Canaries in a coal mine.... these leaders see the writing on the wall and they don't want to be on the wrong side of this thing.
The U.S. strategy to build alliances with mostly Sunni tribal and local leaders has prompted 25,000 of their followers to turn away from the insurgency and at least nominally align with Iraq's Shiite-led government in the fight against al-Qaida.
The number, from the U.S. command in Iraq, represents the first stab at measuring the effectiveness of the tribal strategy. The trend is likely to be a critical part of a report due in September to Congress and the White House by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.
''I think it is the most significant thing that's happened in the past couple years,'' said Marine Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, deputy chief of staff for strategy and plans for Multi-National Force-Iraq. ''They actually have come to us saying, 'We want to join you, we want to fight al-Qaida.' ''