On January 4, 2009 Baghdad took over control of Diyala’s Sons of Iraq (SOI) Program. There are between 8,000-9,000 fighters in the province, 80% of which have signed up to receive their paychecks from Baghdad. In turn, the government has agreed to integrate 33% of them into the security forces, and build a vocational training center in Diyala for the rest. This is much higher than the 20% of the Baghdad Sons of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to allow into the police earlier. As reported before, this comes after the government arrested dozens of SOI in the province and chased many others away. This has caused great animosity between the two sides. On the day the handover ceremony was held for example, two SOI leaders Abu Ali and Abu Taleb said they had warrants hanging over their heads, and were still afraid that the authorities would go after them. Two SOI leaders also passed away under suspicious circumstances in December. Bashir Jawrani died in a hospital after being arrested by the police, while Sattar al Hadidi was gunned down outside of a mosque.
The transfer also comes just before the provincial elections at the end of January. As noted before, the Shiite led provincial council in Diyala has called for a delay in the vote there because they fear that the Sunnis will have a high turnout this year. Many of the SOI in Diyala plan on running in the election. Three SOI members who were hoping to run as candidates were arrested just before the registration deadline in late 2008, which made them ineligible. Dozens of members of the Iraqi Islamic Party have also been detained in Diyala since Baghdad launched a security operation there in July.
After having used the stick against the Diyala SOI, Baghdad may now be turning to the carrot. The Sons of Iraq have been thoroughly intimidated in the province. Many feel persecuted and that the government is out to get them. Now Prime Minister Maliki may be using the other tool at his disposal, the purse to coo them. He has shown them he has the power to lock them up or allow them to continue on with their lives. The U.S. plans on transferring all the SOI in the country to Baghdad this year, so they have nowhere else to turn but the government if they want to continue to be paid. This is the carrot Maliki now has control over to try to ply the Diyala SOI to his will.
For more on the Diyala Sons of Iraq see:
Government Continues Its Crackdown On Diyala Sons Of Iraq
Carrot and The Stick With The Diyala’s Sons Of Iraq, Or Just The Stick?
The End Of The Diyala Sons Of Iraq?
Recent Government And Sons Of Iraq Relations
Ashton, Adam, “Iraqi government to take control of Sunni militia in Diyala,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/27/08
Gamel, Kim, “US, Iraqis prepare to transfer to govt control of Sunni fighters in volatile Diyala province,” Associated Press, 11/20/08
Goetze, Katharina and Salman, Daud and Naji, Zaineb, “Could Awakening Fighters Rejoin Insurgency?” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/31/08
Heintz, Jim, “Government gets control of Sons of Iraq in Diyala,” Associated Press, 1/4/09
Parker, Ned, “Baqubah a minefield of Iraqi sectarian tensions,” Los Angeles Times, 12/7/08