Source: The New York Times
Members of the Sunni Awakening Councils, the former insurgents who switched sides to help bring calm to Iraq, are increasingly being besieged from all sides.
Thirteen members were killed by a suicide bomber while they gathered to collect their pay south of Baghdad on Saturday, in the latest of a string of attacks against Awakening members in recent weeks. Some of the Sunnis also worry that the Shiite-led government has begun singling out the councils’ leaders for arrest while their chief patron, the American military, slowly abandons them.
One of the most notable cases is that of Sheik Maher Sarhan Abbas, whom the government detained 27 days ago, according to his family and fellow Awakening leaders.
Sheik Maher’s arrest took place in secret and came to light when The New York Times by chance contacted someone who had seen him in jail. It was one of several such cases in recent weeks that have worried not only Awakening members, but also some American diplomats and military officers.
The Sunni leaders have long been targets for Islamist militants and Shiite militias. And there have been other arrests of senior Awakening leaders in the past few weeks.
Some leaders accuse the government of trying to purge them, or at the least of moving too quickly on anonymous accusations against them.
Tensions between the Sunni Awakening groups and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have been present from the start. American efforts to transfer the Awakening security forces from the American payroll to the Iraqi security forces were initially resisted by leaders in Baghdad, who say that many of the Awakening leaders are still actively supporting antigovernment insurgents.