Last week in Abu Dhabi, Vice President Dick Cheney sat down with Bret Baier of Fox News to reminisce about his recent surprise visit to Iraq. Cheney wasted no time finding reasons to be optimistic:
... one item that stood out that everybody mentioned to me is the changes they see in Anbar province, where apparently the locals, the tribal sheikhs, the Sunni population, appears to be turning against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been a dominant force in that part of Iraq. It's been heavily engaged out there for several years. But apparently, it's reached the point where their conduct in the local community has been such that the Sunni leaders in the region have, in effect, turned against them.
And earlier in the week, in a press conference in Baghdad with the Vice President, General Petraeus thought Cheney remiss in not mentioning "the really dramatic shift in the Sunni population in Anbar province against al Qaeda Iraq in recent months."
Change, it appears, is afoot in Anbar Province. And while Cheney and Petraeus stop short of declaring victory over the hearts and minds of the Sunni resistance, they are both eager to call these changes 'progress.'
For an alternative view, check out this report from Conflicts Forum. The report confirms that the Reform and Jihad Front (RJF) recently united three major non-Al-Qaeda Sunni resistance movements. "The growth of the RJF, its ability to appeal to a broad political front, and its organizing skills have been felt throughout Anbar Province and far into the north."
But, contrary to Cheney's claims of success, the significance of the alliance against Al Qaeda is very different.
The RJF’s goals are to “fight all kind of occupations” (that is, American and Iranian) and to “make Iraq an Islamic State and guarantee its unity under an Islamic flag.” The RJF has also vowed to “target occupation forces and their agents and not civilians” to “promote moderate Islam and denounce all parties which do not differentiate between good and evil” to “abolish all decisions adopted by the American government including de-Baathification” and “to work to release all prisoners.” The RJF announced that they will never recognize the al-Maliki government and that upon taking power they will abolish the current constitution.