Iraq group under attack

The former Sunni insurgents now aligned with American troops in Iraq are known as the Awakening Council. The Council was born out of a growing disgust with the brutal tactics employed by the group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The Awakening Council has attracted some 70,000 members since its start less than two years ago. This analyst with the Rand Corporation says the group's influence in helping to quell the violence there can't be stressed enough, �The drop in violence that we've seen overall in Iraq has been very often attributed to the surge and President Bush has taken a lot of credit for it, but quite frankly, most of the reason why the violence has dropped is because Sunnis have stopped shooting at us. to take 70,000 people and have them not only stop fighting you but to start cooperating with you is a tremendous change in the strategic situation.� That may not last though, the analyst says, given the fact that the Awakening Council itself is now being threatened, �I don't think a few attacks are going to necessarily change the preferences of the tribal leaders, but it does pose real long term questions if the attacks do continue among very high levels of officials who have worked with US forces, whether they will be able to continue to do so in the future.� At least some of the attacks on the Sunni led Awakening Council are being blamed on government linked Shiite militias. This professor with Columbia University's Human Rights Center says that goes to show that sectarian divisions in Iraq are as deep as ever, �We're essentially arming Arab Sunnis who have been killing Americans, who are our adversaries. They may find it in their interests to align with the United States in the short term, but ultimately the support that we're giving them will empower these Awakening Councils to turn against the US and to turn against the Shia led government which we're supporting.� He says the only way to keep that from happening is to integrate members of the Awakening Council into the Iraqi government. The government has pledged to include some of the Awakening Council members in the ministries of the Interior and Defense, but that hasn't happened yet. He says, �It is short sighted of the Bush administration to invest in people who have been killing Americans and think they're going to fix the situation in Iraq and create a framework where in reconciliation can go forward.� Vali Nasr of Tufts University's Fletcher School says the attacks on the Sunni leaders, particularly in Anbar Province, mean the US now has to refocus its efforts there, �If Al Qaeda is able to pick off the leadership of the Awakening Council and by killing rank and file members make it much more difficult for people to say with US forces then this whole thing will unravel.� Nasr says the situation is manageable, that is as long as the United States doesn't lose sight of the reality that America is staking its bets on Iraq's future, on an alliance with Sunni militiamen, �We are not setting up a democratic, liberal, peace-loving force over there.� The Sunnis didn't join forces with the US military out of friendship, but Nasr says it may be up to the United States to continue to make it worth their while to stay in the alliance.