Iraq’s Sunni Militias Placed Under Control of Baghdad’s Shiite-Led Government

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


2258559095_5703240949.jpg

According to a Pentagon report delivered to members of Congress yesterday, violence in Iraq is down 77 percent from this time last year. The reasons are varied and complex. There’s the much-lauded “surge,” of course. There’s Moqtada al-Sadr’s decision to call a ceasefire. There’s the natural combat fatigue that follows years of intense violence. And, perhaps most importantly, there’s the decision by local Sunni tribesman to stop killing Americans and start killing Islamic extremists. Thanks to their change of heart (however temporary and politically calculated it may be) violence in Anbar has waned and for the first time in years its villages are secure and its roads passable.

All of this is great news. But forgive me for expressing some trepidation at this morning’s reports that the U.S. military, as part of its plan to disengage from Iraq, has agreed to transfer control of the Sunni militias to the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Malaki. Until now, Sunni tribesmen have received stipends… a little extra encouragement, if you will… from the U.S. government. But beginning October 31, the 54,000 Sunni militiamen in the Baghdad area will be on Baghdad’s payroll to the tune of $15 million a month.

The idea of Sunnis being integrated into Iraq’s national security forces is a good one. The U.S. government is behind it, pressing al-Malaki to move even faster to bring Sunnis into the formal security structure rather than leaving them to their own tribal organizations, tenuously aligned for the moment with U.S. forces. But the proof will be in the pudding. Given the ethnic tensions that tore the country apart in recent years, fueling an orgy of killing and ethnic cleansing, integration will not be easy. Let’s hope that it works, though, for the alternative—particularly after the Americans depart Iraq—is to leave the Sunnis estranged from the Shiite power center in Baghdad, embittered by years of war, and armed to the teeth thanks in large part to Uncle Sam.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from James Gordon.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest