IRAQ’S AWAKENING COUNCILS
Already the first security plan from 02/2007 of the AmericanGeneral David Petraeus, the commander of the USA led coalition forces in Iraq, contained a plan to negotiate with local tribes in the different districts of Iraq in order to pull them out from the cycle of fighting.
In fact General David Petraeus boosted the trend, which began already in 09/2006, in the day of his predecessor General George Casey, among some Sunni tribes, to switch side and to turn against Al Qaeda because of its too radical approach. Over 130 Sunni tribal militias, trained, equipped and funded by USA, were formed all over the Sunni regions of Iraq to cope with Al Qaeda. The militias were called by the Americans “Awakening Councils” (in Arabic al-Sawaha) and manned, eventually, about 100,000 militiamen.
Operation “Arrowhead Ripper” in Diyala province, about 50 km North West of Baghdad, that began on 06/19/2007, was the first large scale operation where local Sunnite tribes were fighting alongside the American Army against what is supposed to be Al Qaeda.
That plan to incorporate tribesmen in the fighting alongside the American and Iraqi forces, although can be useful in the short term, is very risky in the long term.
Those tribes are loyal to their sheiks and not to Nuri al Maliki’s government. They are just another armed faction in Iraq loyal to their interests, fueling the anarchy. As they were able to change side once they are able to change side again, but that time heavily armed by USA.
The tribesmen were not convinced on the huge advantage of Democracy, the legitimacy of Nuri al Maliki’s government or the justification of the USA presence in Iraq. Their motivation to cooperate with USA is generally very narrow-minded. It can be an historical rivalry with another neighbor tribe, a good opportunity to label the neighbors as Al Qaeda and to settle historical accounts. It can be the opportunity to get weapons almost free from the Americans and it can be just a large sum of money paid to the Sheikhs.
- In some cases Sunnite tribesmen are genuinely afraid from Iran and from the Shiite led government but eventually, if USA insists on democracy in Iraq, USA cannot but let them down in the longer term.
Many of the insurgency in Iraq is not Al Qaeda. In fact the vast majority were local Iraqis. The tribesmen that were insurgents yesterday, named Al Qaeda, and USA ally today may well be insurgents again tomorrow once again labeled Al Qaeda .
The stability of Iraq, in the long term, can not be achieved by arming yet another group in Iraq, loyal only to itself, switching sides for temporary convenience.
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