2006 October 02 Monday
US Officers Expect Iraq Death Squads To Grow

US military people in Baghdad have become more outspoken about the need for a crackdown on the Shiite militias. Shiites in the Iraqi government continue to veto moves against the Shia militias. The US military officers also believe a move against the Shia militias in Sadr City would be pretty horrible in terms of the death tolls of soldiers and civilians.

According to US officers interviewed by the Guardian, the decision not to confront the major source of the death squads was supported initially by the US because of fears of a full-scale battle with the militia in Sadr City.

"We are talking Berlin in '45 or Stalingrad," said one officer. "That is the conundrum. There is an unwillingness to tackle the problem head-on, but also a recognition that if we don't tackle the militias, death squad activities can only grow."

Instead, a decision was reached to try to bring political pressure to bear on the Sadr organisation, whose parliamentary bloc is crucial in supporting Mr Maliki's government, to bring its militia - illegal under the Iraqi constitution - into line. But with growing doubts over how much the Sadr organisation's leader, the firebrand preacher Moqtada al-Sadr, actually controls the factions within Jaish al-Mahdi, concerns are now growing about the wisdom of that policy.

"There are fractures politically inside Sadr's movement, many of whom don't find him to be sufficiently radical now that he has taken a political course of action," said a senior coalition intelligence official who spoke to reporters in Baghdad.

I've previously reported on the splintering of Sar's Mahdi Army as factions refuse to go along with his relatively more moderate stance. The idea of coopting Shia factions and getting them into the government runs up against the desire of most of the actual gunmen to keep shooting.

The Iraqi government has made lists of people who are unarrestable no matter what they do.

U.S. military leaders described various hindrances as they attempt to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad, including "no-touch lists" that prohibit them from arresting politicians and other high status individuals, and off-limits areas inside Baghdad that the U.S. military must avoid without permission from the Iraqi government.

U.S. military officials said they are also constrained by their desire to see the Iraqi government use the current sectarian conflict to prove its ability to rule fairly, without regard to narrow sectarian interests and without significant U.S. interference.

"There's a political piece to this to see if they deal with these guys," said a high-ranked U.S. military official in Baghdad who requested anonymity in order to maintain relationships with the Iraqi government. "I won't deny the fact that there is corruption and problems in some of the ministries, but it's got to be dealt with and it ought to be dealt with by the prime minister and the folks inside his government."

The corruption isn't going to be dealt with. We are talking about Iraq here, not Finland. But why should we care? Most Iraqis support attacks on US troops. Think about that. Why not leave and let the Shias and Sunnis battle it out?

Here's another deal coming out of the Iraqi government that won't help.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emerged with the four-point plan after talks with the top Sunni and Shiite leaders in his government, trying to prevent a crisis over rising tensions between the two Islamic sects.

Under the plan, local commissions will be formed in each district of Baghdad, made up of representatives of each party, to oversee security forcesí efforts against violence, al-Maliki said. A central committee comprising all the parties will coordinate with the armed forces, he said.

Representatives of each party will meet while militias of each party go out and kill people on the opposing party.

Now that so many other strategies for Iraq have failed I'm curious what the Bush Administration will tout as its next strategy du jour. Will they just keep recycling old strategies like training? I have advice for them if only they'd listen: Use bribery and cash incentives. For a small fraction of the $2 billion per week currently spent in Iraq we could bribe a lot of factions. We could offer big cash prizes for doing things we want them to do and not doing things we do not want them to do.

Soldiers going AWOL? No problem. Offer big chunks of cash to each soldier who shows up on time for some sweep of a neighorhood or operation to round up some insurgents. Offer cash awards for reductions in killings in an area. Offer cash awards for capture of militia leaders. Pay for performance.

But I have an even better idea: Leave.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 02 09:04 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict


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