Anbar Awakening Leader Killed
Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the anti-al Qaeda revolt in Anbar, has been assassinated.
The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President Bush, police and tribal leaders said.
Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening — an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. Officials said his assassination would be a huge setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, because it sends a message to others who are cooperating with coalition forces or thinking about cooperating against al-Qaida.
It sends quite a few messages, one would think. Certainly, if we can’t protect our chief ally in the one region we’re pointing to as signs of the success in the Surge, confidence in assertions that the corner is about to be turned is undermined.
UPDATE: Marc Lynch has substantial background on Risha and observes, “His murder demonstrates that even America’s closest friends are not untouchable – not even on the day of a Presidential address expected to rely heavily on progress in Anbar. The political fallout of the murder inside of Iraq may well exceed Abu Risha’s actual role in Sunni politics.”