Meanwhile, violence continues across Iraq (Truthout)

Terwijl president Obama zijn troepen uit Irak wil terugtrekken om zich te concentreren op ‘AfPak’, neemt het sectarisch geweld in Irak weer toe.

One week after Iraqi government forces arrested an Awakening Group (commonly referred to as Sons of Iraq, al-Sahwa) leader, Adil al-Mashhadani, head of a patrol unit in central Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood in Baghdad, sparking gun battles that raged for hours between US-backed Iraqi forces and US-allied Sunni militiamen that killed three people, militiamen have once again been detained, widening concerns that sectarian violence may once more engulf Baghdad. There are 50,000 Sahwa fighters in Baghdad alone.

While the Sahwa leader, who had been detained with 32 of his fighters, was eventually released by the Iraqi government, tensions grew in the wake of his detention as threats made by both sides increased. Thus far, only 11 of the 32 others have been released.

Just days after the aforementioned detention, Iraqi forces arrested two more Sahwa guards in the al-Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, which is controlled by their forces. In an article for Truthout last week, I voiced my concerns of these government attacks against Sahwa forces spreading. I am surprised at the rapidity at which this is occurring now, as this trend, if it continues, appears almost certain to spark a dramatic flare of sectarian violence in the capital city.

The Sahwa fighters, who once numbered 100,000 across Iraq according to the US military, were backed and paid by US forces until the Shiite-led Iraqi government took over the program last October, a process that was completed this week. Payment to Sahwa leaders by the US military, however, has shifted from overt payments to payment in the form of "construction contracts" to key leaders.

That the treatment of the Sahwa forces by the Iraqi government is largely seen as a barometer for the process of reconciliation does not bode well for these recent events. ..

As the threat of a resurgence of sectarian violence grows, black funeral banners hang across Baghdad, ominous reminders that there is no normal life in the war-ravaged country. The Los Angeles Times reports , "At a time when the Iraqi government and US military speak of lower death tolls, black banners drape the mosque walls and traffic circles of Baghdad, telling a different story of a world beyond statistics, where killings still ripple through society. These disposable funeral banners, randomly read by drivers who pass on the word about the drive-by shootings, bombings and assassinations they document, remind ordinary Iraqis that nothing is as it seems, that the embers of the recent civil war still burn."
Meanwhile, violence continues across the country…

At the height of the sectarian violence that ravaged Iraq between early 2006 and mid-2007, some days found 300 Iraqis being killed. Right now, Iraq is teetering on the brink of returning to that level of bloodletting.

The Storm Widens (by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t )

The Holes in Obama’s Afghanistan Plan (Leslie H. Gelb, Council on Foreign Relations)

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