Monday, August 10, 2009

Sounds About Right

The Washington Times reports that the ingredients for a civil war in Iraq are present, and possibly starting to brew. The article focuses on a report by Najim Abed al-Jabouri, former Iraqi mayor and the Police Chief that "cleaned up" Tal Afar, who claims that the biggest contributor to a possible civil war right now in Iraq is the ethno-sectarian splits within the Iraqi Security Forces. Says Mr. al-Jabouri:

"U.S. efforts to rebuild the [Iraqi security forces] have focused on much needed training and equipment, but have neglected the greatest challenge facing the forces' ability to maintain security upon U.S. withdrawal: an ISF politicized by ethno-sectarian parties," he wrote.

"These ties pose the largest obstacle to the ISF in its quest to become genuinely professional and truly national in character. A professional military force holds the best prospect of gaining and keeping the trust of the people, but a force riven with destructive sectarian and ethnic loyalties is a recipe for civil war."

Obviously, I've got a limited view from my perch hear in Mosul, but this sounds about right. My counterparts in the Iraqi Federal Police (until very recently known as the Iraqi National Police) have a vehement, visceral distrust of the Iraqi Army. The IA, far more robust in its training and logistics systems to date, have a multitude of capabilities that the IFP don't. American commanders constantly defer lending a hand with US capabilities to help my guys out, stating that we need to "coordinate" with the IA and have them come on over and help out. Here's the deal: my counterpart would rather tear an eye from his face than ask for or recieve help from the IA. To the point that a couple of weeks ago, after the IFP had a fruitful day of harvesting IEDs, which they--gulp--happily brought back into their own headquarters, US forces refused to send EOD out to take control of and reduce the IEDs. Instead, I was told, tell them to get the IA to do it, natch. My counterpart's response to my entreaties to use the IA EOD was that he'd rather keep them for "later." So the explosives got to sit there for an extra day while we figured out an alternative means by which to dispose of the ordnance. There have been more than a couple of times that I thought the IA and IFP might go all "Hatfield-McCoy" on us. Thankfully, we've managed to calm those situations and have yet to have an incident that is both serious and sustained. Still, internecine security force hostility is always simmering just below the surface. Even within the IA there are fault lines:

The majority of these divisions are under the patronage of a political party," he writes. "For example, the 8th [Iraqi army] division in Kut and Diwaniyah is heavily influenced by the Dawa Party [of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki]; the 4th IA division in Salahuddin is influenced by President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; the 7th IA division in Anbar is influenced by the [Sunni] Iraqi Awakening Party, and the 5th IA division in Diyala is heavily influenced by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shi'ite political party with some ties to Iran.

As I've posted previously, most of the ISF and civilians I speak to think that when the US pulls out, there will be a bloodletting, but then things will settle down and people will live the "Iraqi way." As bad as that sounds, almost unanimously the Iraqis I speak to say that they will never again suffer a despot. Most will point to their satellite dishes and cell phones and say, "because of these, we have learned to say no."

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