Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 12, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

RECONCILIATION WATCH....Compare and contrast. The Washington Post reports that the Iraqi government is resisting efforts to organize Sunni security forces:

Although U.S. commanders stress that the coalition is not forming a Sunni militia, Iraqi leaders complain that paying the fighters is tantamount to arming them. The Iraqi government so far has balked at permanently hiring large numbers of the volunteers, resisting pressure from U.S. commanders to lift caps on the number of police in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Only about 1,600 of the volunteers have been trained and sworn in to the Iraqi security forces, primarily with the police.

But Juan Cole reports that recruiting Shiite security forces is another matter entirely:

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that PM al-Maliki has taken the controversial decision to recruit 18,000 members of Shiite militias into the Iraqi government security forces. (In fact, the Iraqi military has de facto been recruiting a lot of Shiite militiamen anyway).

You have to wonder if this step is intended to offset the American military's pressure to recruit Sunni tribesmen and neighborhood volunteers into the security forces.

One might wonder indeed. Cole suggests that something needs to be done with Shiite militiamen, but a better idea would be to put them in "civilian desk jobs in some department where they can't do much mischief." Unfortunately, that would likely defeat the whole purpose of recruiting them, wouldn't it?

Kevin Drum 1:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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Note that arming all sides in the Iraqi civil war appeas to be the Bush Cultist definition of "progress."

Posted by: Gregory on November 12, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously we need to build hundred of Mcdonalds in Iraq.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 12, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Putting militia in desk jobs is a silly suggestion, as of course they will simply become corrupt bribe seekers when they are not out playing militia AND drawing desk salary.

Clearly my dear fellow you have never been inside the bowels of a 3rd world bureaucracy. I recommend Egypt and trying to get paper work through al Mougammah in Cairo.

Posted by: The Lounsbury on November 12, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

As soon as the Mahdi Army decides what it's going to do--either return to their posture of fighting the US or stand down and become absorbed into the Iraqi Security Forces--we'll know what the future of Iraq is going to look like. Not in six months, not in six years, but as soon as the rank and file put on the uniforms and start policing and securing Iraq. So for US troops, the Iraqi Shia or the Iraqi Sunni who was recently trying to kill them suddenly becomes an ally or an auxiliary in the security of Iraq. Talk about not knowing who the enemy is.

We made a deal with the devil to arm the Sunnis and to turn a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad.

Posted by: Pale Rider on November 12, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq is FUBAR. Period. There are neither easy nor palatable choices regarding what we need to do to end this tragic quagmire.

Therefore, let's please not continue to labor under our own self-inflicted public delusion that we are somehow the light of democracy in the world today, as the British did during the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the previous century.

In order to reconcile our present situation with a practical solution, first and foremost we must forthrightly recognize and admit the primary reason for our invasion of Iraq, which is that the country holds the largest potential reserves of oil on the planet, we want it, just as the British coveted the Transvaal's lucrative gold and diamond mines one hundred years ago.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 12, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

From the WP article:
"More than 67,000 people across 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are registered under the military designation Concerned Local Citizens, and 51,000 of those have been screened and had their names, fingerprints and other biometric data recorded by the U.S. military, Newton said. Such information is entered into a vast database that soldiers can use to help identify past criminal behavior, such as by matching fingerprints on a roadside bomb component. Eighty-two percent of the volunteers are Sunni and 18 percent are Shiite, he said. About 37,000 are being paid about $300 a month through contracts funded by the U.S.-led military coalition."

It is obvious why this is "working". With about 50% unemployment in the country this amounts to a New Deal jobs program for armed security guards. The Emerald City neo-conservative economic plan failed so spectacularly because it was so focused on contracting out everything to foreigners. But, this is still meddling. I think the Shia are going to be making moves to ask us to leave soon, before we can strengthen their enemies too much. Now, the Sunni are being re-armed, I wonder what would happen if we stopped paying them? If the Sunni actively turn on the Shia government, will the Iraqi government reach out to Iran as allies? Hmmm.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 12, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this just appeasing Al Sadr? Isn't the Iraqi gov't far more afraid of him than anything the U.S. can threaten them with?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on November 12, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

We're supposedly rebuilding the Iraqi military, but we won't provide them with tanks, artillery or combat aircraft. If they keep "losing" the small arms we give them, what will they do with heavy weaponary?

So, we can't leave until the Iraqi military can stand on its own two feet, but we aren't willing to give them the equipment they need. Catch 22 anyone?

Posted by: Speed on November 12, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

wishIwuz2, Moqtada recently made a convenient peace truce with the SIIC and the Badr group brokered by Iran. He doesn't have to fight anybody really, just wait for them to fail or the current alliances to shift or crumble. Time is on his side. He is probably best positioned to deal with all the major groups. He has always said that the Kurds can have "something special for them", and he has always talked about Arab "unity", etc., and he can obviously work with the Shia religious parties and deal with the Iranians. He is going out of his way to not knock heads with the US. My guess is that we *can* deal with him in the future on a civil level. However, if we attack Iran, play favorites with the Sunni, bring the Iraqi Civil War up a couple of orders of magnitude... all we've done is create another Nasrallah in Iraq. What a mess that would be.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 12, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

So, we can't leave until the Iraqi military can stand on its own two feet, but we aren't willing to give them the equipment they need. Catch 22 anyone?

I don't think that's the issue at all.

The ongoing problem is that every time a unit is issued weapons, vehicles and uniforms, those things disappear along with the freshly trained recruits. Then, we see attacks by insurgents who approached another unit while driving a police vehicle and wearing Iraqi police uniforms.

If they could constitute units and hold them together in a cohesive way, their equipment wouldn't be an issue. You could outfit several heavy armored brigades quite easily with what Iraq has left over in its arsenals. But, then again, a number of those unguarded weapons arsenals have been looted throughout the years.

Posted by: Pale Rider on November 12, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

pale, the Iraqi army has one armored division equipped with T-72s donated by Hungary. No, seriously. The armor they had at the time of the invasion was destroyed in the skirmishes or as target practice by US armor groups. Their depots have nothing in the way of armor, artillery, planes, ships etc. etc.

Since any units we give armor to would likely turn them around and use them to attack us, it's not a bad decision to keep the really deadly stuff away from them.

Posted by: TJM on November 12, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK



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