Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Iraqi Govt Folds On Awakening Strike

By Cernig

Those who follow events in Iraq will probably recall that recently a large number of Sawha, or Awakening, members went on strike in Diyala province. The local Sahwa leaders had declared "suspension of all co-operation with U.S. military, Iraqi security forces and the local government" and had left their security posts. They were calling for the dismissal of the local police chief, who they had accused of bias against Sunnis and allowing Shia militiamen and death squads to operate with impunity in the area.

Well it seems the central government has capitulated to this union-like action, which will greatly strengthen the Sawha's position as a Sunni version of Sadr's Mahdi - nationalist and not necessarily committed to violence against the state but with a strong element of social organisation as well as being an armed militia.
A Sahwa member said they have been promised the resignation of Qureyshi, the nomination of four Sunni assistants to be available to the new police chief, employment of 5,000 members of the Sahwa as government security personnel, and for the government police to stay out of predominantly Sunni districts.
That last is potentially worrysome, as such thinking will create a self-fulfilling prophecy bolstering Shiite fears of a state-within-a-state.
Recent comments by Iraqi security officials underscore the wide gap between them and the Sahwa.

General Mahdi Subeih from the interior ministry told the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper in London Mar. 3: "The growth of the security role of members of the Awakening Councils has made them a third security force in the country alongside the army and the police."

Subeih said "the rebellion by some of the members of the Awakening Councils and the confrontations that erupted between them and the security forces reveal the depth of the chasm between the two sides."
"Rebellion" is a strong word to use and indicates the depth of the divide reconciliation must cross.

It looks very like, instead of reconciling, Iraqis are going to end up with a semi-balkanised situation where each faction has it's own version of Lebanon's Hezboullah - and we know where such a situation involving competing socially-invested militias ends up. Throw in an exterior military threat all the factions dislike intensely (Turkey, anyone?) and we've a recipe for decades-long conflict and instability for which the U.S. gets to play referee unless someone has the courage to pull out U.S. troops entirely.

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