Friday, August 22, 2008

Sunni Awakening At Risk

Along with the Surge, McCain is so proud of, the Sunni Awakening or Sons of Iraq taking the part of the US military in action against Al Qaida seriously reduced violence. There are two pieces to that reduction, one the Awakening councils were composed of people who, to a great extent, had been doing their level best to kill Americans and two when fighting on the American side had credence with the local population and intimate local knowledge leading to the destruction or removal of Al Qaida elements. The Shiite government of Iraq is putting real pressure on the councils.

McClatchy reports that the Iraqi government has failed to absorb tens of thousands of the Sunni fighters. The US has paid the former militants about $300 per month and promises of jobs with the government to be on our side. Those jobs have not materialized.

"We cannot stand them, and we detained many of them recently," said one senior Iraqi commander in Baghdad, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue. "Many of them were part of al Qaida despite the fact that many of them are helping us to fight al Qaida."
This attitude is reflected by a possible proposal by the Iraqi Army to set a November 1 deadline for the un-absorbed militias to turn in their weapons or be arrested. The Iraqi and US officials both say the Maliki government never promised to hire more than 20% of the approximately 100,000 militia men. A real problem is in the offing.

"If they disband us now, I will tell you that history will show we will go back to zero," said Mullah Shahab al Aafi, a former emir, or leader, of insurgents in Diyala province who's the acting commander of 24,000 Sons of Iraq there, 11,000 of whom are on the U.S. payroll. "I will not give up my weapons. I will never give them up, and I will carry my weapon again. If it is useless to talk to the government, I will be forced to carry my weapons and my pistol."
It pays to remember that the US disbanded the Iraqi Army after beating it and reaped the whirlwind. The US has so far this year paid $303 million to the militias, the Iraqi government has budgeted $150 million for the vocational training they propose to put the remaining militia into, to be bricklayers and plumbers - along with other unemployed people. It is no stretch of imagination to see that these people see themselves as soldiers and resent being treated differently.

It gets worse as the NYT reports, west of Bhagdad former insurgent leaders claim the government is after 650 Awakening leaders, US and Iraqi officials in Diyala Province say there are arrest orders for hundreds. The Iraqi government is beginning this push at just about the time the councils are beginning to try to translate their actions into political power.
“The state cannot accept the Awakening,” said Sheik Jalaladeen al-Sagheer, a leading Shiite member of Parliament. “Their days are numbered.”

This hostile attitude is little more than a guess that the improving Iraqi Army can handle Al Qaida and possibly the now US allied Awakening. You can judge for yourself if it seems a good bet, or an invitation to more sectarian violence.

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