April 10th, 2008
03:30 PM ET
10 years ago

Blitzer: Could the Sunnis turn against U.S.?

 CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer

CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer

(CNN) - By now, everyone knows about the long-standing tensions between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis. Saddam Hussein and his fellow Sunnis ruled over the Shiites with an iron grip even though the Shiites represent about 60 percent of Iraq’s population. The Sunnis compose only 20 percent of the population, while the Kurds, who are clustered largely in the northern part of the country, represent the remaining 20 percent or so.

With the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Shiites have come to dominate Iraq, including the government. To a certain degree, there has been plenty of payback.

Many Sunnis resisted that domination. Some went into exile. Others were in the forefront in the insurgency against the U.S. military and the Iraqi government.

That was especially true in the al-Anbar province which became a hotbed of violence. The Iraqi Sunni insurgents killed a lot of Americans.

But that began to change about a year ago when the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy was implemented by General David Petraeus. Part of the strategy was to put the al-Anbar Sunnis on the U.S. government’s payroll. That worked. More than 90,000 so-called “Sons of Iraq” began to cooperate with the U.S. military.

All of which is good background in understanding this exchange on Wednesday between Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and General Petraeus - an exchange that mentioned something I had said in The Situation Room on Tuesday.

Congressman Smith referred to this comment I had made: “A lot of people fear that as quickly as these guys switched from being enemies, insurgents, terrorists killing Americans, killing Iraqi troops, and now being on the payroll, in effect, of the U.S. government, they could flip right back very quickly if they weren’t on the payroll of the U.S. government.”

That was what I noted. A lot of experts do believe that. Smith, however, suggested that the change of heart by the Sons of Iraq was more the result of enlightened self-interest, and Petraeus agreed. “And we have reminded these newly enlightened Sunni Arabs of what they received from Al Qaeda, which was indiscriminate violence and extremist ideology that on reflection they realized,” the general said. “They’d wondered why they’d ever let these folks into their communities.”

We can only hope that Smith and Petraeus are right. Still, there’s no shortage of Iraqi experts who continue to fear that as quickly as those Sunni Iraqis began to cooperate with the U.S., they could just as quickly turn against the U.S.

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Barb

    It is time to write your congressman! If Bush vetoes what goes to his desk then it time to override him and stop paying these people or have the Iraqies pay them not to shoot them.

    April 10, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Tim T.

    War without end ... Amen?

    April 10, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  3. KiloWhiskey - Denver

    No way...everyone knows how loyal the Arabs are! Say what?

    April 10, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. Jeanne

    I thought one of our biggest terrorist threat was from Sunni's (Al Qaida). But of course any country can change, depending on leadership & circumstances. With leadership like Bush/Cheney, it's a wonder they still talk to us as it is.

    April 10, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. Chuck in Oregon

    Wolf, with out a doubt. When we stop paying our enemy to not fight us, they will begin to do so almost immediately. In fact some segments of the Sunni are fighting us now.

    April 10, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  6. Ian

    I thought it was the surge that was the cause for the turnaround. You mean to say it's because we are paying the terrorists to stop killing us?

    April 10, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Danny

    No..... Mr. Blitzer Sunnis is not turn again U.S. I think the one going to turn
    again U.S is Shiites and Iranian. Another thing U.S got wrong side in the
    future both Kurds, Iranian and Shiites going to again U.S.

    April 10, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Therese, OH

    Of course the Sons of Iraq can and will turn against us. We are only buying their cooperation with our money, which will last only so long. When will the Republicans learn that we cannot stuff democracy down the Iraqis' throats? They have to want it badly enough that they would die for it.
    It is worth noting that the Al-Maliki does not have the support of his people. They know how corrupt the Iraqi government is. That is why Ahmed Chalabi and Ayed Alawi have multi-million homes in London. Who paid for those homes? U.S. Taxpayers. We are being played as fools. Wake up America.

    April 10, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. Deb

    I can not believe someone wrote that General Petraues had good news this week. You have got to be kidding me. There was not one shred of good news in his colorful maps. The sad news is that our troops are still there, will continue to be there and oh yes... the good news...their tours will be shortened to 12 months rather than 15.

    April 10, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. bob in florida

    and just think, when they do turn against the U.S. they will be armed with our weapons...did GWB really get thru college ??????

    April 10, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Ramesh Wadfhwani

    Sons of Iraq are armed and paid by U.S.Shiets and Kurds are armed. So the U.S. job is now done.Let's get out of the Iraq and let the best and bravest take over the control of Iraq. I bet you none of these parties would let Al Qiada form a base in Iraq.

    April 10, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. Veterans for Obama


    April 10, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Bob

    More of the same obfuscation, from Smith, Petreaus and YOU.

    April 10, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. mep

    If we stop paying the Sunnis to be on our side – WATCH OUT. Of course they could turn against us.

    April 10, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Veterans for Obama

    ML...I think they fixed the error in the article. If not, we have a lot of confused people here.

    April 10, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. kamenwati

    Remember the Mujahiddin? They were funded and trained by Reagan-Bush to fight against the pro-Soviet Afghan government in the eighties. They morphed into the Taliban, and al-Queda under bin-Laden. Think it won't happen again with the Sunnis? Remember, they aren't allies of the U.S., they are employees, disgruntled employees with guns. Get the picture?

    April 10, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Black Man for Hillary

    Kill our dependence on oil and it won't matter.

    April 10, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. Clay

    Now, now, good people. Lets put ourselves in a similar hypothetical situation. Imagine communist China invading, destroying the infrastructure, and occupying the US. They believe that communism is the way it should be. Now lets suppose that our political parties are kind of extreme killing members of the other. China sides with one, lets say the Democrats, and offers to pay them to fight the other, the Republicans. I know this is a little far fetched, but for the sake of argument indulge me for a second longer. Would we not put our internal bickering slightly aside between our political beliefs, form party based militias, and fight China until no American has breath in their body? Then once China got the hint and left, because lets face it they are like 1.3 billion strong; we can't kill them all. We would, being extremist in nature, resume killing each other. So, why I ask are we putting off the inevitable at the expense of the US economy? Even McCain demanded we leave Haiti and Somalia immediately, but now the same situation in Iraq is hears a different tune. Get out leave the middle east alone. If anyone decides to mess with the US they could easily be exterminated from this planet.

    April 10, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. toby hill

    Let me give you some advise Wolf, they are like Security Guards being paid $300 a month for their service. It is earned income and not just a hand-out for appeasement. I would like to see the Iraqi Government foot the bill, which they will soon, but to claim that they will turn and bite the hand that feeds them, for their honorable service, is a bunch of bull.

    April 10, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. Kim

    Our Military has done a fantastic job even while being hobbled by the foolish decisions of Rumsfeld. We have killed Saddam,held elections and re armed the new Iraq Army. Now it is time to come home and let the Iraq people run their own country. Our Military desperatly needs to rest and our economy needs the multi billions of dollars we are spending there. Only O8ama has clealy stated from the beginning of his campaign, that he will bring our heroic troops home.

    April 10, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Lin

    They will, Sadam was a sunni and he had everyone in Israel wearing gas masks. That's what makes Obama's war judgement so off the mark.

    April 10, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Lin

    This is a very big brother anti freedom of speech attitude and it is being witness and filmed to prove media bias, cest la vie

    April 10, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. Ardnuas

    YES.... that is why we need to get out! Give the Iraqi (smart people) the chance to stand on their own!
    Obama/Edwards 08 Si Se Puede

    April 10, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. Bill-S

    Will the Sunnis turn against the US? What a silly question, Blizer must be living on a different planet. The Sunnis were once our biggest allies in the Middle East. They have nothing but a very bitter and deep hatred for us now, a hatred that has been burned in to last for generations and centuries. The Shiites are the same people as the Persians in Iran and are just using us to clear out the Sunnis. They will rise with the aid of their Iranian and throw us out at first opportunity. All this silly talk about how they have to do anything for us or meet our requirements to run their country as we dictate is the silly talk. We have already lost and never had any right to invade Iraq in the first place. Criminal charges should now be brought against the perpetrators.

    April 10, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. Cal

    who cares we are spending 10billion a month in iraq when we are going into recession.

    Let them kill each other and let God sort them out i say.

    Thank you GWB for destroying a great nations reputation.

    Ps if you vote mcsame 2008 you are as big of a terrorist as them.

    war war war war war

    April 10, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5