The bombing that killed at least 43 people in Radwaniya near Baghdad last week as they queued for their wages shows that instability still rocks Iraq.
They were members of a Sunni Muslim militia that has been bankrolled since 2009 by the US-backed government in Iraq.
These militias were originally part of the resistance to the occupation. They are now known as the Awakening Councils.
Members are paid around $300 a month, and are armed and trained by the government.
The US and British administrations want us to believe that Iraq is the perfect example of an occupation that worked.
Forget the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents—the country is now a stable beacon of democracy.
But they’re finding this an increasingly difficult story to spin, mainly because the reality is hard to hide.
The sectarian tensions that were fostered and developed by the occupation are pulling the country apart.
The militias get their strength from state protection and terrorising communities.
But they are not supported by the entire Sunni population, so often come under attack from Sunni resistance groups as well as from Shia factions.
One member of an Awakening Council said, “People hate us, and the government doesn’t trust us. It’s a difficult situation.”
Many of the Awakening Councils emerged from local militias who were battling for control of local resources.
There are now around 100,000 on the government payroll. Some have been given menial jobs.
The Iraqi government is wary of the militias and the powers they have.
It is only through constant pressure and funds from the US that they have maintained links with the state.
Dividing walls zigzag through Baghdad, a constant reminder of the enforced separation the US occupation brought to Iraq.
The US is well aware of the brewing tensions.
The Washington Post reported last week that US forces have bolstered security at their bases as they fear attacks from Shia militias supported by Iran.
There are 75,000 US troops in Iraq, many of them still involved in street patrols.
The political crisis in the country goes right to the top—a government still hasn’t been formed four months after national elections took place.
The US wants to hold Iraq up as a big success, and a blueprint for success in Afghanistan.
But buying off local militias only works as long as the money flows.
It will never patch up the simmering discontent of a population living under occupation.
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