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May 8, 2005

Shi'a vs Sunni in Ramadi

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

A very interesting storyr via Jihad Watch on the rise of militias in Iraq from the Washington Post, "To the Dismay of Local Sunnis, Shiites Arrive to Police Ramadi"

RAMADI, Iraq - At a checkpoint on a bridge into this volatile Sunni Muslim city, an Iraqi platoon frisked a row of men and rummaged through their cars and trucks for explosives. The men scowled silently, making the soldiers uneasy.

"Of course they don't like us," said one of the soldiers, Anwar Abas, whose unit is overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim. "They don't like people from the south, so when we search them, they make faces at us." Abas and his fellow soldiers were recruited from tribes in the cities of Najaf and Diwaniyah, both more than 100 miles to the south.

Watching nearby, an out-of-work Ramadi policeman chafed at the sight of outside Iraqi forces. "Ramadi people need to be at the checkpoint," he said. "We need to control the city, not have someone from the south come do it."

But Ramadi has no functioning local security force. Fearful of or complicit with insurgents, it disbanded before January's national elections and now consists of a handful of traffic officers. As a result, hundreds of predominantly Shiite forces -- including ad hoc militia groups such as the Defenders of Baghdad -- are flowing into Ramadi as part of the latest strategy by Iraq's central government and the U.S. military to stem insurgent violence here...

Yet by pitting Iraqis from different religious sects, ethnic groups and tribes against each other, the strategy also aggravates the underlying fault lines of Iraqi society, heightening the prospect of civil strife, U.S. military analysts said...

U.S. officers say the surge in such external forces is needed to counter the insurgency's immediate grip on Ramadi, the capital of restive Anbar province in the Sunni Triangle, 60 miles west of Baghdad. It is one of Iraq's most dangerous cities, rocked daily by explosions. The city of 400,000 has lacked a functioning local security force since last winter, when the police and Iraqi National Guard disbanded wholesale as insurgents blew up all but one of Ramadi's police stations, the mayor's office and other government buildings...

"You get a Shiite outsider shooting a local policeman, and with a big incident like that, you can see the whole city rising up," said Capt. Bart Nagle, an intelligence officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Ramadi. "This is the new dynamic, the new stage. I don't expect a quiet summer."

Adding to the volatility in Ramadi is the parochial bent of the Iraqi militia arriving in the city, part of a nationwide phenomenon in which tribes, religious sects and political parties are recruiting armed forces more loyal to their group than to the ideal of an impartial Iraqi military, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

"All these units came out of the woodwork after the elections" on Jan. 30, said Col. Edward Cardon, whose 3rd Infantry Division brigade is stationed in central Baghdad. "This is sort of a militia society."...

Per Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, "You can say that again..."

Posted by Hyscience at May 8, 2005 7:18 PM

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