Iraq turns to Sunni tribes, but distrust remains

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FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 file photo, a gunmen takes cover during clashes with Iraqi security forces outside Fallujah, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014 file photo, a gunmen takes cover during clashes with Iraqi security forces outside Fallujah, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, file photo, Iraqi army soldiers inspect their armored vehicle after it was hit during clashes in Ramadi, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, file photo, Iraqi security forces patrol in Ramadi, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this file photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, mourners pray over five coffins draped with Iraqi flags for Iraqi soldiers killed by al-Qaida militants in Anbar province during their funeral procession inside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo, File)

FILE – in this Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, file photo gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq’s Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah, Iraq. More than a month after jihadist militants seized control of parts of Iraq’s western Anbar province, an unsettling realization is sinking in: Iraq’s government could face a tougher time beating back an insurgency there than the hard slog the Americans faced last decade. The reasons include a deep distrust of the government by Iraqi Sunnis, insufficient resources, sectarian tensions enflamed by the war in Syria and divisions among the tribes that make up Anbar’s social fabric. (AP Photo, File)

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials have begun recruiting thousands of Sunni fighters on the government payroll, supplying weapons to other volunteer tribal fighters and pledging millions of dollars in aid to restive Anbar province as they try to beat back extremist Sunni jihadi militants.

The militants are battling for control of mainly Sunni areas west of Baghdad in a key test of the Shiite-led government’s ability to maintain security more than two years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

But the push to expel the jihadis — members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, until recently al-Qaida’s powerful affiliate in Iraq — is complicated by divisions among the tribes that form the social fabric of the besieged city of Fallujah and other parts of Anbar, raising questions over whether the government needs to make a bigger investment to win over Sunni skeptics.

Many in the Sunni province of Anbar, whatever their views on the militants, harbor deep resentments stemming from years of perceived discrimination, government neglect and a lack of access to civil service jobs that are the backbone of the Iraqi economy.

“The problem in Anbar goes far beyond funds or services. It is a problem of mistrust and marginalization,” said Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government nonetheless has begun spending more on the minority Sunni community, particularly after militants seized control of Fallujah and other areas in the province six weeks ago.

The United Nations refugee agency estimates that as many as 300,000 Iraqis have been displaced because of insecurity in Anbar.

Iraqi officials have pledged at least $20 million to cover immediate aid needs, according to government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi. They have also provided weapons to tribesmen fighting the militants and promised that their families will receive the same state benefits as fallen soldiers if they are killed.

The Iraqis are reviving the Sahwa, the Sunni tribal militias that joined U.S. troops against al-Qaida at the height of the Iraq war and were credited with helping turn the

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