Monday, July 18, 2005

Iraqi Insurgency

The past few days have reminded us once again that the situation in Iraq is extremely bad, and whatever happens with the political process, government authority is weak and violence endemic in much of the country. Just to add some information to the pile, over at Liberals Against Terrorism I've noted a new report based in Syria suggesting the insurgents don't even feel pressed. That report is from the Jamestown Foundation, which also has a good discussion of the situation, especially in Anbar province.

This part especially caught my eye:
"The second development relates to calls by the new Iraqi President, Jalal Talebani, and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to deploy Kurdish and Shi’a militias against the insurgents. [6] This call comes at a time of worsening sectarian tensions in the country, with Hareth al-Dhari, the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, accusing the Badr organization (the armed wing of SCIRI) of assassinating Sunni Muslim clerics. [7] Despite subsequent denials that there are any plans afoot to deploy the militias, the initial announcement by Talabani and al-Hakim is profoundly important. It points toward the eventual deployment of the Badr organization (originally established and trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the early 1980s) against the insurgents. The Kurdish militias are unlikely to be deployed outside the Kurdish regions, for fear of igniting a wider ethnic conflict in Iraq.

"The Badr organization is already involved in counter-insurgency operations, albeit indirectly. For instance al-Liwa al-Dheeb (Wolf Brigade), widely believed to be the only effective and motivated component of the new Iraqi security forces is largely led by former Badr organization commanders. Despite their profound misgivings toward SCIRI and the Badr organization, the U.S. authorities in Iraq are reluctantly incorporating the latter in the country’s security structures. As the extent of insurgent penetration of new Iraqi military and security structures become more apparent, with recent reports that top officials in the interior ministry had been passing highly sensitive information to the rebels [8], calls will inevitably grow for the direct deployment of the Badr organization in counter-insurgency operations. In any case, the Badr organization remains a primary target for the insurgents; a senior officer in the organization was assassinated just over a week ago. [9]"

Longtime readers know that I've spoken emphatically against the idea that the present conflict in Iraq represents a resurgence of long-suppressed religious hatreds, and quoted a number of informed sources as describing urban Iraqis as highly secular in their political identifications. However, developments like these are nonetheless leading to a civil war based off religious identification. As power in the new Iraq is partitioned on an ethnic and religious basis, so people are driven to identify with their religious community. Nothing makes you aware of your Shi'ism like a bunch of people looking at the government and complaining about how the Shi'ites are all collaborators.


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