5 years, 12 months ago
The U.S. forces have performed heroically, and many lives have been lost or irrevocably changed with wounds that will never heal. The U.S. has expended a significant part of the country’s treasure to free Iraq and start it on a course of freedom and democracy. Certain lines of effort in the campaign have been clear and important throughout the history of the campaign for Iraq, one of which is the awakening movement (leading to the concerned citizens).
TCJ has made it clear from our initial coverage of the concerned citizens (later called the “Sons of Iraq”) that given the indigenous nature of much of the Sunni insurgency, settling disputes with the Sunnis was necessary (which was possible because they weren’t fighting for religious reasons like al Qaeda or the Taliban). Befriending those who were once shooting at you is a hard thing to do, but both the Sunnis and U.S. troops managed to do it because it was the right and smart thing to do. Combined with force projection by the U.S. Marines, it helped to win Anbar, and then subsequently Baghdad.
But Maliki may yet lose it all for us with his refusal to reconcile and recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. strategy.
The Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols, the groups of former insurgents who joined the American payroll and have been a major pillar in the decline in violence around the nation.
In restive Diyala Province, United States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members of what is known as the Awakening movement as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military. At least five senior members have been arrested there in recent weeks, leaders of the groups say.
West of Baghdad, former insurgent leaders contend that the Iraqi military is going after 650 Awakening members, many of whom have fled the once-violent area they had kept safe. While the crackdown appears to be focused on a relatively small number of leaders whom the Iraqi government considers the most dangerous, there are influential voices to dismantle the American backed movement entirely.
“The state cannot accept the Awakening,” said Sheik Jalaladeen al-Sagheer, a leading Shiite member of Parliament. “Their days are numbered.”
The government’s rising hostility toward the Awakening Councils amounts to a bet that its military, feeling increasingly strong, can provide security in former guerrilla strongholds without the support of these former Sunni fighters who once waged devastating attacks on United States and Iraqi targets. It also is occurring as Awakening members are eager to translate their influence and organization on the ground into political power.
But it is causing a rift with the American military, which contends that any significant diminution of the Awakening could result in renewed violence, jeopardizing the substantial security gains in the past year. United States commanders say that the practice, however unconventional, of paying the guerrillas has saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers.
“If it is not handled properly, we could have a security issue,” said Brig. Gen. David Perkins, the senior military spokesman in Iraq. “You don’t want to give anybody a reason to turn back to Al Qaeda.” Many Sunni insurgents had previously been allied with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other extremist groups.
Even before the new pressure from the government, many Awakening members were growing frustrated — and at an especially delicate time. United States and Iraqi negotiators have just completed a draft security agreement that next year, Iraqi officials say, would substantially pull American forces back from cities and towns to be replaced by Iraqi security forces.
Awakening members complain, with rising bitterness, that the government has been slow to make good on its promises to recruit tens of thousands of its members into those security forces. General Perkins said only 5,200 members had been recruited in a force of about 100,000.
“Some people from the government encouraged us to fight against Al Qaeda, but it seems that now that Al Qaeda is finished they don’t want us anymore,” said Abu Marouf, who, according to American officials, was a powerful guerrilla leader in the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade west of Baghdad. “So how can you say I am not betrayed?”
After he said he discovered his name on lists of 650 names that an Iraqi Army brigade was using to arrest Awakening members west of Baghdad, Abu Marouf fled south of Falluja. His men, he said, “sacrificed and fought against Al Qaeda, and now the government wants to catch them and arrest them.”
It actually goes further than that, this surreptitious undercutting of the awakening movement. They don’t intend for them to be engaged in the provision of security for the population at all. They want to strip them of their weapons.
The groups, known as Awakening Councils, Sons of Iraq and Popular Committees, have helped rout al-Qaida in some parts of Iraq. But Shiite leaders fear the Sunnis’ switch of allegiance is just a tactic, and that they could one day turn their weapons against the Shiite majority.
The U.S., which put many of the Sunni fighters on its payroll, has urged al-Maliki to incorporate them into his security forces, but the government has been slow to do so.
In a speech to Shiite tribal leaders in Baghdad on Saturday, al-Maliki mixed praise for the Sunni fighters with a warning. He said armed groups, alongside security forces, were tolerated for a limited period because their weapons were “aimed at the chests of the terrorists.”
“So they (the Sunni fighters) deserve our gratitude and the inclusion (into the security forces) because we adhere to a policy that there are no arms but the arms of the government,” he said.
One day turn their weapons against the Shi’ite majority? The best way to ensure that is to attempt disarmament. Does Maliki really believe that the Sunnis will turn in all of their weapons, or that the ISF will be able to find them all? As for al Qaeda, they are probably not a threat. The indigenous Sunnis are more than capable of inflicting immeasurable pain on the country without AQI if they so choose.
Maliki and the Shi’ite majority love to refer to the awakening movement as a “cancer,” or “criminals.” But The Captain’s Journal considers Maliki a criminal for his willingness to meet and politic with Iranian officials, and his tolerance of the SIIC. So regarding criminality, it really is a matter of perspective, and Maliki’s current position amounts to nothing more than “might makes right.”
But is Maliki really that mighty? Maliki obviously has a large degree of confidence in the ISF and the idea that the Sunnis will willingly roll over. TCJ is not as confident. But regardless of the outcome, Maliki’s actions are immoral and thuggish, and if Iraq is still peaceful once the “Shi’ite majority” has accomplished this disarmament and imprisonment of the awakening, it will be in spite of and not because of Maliki’s actions. Maliki may yet prove himself to be the most stolid dunce and inept stooge on the planet.