If the Sunni tribes are defeated, America will have to re-deploy large numbers of ground forces back to Iraq. The Iraqi military is mistrusted by Sunnis and in the short term won’t be able to secure Anbar without assistance. Dempsey understands this, which is why he is now pushing President Obama to deploy U.S. military advisers to support the tribal uprisings. There’s a grand opportunity here. ISIS lacks popular Sunni support. In addition, as I’ve said before, a tribal-partnering strategy would devastate the Islamic State. If we aim to establish a new militia-army to confront ISIS, we’ll find a well of recruits disenchanted by ISIS activities in the realms of ideology, governance, and territory. Propelled by their violent religious psychosis, ISIS leaders have fostered loathing. Dempsey’s strategy would turn that brutality against them.
The benefits of Dempsey’s strategy go further. By proving our worth to the Sunni tribes, America would gain a new ally and the political opportunity to check Iran’s influence in Iraq. We’d also anchor a more positive perception with Sunnis across the Middle East, while rebuilding our shattered credibility with allies and adversaries.