End Sectarianism and Ethnic Division in Iraq’s Security? - 04.03.2006

Yesterday I posted Ali Shalal Abbas Al’Kaissi’s proposal for ending the occupation and minimizing the chances for civil war in Iraq. I’m going to provide an analysis based on my own perspective and experiences in Iraq, and I will take one piece at a time, to provide a detailed discussion, without being too excessively long winded.

I’ll add some links to this post later to further bolster my assertions.

1. The men who will be in charge of the security of Iraq must not be sectarian or ethnic in focus.

When thinking about this point from Ali’s proposal, readers should consider that the current structure of the security is such that sectarianism and ethnic divides are the determinant for membership in the security apparatus.

Although there are some exceptions, the very framework established by the Coalition Provisonal Authority and the occupation bureaucrats that remain virtually assured these divisions would occur.

The Ministry of the Interior is controlled by the Badr Militia, which now bears the slightly less confrontational title, “Badr Organization.” The Badr Militia is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, initially founded by Tehran to export Iran’s Islamic Revolution to its neighbor, Iraq. Being the armed wing of the Council, Badr’s initial focus was to provide protection and enforcement of the Council’s goals.

As well as being in control of the Ministry of the Interior, Badr Militia loyalists now fill many positions within the Iraqi National Guard, and are the controlling force.

The other major branch of security forces, the Iraqi police (who are separate from the traffic police), focus on providing security at the local level, however they rarely deal with domestic issues. More often than not the police are employed at cleanup and responding to car bombs and other improvised-explosive-devices (IEDs). The Mahdi Army essentially controls large swaths of the Iraqi police, who are loyal to Muqtada Al’Sadr

While their loyalty is to Muqtada Al’Sadr and the Sadrist movement founded by his father, it is Muqtada’s lieutenants who seem to direct their actions. The Iraqi police currently receive their orders from Sadr City and Muqtada’s office in Najaf, rather than from the “Iraqi government” located behind the barricades and blast walls securing the Green Zone.

By focusing their post-invasion plan on the “Shi’a majority” the United States greatly underestimated the diversity of Iraq. Shi’a and Sunna are sects of Islam, but the clear divisions highlighted constantly by the clergy of both sects had a much greyer understanding when the first US military boots touched Iraqi soil in 2003.

Now, because of the divisions of Iraq, Shi’is and Sunnis recognize their newfound political identity. Prior to the war politics were the purview of Baathists and activists. The majority of focused more on their families and day-to-day life rather than being engaged in the political life. Sunnis and Shi’is intermarried, as did Kurds and Arabs, as well as Turkomans, Assyrians, and Iraq’s other indigenous groups.

Even the Kurds, seen as the moderate democratic force in Iraqi politics have turned to sectarianism and ethnic divisions to protect themselves. Rather than calling on the establishment of security forces that are ethnically and religiously diverse, to reflect the character of Iraqi society, Kurds have turned inward. In Kurdistan the military and police are dominated by Kurdish peshmerga militia.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan area, has already proclaimed the right and intention of the Kurdish people to secede and establish secure borders at the moment when Iraq is fully engaged in a civil war.

Massoud Barzani is a questionable character and his arrogance has resulted in a new element of corruption being recognized in Kurdistan. Kamal Sayyid Qadir, a Kurdish-Austrian journalist, was sentenced last week to one and half years in prison for reporting on Barzani’s alleged corruption.

One of the earliest mistakes of the CPA was to disband the Iraqi army with Order no. 2 The Dissolution of Entities, but I’ll discuss this later, when addressing Ali’s fourth point.

However, were the new Iraqi government to have the authority of a sovereign state, rather than continuing to be subservient to the occupation’s wishes, real change may be possible. As Jalal Talabani admitted in November of last year, ” “I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country . . . “But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will.”

When the security forces are no longer seen as puppets of the occupation, Iraqi politicians will be free to demand non-sectarian security, and being forced to depend on each other, this sectarianism will likely cease. Currently however, the United States is fanning the flames of this sectarianism by providing support to the Shi’a parties behind most of the “sectarian killings” right now happening in Iraq.

These killings have now become the primary killer in Iraq, more than improvised explosives. Only the security forces have the resources, support, and freedom of movement to cause such a drastic change in the focus of deaths in Iraq.

Those outside Iraq should recognize this drastic change and understand that as the United States strengthens the Shi’a governing bodies, many of whom have repeatedly demonstrated loyalties only to their own interests or to those of Iran, the worse the abuses by the security apparatus will become.

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