Iraq to Revive Sunni Militia to Fight al-Qaeda

'Awakening' Fighters to Receive 'Unlimited' Funding

After years of undermining the group on allegations of disloyalty, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has today revealed plans to revive the Sunni “Awakening” fighter militias.

The Awakening fighters got their start as US subsidized militias designed to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the occupation. At the time, the Maliki government often argued that its leadership was filled with AQI fighters just looking to get an extra paycheck.

The government authorized a bill to double the checks for Awakening fighters a few months ago, though since most had been arrested as “terrorists” there weren’t many left. With AQI revitalized they appear to be rethinking that strategy.

Maliki says there will be “no limit” to the number of recruits they’ll accept, and all funding will be made under emergency military funding outside of the national budget.

With militias already fighting AQI there may be plenty of takers in Anbar, but the long-term sectarian tensions in Iraq remain unresolved, and Maliki’s preference to toss the “terrorist” label on any Sunni who gets to powerful is likely to set the stage for another troubled period for the Awakening.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.