Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday honored the militias of the parties in the United Iraqi Alliance, i.e. the Da’wa (Islamic Call) Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. They were singled out for having fought alongside government security forces, and some 10,000 of them were inducted into the latter.
Al-Zaman points to a double standard, insofar as the government has not similarly honored, or accepted into the state apparatus, most members of the Sunni Awakening Council militias that have been fighting the Qutbist Jihadis.
The induction of Badr Corps fighters (the paramilitary of ISCI) and those of the Da’wa Party into security positions came in the wake of the firing of thousands of officers and troops who had refused to obey orders to fire on the Mahdi Army militiamen in Baghdad and the southern provinces. They were accused of mutiny.
If al-Zaman’s reporting is correct, the scale of the mutiny is breathtaking, and helps explain why government troops did so poorly against the Sadrists– the hearts of the thousands of them were simply not with the fight.
Al-Hayat adds details in Arabic, quoting soldiers who have been fired by al-Maliki. They say they were thrown, in Basra, into a situation where they were taking sniper fire from every direction. They had little training in street combat
Back to al-Zaman: Iraqi Interior and Defense Ministry statistics show that 923 Iraqis were killed during the month of March, a 31% increase over February, making March the deadliest month in Iraq since last August.
Meanwhile, Muqtada al-Sadr sent out a letter to his Mahdi Army fighters, praising “their patience, obedience and defense of their people and land.” He asked them to redouble their efforts in confronting “a large number,” though he did not say “a large number” of what. Later communiques suggest that he was referring to American troops.
Basra returned to relative calm on Tuesday. In Baghdad, clashes continued, as a curfew continued to be imposed on Sadr City, Kadhimiya and Shu’la districts, which are known strongholds of the Mahdi Army.
Leila Fadel of McClatchy gets the story from Sadr City in Baghdad– reporting on the human and political cost of last week’s assault on the Mahdi Army and US-produced ‘collateral damage.’ Another US airstrike was called in on the civilian neighborhood of Sadr City on Tuesday morning.
Fadel reports one Sadrist saying,
‘ “We realized what kind of government we have: They are like foxes,” Abu Amir said. “The Americans are our enemies, not our friends. Maliki is an agent of the Americans. ‘
Warren Strobel and Nancy Youssef report for Mcclatchy that a significant outcome of the poor performance of Iraqi government forces is that Britain and the US will postpone further troop withdrawals. (I predicted this last Wednesday on the Lehrer News Hour.