2003 April 26 Saturday
Failure To Restore Order Leading To Militias In Iraq

Some Shiite religious militias are openly hostile toward the US presence.

Operating independently of the American forces, and increasingly hostile to them, to judge by the words of their leaders, are the Shiite Muslim armed groups that have sprung up in Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq over the past two weeks.

They say they take their orders from religious leaders based in the holy city of Najaf, and their prime task so far has been to impose law and order, since no central government authority yet exists.

In the absence of a central government or occupying authority to organize and control important assets local committees are organizing militias to take over and operate infrastructure.

Iraqi Shiites are organizing local committees, doling out funds to pay salaries, collecting looted property and sending militias to secure hospitals and electric plants. They have raised concerns that some may try to install a theocracy like the one next door, in Shiite-dominated Iran.

Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), tells the Financial Times that failure to create security forces large enough to restore order will cause the rise of highly divisive militias.

"There are remnants of the Ba'ath party; the tribes are armed as well; there's the Badr Brigade [the armed wing of the Tehran-based Shia Muslim Sciri party], the Kurds and now other political parties with armed forces," he added.

"If you don't get rid of militias immediately, it will be disastrous."

Picture the warlordism of Afghanistan getting established in Iraq. That would be a nightmare that would lead to a low grade civil war and organized crime on a massive scale.

A Kurdish politician agrees on the need to disarm the militias.

Kurdish politician Khasro Jaf says the American military must disarm the country sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, he says there will be anarchy. "If Americans leave too soon, he says, a lot of troubles will exist because some armed militias will exist around the parties," he says.

Iraq needs a more rapid deployment of a military force sufficient to restore and maintain order. Because weapons in the US arsenal have become so powerful the US needs a smaller force to invade a country and defeat its army than it does to maintain order afterward. While some people in the US government do not want to see the US military get into the peacekeeping business the failure to do so will leave Iraq in chaos and fuel the rise of religious parties and warlords.

Update: The arms bazaars of Iraq are fueling the rise of militias.

At the plaza on the Ad Dawrah Expressway, the lawlessness that followed the capture of Baghdad by U.S. troops has merged with an anything-goes free market to produce a dangerous juncture: an arms bazaar in which weapons of war are for sale to anyone with a little cash, with no questions asked on either side and little interference from the U.S. forces.

Continued lack of law and order in Iraq will be interpreted by the Iraqis as contempt on the part of the US government toward the Iraqi people. The development of that attitude in the minds of Iraqis is well under way. If the United States takes the easy shortcut of reinstalling Baathists to return order that will also be interpreted as a sign of US contempt toward the Iraqi people. By contrast, if the US asserts order using its own forces and newly recruited Iraqis it will have a far greater chance of being seen as attempting to govern in the interest of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people will be far more receptive toward reforms that the United State introduces.

Update II: Demonstrating another potential source of lawlessness and warlordism in Iraq Turkey joins the list of neighbors trying to stir up trouble in Iraq.

Turkish Special Forces soldiers were caught trying to smuggle grenades, night-vision goggles and dozens of rifles into this oil-rich city in northern Iraq earlier this week, American military officials said today. The officials said they believed that the weapons, which were hidden in an aid convoy, were bound for Turkmen living here.

The US needs to more pervasively assert control in Iraq and make it clear that no faction inside or outside is going to control any region or part of a city there.

Shiite Muslim clerics are also stepping into the power vacuum created by a lack of government in Iraq.

Islamic administrations have already been established in a series of towns and villages in the Shia heartland of the south and east, with clerics stepping into the vacuum left by the collapse of the regime. The Shia religious authority, the Hawza, based in the holy city of Najaf, claims it is co-ordinating the takeovers.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 26 01:41 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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