This could be a good thing if we work together

Iraqi Shiite militia deploys forces

The Badr Brigade, in black uniforms with armbands that read “Badr,” are back on the streets of Najaf. The group, composed mostly of Iraqi deserters and supported at times by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has been fighting a guerilla war against Saddam’s Iraq for two decades. This MSNBC story works hard to depict this as yet another blow to American hopes for a peaceful Iraq, but I suspect that maybe things aren’t all that bad. For instance

“We don’t depend on the Americans, we depend on ourselves,” said Montadhir Naim, a 23-year-old militiaman.


“We”re not looking for any confrontation,” said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, the director of the group’s political bureau.
But like other officials, he said [top Shiite cleric] Hakim’s assassination only reinforced their demands for more aggressive steps to police Iraq, specifically by turning over control to Iraqi parties taking part in the Governing Council.
“We can’t wait for their measures, and our people are being killed,” he said. “Nobody wants militias in the street, but nobody wants these kinds of assassinations either. A security vacuum is not acceptable.”

So they want to depend on themselves, not the occupiers, and they won’t tolerate a security vacuum?

That’s awful.

Before we know it, the Iraqi people may actually be running Iraq. Then what? Well, besides complete victory, I mean. And US troops coming home by the boatload. Yet some are trying to spin this into another US defeat.

Of course, we can’t have just anyone with an AK-47 running around laying down the law. Especially since everyone in the country has two, and we’re buying more for them just in case.

At a news conference Thursday, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, said U.S. officials have yet to confirm the brigade’s reemergence but said the military would not tolerate any independent militias in a country increasingly beset by sectarian and ethnic tensions. “Americans are not turning a blind eye to any militias coming together in this country,” he said.

We don’t want challengers. We don’t want rival warlords assembling armies. We don’t want our guys trying to keep opposing bands of armed fighters seperated.

What we want are organized, motivated, and capable security forces that have the respect and blessing of the Iraqi people. These guys may fit the bill. Why don’t we work with them? As happy as many Iraqis are that we’re over there, the sight of US Marines or soldiers marching around can’t really instill any pride into their hearts. Why don’t we see if we can’t use the re-emergence of the Badr Brigade to everyone’s advantage? Let’s offer to train them, which is the type of things that US Special Forces are excellent at. Let’s offer to assist them set up permanent shop. Let’s buy them uniforms or something. Let’s include a Badr Brigade element in our patrols around Najaf. Not only could it ease tensions, but there would be real value in having Iraqi guys with ours as they interact with the populace. This is the sort of thing, if done right, that could become an Iraqi legend in the years to come.

It’s all a lot more complicated than I make it seem, of course. There are worrisome ties to worrisome groups in Iran. There is the potential for Shiite-Sunni confrontations if a lot of these armed groups get “deputized.” But I think that there is great potential here, and we would be loathe to waste it. And we would certainly score points with a lot of Iraqi citizens.

They certainly want the al-Qaeda types out of their country. What if, at some point in the future, Badr Brigade warriors battle alongside US soldiers against foreign fighters. That would win some hearts and minds.

And maybe the Badr Brigade could offer to protect French forces if they ever deploy under a UN mandate. Just a thought.