Is Iraq Headed Back to Full Blown Civil War?

>> Saturday, August 16, 2008

With the success of ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods, the Muqtada al-Sadr ceasefire, and the Sunni Awakening Councils Iraq has become less of a war zone than before. These developments though are precarious and the wrong actions could easily restart the civil war. It looks like Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki might be intent on doing just that. I think that it has become clear that the surge failed in its stated goal of bringing about political reconciliation. If the concerns coming out of Iraq come to fruition Iraq is about to return to Civil War.

One of the biggest reasons that AQI was smashed are the Sunni Arab Awakening Councils or "Sons of Iraq". The Sunni minority at this point has little to no say in the government after boycotting the last elections. The integration of the SOI into the state security forces is one of the biggest possible steps toward reconciliation. It appears like this integration is not progressing.

' Kahl said in the briefing that, of the 103,000 Sunnis belonging to those militias, the Iraqi government had promised to take into the security forces only about 16,000. But in fact, it has approved only 600 applicants thus far, according to Kahl, and most of those have turned out to be Shi’a rather than Sunni militiamen.'

Far from integrating these forces and neutralizing them by involving them in the system al-Maliki views them as a significant threat to be eradicated. al-Maliki believes he has secured his power position in Iraq as he now firmly controls the intelligence apparatus and has military operations centers under his authority throughout the country. Combined this with a confidence in his military as a result of the campaigns in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul a new political identity as a nationalist foe of the occupation and al-Maliki seems to think he does not need to integrate the Sunni. As Juan Cole notes,

I've also been told by knowledgeable Iraqi Shiites that the Awakening Councils are the biggest threat Baghdad faces and that when the Americans are weaker in Iraqi it will be necessary to "take care of them.

and noted in the IPS article

"There’s even some evidence that [al-Maliki] wants to start a fight with the Sons of Iraq," said Kahl. "Al-Maliki doesn’t believe he has to accommodate these people. He will only do it if we twist his arm to the breaking point."

al-Maliki has had to mutate to an opponent of the occupation as it has become less and less popular. He also sees that that the tide of public opinion in this country is against continuing in Iraq. With the potential of the Obama administration withdrawing troops al-maliki sees the writing on the wall and has apparently solidified his ties with Iran.

Kahl did not note, but I want to, that Iran is mainly allied with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and his Badr corps paramilitary, which has become the backbone of al-Maliki's security forces

All of this has put the SOFA into flux with Bush threatening to pull troops if one is not competed soon on favorable terms. Clearly the situation in Iraq is fragile and if al-Maliki decides that he would rather crush the Sunnis militarily than neutralize them politically then there might be a major upsurge in violence. Not that it is such a safe place now

BAGHDAD - Bombers struck Shiite pilgrims Saturday for a third consecutive day, killing six people in the latest in a series of attacks apparently aimed at stoking sectarian tension. The attacks have targeted pilgrims headed for the Shiite city of Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of people have gathered for festivities that culminate Sunday morning.


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