Saturday, March 28, 2009

The "Surge"'s Feet of Clay?

McClatchy also reports on what could be a portentous development if the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government doesn't walk this back.

Troops Arrest an Iraqi Ally in Baghdad -
This possibility has been building for months, ever since it was decided that these Sunni militias (variously termed Awakening Councils, sahwa, or Sons of Iraq) were to be taken off the US payroll. Remember, these are the Sunni fighters - many of them former resistance fighters against the US occupation - who decided to join with the US to fight al-Qaeda forces in Iraq, after the AQI began to overplay their hand with their erstwhile Iraqi Sunni allies. Much of the credit that US politicians have heaped upon the US military for "turning the tide" and "winning the war" in Iraq was in fact due to the Sons of Iraq turning against al-Qaeda.

But people aware of the facts on the ground knew months ago that if the Baghdad government failed to bring a significant number of these guys into the Iraqi military and security forces, and find acceptable jobs for the rest of them, they might turn against the government and even take up arms against Mr. Maliki (which is why the government has been trying to disarm and, in some cases, detain them). Arresting a prominent leader of the Sons of Iraq at a time when Maliki has been hoping to burnish his nationalist credentials may prove to be a major mistake.

And the fact that US soldiers took part in the arrest, and that the US military spokesman is standing behind it, may prove to be a set-back for US efforts to disengage from Iraq (although other recent reports indicate that that disengagement is not going to happen as soon, or as quickly, as the Obama administration wants us to believe.

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