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February 07, 2008

More Troubling News from Anbar
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

A lot of the news coming out of Iraq today is about those disturbing pictures of children participating in AQI activity and violence.  But a much more important piece of information is buried deep inside the NY Times.

In Anbar Province, tensions between Sunni factions appeared to be high. The tribal Awakening Council, which is now the most powerful group in the province but which lacks political influence, said it was giving members of the Iraqi Islamic Party 30 days to vacate the seats it holds in the provincial council.

The Islamic Party holds a disproportionate number of seats in Anbar and some other Sunni-majority provinces; while many Sunnis boycotted the last election, the Iraqi Islamic Party was one of the few Sunni parties on the ballot. Now, as other political factions have gained ground, they are seeking to oust the party and replace its members with homegrown groups. That effort is particularly strong in Anbar, where the tribes have joined to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and are an influential force.

Indications from the government in Baghdad that provincial elections would not be held until fall prompted the anger. Tribal leaders said they had expected the government to hold elections in March. Either the elections should be held sooner or, in the meantime, the provincial council needs to be replaced, said one leader, Sheik Ali al-Suleiman.

Mark Lynch has been keeping a close eye on this for the past few days.  But it looks like tensions have reached a new level between the Sunni Green Zone politicians and the "Awakening" movement.  What's scary here is that the level of distrust and hatred in intra-Sunni politics probably doesn't even come close to what you have to deal with in terms of getting the Awakening Groups and Concerned Local Citizens (Excuse me: "Sons of Iraq") integrated into national Shi'a dominated institutions.  And trying to change the leadership by holding elections may only make the situation worse.  On top of that, if violence between the Green Zone politicians and the Awakening Councils breaks out in Anbar we're in for a whole new set of problems and "bottom up reconciliation" could very well go up in smoke.


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