This weekend’s gunbattle between Awakening Council forces and the Iraqi government may be the first shots fired in much, much larger battle.
The brief clash that sprang from protests by the Sunni militias over the refusal of the Shi’ite-controlled government to follow through with promises of employment led to the arrests of a lot of the protesters, but the sense of disenfranchisement that caused them in the first place endures, and Time Magazine is reporting that al-Qaeda forces in Iraq are on a heavy recruiting campaign in an attempt to bring the fighters back to where the US found so many of them in the first place – the insurgency.
It’s already yielding some results, according to Sheik Hamid al-Hayess, who says the forces “have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda,” adding grimly that “a civil war is coming.”
Iraq’s own Interior Ministry seemed to confirm the allegations, with a source telling Time that roughly 20 percent of the nearly 100,000 members of the Awakening forces are “insurgent spies.” Others quoted in the article put the number as high as 40 percent.
The Awakening Council was largely made up of Sunnis discontented with the insurgency at the time and eager to receive US funding. Since the US turned the forces over to the Iraqi government, however, the Shi’ite majority government has been slow to integrate the forces and has expressed distrust for them. Whether these revelations prove that distrust was well place or were simply a self-fulfilling prophecy, however, remain an open question.