Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Origins of the Sunni Awakening

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Origins of the Sunni Awakening

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Explaining the Awakening: Engagement, Publicity, and the Transformation of Iraqi Sunni Political Attitudes" by Mare Lynch, in Security Studies, Jan. 2011.

FROM 2005 TO 2007, A CHANGE in sentiment rippled across Iraq--the Sunni population turned against Al Qaeda and started working with U.S. forces. Many analysts believe this transformation is what turned the war around and gave the 2007 American military surge the legitimacy among Iraqis it needed to succeed. What kindled this transformation? The surge can't be the cause; it began after the Awakening was already under way. Other common explanations include Al Qaeda's extremism, which repelled Sunnis, and America's counterinsurgency strategy, which attracted them. But to understand how anger at Al Qaeda's violence spread and how the United States was able to communicate its good intentions, says George Washington University political scientist Marc Lynch, it's necessary to examine an overlooked force: Arab-language news media.

Television is the primary source of news for an estimated 80 percent of Iraqis. Until 2004, there was really only one channel available: al-Jazeera. Its "close and often emotional coverage" sparked outrage against the U.S. occupation. …

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