Friday, April 4, 2008

Basra's aftermath

Very revealing story in today's Financial Times about the performance of the Iraqi army during the recent fight against the Mahdi army in Basra. It seems that as many as 1000 officers and men refused to fight, and now Mr. al-Maliki is threatening to prosecute and/or discipline them all. Meanwhile, he is now signing up Shia tribesmen by the dozen to enlist in the Iraqi army. US ambassador Ryan Crocker sees this as a measure of Maliki's strong leadership, and as evidence that the Shia tribesmen are moving to support his government in what Crocker seems to view as some major shift in the tide. Fortunately, the reporter (so unlike so many of his colleagues in the US mainstream media) does not restrict his reporting to stenography for US military and diplomatic spokesmen, but inquires into other possible reasons for this shift, to learn that a - perhaps the - major incentive here is a job, and a paycheck.

Meanwhile, the Sunni sahwa ("Awakening") forces, who've been demanding that they be incorporated into the Iraqi army, remain out in the cold - and they aren't happy about it. That, of course, spells even more trouble for Mr. Maliki, who seems determined to keep Sunni Arab elements from acquiring any significant influence in either the government or the military. Given the long years of Sunni domination and abuse of the Shia in Mesopotamia/Iraq, especially under the Baathist regime of Saddam, his reluctance in this regard is to be expected. But without some measure of significant Sunni inclusion, Iraq's current state cannot improve for more than the few months that band-aid solutions such as the "Surge" made possible.

And Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr still plans to have his million-man march on Najaf next week . . . .

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