal's dispute with them reached a point of no return a couple of months ago when they excluded him from meetings of the family council. The source said they told Talman this was because he was too often out of the country, but they also told him it was because of his support for reforms and for the election of the Shura Council (the appointed group that is the Saudi version of a legislature). ... ..

The perfect non-storm

The Saudis and Iraq:

The Sadrist-oriented news site Nahrainnet.net publishes a report that dovetails with the reports (see prior post) that a delegation including Allawi and the Sunni-Arab political-party leaders will be holding discussions with US government and congressional people in Washington soon. As far as the visit is concerned, this Nahrainnet report says the group is going to be touring a number of Western and Arab capitals to gain support, and Washington will merely be the first stop.

But this report also has a lot to say, citing "diplomatic sources in Brussels", about the nature of this tieup between Allawi and the Sunni-Arab parties. In fact it calls this a "new alliance" which has resulted from three months of difficult negotitions, centered in Amman, and aided not only by the CIA but also by Arab intelligence agencies, and the report names Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of the Saudi national security agency, and the head of Jordanian security, as two of the major facilitators.

The "new alliance", this report says, represents a major achievement for the Arab regimes, which have been unhappy with Shiite influence in Baghdad, which they see tantamount to an Iranian threat to the stability of the region. As far as the actual content of the agreement is concerned, the this report says:

These diplomatic sources in Brussels say the agreement between Ayad Allawi and the Sunni Arab political leaders, supported by the regional Arab powers, especially Saudi Arabia which is putting a lot of stock in this, will represent a new political axis in Iraq with a weight that has to be taken into account, particularly since this agreement talks about [concrete and meaningful matters, including] political apportionment to each of the parties in future, in the event of success in Parliament or outside of Parliament, and there is complete agreement on toppling the government of Nuri al-Maliki and on working to exploit the differences that are raging within the [United Iraqi] Alliance, and taking advantage of the strong American pressure on the government for the return of the Baathists to their former positions in the political and security areas.

And the sources said: This agreement between Allawi and the Sunni Arabs represents a major political achievement for the regional Arab regimes, which have a negative attitude to the Shiite influence on the Iraqi government, which they regard as an extension of Iranian influence, which has come to represent a threat to Arab national security. ...

Allawi-Sunni tieup: "A major achievement for the regional Arab regimes"

As for the rumors about Egypt's Hosni Mubarak being dead, Lynch has the story.