Thursday, October 31, 2013

Awakening Failing?

The Economist updates on the Iraqi security situation:
Since April around 5,000 Iraqis have been killed, mainly by Sunni insurgents setting off bombs and launching attacks in Shia areas. On October 27th alone, at least 54 people were killed in Baghdad and Mosul, the biggest city in Iraq’s north...
Iraq’s security forces have withdrawn from key towns in Anbar, such as Falluja and Ramadi, and from a mainly Sunni area in the neighbouring province of Salaheddin. Instead they hole up in nearby barracks but seem unable or unwilling to patrol the streets. In the sullen northern city of Mosul, al-Qaeda is also again making its presence heavily felt, collecting protection money to help pay for its operations...
 As well as opposing Iraq’s Shia-led security forces, ISIS and other groups have taken to attacking the Sunni tribal militias which have previously opposed al-Qaeda under a scheme known as the Sahwa, or Awakening, encouraged by the Americans as part of their “surge” in 2007. With the agreement of tribal elders, Sunni communities had been persuaded to turn against al-Qaeda and drive it out of their towns and villages to the north and west of Baghdad. But after the Americans left, the Sahwa was more or less ditched by an Iraqi government loth to countenance the existence of any armed Sunni groups beyond its central control of Baghdad. Most of the tribal elders have now withdrawn their co-operation with Mr Maliki’s government.
That last paragraph gets to the nub of a problem.  Much as also happened in Mali and may be happening now in Syria, al-Qaeda's allies turned against it, and in the Iraqi case they were also willing to turn toward the government in Baghdad.  Maliki, however, has broken agreements to integrate the Sahwa people into the state apparatus while also ignoring the needs to overwhelming Sunni Iraqi refugees in other countries, reinforcing his reputation as a sectarian strongman.  He sees a security problem, but as we saw in the civil war which the Anbar Awakening of 2007 effectively ended, what's needed is a political solution that united Iraq's divided communities.



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