US-Backed Sunni Militias Continue to Clash With Iraqi Govt

Some Haven't Been Paid in Months

The tensions between the Sunni Awakening Forces and the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government continue to rise with each passing day, as the membership of the 90,000-strong group becomes increasingly resentful of unkept promises and struggles to make ends meet with the Iraqi government in some cases months behind on their pay.

In recent months, the Iraqi government has even taken to arresting leaders of the group as terrorists. The charges predate the formation of the Awakening Forces, and it was never a secret that the US was recruiting former insurgents into the group amid promises of steady pay and pardons. With the pay not coming and the pardons not worth nearly so much as they hoped, the concern is that many will return into the insurgency.

According to the US, such a result is “inconceivable.” They insisted that the government was committed to paying the militias, and that the delay was the fault of a budget dispute inside the Iraqi parliament. US liason Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer called the whole controversy “overblown” and defended the arrests.

Violence against Shi’ites in Iraq has been on the rise in recent months, with April the deadliest month in over a year. The prospect of losing nearly a hundred thousand Sunni allies, with some of them likely to return to the insurgency, would risk returning Iraq to the massive levels of violence of past years.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of