Joe Lieberman says that “Whereas a year ago, Iraq’s Sunni Arab community was largely allied with the insurgency, more and more Sunnis are coming over to our side, to fight against al Qaeda.” I don’t know if Lieberman is ignorant or being misleading here, but this is badly wrong.
There’s not an “insurgency” that Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have abandoned in favor of joining “our side.” Rather, Iraq’s Sunni Arabs are the insurgency — a violent rebellion against the Shiite-dominated new political order in Baghdad. The US government spent years trying to suppress these insurgents before, eventually, we stopped doing that and started cooperating with the insurgency to fight al-Qaeda. The insurgents have not, however, given up the political ideals that have motivated the insurgency from the beginning — namely hostility to foreign (be it al-Qaeda or American) domination of Iraq, and hostility to the Shiite ascendancy in Baghdad.
What happened is more like us switching sides than the Sunnis switching sides. We stopped trying to kill insurgent groups and started arming them instead. Today, that seems to be working well as a means of fighting AQI. Tomorrow those guns will probably be turned against the central government and maybe against us as well.