But the effort faces major challenges. The ranks of the paramilitary movement have dwindled since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011, and Maliki is facing insurrection from parts of the country’s wider Sunni minority, who complain of mistreatment and subjugation at the hands of his government.

With the government wary of arming tribesmen who may turn against it, trust is lacking on both sides. Still, some observers say a revival might be the best chance Maliki, who has ruled out sending the Shiite-dominant Iraqi army into Sunni-majority Fallujah, has to pacify Anbar…

To bring them on board, Maliki has recently said there is no limit on arming and equipping tribal fighters. Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said the Iraqi cabinet has approved $3.4 million for payments to tribesmen and more than $17 million for infrastructure projects in Anbar.