On May 18, 2009 Interior Ministry forces arrested the head of the Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) in Diyala Abdul Jabbar al-Khazraji and a Sons of Iraq leader Sheikh Riyad al-Mujami in Baquba, the provincial capitol. They were sent to Baghdad where they are charged with attacks on civilians. The raid was part of Operation Promise of Good II, the latest security crackdown in the province. In April 2009, Iraqi forces had tried to detain four members of the IAF on the day they were to be sworn in as new members of the Diyala provincial council. The U.S. prevented the arrests, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the leader of the Accordance Front, was also involved. Accordance Front and SOI members said that the government was out to destroy them, and an SOI leader said that dozens had fled and hundreds had quit their posts as a result. As reported before, even the Shiite parties of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, that is part of the ruling coalition in Diyala and Dawa, which is the opposition, have complained about Operation Promise of Good II. All of this has a striking resemblance to the first Promise of Good launched in 2008.
Operation Promise of Good II was begun on May 1, involving 21,000 police as well as elements of the 5th Iraqi Army Division, and two other brigades. The original Promise of Good was announced in June 2008, and eventually included 2 Army divisions, and 15,000-20,000 police. Both times Baghdad said it was going after insurgents, but the offensives quickly turned into political crackdowns on the Sunni parties and SOI of Diyala. In 2008 the security forces had a 5,000-name want list that mostly consisted of SOI members. By the end of August five SOI leaders and hundreds of fighters were arrested, and more had fled. The SOI went to the U.S. for help, but received little assistance. The political nature of the operation was emphasized when three SOI were arrested the day before the deadline to register for the January 2009 provincial elections. They were released the next day, but their detention made them ineligible to run as candidates. The security forces also arrested members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the leaders of the Accordance Front, who were allied with the SOI. In August 2008 Maliki ordered a raid on the provincial council offices to detain the Diyala security chief and Iraqi Islamic Party member Hussein al-Zubaydi because of his conflict with the Maliki appointed provincial police chief. That constituted the stick of Maliki’s strategy for Diyala. By January 2009 when the government took control of the SOI, Baghdad promised them jobs as a carrot.
Despite Maliki’s effort to break the power of the Sunnis in Diyala, after the provincial elections, the Accordance Front came out on top, and was able to form a coalition with their parliamentary allies the Kurdish Alliance and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Diyala Coalition to gain the governorship. This did not go over well with Maliki as his State of Law followers protested, and threatened to go to court over the results.
It seems now that Maliki’s strategy failed to win him election victory he is going back to the stick to deal with Diyala’s Sunnis. The Prime Minister was unable to break the ties between the SOI and the Accordance Front, which led to their winning in the voting. The IAF was then able to outmaneuver the State of Law, and form a ruling coalition to take over the Diyala council. Maliki has therefore turned to arresting the Accordance Front leader, and going back to rounding up SOI members. If Operation Promise Of Good II is like the last one, there will be no mass arrests. Rather warrants will be issued and selected leaders and some rank and file will be rounded up to force the majority to either give into Maliki’s will or flee and quit, thus relieving the government from having to pay them and finding them permanent employment later on.
For more on the situation in Diyala see:
Local Criticism of New Security Operation In Diyala
Old And New Alliances Argue Over Control of Diyala Provincial Council
New And Old Provincial Councils In Diyala Embroiled In Controversy
The Islamic Party's Victory In Diyala
Here Comes The Carrot For Diyala's Sons Of Iraq
Abdullah, Muhammed, “sectarian polarization in diyala,” Niqash, 4/20/09
Ashton, Adam, “Iraqi government to take control of Sunni militia in Diyala,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/27/08
Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “Bashaer al-Kheir II will not eliminate gunmen – official,” 5/6/09
- “Dialans have zero trust in Iraqi security forces – MP,” 5/4/09
- “IAF head’s detention is meant for political liquidation – IIP,” 5/19/09
- “Thousands of protesters call to dissolve IHEC-Diala,” 3/1/09
- “Thousands stage demonstrations in Diala,” 4/8/09
Goetze, Katharina and Salman, Daud and Naji, Zaineb, “Could Awakening Fighters Rejoin Insurgency?” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/31/08
Parker, Ned, “Iraq’s Sunnis turn toward the ballot,” Los Angeles Times, 1/31/09
Russo, Claire, “Diyala’s Provincial Election: Maliki & The IIP,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/30/09
Santora, Marc, “Iraq Arrests 2 Sunni Leaders, Raising Fears of Violence,” New York Times, 5/19/09