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The Anbar Lens: News From The Iraqi Awakening

Earlier this week in Understanding Iraq Through Anbar's Lens, I regretted not expanding more and articulating clearly the distinction between the 'Sons of Iraq' (as we call them) and the Iraq Awakening political movement. I also promised to revisit this in greater detail in order to clarify.

Well, thanks to Sterling Jensen, I will likely not need to organize many words in explanation. Few, either in America or even perhaps in Iraq, know as intimately the Iraq Awakening like Sterling.

He is now explaining this and much more as he heads up the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' newest offering, the Voices of the Awakening project. And as if on cue and in timely response to events on the ground and in the Iraqi political arena, he explains rather succinctly the difference between the SoI and the Iraq Awakening political movement.

Last week, the Western media reported a new GOI crackdown on Awakening councils in and around Baghdad. Such reports gave the impression that the Shia-led government was turning against the U.S.-backed Sunni Awakening councils who recently played a key role in reducing violence in Iraq. On August 26, the Iraqi Awakening published an interview with the official spokesman of Baghdad Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atah, saying the GOI sought good relations with Awakening elements in Baghdad and was not moving to eliminate them—but rather sought to either integrate them into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) or provide them other means of employment. The spokesman said that groups seeking to ruin the relationship between the Awakening councils and the GOI were spreading rumors that the government wanted to eliminate Awakening councils in Baghdad.

INSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE: It is important to differentiate between two different types of Awakening councils. First, Mutammar Sahwat al-Iraq, or the Iraqi Awakening, is a registered national political party that began as the Anbar Awakening tribal movement mid-2006 in Ramadi, Anbar. By early 2007, the Anbar Awakening’s popularity grew into other Sunni areas in Baghdad, Salahideen, and Diyala, at the same time coalition forces started recruiting tribal-oriented Sunnis into its Sons of Iraq program. Many Sons of Iraq program participants organized themselves into self-proclaimed Awakening councils, even though they might not have any official affiliation with the Anbar Awakening. In early 2007, as the Anbar Awakening transitioned into the Iraqi Awakening, many of these other Awakening councils either joined the Iraqi Awakening organization, or just continued operating under their own ad hoc organizations.

Today the GOI has good relations with the Iraqi Awakening, and recognizes it as a legal political entity. However, GOI is weary of self-proclaimed Awakening groups not integrated into the Iraqi Awakening, because some of these groups do not operate according to new Iraqi laws and are not seen as subservient to GOI. Some of these ad hoc Awakening councils/Sons of Iraq are basically former nationalist insurgents whose reason for turning against AQI was purely tactical. The Iraqi Awakening would not necessarily be against GOI cracking down on these groups that work against the party’s platform principle of recognizing GOI’s authority and allowing only ISF-approved groups to use weapons.

When Sterling writes the "Insider's Perspective," trust me when I say that his perspective is very much that of the insider.

If you follow events in Iraq and seek to understand (and decipher) news reports from there and what developments mean, add News from the Iraqi Awakening from Sterling Jensen to your regular reading list.

Here's hoping the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, and other media outlets' journalists do the same. While it would not be unlike many of them to do so and not reference or credit the source, at least they - and by extension more Americans - would stand a far better chance to understand and 'get it right.' And that's much more important than any public acknowledgment and credit, by far.

Thanks to Sterling Jensen for his incredible service to both this nation as well as Iraq and Iraqis. Equally, we extend a thanks to those in 'the chain' who saw the wisdom of making such information publicly and readily available. And thanks to FDD for giving this resource a home.