[…] The Awakening Councils (Sahwa in Arabic) were created in regions of the country and Sunni suburbs of Baghdad that had been epicentres of armed resistance to the occupation. They were formed under conditions of intense US military operations against the insurgency, and pogroms against Sunni communities by elements of the Iraqi security forces and death squads loyal to the Shiite fundamentalist parties that dominate the government.
Thousands of Sunnis were killed and tens of thousands fled Baghdad to escape the massacres. Facing not only defeat but potential annihilation, up to 60,000 Sunni men in Baghdad, and 40,000 in provinces such as Anbar, Ninevah, Diyala and Salah ah Din, ultimately agreed to join US-paid militias and cease attacks on American forces. The US paid the militiamen between $150 and $300 a month. With mass unemployment gripping the country, this money has supported many Sunni families.
As part of the arrangement, the Awakening Councils assisted the occupation forces to hunt down intransigent elements of the insurgency that would not submit. In exchange, American troops prevented government forces and Shiite militias from entering Sunni districts. In Baghdad, this involved sealing them off from Shiite areas with 12-foot high concrete blast walls, transforming the city into a network of ghetto-like enclaves.
This political settlement, which has been the main factor in the ebb in violence over the past 18 months, is now breaking down read article