Thursday, June 9, 2011

The US's Iraq Withdrawal: Another Reason to Leave

On a day when incoming Sec Def Leon Panetta testified that, in his opinion, the Iraqi government will ask US troops to stay beyond the 31 Dec. deadline, there appears a must-read WaPo report on the still-dysfunctional Iraq army.

Why dysfunctional?  Because Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki has yet to name his chief security ministers (ergo, he retains in his own hands the briefs for the ministries that oversee defense, intelligence, and police) - and this, 6 months after he formed his government (in December 2010, which was in turn several months after the elections in March).  The Iraqi military has nothing that would approach a "normal" chain of command, from top generals down through the ranks.  Rather, Maliki sets up local operational commanders who report directly to him, not to superior officers.  As a result, "no one knows how the Iraqi military would come together to fight a foreign enemy, or even who would be in charge."

The situation for the police, who number close to half a million,  is similar.

Iraq's history since 1921 has featured many military coups, beginning under the Hashemite monarchy when powerful generals could force prime ministers from power.  The monarchy itself was overthrown by the military in 1958, and until Saddam Hussein took control in 1979, the republican government was led by former generals.  Given that history - plus the fact that the Iraqi army officer corps has been traditionally dominated by Sunni Arabs - it perhaps stands to reason that Maliki, who leads a government dominated by Shii religious parties, would be wary of relinquishing control of Iraq's military and police.

Nonetheless, Maliki has turned the Iraqi government into a Shiite version of Saddam-lite.  True, representatives of various political parties are now able to operate openly in Iraq (albeit with an increasing threat of assassination).  But Maliki grasps tightly - and wields ruthlessly - the instruments of authority and enforcement.   He has used them most recently to quell demonstrations against government corruption and inefficiency and also, for a few years now, to round up members of the former Sunni Awakening forces, whose willingness and success in taking on al-Qaeda jihadists were arguably at least as important as the Petraeus "Surge" in restoring some semblance of order in the country.

Maliki is using his control over Iraq's military and police, not to build a nation, but to preserve the newly won Shii dominance in Iraq.  In doing so, he ensures that Iraq's sectarian rifts will not be healed. After decades of Sunni domination and brutalizing of the Shia, no Shii leader - even a secular Shia like Ayad Allawi, if he were to come to power in the next election - can afford to give the Sunni minority anything that might be construed as a launching pad to renewed power in Iraq.

Extending the US military presence will do absolutely nothing to change that.  Indeed, it would likely give Maliki more time to cement both his personal dominance and Shii hegemony.

No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)