THE AWAKENING BEGINS TO NOD….Sudarsan Raghavan and Amit Paley of the Washington Post report that although U.S. efforts to manage the various Sunni Awakenings are “still largely effective,” some pretty serious trouble spots have started to emerge:
Nowhere are the tensions more serious than in Diyala, one of the major battlegrounds in the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Awakening groups, also known here as Popular Committees, are demanding the resignation of the Shiite provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghanem al-Qureishi. They accuse him of running death squads and torturing Sunnis, allegations that Qureishi denied in an interview. The Awakening leaders are also seeking recognition as an official force.
On Wednesday, they vowed to dissolve the committees if their demands were not met. “In the last 10 months, we haven’t received any kind of assistance or help from Americans or Iraqi government,” said Abu Talib, a top Awakening leader. “On the contrary, the police started to hunt us down.”
….The U.S. military acknowledges that it is caught in the middle of a political struggle. “Yes, they are frustrated,” said Lt. Col. Ricardo Love, commander of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, who works in Baqubah, the provincial capital. “They think we can make the government of Iraq do anything. We tell them we don’t control the government. But they think we are the mighty power.”
Killings of Awakening members are up, there’s been infiltration of Awakening groups by al-Qaeda in Iraq, and tensions with the Shiite central government are increasing. None of this is surprising as time continues to slip by without significant political progress, and it’s probably not too dangerous until/unless it reaches a tipping point of some kind. Still, it’s hardly good news. The Awakening movement was arguably more important than the surge in reducing violence during 2007, and if it starts to fray at the same time that the surge is drawing down, a lot of those gains will be wiped out. Keep your fingers crossed.