The Corner

Bribe The Tribes

The focus today is on foreign fighters in Iraq, but an informative op-ed in the New York Times by Amatzia Baram looks at the problem in the Sunni Triangle. Interesting stuff. First, there is this take on the motivation for the attacks:

“While this network has been fractured, many of the older tenets of tribal life linger, and help to fuel the pattern of violence in the triangle today. Attacks on coalition troops should be viewed through the prism of tribal warfare. This is a world defined in large measure by avenging the blood of a relative (al-tha’r); demonstrating one’s manly courage in battle (al-muruwwah); generally upholding one’s manly honor (al-sharaf). For some of these young men, killing American soldiers is a political act, but it is also not unlike what hunting lions was to British colonial officers in 19th-century Africa: it involves a certain risk, but the reward is great.”

Next, is how to make it better:

“New efforts ought to be made to persuade the sheiks to assert their influence and help keep the peace. The easiest would simply be to hire the sheiks and their tribesmen — putting them on salaries and allowing them to spread the wealth among their people. In addition, sheiks in areas where coalition soldiers and oil pipelines are coming under frequent attacks should be told that the only way their tribes can receive luxuries — extra government services, construction aid, easy access to senior officials in Baghdad — is by making sure that there are no attacks against coalition soldiers in their domain.

If a sheik refused to cooperate, not only could his perks be withheld, they could be given to a neighboring sheik. This would eventually pit the uncooperative sheik against his own tribesmen, who would see that he was not serving their interests. If this weren’t enough to get the sheik into line, it wouldn’t be too difficult for the coalition to enact “regime change” on a small scale: almost every tribal leader has rivals within the group who covet his position.”


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