The following commentary originally appeared in Musings On Iraq
Baghdad is claiming that it is integrating the Sons of Iraq (SOI) in Diyala province. On September 24, 2008 the general in charge of the National Command Center said that the Interior Ministry had hired 2,000 SOI from Diyala into the provincial police force since the beginning of Operation Promise of Good in late July, and was looking for a total of 4,000. The Defense Ministry also said that it wanted to recruit 3,000 as soldiers. Any SOI that had special skills or education were also promised government jobs. In the beginning of August, the Interior said that all the SOI in Diyala were going to be given employment. A few days later, the Prime Minister offered 3,000 police jobs to any SOI that assisted in the security crackdown.
The government’s claims are hard to believe, because as reported earlier, Iraqi forces have had nothing but conflicts with the local SOI. In May 2008 Baghdad issued arrest warrants for several SOI leaders. This was just two days after they had set up a political party to run in the provincial elections, and one day before they could begin forming coalitions. The warrants disqualified them from participating however. When the security operation began there in late July, the security forces also shut down SOI offices in the provincial capitol Baquba and other cities, told them to leave the streets, and arrested at least five leaders and 100 fighters. They have banned all weapons in the province, something that is illegal according to the Constitution, which allows each Iraqi family an AK-47 in their home. The order was obviously meant to give the security forces an excuse to arrest any SOI that was manning their post. The head of the SOI in Baquba, Abu Talib, had an arrest warrant for him. With the help of the U.S. he was not detained after a meeting with the provincial police chief, but he later met with an advisor to Maliki who told him he should hide. That led him to flee to Syria.
The security forces have also gone after the SOI’s allies in the provincial government. The Iraqi Islamic Party’s headquarters in Diyala have been raided three times for example. Some of their leading politicians have also been arrested. Most damning was an August 18 raid on the provincial offices where a special counterterrorism police unit arrested and beat Islamic Party official Hussein al-Zubaidi, the head of the provincial council’s security office. Zubaidi was known as a supporter of the local SOI. The U.S. says that there was no reason for Zubaidi to be arrested or held.
Many SOI in Diyala believe the government is out to disband them, and it is hard not to see where their suspicions come from. During the Surge, U.S. officials and military officers said that the Sons of Iraq were an example of an “Iraqi solution for Iraqi problems.” Ambassador Ryan Crocker said in January 2008 that things had progressed to the point where Iraqis could find solutions to their own problems. When it comes to the government and the SOI, it seems like an Iraqi solution will be the arrest of many of their leaders, the disbandment of many, and then the integration of the truncated leftovers.
Alsumaria, “Popular committees to join security forces,” 8/4/08
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Parker, Sam, “Guest Post: Behind the Curtain in Diyala,” Abu Muqawama Blog, 8/20/08
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Voices of Iraq, “MOI hires 2,000 Sahwa fighters in Diala,” 9/24/08