Sunday, January 07, 2007

New "Baghdad security plan": Kurdish units will participate

Prime Minister Maliki made a televised speech on the occasion of the 86th anniversary of the founding of the Iraqi army (in 1921) and he used it to announce a new "security plan for Baghdad", which along with various follow-up statements by others, seems to amount to this: Baghdad will be divided into nine districts, and Iraqi district commanders will have full military authority, calling on the Americans for backup only when they feel they need it. (But AP quoted a US person as saying these decisions will be made by the Iraqi commanders and American commanders). Maliki stressed there will be no partisanship of any kind allowed in the armed forces (implicitly rejecting the idea suggested recently by the Sadrists of cooperation between the army and the Mahdi Army). No law-breakers will be spared on account of which group they belong to. The army should be a microcosm of Iraqi society with its various components.

Al-Hayat notes that a Sunni parliamentarian said his group was agreeing to the new plan only on condition that the multinational forces accompany the Iraqi forces in their operations to ensure neutrality. And the Sunni politician warned against picking on certain areas to the exclusion of others (apparently referring to reports that the intention is to start with districts in the western part of Baghdad, where there are still significant Sunni neighborhoods).

On another point, Maliki promised that the Iraqi army would receive from the Americans helicopters and other equipment within two months, and Aswat al-Iraq quoted an Iraqi army official as spelling this out: They have been promised 4000 armored personnel carriers, 1800 humvees, and 16 helicopter gunships, hopefully to arrive by March. Lack of adequate equipment, compared to the armed resistance groups, has been a frequent Maliki complaint.

(This is pieced together from accounts this weekend in Al-Hayat, Al-Mada, and Aswat al-Iraq).

Finally, Al-Mada in the web version of its Monday Jan 8 edition says three brigades of the Iraqi army are going to be transferred to Baghdad from the north and the south of the country, to help with the Baghdad effort. (Two from the north, mostly Kurds, and one from the south). The journalist, citing remarks by Maliki adviser Sami al-Askari, summarized the effort this way: The Iraqi forces will by trying to restore order in Baghdad "from within", while the multinational forces led by the US will work on controlling the areas surrounding the capital. Al-Askari said the whole operation aims to "purge certain areas which are still strongholds of terrorist groups, and to put [Iraqi] forces there to stay".

Conspicuously absent from this is any mention of the US plan (going back to the famous Hadley memo ahead of the Amman Bush-Maliki meeting) for the creation of a new political base for Maliki that would enable him to dispense with the support of the Sadrists and dissolve the militias. Unfortunately I guess I have to refer to the AP for this, which said in a report yesterday:
Military commanders said operations against the al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in its Sadr City stronghold would be left largely to a joint force made up of U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi Special Operations Command division under Brig. Gen. Fadhil Birwari, a Kurd. Soldiers in the division are a mixture of Kurds and Arabs from both the Sunni and Shiite sects.