As reported earlier, November 1 was the first day the Iraqi government was suppose to pay for the Baghdad area Sons of Iraq (SOI). They now have responsibility for 49,381 SOI. On September 9, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki officially said that the government would integrate 20% of the SOI into the security forces, and the rest would receive government jobs when they became available. When November 1 came, the government announced that it would be reducing the paycheck for the SOI. On average, the Americans have been paying them $300 a month, with SOI leaders receiving between $400-$600. Baghdad now says it will pay all the SOI $250 a month. The United States said that it would not make up the difference between the new and the old pay scale. The SOI of course, were not happy with the change.
The SOI are already convinced that the government will arrest or disband most of them. There are American officers that share their fears. Since April, the government began to arrest a few SOI leaders in Baghdad. Beginning in July, when Maliki launched a military operation in Diyala, SOI there have also been detained and forced to flee. The government has promised the Americans that they will not arrest any SOI in the capital with a warrant that has been issued since May however. There are also many lawsuits against individual SOI members for their time when they were part of the insurgency.
The promised jobs may also be few and far between. On October 31, a day before the hand over, 600 SOI did arrive at the Al Furat Iraqi Police Training Center in Baghdad to begin basic training. Yet, there are many SOI who do not have the education or the discipline to meet the standards to be integrated into the security forces, while the government might use a tight vetting process to keep out others. Even more worrisome, is the promise of government jobs for the other 80%. There is no evidence that Baghdad can provide those, and many analysts doubt whether Maliki’s government has the will or a plan to actually do it anyway. All of this increases the fear that the SOI will return to the insurgency. Others might join gangs. Still more will probably join the 40-60% of Iraqis who are unemployed or underemployed.
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- “Sons of Iraq? Or Baghdad’s Sopranos?” Los Angeles Times, 5/20/08