The key to the so-called surge was the “awakening,” and the key to that was putting insurgents on the payroll. Various groups—mostly Sunni, often associated with the old regime—were paid to maintain the peace, with the promise that most of them would eventually be integrated into the new Iraqi Army.
At first glance, this looks like paying for protection, but what else is new. Thomas Schelling pointed out years ago that state-making can be thought of as a variety of organized crime.
(Can’t you see it now? Sunni militant enters a government building. “Nice government you have here,” he says. “It would would be a shame is something were to…happen to it…)
Now that the US is moving to pull out, and the oil revenues aren’t up to expectations (and the money there is is being taken by friends of the Shi’as), the government—with US help—is starting to round up leaders and forces of the awakening. I doubt they’ll be happy about that.
Oh, well. The whole thing was meant to buy the US a “decent interval,”* anyway.
*The rumor goes that Henry Kissinger defined the “decent interval” after the withdrawl of US forces from Vietnam as the clear gap between when the last American soldier leaves and the the first virgin is raped.