Friday, March 28, 2008

The political context of the military fiasco comes into focus

The Kuwaiti paper AlWasat quotes remarks by Iraqi political-party leaders, reflecting a split in which the Iraqi Accord Front (Dulaimi), the Iraqi List (led by Allawi), and the Islamic Party (vice president Tareq al-Hashemi) are critical of Maliki for resorting to violence to solve these problems, and the only political bloc quoted in support is the Supreme Council. The paper summarizes:
The military operation launched by the Iraqi security forces in Basra has brought about a split qmong the parliamentary blocs between support on the one hand, and rejection of the policy, on the basis that it could bring the country to "a crisis of security, and abort" the political process.
Meanwhile, (another h/t to Ladybird of RoadstoIraq) a reporter for the Lebanese paper AlAkhbar explains the self-deception, and the political background, that led Maliki to imagine himself a military commander, even though he doesn't have any actually-fighting troops.

His explanation centers on the structuring of the Interior Ministry forces at the time of the "sectarian wars" post February 2006.
Persons close to the decision-making centers said the man [Maliki] thought he was a military leader the same way his predecessor Jaafari believed [he was a military leader] at the time of Tal Afar over two years ago. He wore a military helmet and had pictures taken; he was channeling Saddam Hussein.

And if Maliki really believed he was a military leader, first of all he forgot the political ABCs in directly attacking the Sadrist current that permitted him and the Supreme Council his parliamentary majority in the first place, and because those close to him--as was the case with those close to Saddam--suggested to him that he was capable of anything, just because he was running this government on the edge of the parliamentary abyss.

[Then after underlining the bad reputation of the Sadrists and the Mahdi Army at the time of the sectarian wars, the writer continues:] This was because in structuring the security ministries, and the Interior Ministry in particular, there was an understanding that most of the officers would be from the Badr Organization militias and the Dawa militias, and that for the execution tasks they would rely on enlisted people [or "salaried people", some such expression], and these were mostly from the Sadrist trend, and this is what made the Mahdi Army, in the eyes of Iraqis, the instrument of execution in the sectarian wars.

[And observers note that in the fighting in recent days, now that the government has attacked the Sadrists] the officers, who cannot fight without soldiers, have come to fear their soldiers, and this has led them to abandon their positions and their weapons, particularly in Basra City and in the other areas of Basra [governate].

3 Comments:

Anonymous Steve said...

Thanks Badger.

A couple of things: In Thursdays post, "Nationalism and the War on Sadr", there is the Kuwaiti assessment of Maliki essentially turning on his support base in the Sadrist trend along with the information that the Mahdi Army was ferried around by the Interior Ministry troops in the post Askariya bloodletting, with the allegation that this was sanctioned by Sadr himself. There is no doubt as to the reality that Shi'a from the Sadr city area were - in collusion with Iraqi security forces - carrying out these atrocities in Baghdad. On the ground reporting at the time gave us that much information but Sadr himself has always denied involvement, called for restraint at the time and has since claimed that JAM was infiltrated. Like you, I have major questions about the concept of a sectarian nationalist organisation - especially when it comes to Iraq.

Now we have this very interesting little ditty from Lebanon that places the blame back with the government and, more specifically, with the Badr officer corps. Makes a lot more sense when placed in the broader history of both the Sadrist movement and their resistance to occupation in which they had their brief but important alliance with the Sunni groups before being targeted (without much retaliation) in the sectarian bombing campaign. This also speaks directly to Sadr's infiltration claims of men dressed in black being called Mahdi Army...

The attack on the Mahdi Army now has the same foundation as both the bombing campaign of 2005 and the Askariya bombing; the fear of a political coalition of nationalist forces in Iraq and their appeal to the Iraqi majority.

In both these stories there is more than an element of forethought on the part of the ministry. My question is whether either the Kuwaiti or Lebanese writer give any primary sources for the information?

I think it's also worth noting that unless Sadr was able to be convincing in his claims of innocence about the Mahdi Army itself being involved in the sectarian violence, how likely would it be that he'd be able to call a conference of 300 Sunni and Shi'a tribal leaders?

Best

Steve

4:34 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I'm going to re-read both of those things when I finish the rest of my drill here, but I'm pretty sure that both of these writers just presented that Badr-officer/Sadrist-executor thing as something like common knowledge among those close to the situation. What struck me at the time is that these are presumably two non-Iraqis, and it's possible that might actually give them a better view of things than the very dangerous and influence-prone role of being an Iraqi journalist in this environment, if you see what I mean. If I find anything like actual evidence or details, I'll raise the flag.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Even then we have the Kuwaiti, "terrified of the Iranian revolutionary influence" and the possible Lebanese, "Hezbollah brothers" to take into account. The latter, of course, notwithstanding the Nasrallah opposition to the Baghdad "puppets" whilst at the same time being beholden to one of the puppetmasters:)

I appreciated Visser's last post here (on US administration support for partition) when he essentially said, Show me the paper. As an historian, he's absolutely correct and without it we're left with what we both do: stack up the information on the sides of possibility and probability. Just occasionally with Iraq it would be nice to have some certainty.

BTW, one of our guests for dinner last night was a young Iranian woman who reads everything coming out of Iran (she's from a reformist background) and has never seen mentioned Sadr's presence in Iran. Of course, not conclusive proof of anything but she did confirm - from an Iranian point of view - the craziness of the suggestion that he would have such "close ties". His Jazeera interview yesterday was from Damascus.

S

6:29 PM  

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