Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, April 30, 2007

Is Maliki Firing Top Enforcers?

The most viewed article in the NYT today is not one supporters of victory in Iraq want to read:

BAGHDAD, April 29 -- A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post.

Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.

"Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful" against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. "I'm tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they're trying to do the right thing."

If you're thinking that this sounds like AG AG II, i.e., another Gonzales and the federal prosecuters scandal in a teacup, you're not alone. It was my first impression, too.

But AG AG was never accused of sectarianism.

According to some in the U.S. military, including Col. Ehrich Rose, chief of the Military Transition Team with the 4th Iraqi Army Division, sectarianism still rules the Iraqi military.

The Iraqi army, as far as capability goes, I'd stack them up against just about any Latin American army I've dealt with," he said. "However, the politicization of their officer corps is the worst I've ever seen."

Iraq needs to be an equal opportunity enforcer. Bad guys of all sects need to be taken out, and if it takes Sunni officers to take out the Mahdis and Shi'ite officers to take out al Qaeda, then so be it. It's unfortunate that the Iraqi Army isn't a secular bunch that puts Iraq ahead of intra-Islamic differences, but that's not yet the case.

However, if it works to have Sunnis in charge of Shi'ite bad guys and vice versa, it works, and Maliki should let it work. He says he is:

Sadiq al-Rikabi, a political adviser to Maliki, said the first two months of the Baghdad security plan show that Maliki "is not working on any agenda but the national agenda."

"The Baghdad security plan is working on a military and professional basis without any regard for any sect or ethnic group or any political factors," he said.

True, all things are upside down in Baghdad since Bush approved new rules of engagement and started sending more troops. Maliki may have made an old-time error in new times, carrying out firings that made sence then, but are not being tolerated under the new conditions.

He doesn't have too many more chances to make mistakes.

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