Informed Comment : Tal Afar as Ethnic Civil War: Much of the American press has reported the Tal Afar campaign as a strike by the new Iraqi Army, supported by US troops, against foreign infiltrators in the largely Turkmen city of 200,000. As Jonathan Finer makes clear in the Washington Post, however, the operation looks different if we know some details. The "Iraqi Army" leading the assault turns out to be mainly the Peshmerga or Kurdish ethnic militia Along for the ride are local Turkmen Shiites who are being used as informers and for the purpose of identifying Sunni Turkmen they think are involved in the guerrilla movement (apparently they sometimes make false charge to settle scores). Tal Afar was 70 percent Sunni Turkmen and 30 percent Shiite Turkmen. The Sunni Turkmen had thrown in with Saddam, and some more recently had turned to radical Islam. The Shiite Turkmen lived in fear of their lives.
So Kurds and Shiites are beating up on Sunni Turkmen allies of Sunni Arabs. That is what is really going on. The number of foreign fighters appears to be small, and US troops that had been guarding against infiltration on the Syrian border were actully moved to Tal Afar for this operation. It is mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas. That the attack came in part in response to the pleas of local Shiite Turkmen helps explain why why Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari (Shiite leader of the fundamentalist Dawa Party) authorized it, and went to Tal Afar on Tuesday for a photo op.
The US will never get stability in Iraq if it is merely an adjunct to a Kurdish-Shiite alliance against the Sunni Arabs and their Turkmen supporters.
Rather, the U.S. will only get a certain kind of stability...