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Brokering a Fragile Peace in Iraq

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Posted on Oct 21, 2008
Iraqi police in Ramadi
Flickr/Jim Gordon

Local authorities: Iraqi police on patrol in Ramadi in January of this year.

A key overlooked fact about the much-ballyhooed “surge is working” argument in Iraq is that the U.S. military actually paid some former insurgents $10 a day to help American troops keep the peace in parts of the country. But what happens when that setup changes in volatile regions like Anbar?

The Washington Post:

Since its launch in Anbar in late 2006, the Awakening has spread to mostly Sunni-majority enclaves in Baghdad and other provinces as a means of Sunni self-defense. The U.S. military gave $300 monthly salaries to fighters, many of them former insurgents, to patrol areas and stop attacking American troops.

U.S. military officials have handed Awakening tribal leaders reconstruction contracts for their areas, building up their influence. They have assisted tribal operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq with airstrikes and other military and logistical support. On one day, Sweidawi [Sheik Jassim Muhammed al-Sweidawi] recalled how U.S. officers promised to pave the road that led to his house.

American commanders credit the movement as key to the decline in violence; some believe it played a more significant role than the U.S. “surge” offensive of 30,000 troops last year.

This month, the U.S. military handed over to the government control over about half the Awakening groups, now totaling roughly 100,000 mostly Sunni fighters. But the government, increasingly confident that it can provide security on its own, has refused to enroll most Awakening members into the police or army. In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have arrested some Awakening leaders who were former insurgents, out of fear they will take up arms against the government.

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By msgmi, October 21, 2008 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bringing the Awakening Sunni groups into the counterinsurgency fold against al-Qaeda was a temporary fix. Iraq’s secterian issues remain in a constant bubble and they have been vacuum-packed in the name of security. Demographics have been filtered, sifted, redistributed, realigned and sandwiched by walling off urban neighborhoods and causing civilian flight to suburbia. The shiite controlled government has no will or capital to absorb the Awakening tribal groups. What happens when this Awakening tribal force is abandoned by its benefactor? What are the chances that the shiite and the sunni factions come together when in reality the playing field in Iraq is loaded with political uncertainties and pitfalls. The undefined coalition strategic objective has no lifeline, it is in the hands of the proxy government.

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