Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The next Iraqi security plan

Early indications are that the Baghdad security plan has not produced the results necessary to dampen the sectarian conflict in Iraq.

The London Times rides with a Mahdi militiaman. The stunning account:
ABU MAHA admits freely that he kills and kidnaps Sunni “terrorists”. At checkpoints Iraqi soldiers greet him by name and let him pass.

For Abu Maha is a leader of Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army in western Baghdad, a deadly force with such power that no politician dares take it on.

The thousands-strong militia and a political power base of 32 seats in Parliament have made Hojatoleslam al-Sadr’s militant Shia movement the strongest in Iraq. The group is blamed for many death squad killings, but has such grassroots appeal that even the Shia premier cancelled plans to clear Sadr City, its Baghdad stronghold.


His company generally detains people for several days before deciding whether to kill them. In one recent case, Abu Maha says his men abducted a guard from a Sunni mosque. They were convinced that he belonged to a Sunni death squad called the Omar Brigades, known for killing Shias, but after beating and questioning him in a building behind Hojatoleslam al-Sadr’s Shula office, they decided that he was innocent and released him.
There have been a number of recent casualties among coalition forces in Iraq. The prime minister has announced a new plan, the AP:
The four-point plan, which emerged after talks between both sides, aims to resolve disputes by giving every party a voice in how security forces operate against violence on a neighborhood by neighborhood level.

Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad district -- made up of representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders, and security officials -- to consult on security efforts. A Sunni representative, for example, could raise a complaint if he thinks police are not pursuing a Shi'ite militia after an attack. A central committee, also made up of all the parties, will coordinate with the armed forces.

``We have taken the decision to end sectarian hatred once and for all," Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki told reporters. ``We have vowed before Almighty God to stop the bloodshed."

In a possible boost to the effort to rein in the violence, a radical cleric who heads one of the most powerful Shi'ite militias, Moqtada al-Sadr, has ordered his followers to put aside their weapons temporarily, a Sadr spokesman said.
The Guardian:
Shia and Sunni political leaders admitted there was still much to agree on and several seemed at odds last night in their interpretations of what was announced by Mr Maliki after two days of talks. Critics said Mr Maliki's proposals were thin on details.
The Los Angeles Times:
As the politicians announced their security plan, Al Sharqiya, an Iraqi satellite television channel, reported that the number of violent deaths in Baghdad had reached a high of 1,980 in September.

The figure could not be independently confirmed, but if correct it would undercut assertions by U.S. officials that an offensive in the capital was making headway against sectarian violence.
CENTCOM posted an extensive story on the security operations in Baghdad. However, the press conference it references is already a number of days old. It would behoove CENTCOM to post these stories more promptly. An excerpt:
According to Shields, during the Shaab and Ur operation that began Sept. 14, the combined team searched more than 36,000 buildings, including 23 mosques that Iraqi Security Forces were given permission to search. The operation led to the discovery of five caches containing an undisclosed number of weapons and the capture of several detainees.

Bashar told reporters that the security forces would go wherever they are needed to protect Iraqi citizens, but that, "Neither the Ministry of Interior nor the Ministry of Defense would be able to provide an ultimate security level for this country without the assistance and the cooperation of the political leadership of this country."

Ahmed built on that belief, saying, "The people of Adhamiyah, the situation of Adhamiyah depends not only on the presence of the armed forces, it depends as well on the cooperation of the people of Adhamiyah."

Bashar talked about a united plan with the Coalition that includes a list of the Baghdad neighborhoods that most often come under violent and sectarian attacks, saying, "We go by that plan and we go everywhere that is considered a hotspot."
CENTCOM may also want to examine if their stories are showing up on Google News searches. They might be, but I am not certain.

If you are seaking well-sourced information on the foreign jihadists in Iraq, the Christian Science Monitor provides:
Between 50 and 70 foreign fighters sneak over the border into Iraq every month, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief US military spokesman in Iraq, said last week. Most come from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, or Syria.

Between January and mid-September, US or Iraqi government forces captured some 630 foreign fighters, according to General Caldwell. Of these, 370 remain in detention in Iraq. The rest have been processed through Iraqi courts and sentenced, or released. Some may have been taken to undisclosed locations elsewhere.

The total number of foreign fighters in Iraq is between 800 and 2,000, according to estimates by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. In contrast, the total strength of the insurgency is more than 20,000 people, according to Brookings. That means the vast majority of its fighters come from Iraq itself.

"In proportion to the whole insurgency, [the percentage of foreign fighters] is very small," says Aidan Kirby, a terrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
There is also this point:
"It is not obvious now how many Iraqi jihadists will support the global jihad of bin Laden and how many will focus their efforts on Iraq's fledgling state," says a recent analysis of the evolving terrorist threat by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Now some diplomacy...

The past few months of administration equivocation from war to peace and back again shows how dysfunctional this staff has become. Condoleezza Rice has just visited Saudi Arabia where, according to the Washington Post:
America's top diplomat described that conflict as a clarifying moment in defining the political forces in the world's most volatile region. Many analysts believe the sixth Middle East war at least temporarily boosted the standing of Hezbollah as well as its patron Iran and allies such as the radical Palestinian group Hamas.

Rice is hoping to explore ways of reviving the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians as well as bolster support for the fragile governments in Iraq and Lebanon. U.S. officials privately concede that their expectations for any major movement are low.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You beat me to the CSM post. I'll hat tip my entry.

With regards to Maliki's new security plan - devolving control to the local level - does that sound like a prescription for more militia activity to anyone else? Since the Parliament pushed the enactment of semi-autonomous regions back until 18 months after an agreement is reached (which could be a long time in and of itself), is Maliki choosing militia control over the Iraq security forces? After all, that recent PIPA poll found that Iraqis support their security forces (despite the fact that they hate us and we train 'em - go figure). Not sure this is a real solution as opposed to more Maliki-pandering

4:28 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

No need to hat tip.

Maliki's plan thus far is short on details. It might be an acceptance that the local population (militia based) is already in control of the area and maybe they can supplant militia hierarchy with Iraqi Army hierarchy.

I don't think there is much you can do to get things back in the bag at this point.

4:30 PM  

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