Monday, May 4, 2009

Iraq bloodshed rises as US allies defect.

This is from TimesonLine.

This is a type of blowback. Funding these Sons of Iraq certainly helped get rid of Al Qaeda in some Sunni areas but now that the US is not giving them their checks there is conflict with the Shia majority and some of these militia members are rejoining insurgents now better trained and armed no doubt.


Iraq bloodshed rises as US allies defect
Obama’s withdrawal pledge is at risk as militias paid by the US begin to rejoin the insurgency
Ali Rifat, Hala Jaber and Sarah Baxter in Washington
IRAQ is threatened by a new wave of sectarian violence as members of the “Sons of Iraq” – the Sunni Awakening militias that were paid by the US to fight Al-Qaeda – begin to rejoin the insurgency.
If the spike in violence continues, it could affect President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw all combat troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June. All US troops are due to leave the country by 2012.
A leading member of the Political Council of Iraqi Resistance, which represents six Sunni militant groups, said: “The resistance has now returned to the field and is intensifying its attacks against the enemy. The number of coalition forces killed is on the rise.”
The increase in attacks by such groups, combined with a spate of bombings blamed on Al-Qaeda, has had a chilling effect on the streets of Iraq. More than 370 Iraqi civilians and military – and 80 Iranian pilgrims – lost their lives in April, making it the bloodiest month since last September. On Wednesday, five car bombs exploded in a crowded market in Sadr City, Baghdad, killing 51 people and injuring 76. Three US soldiers were killed on Thursday and two more yesterday when a gunman in Iraqi army uniform opened fire near Mosul.

Richard Haass, president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, who returned from a visit to Iraq last week, said: “It is obvious there are still multiple faultlines in society. In my view, Iraq and the United States are going to have to adjust the timelines and leave a residual force of tens of thousands beyond 2011.”
The resistance council recently issued a call to disaffected Sons of Iraq to take up arms against US and Iraqi troops after the government of Nouri al-Maliki failed to integrate them into the national security forces.
Many fighters have abandoned their security posts, allowing militant groups to fill the gap. Abu Omar, the leader of an Awakening militia in northern Baghdad, said more than 50 out of 175 fighters had quit.
The Iraqi resistance representative claimed some militias had lost even more. “Up to half their members have resigned from the Awakening and rejoined the resistance,” he said.
The US had been paying nearly 100,000 Sons of Iraq to participate in its security “surge”, but handed over responsibility for their welfare to the Iraqi government last month. Their pay has since dried up. Only 5,000 members of the Awakening have been employed by the Iraqi security forces.
Ginger Cruz, America’s deputy inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, warned that disillusioned Sunnis could join forces with Al-Qaeda as well as resistance groups.
“The Sons of Iraq provided a critical turning point for Iraq, so the question now becomes: what will the Iraqi government do with them?” Cruz said. “In fragile states, you need to take unemployed young men with access to weapons and give them something to do to ensure they don’t turn to Al-Qaeda or other groups.”
The gradual emergence of the Shi’ite Maliki as an Iraqi strongman has alienated some Sunnis and corruption is worse than ever, according to Cruz.
There is also growing Sunni anger about arrests of Awakening leaders, including Adil al-Mashhadani, from Baghdad, who warned recently: “There’s a 50-50 chance that Awakening guys who are not very loyal to Iraq or who need to support their families will join Al-Qaeda again.”
Local Sunni leaders have been quitting their posts, disillusioned with the government. Khalaf Ibrahim recently resigned as leader of Huwaija council near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
“Our members have become targets for Al-Qaeda and the government security forces at the same time,” he said.
Haass, a critic of the Iraq war who served in the administrations of George Bush Sr and George Bush Jr, said: “Some people are hedging their bets and moving in the direction of ‘alternative loyalties’.”
Obama may now become a hostage to events, Haass fears. “This administration has so much on its plate in terms of foreign policy that the last thing it needs is an Iraq that unravels. If it has to do a bit more than it wanted, that could be a pretty good investment.”
The heavy toll of the bomb attack in Sadr City last week shocked inhabitants who had witnessed improvements in security in recent months. Aqeel Ali, a 19-year-old labourer, said: “My brother was killed in that bomb.
“I left school and started work to pay for his education. He was 10 years old and I wanted him to be an engineer. I will never forget the sight of my brother’s corpse, covered in blood and mud.”
Um Batool, a young mother whose husband died, called for the return of the Mahdi Army, a Shi’ite militia, to protect the community. “Who will feed my five daughters?” she cried.
Many Iraqis believe deteriorating security may provide a pretext for the US to prolong its stay in Iraq.
Colonel Andrew Bacevich, a military historian who lost his son in Iraq, said the rise in casualties threatened Obama’s withdrawal plans. The US military, including General Jim Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, wanted troops to leave the country “in a condition in which they can plausibly claim to have achieved success”, he said.
Iraq has already begun negotiating with the United States about exceptions to the June 30 deadline, according to press reports.
In Karrada, an affluent district of Baghdad where a suicide bomber killed dozens 10 days ago, Esam Omar, 44, a father of two, said: “I fear the violence is back. Sectarian war may be the next step.”
The Iraqi security forces were not yet ready to assume control, he said, even if the US was worried about the cost of the war. “I think American forces will have to stay here much longer. It will be shameful if the Americans leave us sinking in blood, simply to escape their economic crisis

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