Anbar Awakening Leader Killed

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the anti-al Qaeda revolt in Anbar, has been assassinated.

Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha with President BushThe 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.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    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.

    Give me a break! The surge is proceeding quite swimmingly, thank you. Its not like the oil-sharing agreement between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites is collapsing or anything.

    This is clear evidence that the political situation is stabilizing and that our troop escalation is working wonders.

  2. david says:

    I would hardly say that one death completely undermines the value and success of the surge, but it certainly does undermine military and political progress.

  3. Boyd says:

    One would hope that this assassination would spur the Anbarians’ determination to get rid of the insurgents in their midst to even higher levels.

  4. Michael says:

    One would hope that this assassination would spur the Anbarians’ determination to get rid of the insurgents in their midst to even higher levels.

    What makes you think this assassination was the work of insurgents?

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1627400,00.html

    Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front’s impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom.

    And also http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/10/AR2007061001453.html

    In an interview in his Baghdad office, Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, 35, a leader of the Dulaim confederation, the largest tribal organization in Anbar, said that the Anbar Salvation Council would be dissolved because of growing internal dissatisfaction over its cooperation with U.S. soldiers and the behavior of the council’s most prominent member, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Suleiman called Abu Risha a “traitor” who “sells his beliefs, his religion and his people for money.”

    […]

    Suleiman said 12 Anbar tribal leaders have signed an agreement to form a new coalition that would result in the dissolution of the Anbar Salvation Council and the purging of Abu Risha. “Those people have thrown themselves in the arms of the U.S. forces for their own benefit,” he said.

    He wasn’t exactly liked outside of Al Qaeda either.

  5. vnjagvet says:

    Was this guy relying on the US for his security? If so, how? The stories are silent on these little details. It is reported, however, that he apparently had his own security detail with him.

    It will be interesting to see whether/how GWB covers this in tonight’s message.

  6. Pug says:

    It will be interesting to see whether/how GWB covers this in tonight’s message.

    I’d be willing to bet a large amount of money, if I had a large amount of money to bet, that this incident will not be mentioned. The vast majority of Americans will remain unaware of Mr. Abu Risha or his assassination.

  7. Jim Henley says:

    The list of suspects is long:

    * AQI
    * Holdout Baathist groups
    * Rival sheiks within the ASC
    * Shiite factions against America’s pro-Sunni tilt
    * Iranian intelligence

    It’s a “Kill Doctor Lucky” situation. Naturally anyone official will say he was killed by “Al Qaeda.” Too many doves will say the same thing, since it makes the Anbar Awakening rhetoric ring hollow. But we don’t know and aren’t likely to find out.

  8. vnjagvet says:

    Pug:

    I should have taken you up on your bet.

    From tonight’s speech:

    In Anbar, the enemy remains active and deadly. Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheiks who helped lead the revolt against Al Qaeda was murdered. In response, a fellow Sunni leader declared: “We are determined to strike back and continue our work.” And as they do, they can count on the continued support of the United States.

  9. Boyd says:

    Michael: It doesn’t matter who killed him. My hope is for how his assassination will influence the non-insurgents in that area.

  10. Michael says:

    Boyd: My guess would be, not at all.

  11. Neo says:

    “there is no God but Allah and al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah”

    Is this al-Qaeda’s “a bridge too far” when al-Jazeera reports this kind of stuff ?