Maliki Cracks Down on the Sons of Iraq

Nouri al-MalikiWriting for the L.A. Times, Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl have a disturbing report about the ongoing crackdown of Iraq’s Sunni population by the Maliki government.

Much of Iraq’s dramatic security progress can be traced to a series of decisions made by Sunni tribal leaders in late 2006 to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq and cooperate with American forces in Anbar province. These leaders, outraged by Al Qaeda’s brutality against their people, approached the U.S. military with an offer it couldn’t refuse: Enter into an alliance with the tribes, and they would turn their weapons against Al Qaeda rather than American troops.

Throughout 2007, U.S. commanders capitalized on this Sunni movement, the so-called Awakening, to create an expanding network of alliances with Sunni tribes and former insurgents that helped turn the tide and drive Al Qaeda in Iraq to near extinction. There are now about 100,000 armed Sons of Iraq, each paid $300 a month by U.S. forces to provide security in local neighborhoods throughout the country. In recognition of the key role the Awakening played in security improvements, President Bush met with several Sunni tribal leaders during his trip to Anbar last September, and Petraeus, who cites the program as a critical factor explaining the decline in violence, has promised to “not walk away from them.”

But Iraq’s predominantly Shiite central government seems intent on doing precisely that. Maliki and his advisors never really accepted the Sunni Awakening, and they remain convinced that the movement is simply a way for Sunni insurgents to buy time to restart a campaign of violence or to infiltrate the state’s security apparatus. In 2007, with Iraq’s government weak and its military not yet ready to take the lead in operations, the Maliki government acquiesced to the U.S.-led initiative and grudgingly agreed to integrate 20% of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi security forces. Now, a newly confident Maliki government is edging away from this commitment.

Read the whole thing. This is clearly an act of hubris on the part of Maliki, who is taking advantage of the U.S. presence because he knows that, when push comes to shove, we’re going to back the elected leader of Iraq over the militias who were killing our soldiers two years ago. Without our presence, I have a feeling he’d be much more inclined to work with the Sunnis–the consequences of not doing so for him would pretty much be all-out civil war. Unfortunately, while our military forces do exist in Iraq, we’re likely to get in the middle of that war, because I doubt the Sunnis will go quietly. As the article notes:

We talked to a number of tribal and Sons of Iraq leaders during our trip. When asked what would happen if the Maliki government did not keep its word and integrate or otherwise accommodate their members, one leader was blunt: “There will be trouble.”

It is obvious where this road might end. The last time tens of thousands of armed Sunni men were humiliated in Iraq — by disbanding the Baath Party and Iraqi army in May 2003 — an insurgency began, costing thousands of U.S. lives and throwing Iraq into chaos. Yet Maliki and his advisors risk provoking Iraq’s Sunni community into another round of violence.

I suppose we could try to talk Maliki down, but it’s clear from his actions of the past year that Maliki’s only interest is Maliki getting more power. Here’s hoping that this somehow ends well.

(link via Kevin Drum)

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Hal says:

    But the Surge WORKED. Didn’t Malaki get the message? My lord. You’d think he was a democrat or something.




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  2. Boyd says:

    Sorry, Alex and Hal, but this just reads like someone grasping at straws to justify their “get out now” position on Iraq. Even the LA Times identifies their piece as “Opinion,” so it’s not reporting, it’s opining.




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  3. Hal says:

    so it’s not reporting, it’s opining.

    So I guess if another civil war breaks out you’ll be down with that.




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  4. Without our presence, I have a feeling he’d be much more inclined to work with the Sunnis…

    Um, isn’t that what we want him to do: work with the Sunnis? So what logically flows from your statement there, Alex? Isn’t it just another argument to get out, now?




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  5. Hal says:

    Um, isn’t that what we want him to do: work with the Sunnis?

    Sure, but without us there to back him up and take sides in the whole affair, he’d be force to actually negotiate a solution rather than – as he is apparently doing – “dealing” with them by eliminating them.




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  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Um, isn’t that what we want him to do: work with the Sunnis? So what logically flows from your statement there, Alex? Isn’t it just another argument to get out, now?

    Um, yes. Yes it is.




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  7. Houston says:

    they (Maliki’s government) remain convinced that the movement is simply a way for Sunni insurgents to buy time to restart a campaign of violence or to infiltrate the state‚Äôs security apparatus

    …and what do they base this on? Oh, that’s right, it’s an opinion.

    he’d be force to actually negotiate a solution rather than – as he is apparently doing – “dealing” with them by eliminating them.

    But Hal believes it, so it must be true.




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  8. Hal says:

    I love this “opinion” obsession. First, let’s be clear that there is plenty of actual reporting – which Boyd is so keen on – and eye witness reports that backs up this “opinion”. If you guys got your information from more than Fox, Drudge and Insty, you might have already understood that this is real and not just “opinion”.

    What you’re dismissing as merely unsubstantiated opinion is actually analysis which is actually quite different than reporting and isn’t something to be discounted merely because it isn’t reporting.

    It’s a weird tick y’all have on the right.




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  9. steve says:

    John Nagl, one of the co-authors of the new Army field manual reported much the same thing. Maliki’s government is not employing the SOI’s. They are arresting some of them now. Maliki has learned to use our forces very well now. He can pretty effectively shut out the Sunni’s with our support. He now seems convinced he can maintain this when we are gone also.

    This should not be surprising to anyone who follows Mid East politics. It’s just how its done there.

    Steve




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  10. DC Loser says:

    Well of course, Maliki, being from the Dawa Party, is taking his orders from Tehran. The Ayatollahs are laughing themselves silly to see us doing their minion’s bidding in ridding themselves of the Sunni opposition.




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