The last battle of the Iraq war, according to a brilliant NYT Magazine piece by Michael Gordon, will pit Shia against Shia. The story recounts how, after brave and ingenious efforts by American, Polish and Iraqi officers to build a Shia tribal Awakening movement in Diwaniya, the Maliki government and its ISCI backers, worried about their southern power base, one day just shut down the program:
The marines went from checkpoint to checkpoint, informing puzzled Iraqis that they were out of business. They assured them that they would at least be paid as promised for their initial three months of service. At first the governor would only let them use a soccer field for the disbursements. I was with Gildroy when she went to make the last payment in March of this year. She grabbed a plastic bag full of $20 bills and climbed into an Iraqi Army Humvee for the drive to town. For several hours, I watched as a long line of young men in T-shirts and sandals made their way to an Iraqi police station, inked their names in a ledger, pocketed their modest payments and shuffled off. Few seemed to have any idea what they might do next.
The Marines who spearheaded the effort have serious doubts about the eventual outcome, Gordon writes:
The perspective of the Marines differed markedly from that of the American officials in Baghdad. The Marines saw the tribes as more secular than the fundamentalists in the religious parties. They were less confident that the provincial elections would be genuinely fair; and they were worried that efforts to buttress political stability appeared to have trumped the idea of democracy. After Diwaniya, Team Phoenix made trips to Sadr City and Basra: they concluded that much of the security there was the result of political deals, not the decisive application of force by the Iraqi state. And they wondered if those deals would hold.