In January 2010 there were two reports of a dramatic increase in the number of Sons of Iraq (SOI) that were given jobs by the government, followed by a story that all of the SOI in Diyala walked off the job to protest a crackdown by authorities.
First, on January 11 Alsumaria TV interviewed an American general who said that 10,000 SOI had gotten jobs in the Iraqi security forces, and 30,000 found employment in other ministries. That left 78,000 SOI still manning posts throughout the country that are getting monthly checks from Baghdad, and waiting to be integrated. On January 19, Reuters talked with the head of the Implementation and Follow-up Committee for National Reconciliation who claimed that 15,000 SOI were now employed by the security forces, and 33,000 in other government positions. He went on to say that all of the SOI would be integrated by mid-2010, and that money had been set-aside in the proposed 2010 budget to continue paying them until that happened. If those two reports are true, that would be a dramatic increase from the last numbers of SOI integration released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) in October 2009. The last SIGIR study reported only 9,500 SOI in the security forces, 6,800 in other ministries, and 8,800 who had found employment elsewhere. The SIGIR said that 16,300 SOI had been integrated out of 89,000 or 18.3%. The Alsumaria story increased that to 40,000 or 44.9% of the total, while the Implementation and Follow-up Committee for National Reconciliation claimed 48,000 or 53.9%. The U.S. now says that the remaining SOI will be given jobs by mid-2010.
In the middle of this good news Aswat al-Iraq ran a story on January 23 that all of the SOI in Diyala have been ordered to abandon their posts by their leaders due to a government crackdown. An SOI sheikh said that there were 13,000 SOI in the province, and claimed that 425 fighters and 25 senior leaders had recently been arrested. He told Aswat al-Iraq that that the arrests were based upon false reports by Al Qaeda members attempting to undermine the SOI.
The Diyala SOI has had one of the most contentious relationships with Baghdad. The Sons of Iraq there were first formed in 2007 when members of the 1920s Revolution Brigades, other insurgent groups, and the Karki and Shimouri tribes turned on their former allies Al Qaeda in Iraq. They were eventually co-opted by the Iraqi Islamic Party in a successful attempt to expand their grassroots support within the province. This caught the attention of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who quickly tried to divide the SOI by offering them jobs through the Diyala Support Council in mid-2007. This raised the attention of the U.S. who complained to Maliki that his actions were destabilizing the situation. In January 2008 the Prime Minister continued with his divide and conquer strategy by forming the Diyala Tribal Support Council to break away more SOI fighters from their leaders and the Islamic Party. Operation Omens of Prosperity followed in July that arrested both insurgents and SOI and Islamic Party members. Again, the U.S. attempted to intervene by getting some of the SOI leaders released from detention and out of trouble with the authorities. In September Baghdad offered another carrot when it promised to hire more SOI into the security forces in Diyala than the percentage offered to SOI in the rest of the country, while still using the stick of further arrests.
All of these stories represent the conflicted stance the Iraqi government has towards the Sons of Iraq. Baghdad and its ruling Shiite parties have always considered the SOI an American creation, full of former insurgents who are not to be trusted. Despite this they did agree to integrate 20% into the security forces, and give the other 80% jobs in the rest of the government. This was to be accomplished by the end of 2009 however, a deadline that has now been extended to mid-2010 until after the parliamentary elections. Due to Baghdad’s reluctance only around 40-50% of the SOI have been given employment so far. At the same time, they continue to arrest SOI members around the country. This is part of a carrot and stick approach that Maliki has taken since 2007, offering them the chance for a steady job, while at the same time reminding them that the government is in complete control of their fate, and that they can be detained at any time.
Alsumaria, “40,000 Sahwa members into Iraqi institutions,” 1/11/10
Aswat al-Iraq, “Diala sahwa fighters quit checkpoints,” 1/23/10
Loney, Jim, “Iraq says 50,000 former insurgents in govt jobs,” 1/19/10
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09
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