Sistani Rejects Militias, COIN in Iraq

Resolving Iraq’s militia problem has become a priority for the Iraqi government and the Coalition. The delay in appointing a new government is directly related to the various political party’s fear that former Prime Minister Jaafari was too close to Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, and would not reform the police forces believed to be infiltrated with militia members. Jawad al-Maliki, the prime minister designate, has vowed to dismantle the militias by integrating them into the security forces. The proof will be in his nominations for the critical posts of Defense and Interior.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shiite leader in Iraq, has also denounced the influence of militias, “Weapons must be in the hands of government security forces that should not be tied to political parties but to the nation… The first task for the government is fighting insecurity and putting an end to the terrorist acts that threaten innocents with death and kidnapping.” Colonel Austin Bay reminds us of Sistani’s reluctance to interfere in politics, but has had to do so in order to guide the Iraqi political process forward. Most recently he has called for calm after the destruction of the Dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra and quietly pushed Jaafari to withdraw his nomination for prime minister.

Sadr has so far rejected the calls to disarm, and in an interesting turn of events, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Finer reports Sadr “has sent at least two companies, each with about 120 fighters” to the volatile city of Kirkuk. Sadr has no base of support in the city, which is largely dominated by Kurdish dominated units of the Iraqi Army.

While the government works to bring the militias to heel, the Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations in the region in and around Baghdad. Insurgents targeted and killed the sister of Iraqi Vice President Mayson Ahmed Bakir al-Hashimi. Hashimi’s brother was killed in Baghdad in mid-April. Iraqi commando forces have killed Hamid al-Takhi, al Qaeda’s commander in Samarra. In Baqubah the Iraqi Army fended off two major attacks, and killed and captured dozens of insurgents in the ensuing fight. Multinational Forces – Iraq breaks down the fighting:

The attacks began in southern Baqubah n the afternoon when the Buhriz police station and five police checkpoints were simultaneously attacked with mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. Iraqi Soldiers and police killed 17 AIF and detained 28 responsible for the attacks. One Iraqi Soldier was killed and two were wounded. Four Iraqi police were wounded.

In Dali Abbas, the 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Headquarters was reportedly attacked by more than 100 terrorists with mortar rounds, RPGs and small arms fire. The Soldiers returned fire, killing four AIF and detaining 15. Six Iraqi Soldiers died and eight were wounded.

Earlier in the week, twelve insurgents were killed in a raid on a safe house in Yusifiyah. Coalition forces killed five insurgents in a firefight, and seven more after conducting an air strike on the home. According to MNF-Iraq “Every male who was found in the rubble was wearing an AK-47 vest with two loaded magazines and two grenades. The troops also discovered suicide notes on one of the terrorists, body bombs, weapons to include a shoulder-fired rocket and ammunition.”

Iraqi soldiers are also conducting independent operations in Anbar province. Iraqi soldiers detained four insurgents in the small town of in Bani Da Har in the Euphrates River Valley. “‘I believe that with the progress they are making with us and the (Marines) in the province, these soldiers will be ready to take over their battle space in six to eight months,’ said Lt. Col. Owen Lovejoy, senior advisor for 2/2/7’s military transition team.” This is the latest operation in a series of independent counterinsurgency operations by the Iraqi troops in Anbar province.

The operations in Iraq are largely done at the squad, platoon and company level, and basically consist of intelligence-based raids, patrols, supply runs, humanitarian assistance – standard counterinsurgency operations [or COIN]. The frequency of the battalion-plus sized offensive operations that were prevalent last year and during the early months of this year are dramatically decreasing. The insurgency continues to probe for weak points in the Iraqi and Coalition defenses, hence the attacks like the most recent attacks in Baqubah The insurgency is losing politically but is not yet out of the fight.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


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