WaPo says that the Iraqi government has made a $100 mn. deal with China for the purchase of light weaponry, especially AK-47 assault rifles. Some observers are afraid that these arms will actually end up in the hands of sectarian militiamen or anti-government guerrillas, through graft or theft or because much of the Iraqi police and army is made up of militiamen. The Iraqi government maintains that the US arming of its police and army is not going fast enough and that large numbers of policemen are essentially unarmed for lack of equipment. (It is, however, alleged that large numbers of policemen sold off their weapons and even ammunition in the face of grinding poverty and salary arrears).
Stung, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pledged to speed up US arms deliveries to the Iraqis.
My guess is that this is a step toward Iraqi government independence of the US military, and that the US military is deliberately going slow on providing some kinds of equipment because it still does not trust the Iraqis.
Also, President Jalal Talabani and PM Nuri al-Maliki are desperately afraid of the new Sunni Arab tribal levies that the US military is creating and the arming of which it is facilitating, and the Chinese arms for Kurdish and Shiite troops may be an answer to the US-sponsored “Awakening” groups.
The largest bloc in parliament, the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, recently demanded that the US stop arming the Sunni Arab tribesmen, many of whom are involved in guerrilla groups that have targeted Shiites or the Iraqi government in the past.
(Radio Sawa says in Arabic that the Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accord Front, criticized the Shiite UIA for its criticism of the new American policy.)
The Shiite mayor of Iskandariya, a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) was killed with four bodyguards by a roadside bomb on Thursday. The city is in a mixed Sunni-Shiite area where members of each branch of Islam have been trying to ethnically cleanse the other.
The US arrested an Iraqi member of parliament from the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, apparently on suspicion of having links to the guerrillas. Naif Muhammad Jasim was taken into custody in Sharqat on Wednesday. The US also arrested a man they accused of being a banker for the jihadi volunteers who flocked to Iraq.
Reuters reports civil war violence for Thursday. One US soldier was killed, and over a dozen Iraqis were killed in a wave of bombings.
Religious fanatics in Basra who have appointed themselves a morals police are attacking and killing women who do not veil to the extent the extremists demand. Every month in the southern port city, 15 female bodies show up in the streets, murdered by the puritans.
AT the Global Affairs group blog, Farideh Farhi on the implications of the North Korean deal for Iran. And, part two of Barnett Rubin’s interview by Josh Marshall.
At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, a comment on the trials and tribulations of late eighteenth-century civilian contractors who went along on Bonaparte’s invasion in hopes of making a pile (and who were among the social forces arguing for the invasion in the first place):
“What a number of people have been taken in, my dear girl! All those sudden acquirers of fortunes, or rather all those robbers(7), are pitifully down in the mouth, and would, I believe, be very happy to return from whence they came. It gives me a deal of pleasure to see, that the majority of them will rather have lost than gained by their speculations. Some, indeed, have done tolerably well, but they are very few; and few as they are, have sweated pretty handsomely for what they have got.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.