50,000 US Troops to be Garrisoned in Iraq
Shahwani Opposes Militias in Security Forces
A suicide bombing at a checkpoint in Baquba killed 8 and wounded 4 late Sunday.
The US will keep a garrison of 50,000 troops in Iraq for years to come, if it can.
A difference in strategy is emerging between Iraqi intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Shahwani, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, over the Shiite militias such as the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army. Al-Maliki has urged that they be merged into official government security forces. Shahwani opposes this move, fearing that they will then dominate those security forces. He favors giving them sinecures in the civilian bureaucracy instead. (He is aware that you can’t just turn loose tens of thousands of trained, experienced fighters with no job or pension, without risking further violence. So he agrees that they should be given jobs but wants to make them pencil pushers). Maliki as PM heads a minority government that could easily fall in a vote of no confidence, and may not be in a position to alienate the Sadrists and Badr supporters in parliament.
More information about Saturday’s battle in Amara. Al-Zaman reports that the Iraqi police in Amara, a major city in southern Iraq, are saying that 5 Iraqis, among them one woman, were killed and 15 were wounded in clashes between Mahdi Army militiamen who follow Muqtada al-Sadr and British forces. A British soldier was severely wounded, and a tank fell into a canal. The British had be taking mortar fire at their base, Abu Naji, outside the city, and made the expedition into the city to investigate who was doing the firing. They surrounded the Thawrah, Risalah and Abu Rummanah districts in Amara. Ali Kadhim, deputy vice chairman of the governing council of Maysan province, of which Amara is the capital, said that the members of the council had decided to suspend their membership on it and announced that it would cease doing any work. The outbreak of violence raises questions about the earlier plan to withdraw all British troops from the province on 22 June, announced by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (I think everyone understands that the Sadr Movement has taken over Maysan, so whether the British troops are there or not is irrelevant, since they cannot dislodge the Sadrists or their Mahdi Army paramilitary; and they are probably just a provocation.)
Iraqi vice president Adil Abdul Mahdi met in Tehran with Foreign Minister Manucher Mottaki on Saturday. He said,
‘ “We believe that Iran-Iraq friendly relations are a matter of strategic importance which would benefit the interests of the two countries and the region . . . Some people are trying to damage the Iran-Iraq ties by enticing sectarian strife, but we will thwart their plans by expanding bilateral economic, political, and cultural relations . . . We view the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the benefit of the entire region and accordingly we take steps in enhancing cooperation and ties (with Iran)” ‘
Yes, that was the Vice President of Iraq speaking. And he had been within two votes in his party of being prime minister. And, except for that last bit about IRI power benefitting the region (that regime is an extremely reactionary force there), he is right about good Iran-Iraq relations being absolutely necessary to Gulf stability.
Abdul Mahdi also expressed hopes about the outcome of the ninth meeting of the foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbors. This meeting really should be supported more directly by the US and should be used to enhance Iraq’s security. The role of Jordan in the operation against Zarqawi is an example of what could be achieved.
Al-Hayat reports on the political atmosphere in Iran. It says that the circle of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not expect an escalation to war with the US. One official said that the crisis could pass if the US specified a “reasonable level of enrichment” that Iran could carry out on uranium for its peaceful nuclear energy program. Another joked that there was not need for the US to invade Iran. He said that the US had invaded Afghanistan and established an Islamic republic there. Then it had done the same thing in Iraq. Since Iran has had an Islamic republic for 27 years, he said, there really isn’t a point in a US invasion. [It is a joke but there is much truth to it. The Northern Alliance that the US installed in Afghanistan is a coalition of the Sunni Jami'at-i Islami and the Hazara Shiite Hizb-i Vahdat. And in Iraq, you now have the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Da'wa Party, not to mention the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, as the leading parties, and the new constitution forbids legislation contradicting Islamic law.] The Iranian officials also said that the US is depending on Iranian cooperation in its hopes for a troop draw-down in Iraq.
Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and Arabist Anthony Shadid, writing in WaPo, explores the way in which the jihadi struggle in Iraq is radicalizing Sunnis in places like Lebanon, with likely destabilizing results down the line.