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March 30, 2008

Monopoly of Force
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed today that the latest incursion into Basra was a good thing because it is an indicator that the government is trying to establish order.  I have to agree with David that this is basically bull.  Hayden stated:

I mean, I mean, a lot of people in this country have criticized the Iraqis for, for not stepping up, for, for not taking advantage of the breathing space that's been created by, frankly, coalition military activity.  Here's a case of an Iraqi leader stepping up.

Really?  I don't think what I had in mind by having the Iraqis step up, is for one faction to step up and try to annihilate another one.  I don't understand how this is political progress.  It is quite likely that the forces working on behalf of the government are no more loyal to the central government then the Mahdi Army.  The Badr Corps, many of whose members are integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces, are loyal to ISCI.  What if Sadr's party wins the provincial elections or if he were to come to power through an election at some point in the future?  Would these same forces support his legitimate government?  Probably not.  It seems to me that they would instead turn against the government.  Their loyalty lies with SCIRI / ISCI, which is a faction of the government, but not with the government itself. 

Hayden also said:

And, and you're right, about 70 percent of the city controlled by militia, armed gangs, criminal elements.  It's, it's, it's a real stew down there, Tim, in terms of the different factions.  And they were in a bit of an equilibrium between and among these armed factions over the past several months, and violence had been reduced.  But I don't think anyone could think that that equilibrium was an acceptable long-term solution...They were beyond the writ of the Iraqi government, they were exercising the attributes of sovereignty, I mean, exclusive use of violence, for example.  It should be the province of the Iraqi state.

If our goal is really to help the government establish a monopoly of force in Iraq  then why did we organize 80,000 Sunni militia members who are by definition an extra-governmental force?   Six months from now or a year from now or whenever the "Sons of Iraq" / Concerned Local Citizens start fighting it out with the central government are we going to say the same thing?  Are we going to say that this is the natural course of events?  That this is by definition political reconciliation? That these groups were beyond the control of the Iraqi government and that this delicate balance could never hold?  No.  Our whole strategy is based on the fact that such a tenuous cease fire will in fact hold and we're going ahead and supporting these groups.  And in fact, we're specifically trying to avoid what is going on in Basra right now by trying to bring the CLCs into the ISF.  Although until now this effort has been relatively unsuccessful.   

Basically, the same scenario that the Administration is now trying to spin as success in the South, is the same scenario that in the central part of the country would be defined as a total catastrophe. 


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Exasperation with the overall line of Bush administration policy with respect to Iraq should not lead us into non sequiter arguments like this one.

The administration's explanations of the state of Iraqi politics have been so consistently misleading that it is tempting to conclude that any doubt of which it might be given the benefit has long since disappeared, and that therefore it is to blame no matter what it does and regardless of what happens. In fact, though, the military command in Baghdad has followed a reasonable and tactically successful program toward the predominantly Sunni Arab areas, albeit one aimed less at securing political reconciliation than at reducing the level of violence directed at the civilian population and the American forces there. Unable to reduce the amount of fuel for sectarian conflict lying around in Iraq, the American command has also sought to reduce the number of ignition sources -- which obviously means going after Sunni Arab extremists, but has also meant periodic raids against groups associated with Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army. Such groups were responsible for a great deal of the sectarian violence that exploded across Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

This is not to say that the Iraqi government's move against the Sadrists in Basra is either wise or likely to be successful. I don't know enough to say at this point. I don't even know if Gen. Hayden's justification for something planned for or an ex post facto rationalization of an offensive that took him by surprise. Of all the arguments against it, though, I would think the least persuasive is one that insists an attempt to reduce the Mahdi Army's influence in Iraq's principle port is intellectually inconsistent with efforts to persuade former Sunni Arab insurgents in Anbar to turn against the al Qaeda types there. It doesn't represent the same policy, but the region and issues it is trying to address aren't the same either.

This seems to be a national reconciliation by force with the Bush administration encouraging Maliki to eliminate the Sadrists before any type of elections occur in iraq. This use of proxies to influence the politics of individual nations seems to be a Bush staple as seen in the administration support of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006 so that Hezbollah could not be force in Lebanonese politics and as David Rose has written in the current issue of Vanity Fair in the use of Fatah against Hamas in the Gaza. All three events have weakened American influence in the region and are counterproductive. I wish congress would investigate the administration's involvement in all three of these events so that there will not be any debacles in the future.

"Turn in your weapons and we'll give you cash for them." Yup, that's "stepping up" alright.

The US-trained Iraq Security Forces have an iron rule -- join the enemy and you're fired. It's a tough but necessary policy.

Azzaman, March 31, 2008

Interior Minister Jawad Boulani has ordered the dismissal of thousands of police members and officers who allegedly refused orders to take part in the fight against the militiamen of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Analysts say those sacked will have no choice but to join the ranks of Mahdi Army with their weapons, boosting the militia’s strength and standing.

The decision covers most of the police force in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and also several cities in the southern Iraq including Basra where most of the recent fighting took place.

Several cities in southern Iraq among them Baghdad and Basra were placed under tight curfews as battles between the militiamen and government troops raged.

Thousands of police officers were reported to have refused fighting the militiamen and at least two army regiments joined them with their weapons in Baghdad.

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