Thomas Ricks, whose work on Iraq has been confirmed again and again by events, reports
in Friday’s washingtonpost.com that our military leaders are making informal "handshake" deals to release selected detainees back to their communities in return for information and assistance in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). This appears to be one of the fruits of our new command structure which has put General Petraeus in charge of winning the war as distinct from merely fighting it.
I think it is likely that victory – if it can be achieved – will come as part of a "muddling through" process of establishing and reestablishing informal links in Iraq and arrangements that everybody can live with rather than some grand conference or settlement. If so, this news is very encouraging. Yes, maybe the Sunni are going to take a leaf from Ben Gurion and fight the Americans as if there were no AQI and fight the AQI as if there were no Americans. Certainly, we will always have to keep in mind that they put their best interests before ours, just as we put ours before theirs.
Still, nothing succeeds like success and this program has the smell of success, of shifting priorities, about it.