"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Control of Awakening Councils transferred to Iraqi government

From M & C.

Full administrative control of some 54,000 Awakening Councils members in Baghdad was transferred from US forces to the Iraqi Shiite-led government effective Wednesday the al-Arabiya news channel reported.

The transition of the Awakening Councils to be under the control of Iraq's government was inevitable and was initiated by Baghdad, which will take over the payment of their contracts, US forces Deputy Commanding General William Grimsley said in a statement.

The Awakening Councils - also know as Sons of Iraq - are some 99,000 Sunni tribe members, who, repulsed by al-Qaeda's killings of civilians, allied themselves with US forces. They crushed al-Qaeda militants and have succeeded in driving out a large number of militants since 2005.

Time will tell how well this transfer goes.

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‘Sons of Iraq’ Meet With Iraqi Leaders to Clarify Changeover

From MNF-I.

The Sons of Iraq (SoI) program is noted for significantly reducing violence and assisting to secure the populous in Iraq. Shortly, SoI members will be transitioned from US Army to Iraqi Security Force control. Maj. Gen. Abdulkreem Abdulrahman Al-Izi, commander of Rusafa Area Command and 1st NP Div., had this to say,

“We want to show that we are working with the SoI to coordinate our work with them,”....

One SoI leader asked for clarity concerning rumors about the GoI hiring and immediately firing SoI from the positions the Iraqi government are giving them as a reward for their service to Iraq. He said he heard only 20 percent would be hired to work with the ISF and everyone else in the SoI would be unemployed.

Abdulrahman explained that the prime minister’s order outlines that 20 percent of the SoI will work with the ISF and 80 percent will be employed with the civilian Iraqi government as a reward for their efforts, as long as they have not committed crimes against innocent Iraqis.

Future security and prosperity of Iraq is dependent upon the successful handover of SoI contracts to the GoI. While this transition is worrisome, one has to believe that Iraqi leaders nor the American military would allow this transition to occur in such a way to increase violence in Iraq. It will take a long time for Iraqi leadership to trust SoI members as many are possibly former insurgents. However, continued committment by the GoI and SoI can make this transition more transparent. The recent meeting held by General Abdulrahman goes a long way in ensuring all parties of the government's committment to SoI members.

It is good to see that not only will 20 percent be employed in the Iraqi Security Forces, but the other 80 percent will most likely be given civilian sector employment. For now, American Forces need to monitor this transition and ensure all sides are maintaining their committments.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Government Will Now Pay ‘Sons of Iraq’ Citizen Volunteers

From MNF-I.

The government of Iraq (GoI) has pledged millions of dollars to begin paying the ‘Sons of Iraq’ (SoI), the highly-successful, volunteer groups of citizens who have been instrumental in decreasing violence throughout the country.

Beginning, Oct. 1, 2008, American taxpayers will no longer pay to support the SoI program.

The United States currently pays SoI members $300 a month. By the end of November, the Iraqi Army will pay SoI members in Iraqi Dinar, said Maj. J.D. Highfill, deputy team leader with embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad – 5, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division.

A good news story.

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New procedures to enroll Awakening members

From Al Sumaria.

Baghdad Operations Spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atah announced that Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki ordered on September 8 to join in Awakening Councils members who enjoy conditions of enrolment in Iraq armed forces, i.e. Iraqi police and Army. In an interview with “Newsmatic” on the sidelines of a conference organized by the office of Prime Minister for a number of Awakening Councils leaders in Baghdad, he clarified that the resoluition that was issued 3 days ago stipulates many conditions to approve the enrolment of Awakening councils members in the security apparatuses including being able to read and write, their educational level as well as passing the medical exam. To that, it is necessary that Awakening Councils members’ criminal records shall be clean.

To that, the head of National Reconciliation Committee in the Council of Ministers Mohammad Salwan said that the resolution regarding merging Awakening Councils will include all Awakening Councils members in all the Iraqi Provinces. In the same context, Baghdad Operations Command, Maj. General Abboud Kanbar affirmed in a statement during the conference that the conditions of enrolment that were established in order to accept Awakening Councils members was used as a deterrent measure to prevent militants from infiltrating into Awakening Councils. Kanbar said that Baghdad Operations Commandment will be responsible of accepting Awakening Councils members in the security apparatuses. Enrolment applications will be submitted to the military unit in charge in each of the capitals regions and afterwards a High Committee including representatives of Baghdad Operations Command and National reconciliation Committee in order to study the same, he said.

This statement is a significant change from previous statements. As of a few days ago, only the Al Anbar Awakening movement (a political organization) was going to be brought into the ISF. Now it appears that all Awakening movements have a path for being accepted into the ISF. This apparent change should be watched for how well it accepts Sons of Iraq members from other provinces.

A few days ago, it was announce the GOI would take control of Sons of Iraq in Baghdad beginning on 01 Oct 08. This hand-over is the first step to eventually take control of all Sons of Iraq organizations.

The Sons of Iraq organizations have been credited with reducing the influence and violence of insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army.

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Doubts persist as Iraq takes over U.S.-backed patrols

From Yahoo via Reuters.

The United States will begin handing over control to the Iraqi government in October of largely Sunni Muslim local guard units credited with helping contain bloodshed across Iraq.

The current plan calls for the Iraqi government to take over payment of over half of the Sons of Iraq in October focusing on Baghdad.

The Iraqi government will take over payment in October of the 54,000 members of the neighborhood units that operate checkpoints and patrol streets in and around Baghdad, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Kulmayer said in an interview.

It will mark the first major step in a delicate transition that U.S. officials hope will ultimately see 20 percent of the U.S.-backed units incorporated into Iraqi security forces.

Many in the armed units "were former insurgents, and that's why we call this a reconciliation issue," said Kulmayer, who will oversee the transfer of Awakening units to Iraqi control. "It's important that they're now included in the new Iraq."

Under the U.S. and Iraqi plan, those who don't join Iraqi security forces will be given civilian jobs.

How this transition takes place may very well determine the future stability in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq cracks down on US-backed fighters

From the International Herald Tribune.

The Shiite-led government is cracking down on U.S.-backed Sunni fighters in one of Iraq's most turbulent regions, arresting some leaders, disarming scores and banning them from manning checkpoints except alongside security forces.

Moves against the fighters in Diyala province reflect mixed views on a movement which began in 2007 among Sunni tribes in western Iraq that revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans in the fight against the terror network.

The Iraqi government is extremely resistent to bring Sunni Son's of Iraq members into the security forces.

A top Iraqi security official with access to classified information said authorities were especially suspicious of the Diyala groups because many of their estimated 14,000 fighters had been members of al-Qaida in Iraq.

But moving against the Sunni movements could alienate the once-dominant minority Sunni Arabs at a time when overtures to them appear to be making headway.

"We fought the Americans for four years and we fought al-Qaida too," said al-Safi, a former Iraqi army commando and a veteran of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. "We are an experienced armed group. We are fully capable of bringing the house down."

This situation is extremely touchy. PM Maliki's successes in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, and now Diyala make him feel he does not need to integrate the Son's of Iraq, a predominant Sunni group. The US military, on the otherhand, does not want to alienate fighters who have now switched sides and are fighting against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

A review of past insurgencies show that a country's military must be integrated and representative of all parties within the country which is why the US is pushing for the Son's of Iraq integration. PM Maliki's position is also understandable, but in direct violation of counter-insurgency principles and the reconciliation the country needs to continue to grow as a democracy. However, a review of our policies after the civil war will show not much difference between the Union's position to the South.

PM Maliki is testing fate here. Whether or not his military forces are strong enough to prevent a resurgent insurgency is to be seen. In addition, his failure to establish a SOFA with US forces may also put past successes in question. Finally, Iran is a wild card which PM Maliki cannot control.

This situation needs to be monitored closely for signs of a resurgent insurgency which Iraqi forces are unable to quell.

For a full read, click here.

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When Sons of Iraq grow up

From Gordon Alanko at The Long War Journal.

Many folks are wondering what to do with Sons of Iraq after security is established. Right now, Sons of Iraq number approximately 91,000 members. The Iraqi government has stated about 20,000 will be welcomed into security forces. But what about the other 71,000. Will they go back to being insurgents?

Mr. Alanko attempts to explain the future of the Sons of Iraq by examining the town of Hawr Rajab is a town in the Arab Jabour region just south of Baghdad. In Hawr Rajab, the US military has established a vocational school called the "Village of Hope".

The “Village of Hope,” as the school is now called, will graduate a class of 50 men every three months, after training them in a variety of disciplines. Instructors cover basic skills in masonry, concrete, general construction, plumbing, and electricity. Trainees are graded on a pass or fail basis, and receive a certificate of completion and hiring preference on projects in the village once they graduate.

So, what is the future of the Sons of Iraq? According to Mr. Alanko,

This, then, is the future of the Sons of Iraq: Having established security in their towns and villages, those that had jobs will return to them. Those who prefer to remain an armed assurer of the security of Iraq will move on to the academies and boot camps of the security forces, and those that remain will gain the skills they need to reverse the destruction of war.

The Sons of Iraq will either go back to what they were doing before the war, go into the security services, or go on to reverse the destructions of war after gaining the needed skills in the "Village of Hope". The vocational training in Hawr Rajab will undoubtedly become the model for other areas. All Sons of Iraq members cannot be accepted into the Iraqi Security Forces. Many will to maintain security. However, most will be taught and skilled in technologies which will rebuild their wartorn country.

The "Village of Hope" in Hawr Rajab is just another example of grass roots reconciliation taking place in Iraq. At the grass roots in Al Anbar is where reconciliation started. It has now grown national as Maliki has shown Sunnis he is willing and able to go after Shiite militias as an Iraqi leader and not as a leader of Shiites.

Iraq has drastically changed since the tyrannical rule of Saddam. The economic principles under a dictatorship vice the economic principles under a democracy are vastly different. We see this difference in the northern part of Iraq as rice farmers are no longer cultivating rice, but instead are heading to the city for more money and a different form of employment. We are beginning to see this change south of Baghdad in Hawr Rajab where Sons of Iraq are being trained in different vocations to rebuild their country after five years of war. We are seeing this difference in southern Iraq at the port of Um Qasr which has just been secured by Iraqi Security Forces.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been summarily defeated. Membership of 91,000 Sons of Iraq clearly shows this defeat as does tens of Al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents being killed or captured daily across Iraq. The next primary concern of Iraqis is Special Groups sponsored by Iran. These Special Groups have been defeated in Southern Iraq most notably marked by Iraqi Security Forces securing the port of Um Qasr. The last remaining bastons are being cleared out of Basra and Sadr City as this article is being typed.

The rule of law is being established in Iraq. Market forces which a democracy brings are beginning to dominate Iraq. As the country transitions from all out war to low level insurgency to reconstruction and then finally to a vibrant export economy, many folks will change jobs. Former insurgents will become carpenters. Former rice farmers will move to cities for better jobs. Iraq's wealth is centered around oil. Thirty-five companies have just qualified to bid for oil and gas contracts in Iraq.

Soon, Iraq may very well exploit another of its natural resources, that being the birthplace of civilization. Many historical sites remain unexcavated in Iraq. Ten or twenty years in the future, an American visiting Iraq's Tower of Babel may very well be talking to a tour guide who was once a Sunni insurgent, who became a Son of Iraq, who became a mason working helping to rebuild Iraq who then moved on to rebuild the Tower of Babel and now works as a tour guide.

The fact is a democracy allows for these types of career changes. A democracy is what is currently growing in Iraq. A few years down the road the Iraqi democracy will become of force to be reckoned with in the region. The American military is fostering this young democracy and its new citizens in places like the "Village of Hope".

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Sons of Iraq

From Alsumaria.

Heads of Awakening Councils have warned the US military of halting cooperation in fighting Al Qaeda unless financial dues are paid for awakening members. Success achieved so far in fighting armed factions disseminating fear and terror by gory explosions around Iraq mainly Anbar Province, is shaking. 80,000 members of Awakening Councils have threatened to strike if they don’t receive their payments of 10$ a day. They accused the United States of using them for dangerous jobs and then leaving them in the lurch.

In another story, Maliki agreeed to merge Awakenings in Iraq Forces.

While marking the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed, in Al Aazamiya District, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki pledged to merge Awakening councils in Al Aazamiya into security institutions. In a speech delivered in Imam Abu Hanifa Al Naaman mosque, Al Maliki said the government will work on easing hindrances and opening all closed institutions before Iraqis who have faced challenges fiercely. Al Maliki’s statements came in line with demands of head of Sunni endowment Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafour Al Samirrai who called to merge eligible members of Awakening Councils with army and police ranks to be part of security and military institutions.

The Maliki government will have to merge Sons of Iraq into security institutions if they hope to maintain recent security gains.

The US has biometric data on all Sons of Iraq members. The Maliki government should integrate these members into their ranks after a vetting process. The integration of Iraqi Security Forces with Sunni Sons of Iraq is needed to complete reconciliation at the national level.

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