News / Middle East

Violence and Reports of Fighters Joining al-Qaeda Makes Stability of Iraq Uncertain

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Elizabeth Lee

Experts on Iraq say citizens there are frustrated, as Iraqi leaders continue to struggle with forming a government.  U.S media reports say some of that frustration is causing hundreds of well-armed Iraqi fighters, allied with US troops, to quit or even join the insurgency.

The violence in Iraq continues, almost two months after more U.S. troops leave the country.

Sean Kane of the United States Institute of Peace says the level of violence has gone down since 2006, but he adds continued terrorist attacks still make Iraqi citizens very nervous.

"They do very much want to see the U.S. troops leave but they are concerned about what will happen after the US leaves and don't have full trust of confidence in their security forces yet or in their political leaders."

As Kane points out, one problem is that Iraq's political leaders have yet to form a government - more than seven months after the March elections.

"The stakes are higher than the previous election in 2006 because some Iraqis have a fear or perception that this could be the last set of democratic elections and if you even think that's a possibility you don't want to be out of power as the U.S. is withdrawing from the country," says Kane.

In addition to a lack of confidence in the political system, there are news reports of another threat.  American media report an intensive recruiting campaign by the Sunni insurgency and say some fighters allied with the U.S. - the so-called "Awakening Councils" - are now rejoining Al Qaeda.  The members of the Awakening are former insurgents who turned against Al Qaeda, in return for pay by the American military and promises of Iraqi government jobs. But Sean Kane says about half of the former Sunni fighters still do not have jobs with the government.

"When you combine the slow rate, the bureaucratic issues there with the uncertainty of government formation with the possibility that the government that is formed will look at lot like the government of 2006 with limited Sunni participation, it's not surprising that some of them are now starting to hedge their bets."

Michael Corbin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, dismisses reports that some Sunnis are re-joining the insurgency.

"There is not support for the insurgency despite some articles talking about Sunnis turning to the insurgency   A - there isn't an insurgency; there's a lot of frustration there are terrorist groups, but B - we don't have evidence of Sunnis returning to take up arms against the government or against the political process."

Nevertheless, Corbin says, the possibility of some Iraqis re-joining the insurgency is a real threat.

"We've got to provide employment. People are not turning to the insurgency but they will if they don't have jobs."

And in addition to jobs, Sean Kane says stability in Iraq also depends on when a new government is formed, and how the power is shared.

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