A little more than four years ago in western Iraq, then-Senator Barack Obama met for 90 minutes with a group of Arab sheikhs, allies of the U.S. military in the war against al Qaeda. Known as the Anbar Awakening, the tribal leaders are credited by the Marine Corps’ own official historian with helping turn the tide of the Iraq War and creating the conditions on the ground for the country’s fragile government to survive. During the meeting, the future president assured the group that there would be a long-term partnership between America and Iraq, according to two of the sheikhs who were there and a U.S. translator in the meeting.
Four years later, one of those sheikhs, Ahmad Abu-Risha, says he feels betrayed. Abu-Risha, the president of what is now known as the Iraqi Awakening Council, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview that he has not had any meetings with U.S. officials since American forces withdrew from Iraq in December. “President Obama said he would not forget all the sacrifices that were made,” he said. “Now we look back at that meeting and we think it was political propaganda. What he said, we don’t see it happening.”