Sam Dagher has another good piece from Baghdad, this one following around the local Awakenings deputy commander in the Baghdad neighborhood of al-Fadhil. Money quotes:
"We are an independent state; no police or army is allowed to come in," proclaims Khalid Jamal al-Qaisi, deputy leader of the US military-backed and predominantly Sunni Arab militia in charge of security in the old Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Fadhil.
Qaisi says his men could have prevented Friday's bombings. He says the attacks only bolster his conviction that Iraq's security forces, both Army and police, are infiltrated by militias and insurgents and riddled with sectarian biases. He says his men do not recognize the authority of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and won't join the security forces under such conditions.
"The Americans asked to be our friends because we were the winners," he says, adding that the agreement he has with US forces precludes Iraqi forces from entering. No government forces can be seen.
Bottom-up reconciliation in action.
And then there's an al-Hayat report today of clashes between Awakening militias and Iraqi police in a number of areas in Baghdad. The article quotes Iraqi police representatives complaining that the Awakenings view themselves as above the law, and blaming the clashes on Awakening militias trying to expel the police from their areas. He said that the Awakenings often refuse orders and that they consider themselves beyond the authority of the government. He seems to think that the emergence of militias operating in Baghdad outside the authority of the state is somehow a problem - imagine that. The article also quotes sources from the army who say that the Awakenings cooperate just fine - suggesting that the problems lie with the notoriously sectarian Police.
These are just two small data points in a very complex and fluid environment. But they fit with a lot of other trends and accounts, all of which add up to some pretty deep problems. I've said a hundred times that I think that the only hope for locking in the tenuous security gains of the last year - and thus turning the tactical successes of the surge into strategic progress - is to consolidate an actual Iraqi sovereign state with a monopoly over the legitimate means of violence. Old-fashioned of me, I know. That means integrating the CLCs into national institutions, as demanded by a host of Sunni leaders and American officials to little evident effect. I suspect that these stories offer snapshots of what to expect from the 'warlord state' we're likely to see without such integration, especially in mixed areas. I also suspect that there will be more such snapshots accumulating.