Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that PM al-Maliki has taken the controversial decision to recruit 18,000 members of Shiite militias into the Iraqi government security forces. (In fact, the Iraqi military has de facto been recruiting a lot of Shiite militiamen anyway).
You have to wonder if this step is intended to offset the American military’s pressure to recruit Sunni tribesmen and neighborhood volunteers into the security forces.
Aljazeera is reporting that Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashimi has come out vigorously denouncing al-Maliki for this move.
Well, something has to be done with the Shiite militiamen. You can’t just demobilize them without risking their turning to violence. I think it would be better to give them civilian desk jobs in some department where they can’t do much mischief, until the Iraqi economy can get its act together. (Eventually Iraq is likely to get rich, and there will be plenty of jobs in the oil sector and in industry; the question is what to do with trained militiamen until that comes about.) But putting the militiamen in the official security forces will cause a lot of trouble.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Syrian officials say 1,500 Iraqis are being forced to leave Syria every day as a result of strict new visa requirements. Still, about 500 new Iraqi refugees are able to come into Syria every day, since they managed to get visas. There are an estimated 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria. There is now a net reduction of 1,000 per day, so that if it continues, in about 4 or 5 years all the Iraqis will be out of Syria. Which is probably what the Syrian government intends. Note, however, that this influx of 7,000 Iraqis a week from Syria is not spurred by better security in Iraq (otherwise, why are 500 a day or 3500 a week still leaving Iraq for Damascus?) The exodus is being dictated by new Syrian strictness about visas and residency permits.
What I don’t understand about American newspaper articles is why they let people like Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dictate the headlines, even when the headline is undermined by the information gathered by the journalist who wrote the article. So the NYT reports,
‘ Most of the capital’s displaced people have yet to return, and the number of those leaving still outpaces those returning, according to Dana Graber Ladek, the Iraqi displacement specialist for the International Organization for Migration.
Over a million Iraqis have fled their homes in the past year and a half, she said, nearly three-quarters of them from Baghdad. And though the Iraqi government is offering one million Iraqi dinars, or roughly $812, to each Baghdad family that returns, she said, only a fraction of residents has done so. ‘
So, why isn’t that the headline? “More Iraqis still Leaving Capital than returning to It”? Why is it al-Maliki’s irrelevant assertion that “7,000 families” have come back to the capital? First of all, that isn’t that many people, and second of all, what we want to know is if they are the ones kicked out of Syria during the past month.
And we want to know how many Baghdadis are still fleeing their own city every week. Do the editors just automatically cede the headlines to the Rich and Powerful? Why? Isn’t this sort of complaisance toward propaganda what got us into the Iraq War in the first place?
Rashid Khalidi situates the American war on Iraq in the history of Western colonialism in the region.
The tribal sheikhs making up the al-Anbar Salvation Council have suggested names to PM al-Maliki of tribal Sunnis who could serve as cabinet ministers in the place of the Iraqi Accord Front ministers who resigned this summer. The Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front is complaining that for al-Maliki to appoint cabinet ministers outside parliamentary channels would be unconstitutional.
John Bolton complaining about bureaucrats acting outside the rules would be like Britney Spears complaining about starlets with self-destructive lifestyles. Bolton attempted to do a hatchet job on Colin Powell, claiming that he– gasp — sought a diplomatic solution to the Iran issue. Bolton quite illicitly fired Jose Bustani for getting in the way of the Iraq War, and he once said that the US was not legally bound by the international treaties it had signed, that they were only ‘obligations’. Even though Bolton was just an underling under Powell, he and his ilk always tried to withdraw from Powell the prerogatives of secretary of state, attempting to reduce him to their water carrier. He didn’t have the authority to dictate diplomacy to Colin Powell, and now he has no authority at all. Putting Bolton on television all the time is bizarre. Who does he represent? Bad-tempered lawyers who are abusive to their employees and employers?
For the real Iran, not Bolton’s fevered imagination of it, see Farideh Farhi’s posting at the Global Affairs blog.