Sunnis of the Awakening Council, which helped the US fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, are in hiding to avoid arrest by the Shia-led government, USA Today reports. Such political harassment could allow al-Qaeda to regain footing in volatile Diyala province and elsewhere, US officials say. Iraqi government members insist their actions are motivated by security, not sectarian politics.
But after the arrest of three Awakening Council leaders a day before they could have declared political candidacies, even an Iraqi official admitted, "There may be a connection between the arrest warrants and the elections." Sunni Islamic Party members have also been arrested and some physically hurt. "It nudges these moderate Sunnis back toward the insurgency," warns a US official.