Daily Photo: Potential Flashpoint in Iraq

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 30, 2009 5:35pm

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports: Something to keep an eye on in Iraq, the increasingly disgruntled Sons of Iraq or Awakening Councils and their reaction to what they perceive as ongoing efforts by the Maliki government to disband their ranks.  A violent flareup in Baghdad this weekend served as a reminder of how fragile the security gains remain in Iraq and how a rift between the Shiite government and the Sunni groups could once again fuel sectarian tensions at a time when American forces are drawing down.    American commanders believe the Awakening Councils were instrumental in turning the tide against Sunni insurgents and concerns have been raised that  these former insurgents could return to the fight if they feel threatened by the government. Iraqi army special forces patrol Baghdad’s al-Fadel district on March 30, 2009.
(ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images) Today, the U.S. military in Iraq reassured Sunni leaders that they still had American support after fears were raised of an Iraqi government crackdown following the arrest of a local Sons of Iraq leader in Baghdad accused of running a deadly extortion racket.  His arrest and the disarming of his followers by Iraqi security forces was perceived by other Sons of Iraq leaders as a move by the government of Prime Minister Maliki to disband the group.  This weekend’s violence was the worst in Baghdad in almost a year and on Monday, a Sons of Iraq leader in the restive Diyala province, north of the city, threatened to stop security cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi forces if the jailed leader was not freed. Iraqi authorities have denied plans to disband of the Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq though they have been slow in keeping pledges to integrate a small number of them into the Iraqi security forces and give state jobs or vocational training to the rest.  Last October, the Iraqi government assumed responsibility from the US for paying the the 90,000 members who belong to the Sons of Iraq, but some of the groups claim they have gone three months without being paid. 

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