Friday, August 22, 2008

Shifting Bases

It got more surreal today.

The Iraqi government is now openly antagonistic toward the Sons of Iraq and Awakening Council militias. Juan Cole linked to a McClatchy article saying that the Maliki government will not incorporate more Sunni militia members into the Iraqi military than the handful it already has, and Maliki is considering forcing the remaining militia members to give up their weapons by November 1 or face arrest. The NY Times talks of active pursuit of some Awakening movement members by the Iraqi military.

Until now, these Awakening movements in Sunni areas of Iraq have been touted by the pro-war press as one of the major accomplishments there.

This article from February 2008 said that while the success of the Awakening groups leads to a risk of renewed Sunni hubris and friction with the Shiite dominated government, “slowly but surely,” the government is incorporating Sunni militia members into the Iraqi military, a sign of reconciliation.

But now, General Petraeus has said that the Iraqi government has been dragging its feet on incorporating Sunni militia members.

So far this year, according to the McClatchy article, the U.S. military has spent $303 million on Sons of Iraq salaries. There are over 100,000 members of of the Sons of Iraq and Awakening militias.

So if Maliki’s government is not reconciling with these Sunni militia members, and is even taking action against them, then can’t it be said that he is in direct conflict with our proxies? Where does that leave the U.S.?

But I have always felt that this “success” of the Awakening and Sons of Iraq militias in kicking out al Qaeda (which, in Iraq, consisted largely of Iraqis and was not a significant element in Iraq before we invaded) represents a major deficiency with respect to having a unified democracy there. Neither the U.S. army nor the Iraqi army fought al Qaeda as effectively as the tribal militias. This means to me that in the Sunni areas, the true loyalties are to tribes. And these tribes never indicated that they would support Maliki’s government in the long run.

This kind of inherent contradiction is also in the alleged “success” of the Iraqi military’s operation in Basra this past spring. Juan Cole says that the military inducted many members of the Badr corps into its ranks to enable it to fight the Sadr militia. The Badr corps is the militia associated with the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq (SICI). In March of 2008, Dick Cheney thanked the leader of the SICI for his help in advancing the cause of democracy in Iraq. Cheney even called him a “friend.”

But the SICI was born in Iran and, of all political groups in Iraq, seems to be the most heavily influenced by Iran.

Juan Cole gives brief historical sketches of the SICI in several different places. Here is one, in which he says,

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI or SAIRI) was formed as an umbrella group by Iraqi Shiite exiles in Tehran in 1982, in the wake of Saddam's big crackdown on the Shiite al-Dawa Party and other similar groupings. In 1984 it came to be headed up by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, and was until his death in Najaf in a huge car bombing on August 29, 2003. During the 1980s SCIRI developed a paramilitary wing, the Badr Corps, headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the brother of Muhammad Baqir. Both were sons of Muhsin al-Hakim, who had been the leading authority in Najaf (the equivalent of Sistani today) circa 1960-1970.

And yet, Iran has been cited by the Bush administration as one of the major threats to world peace and a cause of trouble in Iraq. Here is Seymour Hersh talking about this.

So it appears we support both the Sunni militias and Maliki whose opposition to each other grows; and we support the Iran-influenced SICI while holding Iran in highest suspicion.

Can someone explain this to me?

Or maybe this is all moot. Looks like, whether the next president wants to continue a 100-year presence of military bases in Iraq, he won't be able to. If the Iraqi's ask us to leave anyway, then what basis will McCain have for his campaign?

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