Send One Back, Take Fifty More
No doubt under duress from the Americans, the Iraqi government abruptly released a Sunni Muslim Awakening Council leader and dropped all charges. Of course, he's just one of the several they've captured.
While freeing Raad Ali, the Shiite-led government continued to hold another Sunni leader, whose arrest Saturday triggered an uprising that left at least 17 people wounded, and it's arrested a number of other Sunni paramilitary leaders and members this week.
The turmoil is fueling fears that rising tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and between Sunni Arabs and Kurds could trigger a new round of violence and even disrupt the Obama administration's plans to draw down American forces in Iraq.
Ali, the head of the Sons of Iraq in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, returned home to a rain of celebratory shooting by neighbors and supporters. He told McClatchy that he'd been charged with seven crimes, including kidnapping a man who'd already accused someone else of the crime, planting roadside bombs, displacing Shiite families and killing two police officers, one of whom had been his own follower.
He said that all of the charges were bogus. He was treated well while in prison and was able to plead his case before a judge Wednesday, he said.
What's worrying is that the arrests are continuing. Another 50 were arrested yesterday in Ameriyah, a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Ali was a US ally, but he's but one of what is now ranging into hundreds of detainees. And he is correct that this could spark a new round of violence.
"The Awakening succeeded to make everything good and clean the face of the government," Ali said. "They (the Iraqi government) are crazy, they are foolish, they don't need to target us . . . . we help you and support you why do you want to target us?"
He said he'd told U.S. officials many times that the Iraqi government's apparent plan was to "arrest big leaders," and that this would "destroy" the U.S. project to end the Sunni insurgency. But the American said he was wrong, he said.
I hope somebody at the highest levels of the White House is paying attention to this. It could explode.
...Oh dear. This could get really, really bad.
An American military aircraft opened fire Thursday night on Sons of Iraq members who were allegedly spotted placing a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday.
The incident, which killed one suspected member of the paramilitary group and wounded two, is the latest sign of the fraying allegiance between the paramilitary groups and the U.S. military.
Can you say "insurgency resurgence"?