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Time Running Out On The Sons Of Iraq? « The Washington Independent

Via Cernig, McClatchy has a disturbing report about an Iraq issue far more sub rosa than the withdrawal deal. The Shiite government’s reluctance to incorporate thousands of former Sunni insurgents — those Sons of Iraq again! — is showing more and more signs of becoming a permanent condition. A senior Army commander tells McClatchy’s Leila Fadel that it might tell all militiamen who don’t have civilian jobs or security-force positions that they will either disarm by November 1 or be subject to arrest.

"We cannot stand them, and we detained many of them recently," said one senior Iraqi commander in Baghdad, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue. "Many of them were part of al Qaida despite the fact that many of them are helping us to fight al Qaida."

Longtime readers know I’ve had mixed-to-skeptical feelings about the Sons of Iraq for a long time. It’s impossible to blame any U.S. commander who offered insurgents money and other inducements so their troops wouldn’t get shot at. And the impulse to expand the program — it ballooned to over 100,000 militiamen in scarcely a year — was also a sensible and creative way to try to fracture the insurgency and extirpate the so-called "irreconcilables" who remained. The trouble was that Iraq isn’t a vacuum. No government can stand the idea of not having a monopoly of force, and the sectarian characteristic of the Sons of Iraq — mostly Sunnis, in contrast to a Shiite-led government and security structure — was bound to make the Maliki government nervous. You just can’t erase the legacy of sectarianism overnight. The incorporation of 100,000 Sunni men with guns, at the behest of the U.S., into the Army and police and civilian infrastructure looks to a Shiite government like a strategy for infiltration and, ultimately, a coup.

There’s one other aspect of this that should be remarked upon. And that’s this idea of Prime Minister Maliki’s new assertiveness. Maliki looks more and more like he’s actually trying to run the table, power-wise: forcing the Bush administration to agree to a timetable; going after his Sadrist rivals; going after the Sunni power structure in Diyala; etc. It would stand to reason that stiffing the Sons of Iraq is consistent with that strategy. He looks strong now, he figures, so why compromise? It’s a very Bush-like style, so no wonder George W. Bush is so comfortable with him. But if it turns out he’s not as strong as he thinks he is, he’s in for a painful reconciliation with reality.

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