Sunni militia groups have helped stem the violence in Iraq but may ultimately exacerbate political divisions and undermine security
Much of the decline in violence in Iraq, which began in late 2007, can be attributed to the emergence of "sahwa", or "awakening", groups. These groups, essentially Sunni militias, are comprised of tribes and former insurgents who turned against al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and other extremist militants in late 2006, long before the surge was even proposed. The willingness of these insurgents to turn against AQI resulted from the presumptuous brutality of AQI when these Sunni tribes resisted their efforts to exercise command and control, force marriages and take over illicit economic activities.
These sahwa groups, which now number 90,000, receive money, material support and training from the United States, which has politically empowered tribal sheikhs and former insurgent leaders who now enjoy de facto control over wide swathes of Anbar province and some Baghdad neighbourhoods.
Ironically, some US military leaders wanted to begin working with these groups in 2005 but were overruled by the Bush administration because they refused to pledge loyalty to the central government. But by late 2006, the security situation was so bad, we took them in anyway.
Unfortunately, the awakening has also exacerbated existing political divisions and fomented new political cleavages in an already fractured and fragile Iraqi body politic. These newly empowered sahwa leaders are already challenging each other, traditional Sunni political parties and the Iraqi government, and are now losing patience with US forces.
RLCC Comment: The article continues stating important considerations.
Thanks to Blue Girl, Red State (NOTE: Blue Girl uses blue language; If you're tempted to fall by rough talk, don't read her): The Nightowl Newswrap at March 22, 2008, 23:24 for the link.