By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON – When United States troops and Apache helicopters joined Iraqi forces in putting down an uprising by Sunni “Sons of Iraq” militiamen in central Baghdad last weekend, it was a preview of the kind of combat the US military is likely to see increasingly over the next three years unless a policy decision is made in Washington to avoid it.
Although the arrest of a Sunni Awakening Council leader and seven of his deputies that triggered the uprising was spun both by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and by the US command as an anti-terrorism issue rather than sectarian repression, it was in fact part of the long-term struggle for power between the Shi’ite-dominated government of Iraq and Sunnis who have been disenfranchised.
Sunday’s battle in Fadhil was a warning signal that the US command has allowed itself to be drawn into a campaign by Maliki to pick off individual commanders of the Sunni neighborhood security groups made up of former insurgents. The detention of a popular Sunni commander there may have touched off a process of sending a large proportion of the Sunni Awakening Councils movement, which is supposed to be on the government payroll, back into underground insurgency. read on