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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Frankenstein's monster awakes in Sunni "awakening" groups

In the potential blowback category, some of the Sunni "awakening" groups are organizing to take on the existing Sunni political and tribal leaders in the next Iraqi provincial elections.

Yes, they're on the payroll and US allies for now, but these are groups that are largely constructed of armed men, broadly former insurgent, who were willing to work for the US for now for money.

This would be the Sunni militias rising to power that the Shia were so worried about.


  • One of the big things that seems to be constantly overlooked by those pointing to the previous Iraqi elections as some kind of great success is that the Sunnis largely boycotted them. This has created Shia elected governments in Sunni provinces whose only "base" is the foreign occupation troops. These minority Shia governments have not only turned state power against the majority Sunnis, but they have doled out jobs, contracts, and reconstruction almost entirely to Shia.

    As allies, these "Awakening" militias (more properly termed "Sahwa") are marginal. Sure, they see AQ as a foreign rival gang and want them suppressed, and they will take our money, weapons, and training, but they do not support the occupation or even the Maliki government. Whether or not these Sahwa win in the fall (October or November), the Sunnis are sure to win in these provinces and the Sahwa will be a potent political force for the IIP to contend with. And once the Sunnis win, they will be the government, the Sahwa won't need us, and our influence over them will wane.

    Thus, the previous elections, like the surge and the creation of the Sahwa, have merely served to put off the inevitable clash and civil war. These minority Shia governments have dropped the ball and chose to cash in on the electoral aberration rather than seek reconciliation. Payback is inevitable.

    By Blogger Todd Dugdale, at 1:39 PM  

  • Yeah, that's in the linked story which focuses mainly on the areas so Sunni that the Sunnis won the elections.

    As for the Sunni militias, their allegiances are definitely flexible. Yes, you're right that the Sunnis will retake many of the offices that the Shia claimed because of the boycott, but I also think this intra-Sunni divide may be significant. The difference between the established Sunni families and power structure and these militant groups where people have risen through violent action will have repercussions as to how they might manage the politics and the areas.

    Effectively, we're talking about a hundred little warlords being put into competing political offices.

    Separate from the Sunni Shia issues you aptly describe, the possibility of Sunni armed men claiming sections of governmental power has issues of its own.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 1:59 PM  

  • I guess we're mostly in agreement here, but just to mention two points:
    - The Sahwa are mostly (but not all) based on tribal allegiances, which is the traditional primary allegiance in Arab cultures. They are essentially tribal militias, and that gives them close to as much legitimacy as the IIP.
    - In Iraq, every political party has a militia. The major difference between the Sahwa and the IIP is that the latter has politicians heading it and the former has tribal leaders in charge.

    This quibbling aside, it seems we agree that an unprecedented intra-Sunni power struggle is likely.

    By Blogger Todd Dugdale, at 8:14 PM  

  • All true.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 9:17 PM  

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