SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN IRAQ?… I know the Iraq war is over and everything, but this strikes me as a notable development:
Sunni militants staged a violent uprising in central Baghdad Saturday after Iraqi forces detained a leader of the Sons of Iraq, a mostly Sunni paramilitary force that until recently had received salaries from the United States and is now on the Iraqi government payroll.
Sixteen people were injured in the battle in the once volatile Fadhl neighborhood, and five Iraqi soldiers were missing – snatched Saturday night by members of the Sons of Iraq, a security official said.
The arrest of Adel Mashhadani, who leads the force in Fadhl, and his assistant, heightened fears among Sunnis that the Iraqi government plans to divide and disband the movements now that its taken control of all but a few thousand of the 94,000 members across the country.
Earlier in the week we learned that Sunni Awakening forces weren’t receiving the jobs promised to them by the central government. Falling oil prices have lessened the funds for the government, and they are having trouble paying existing employees, so payouts and make-work jobs for Sunni militants are unlikely. And this has caused anger and distrust.
The point of the Sunni Awakening was one of reconciliation, to re-integrate former militiamen into Iraqi society. If each of them could be arrested for past criminal actions, is there any way to avoid massive resistance and a resumption of Sunni-Shiite conflict, as well as violence against US forces (which occurred yesterday as well)?
“They sold him,” said Khaled Jamal Qaisi, Mashhadani’s deputy, referring to the U.S. military.
“The Americans are vile people and they betrayed our trust,” Qaisi said. “We are the ones who fought al Qaida. They want things to return as they used to be? If they don’t release Adel al Mashhadani today, you will all be prisoners in your homes.”
This could be a blip, and Mashhadani could be a legitimate criminal. But when I start to see pitched gun battles in the streets of Baghdad again, I get nervous.