The former blue-thumbed Iraqi Jeffersonians have lost their luster. Of course, this just underscores what we have pointed out here for years: that the Shi’ites were not really enthusiastic proponents of democracy. They just saw one-man-one-vote as a chance for them to take power in Iraq. Now the U.S. has awakened to just how much this helps Iran, and are trying to reverse it. But how ultimately will American officials distinguish “biased” Shi’ites from “impartial” ones?
By Pauline Jelinek for Associated Press (thanks to Looney Tunes):
WASHINGTON – More than a third of Iraq’s national police battalion commanders are now Sunni after a purge of Shiites who had a sectarian bias, a U.S. general said Monday.
Despite improvements, he predicted it will still be years before Iraqi forces are capable of securing the country by themselves.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Iraq, Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard said he had been saddened to see the destruction in one province where the number of U.S. forces had been reduced too soon.
“We cannot be in a hurry to withdraw our coalition forces,” he said, using Diyala province north of Baghdad as an example.
“The growth of the Iraqi security forces over the past couple of years has really been quite dramatic in many ways,” he said by video conference. Among improvements: Iraqi officials have recruited Sunnis to the national police command, a group that a year ago was almost entirely Shia. The national police have been known for their ties to Shiite militia.
Pittard said that since October, officials had removed seven of nine brigade commanders “” five because of sectarian bias. One of two division commanders is now Sunni, as are four of nine brigade commanders and 9 or 10 of the 27 battalion commanders, he said.
And the Sunnis, I suppose, are free of “sectarian bias.”
But he warned against being “in a hurry” to hand over responsibility for Iraq security to local soldiers and police “” a handover U.S. officials have said is key to bringing American forces home.
Asked if Iraqis will be able to move fairly soon to take control of areas now being cleared out, Pittard said, “We’ve really got to be careful.”
“A lesson learned is … do not draw down too quickly when we think there’s a glimmer of success,” he said. “It will take time, it will take time for the Iraqi security forces to be able to take over from our forces.”
The No. 2 commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, said last week that the current operation should last through the summer and he won’t be able to determine until then how much of the follow-on work U.S. forces will have to do themselves.
Pittard noted that Iraqi security forces are taking the lead in some places, such as in Maysan in the south, the province of Muthanna, and in Irbil in the north.
“I think it’ll take a couple of years before the Iraqi security forces are going to be able to fully take control of the security situation in Iraq,” he said.
Meanwhile, a think tank led by John Podesta, President Clinton’s former chief of staff, recommended Monday that the U.S. immediately stop arming the Iraqis and redeploy U.S. troops within a year.
“Spending billions to arm Iraq’s security forces without political consensus among Iraq’s leaders carries significant risks “” the largest of which is arming faction-ridden national Iraqi units before a unified national government exists that these armed forces will loyally support,” wrote the Center for America Progress in Washington.
Officials at the center downplayed the possibility that such an approach would lead to a genocide or a takeover by neighboring countries.
Iraq’s neighbors “have an interest in not seeing things get even worse,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the center.
Indeed they do. But their vision of how to do that might not be identical to that of Katulis.