The Iraqi government is in danger of igniting new Sunni violence if it continues its policy of refusing to acknowledge the work of Sunnis who cooperated with Americans in fighting al-Qaeda. Many tribal leaders who were part of the Awakening Council(al Sahwa) movement switched sides on the basis of promises they would be provided assistance, and eventually government positions. But, in Diyala province as well as in the Baghdad area, Iraqi police and the army have arrested dozens of al-Sahwa leaders on grounds they previously supported al-Qaeda. Talriq al-Hashimi, who heads the Iraqi Islamist party, “the government is very hesitant, and I’m afraid if those groups and individuals are frustrated they might change their minds and instead of fighting al-Qaida and terrorism they will be back to offering them a safe haven, as they did in the past.” His concerns were echoed by Sheikh Musafa Kamil Hamed, leader of the powerful Jibouri tribe whose 3,500 men took an active role in fighting militants.
There are many such tribes and groups who still retain the arms given them by the Americans to fight terrorism and it would not be out of the realm of possibility for them to return to their former views. The harvest of spring can become the winter of discontent unless the Shiite government respects the rights of Sunnis.