A Sunni leader was killed today, on accident, by American forces. The American troops were hunting for weapons and insurgents after a roadside bomb exploded and an ambush by al-Qaida fighters ensued. The Sunni leader, Jassim al-Garrout, was kiled as he rushed to the site of the ambush. Apparently, the American troops mistook him for an insurgent, opened fire and killed him.
Jassim al-Garrout was the leader of an Awakening Council, also called the Sons of Iraq; groups which consist of Sunni fighters that have been battling al-Qaida and other terrorist groups who want to destabilize Iraq more than it already is. These councils were armed by the U.S. forces in an attempt to get locals to help stand up for themselves and the security of their country. Thus far, the Councils have been successful in stemming insurgent activity and bringing a sense of stability and security to the areas in which they operate.
This awful accident could prove troublesome to Iraq America relations as the Iraqi government prepares to take over leadership and oversight responsibilities concerning the Awakening Councils. A member of al-Garrout’s Council said that they will demand an apology from the Americans over the senseless death. Other members of the Awakening Councils
complained that they have not been receiving their wages, though they are risking their lives.
Many things remain to be seen concerning the Awakening Councils, but the deaths of one of their top leaders at the hands of their new ally is not good. A simple apology may be enough, but then again, the Sons of Iraq could demand more. Like that they get paid before agreeing to be supervised by the Shiite controlled Iraq government. Or, they could decide that they no longer want to help an ally that opens fire upon them and once again decide that they don’t want to work with the Americans. This could result in hostilities and violence erupting between American and Sunni forces again.
I do not think it will come to that–the Sunnis do seem to want to stabilize the situation in Iraq, but one never knows. Deaths of leaders and respected persons have a way of changing the political landscape. And, it remains to be seen how willingly the Sunnis will cooperate with the Shiite government as the two factions have no love for one another.
Still, we can hope that the Americans will offer the apology, the Sunnis will accept, and that will be the end of it. If not, the situation in Iraq could easily become tenfold worse than it already is.