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The Sons of Iraq, or Iraqi Awakening: Iraq"s Sunni Variable

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Misconceptions About the Awakening: Seeding Further Conflict

The Awakening movement itself is fractious and prone to fuel instability. It quelled some conflicts while provoking new ones, namely between members of the Awakening, who are mostly Sunni, and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which sees the Awakening as a threat to its central authority. The movement may have been motivated by the desire to re-join the political process.

But the Shiite government isn’t keen on incorporating armed and motivated Sunnis in power-sharing agreements.
Americans had promised Sunni members of the Awakening that they’d be incorporated into the Iraqi military or the Iraqi police. It was a promise the Americans had no means to keep. Only a handful of Sunnis were trained and inducted into Iraqi government forces.

For months in 2008, the Iraqi government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki made its intentions clear: The Sons of Iraq weren’t welcome in the government’s version of Iraq.

Putting the Awakening to Sleep?

In late August 2008, the Maliki government moved against the Sunni patrols, arresting some and setting a November deadline for the rest to give up their weapons or face arrest. “We cannot stand them, and we detained many of them recently," a senior Iraqi commander in Baghdad told McClatchy. "Many of them were part of al Qaida despite the fact that many of them are helping us to fight al Qaida.”

“The government’s rising hostility toward the Awakening Councils amounts to a bet that its military, feeling increasingly strong, can provide security in former guerrilla strongholds without the support of these former Sunni fighters who once waged devastating attacks on United States and Iraqi targets,” The Times reported.

“It also is occurring as Awakening members are eager to translate their influence and organization on the ground into political power. But it is causing a rift with the American military, which contends that any significant diminution of the Awakening could result in renewed violence, jeopardizing the substantial security gains in the past year. United States commanders say that the practice, however unconventional, of paying the guerrillas has saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers.”

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