Monday, March 30, 2009

Awakening Councils vs. Iraqi Government and U.S.

A blind man could have seen this one coming. Sudarsan Raghavan and Anthony Shadid:

The struggle, which played out in fierce weekend clashes, pits two vital American allies against each other. On Sunday, Iraqi soldiers backed by U.S. combat helicopters and American troops swept into a central Baghdad neighborhood, arresting U.S.-backed Sunni fighters in an effort to clamp down on a two-day uprising that challenged the Iraqi government's authority and its efforts to pacify the capital.
Thomas Ricks:
If the Awakening fighting spreads, I wouldn't be surprised to see Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia re-emerge. I've always thought the Sunni Awakening forced him to go to ground, because he didn't want to be the only guy taking on American forces. But if the Sunnis are on the attack again, it might be game on for him as well.
Maliki never trusted the Awakening and vice-versa. As Ashley Smith wrote in the International Socialist Review in November:
The greatest conflict that threatens to undo the fragile stability is most likely not between the United States and the Shia government, but between that government and the Sunnis, especially the Awakening Councils.

On October 1, the Iraqi government was charged with integrating the Awakening Councils into the Iraqi security forces. But Maliki has promised to hire only 20 percent of the fighters. Leila Fadel reports that Shiite “officials are making clear that they don’t intend to include most of the rest. ‘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-Qaeda despite the fact that many of them are helping us to fight al-Qaeda.”

Maliki has indeed ordered the arrest of hundreds of Awakening Council fighters, the Iraqi security forces have moved against some of the Councils in Anbar and Baghdad, and Shia militias have already carried out assassinations of key Sunni leaders they consider to be insurgents and separatists.