2006 September 27 Wednesday
Leaders In Iraq Protect Shiite Militias From Army

The Iraqi Army continues to be lame.

The plan was simple: Iraqi troops would block escape routes while U.S. soldiers searched for weapons house-by-house. But the Iraqi troops didn't show up on time.

When they finally did appear, the Iraqis ignored U.S. orders and let dozens of cars pass through the checkpoints in eastern Baghdad -- including an ambulance full of armed militiamen, according to U.S. soldiers interviewed recently.

Senior U.S. military officers may have hailed the performance of Iraqi forces in the ongoing security crackdown against militias and insurgents in Baghdad.

But some American soldiers working the streets of Baghdad's flashpoint Shiite neighborhoods say the Iraqi troops serving alongside them are among the worst they've ever seen -- particularly disappointing in this must-win battle.

The Kurds in the Iraqi Army perform better. But Kurdistan is de facto independent from the rest of Iraq and the Kurds see themselves as fighting alongside Americans who helped them realise their dreams. Meanwhile, the Shia Arab soldiers are at least as loyal to religious leaders as they are to the Iraqi government.

"From my perspective, you can't make a distinction between Iraq army Shiites and the religious militias. You have a lot of soldiers and family members swayed and persuaded by the religious leadership," said Col. Greg Watt, who advises one of two Iraqi divisions here.

The idea that we have to negotiate with Shiite religious leader Moktada al-Sadr in order to bring a ceasefire to Iraq is based on the assumption that he controls his own militia and has the power to make a deal. Sadr's militia is breaking up into rival groups which are less keen to make nice with America.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday.

As Sadr has tried to restrain his militia for political reasons a third has broken off. They'd rather fight than switch to politics

But as Mr. Sadr has taken a more active role in the government, as many as a third of his militiamen have grown frustrated with the constraints of compromise and have broken off, often selling their services to the highest bidders, said the official, who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues.

The Iraqi government doesn't want the Iraqi Army fighting against Shia militias.

A series of unprecedented comments by US officers indicated a growing anxiety over whether Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, would confront his two biggest Shia coalition partners, including the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Both have been linked to death squad killings.


A high-ranking Iraqi security official told The Times that pressure from Shia politicians had forced the Iraqi Army to stop fighting the al-Madhi Army this month in the southern city of Diwaniyah. Such political pressure had also stopped Iraqi Army operations against militias elsewhere, he said.

The longer the fighting goes on the more the Shias and Sunnis will feel the desire to seek revenge against each other.

Shiites in the Iraqi government protect the Sadr City haven of militias that attack US troops.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers trying to calm Baghdad say the sprawling Sadr City slum has once again become a haven for anti-American militants - and the source of most of the gunfire and mortars directed at them.

In the last two weeks, U.S. forces have suffered several casualties from dozens of shootings, mortar attacks and roadside bombings that American troops believe originated from Sadr City.

The Maliki government lets US troops enter Sadr City when the targets are militia groups which Sadr sees as renegades who have left Sadr's organization.

Humpty Dumpty is falling apart.

Across the capital, mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods have become battlegrounds of sectarian hostilities. West of the Tigris River, hundreds of Shiite families have fled mostly Sunni neighborhoods such as Amiriyah and Ghazaliya. In the east, hundreds of Sunni families have fled mostly Shiite areas such as Amin and Shaab. Increasingly, the strife is spreading into central Baghdad. In still-mixed neighborhoods such as Tobji, nestled in north-central Baghdad, political and militant Islam is clashing with tribal customs and a shared Arab and Muslim identity that have bonded Sunnis and Shiites for decades.

Can the US stop the trend toward more sectarian violence? Will splinter factions of the Mahdi Army scale up and launch even bigger attacks against US forces? Can Machiavellian statecraft somehow produce a settlement that will greatly dampen down the violence? So far I see no signs that the US government has the competence needed to cook up ways to change the incentives of all the Sunni and Shia fighting groups so thee stop trying to kill each other and American troops.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 September 27 11:10 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures

John S Bolton said at September 28, 2006 2:35 AM:

This is why power-seeking elites like civil war, it leaves only unfortunate options like partition with four large sovereignties, each with viable oil reserves, and several walled cities, which are themselves sovereign.
Is Iraq an experimental cage for what our power-greedy elements want for America?
Public policy here continuously increases animosity between groups, most conspicuously with mass immigration of quota-eligibles, yet in other fairly obvious ways as well.
When there are no desirable options left, the power-greedy get to go on the rampage, which is what they always want.
The left would be in spasms of ecstasy, if they though they could bring this intensely divided a societal circumstance here.
Power means no limits on aggression, especially official aggression against the people; and that's what you see in Iraq.
Power-seeking has its own motivations, and can snowball easily.
Elites with nothing to offer, in the way of reasons why they should have more power, stir up civil war, and then pose as the defenders of the weak against ethnic cleansing and genocide.

dan g. said at September 28, 2006 4:53 AM:

The U.S. really doesn't know how to deal with sectarianism on any level. Today I saw a news wire article which said 40 bodies of tortured and executed men were found in Iraq. And it didn't even mention what group they belonged to (Shiite? Sunni?) or why they may have been killed. It was more like, "Iraq is a violent place and people are getting killed" - no mention of the ethnic/tribal/religious motive.

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