Mahdi Army Lowers Profile Sunni

Mahdi Army Lowers Profile
Sunni Guerrillas now Mainly fight Shiites

McClatchy reports that Mahdi Army militiamen in Baghdad have adopted a low profile as they await the arrival of extra US troops, storing their weapons and taking down their checkpoints. The weapons, says one informant, are still nearby.

Ghaith Abdul Ahad of the Guardian sheds loads of illumination on the situation on the ground in Iraq. He talks to Sunni Arab guerrilla leaders about the way in which the struggle has turned into a battle not so much against US troops as against Shiite militias, which seem increasingly to be winning the battle for Baghdad.

Important points

*The disciplined anti-American insurgency among Sunni Arabs of 2004-2005 has deteriorated into youth street gangs mainly killing and robbing Shiites.

*Sunni guerrillas now need more weaponry than they can loot from old Baath munitions depots and are smuggling it from the weapons given by the US to the Iraqi goverment through graft.

*Sunni Arab guerrillas are blaming the strategy of attacking Shiites solely on “al-Qaeda.” [This is not entirely honest. Baathists have attacked Shiites, too.]

*Militant Sunni Arabs of a fundamentalist cast still want to fight a two-pronged war against the Americans and the Shiites. Some dissent and think they should make up with the Americans so as to protect themselves from the Shiites.

*The guerrilla groups are increasingly based in neighborhoods rather than in city-wide cells.

* Contributions from businessmen, neighborhood levies by guerrilla groups, and looting and theft (especially from Shiites) are major sources of income for them.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes about the Bush administration’s sudden desertion of free market principles in Iraq in favor of trying to repair and jump-start Baath-era factories. US proconsul in Iraq in 2003 Paul Bremer was convinced that the invisible hand of the market would magically repair the economy all by itself. But Iraq after the invasion was in a Great Depression, and it needed a New Deal, not Reaganism. Chandrasekaran recognizes the challenges to doing this now– lack of electricity, lack of security in the Sunni Arab areas, etc.

When I was in Beirut in 1975 during the beginnings of the Civil War there, I remember that the Christian Phalangist militia bombed a Christian cookie factory downtown. I was puzzled and asked around as to why they would do that. The best guess of my friends was that they were trying to create unemployment so that the workers would take a pay cut to work as militiamen instead. My guess is, that the attempt to revive the factories is going to meet with a lot of sabotage.

My recent interview with Rajiv Chandrasekaran concerning his book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, is here (part 1) and then for part 2, here.