Saturday, December 22, 2007

Iraq Govt. Pledges To Disband Awakening

By Cernig

This really rips a hole in it, doesn't it?

The statement from Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi was the government's most explicit declaration yet of its intent to eventually dismantle the groups backed and funded by the United States as a vital tool for reducing violence.

The militias, more than 70,000 strong and often made up of former insurgents, are known as Awakening Councils, or Concerned Local Citizens.

``We completely, absolutely reject the Awakening becoming a third military organization,'' al-Obaidi said at a news conference.

He added that the groups would also not be allowed to have any infrastructure, such as a headquarters building, that would give them long-term legitimacy.

``We absolutely reject that,'' al-Obaidi said.

The government has pledged to absorb about a quarter of the men into the predominantly Shiite-controlled security services and military, and provide vocational training so that the rest can find jobs. Integration would also allow Sunnis to regain lost influence in the key defense and interior ministries.

``We've kicked al-Qaida out and we don't want chaos to take their place,'' said Sheik Hate Ail, a tribal leader who helped form one of the groups in the western province of Anbar.

He added that the government should not ``brazenly exploit the sacrifices of these Iraqi'' fighters and ``should absorb these people, not reject them and send them away.''

The government has been vague about its plans and the interior ministry has agreed to hire about 7,000 men so far on temporary contracts, and plans to hire an additional 3,000. But the ministry has neither specified the length of the contracts nor the positions the men would fill.
That noise you heard was the much-vaunted "window of opportunity" for Iraqi reconcilliation - opened by the Awakening and Sadr's ceasefire and taken credit for by Petraeus and his Surge - slamming shut. You can only play divide and conquer for so long before it ceases being a stabilizing measure and becomes a dangerously divisive one instead.