“An Appointment in Samarra” (Asaad Ali Yaseen) With Video




Samarra was a troubled city when I was last there in 2006. Three years into the war, scarcely a local government structure existed in Samarra, with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) targeting every local official and scaring off promising prospective leaders — save for Asaad Ali Yaseen. Besieged yet defiant, Asaad risked his life, and the lives of his family, to try and restore local governance, reconcile warring tribes, eradicate AQI, and rebuild a ravaged city.

He was, in many ways, a man before his time — or, dare I say it, a man before our time. A dynamic personality and a businessman by trade, Asaad had the rare combination of sheer courage and social connections needed to lead a fractured city. Before taking the reigns of Samarra’s city council, Asaad had not previously sought public life. He was a reluctant warrior, finally compelled to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq through sheer revulsion at their violent ideology.

Asaad pioneered an “Anbar awakening” mindset in Samarra, providing some of the indigenous leadership — that is, leadership with an actual following — necessary to tip the scales against the insurgents. Some insurgents came to him begging for amnesty, vowing to change their ways. Numerous rival tribal leaders allied with his powerful Al Abassi tribe against AQI-affiliated tribes. And local Iraqi Security Forces, which included solid and squishy leaders alike, rallied behind Asaad.
Pete Hegseth served in Samarra, Iraq with the 101st Airborne from December 2005 to July 2006 and will return there as an embedded correspondent for NRO as part of Vets for Freedom “Back to Iraq” effort. Pete is a captain in the Army National Guard.


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