More Good News, although some people will be unhappy.

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Doug, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. Doug
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    Doug Active Member

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    Relations Sour Between Shiites and Iraq Militia

    Full article

    BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 — In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.

    A prayer book for a neighborhood council member from Topchi who was killed on Sept. 26. Residents blame the Mahdi Army.
    The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.

    The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.

    In interviews, 10 Shiites from four neighborhoods in eastern and western Baghdad described a pattern in which militia members, looking for new sources of income, turned on Shiites.

    The pattern appears less frequently in neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shiites are still struggling for territory. Sadr City, the largest Shiite neighborhood, where the Mahdi Army’s face is more political than military, has largely escaped the wave of criminality.

    Among the people killed in the neighborhood of Topchi over the past two months, residents said, were the owner of an electrical shop, a sweets seller, a rich man, three women, two local council members, and two children, ages 9 and 11.

    It was a disparate group with one thing in common: All were Shiites killed by Shiites. Residents blamed the Mahdi Army, which controls the neighborhood.

    “Everyone knew who the killers were,” said a mother from Topchi, whose neighbor, a Shiite woman, was one of the victims. “I’m Shiite, and I pray to God that he will punish them.”

    The feeling was the same in other neighborhoods.

    “We thought they were soldiers defending the Shiites,” said Sayeed Sabah, a Shiite who runs a charity in the western neighborhood of Huriya. “But now we see they are youngster-killers, no more than that. People want to get rid of them.”

    While the Mahdi militia still controls most Shiite neighborhoods, early evidence that Shiites are starting to oppose some parts of the militia is surfacing on American bases. Shiite sheiks, the militia’s traditional base, are beginning to contact Americans, much as Sunni tribes reached out early this year, refocusing one entire front of the war, officials said, and the number of accurate tips flowing into American bases has soared.

    Shiites are “participating like they never have before,” said Maj. Mark Brady, of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad Reconciliation and Engagement Cell, which works with tribes.

    “Something has got to be not right if they are going to risk calling a tips hot line or approaching a J.S.S.,” he said, referring to the Joint Security Stations, the American neighborhood mini-bases set up after the troop increase this year.

    “Everything is changing,” said Ali, a businessman in the heavily Shiite neighborhood of Ur, in eastern Baghdad, who, like most of those interviewed, did not want his full name used for fear of being attacked. “Now in our area for the first time everyone say, ‘To hell with Mahdi Army.’

    “Not loudly on the street, but between friends, between families. Every man, every woman, say that.”

    The street militia of today bears little resemblance to the Mahdi Army of 2004, when Shiites following a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, battled American soldiers in a burst of Shiite self-assertion. Then, fighters doubled as neighborhood helpers, bringing cooking gas and other necessities to needy families.

    Now, three years later, many members have left violence behind, taking jobs in local and national government, while others have plunged into crime, dealing in cars and houses taken from dead or displaced victims of both sects.

    Even the demographics have changed. Now, street fighters tend to be young teenagers from errant families, in part the result of American military success. Last fall, the military began an aggressive campaign of arresting senior commanders, leaving behind a power vacuum and directionless junior members.

    “Now it’s young guys — no religion, no red lines,” said Abbas, 40, a Shiite car parts dealer in Ameen, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Abbas’s 22-year-old cousin, Ratib, was shot in the mouth this spring after insulting Mahdi militia members.

    “People hate them,” Abbas said. “They want them to disappear from their lives.”

    One of the most notorious killers in Topchi, who residents say was a Mahdi Army fighter, Haidar Rahim, was born in 1989. On a hot August afternoon, he and two accomplices shot and killed a woman named Eman, a divorced mother, in front of her house, residents said. The fighters said she was a prostitute, but shortly after her death they brought tenants to rent her house.

    “They are kids with guns, who have cars and money,” said Eman’s neighbor, referring to the fighters. “Being kids, they are tempted by all of this.”

    Residents’ fear was so great that Eman’s body lay untouched in a pool of blood for more than an hour, until the Iraqi authorities took it away, said the neighbor. She watched Eman’s 8-year-old son crying next to his mother’s body.

    “They are bloodthirsty,” said a man whose father, a neighborhood council member from Topchi, was killed on Sept. 26. “They can kill an entire family for a $10 mobile phone scratch card.”

    Mr. Rahim was killed a month later. His young face is emblazoned on a memorial sign, planted near a giant wheel of rotisserie chicken in Topchi. Some said Americans killed him. Others said Iraqis.

    A spokesman for the Sadr office in Shuala, the large Shiite neighborhood north of Topchi, said that he had no information on the killings, but that any illegal actions were the work of criminals who merely called themselves Mahdi Army members.

    “The claims of membership in the Mahdi Army are huge at this time,” said the spokesman, who goes by Abu Jafar. “The Sadr office is not responsible for anyone who terrorizes the people, Sunnis or Shiites.”

    Patterns of violence are different in the Shiite south, where competing Shiite militias with political ties are vying for power.

    The militia in Baghdad, always loosely organized, swelled with recruits after a bombing of a Shiite shrine in February 2006. The change disrupted the organization and injected it with angry young men, some with criminal pasts, who were thirsty for revenge.

    Criminals began to give the organization a bad name. The price for used cars plummeted as militiamen sold vehicles that had belonged to their dead victims. A Sadr City sheik issued a religious edict permitting the confiscation of the property of Sunni militants who see Shiites as heretics. But many took it as a blank check to seize property, as long as the victim was Sunni.

    A 36-year-old Mahdi Army leader from western Baghdad described a system in which victims’ cars were shipped to northern Iraq in convoys of Kurdish soldiers returning from military leave. New documents were drawn up there.

    For Yasir, 35, a former member of the militia who had witnessed its breakdown firsthand, a final blow came when his cousin, a wealthy businessman, was kidnapped by young Mahdi members from the neighborhood. He was later killed.

    “Don’t call it the Mahdi Army,” Yasir said. “It was the Mahdi Army when people in it had a conscience.”

    In a last-ditch effort to re-establish control and respect, Mr. Sadr issued an order halting all Mahdi Army activity in August.

    Abu Jafar, the spokesman, said that “the goal of this statement is to uncover the bad people that claim membership in the Mahdi Army and to let the security forces deal with them.”

    While the turbulence continued in Topchi, a frontier neighborhood where local militia members are poorer, much of the activity stopped in Sadr City, the base for the most senior leaders, who have grown wealthy and are established politically, residents said.

    “At first, we couldn’t drive our cars, we couldn’t walk because they have weapons, AK, pistols on the street,” said Ali, the Ur businessman. “Now they disappeared. There is nothing. You can’t see anything from these people.”

    Like many Shiites, Abbas, the car parts dealer, attributes part of the drop-off to a new precision in American arrests, fed by tips from Shiite residents. Abbas said he and his friends had a name for the Americans, the Janet Brothers, a tongue-in-cheek term of tribal respect that plays off an American name. Another name, Madonna Brothers, refers to the American pop star.

    American commanders like Lt. Col. David Oclander, of the Second Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose area includes Sadr City and other Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, have seized on that cooperation. In the past month and a half, he said, Shiite leaders have begun to make contact with the Americans. The brigade is now working with 25 sheiks in the Shiite neighborhoods of Shaab and Ur and is interviewing up to 1,200 candidates for semiofficial neighborhood guard positions.

    The lieutenant colonel compares the shift among the Shiites to the one in Sunni neighborhoods that began to turn against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is foreign led.

    In some cases, residents seem more willing to stand up to the Mahdi Army. In Topchi, several businessmen refused to pay protection money to Mahdi Army members this month. The news spread through the neighborhood. Four months ago, a truck driver was killed in Lieutenant Colonel Oclander’s sector, after the driver’s boss refused to pay protection money. Such retribution is much rarer now, he said.

    Ali, the Ur businessman, said he expected the Mahdi Army to be much smaller in the future. People simply do not believe its leaders anymore. “There is no ideology among them anymore,” he said.

    As proof, he told a story from his neighborhood about a religious man and a car acquisition.

    “He was a poor man, but now he has a Mercedes-Benz,” Ali said. “The Prophet Muhammad, he didn’t even have a horse.”
     
  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Doug, the positives are pouring out now, though the msm does it's best to either not report or report with lots of warnings about what may happen down the road. Funny they didn't do the same when reporting escalations, just when things start looking like they are improving.
     
  3. Doug
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    Doug Active Member

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    Kathianne: Well, the fact is, as many classic psychology experiments have demonstrated, we see what we want to see and expect to see.

    It would be more than human, I suppose, for people who have been predicting disaster in Iraq for four years, and who have had plenty of evidence that they were right, to be able to change their minds now. I'll admit to being swayed back and forth between joy and despair a couple of times myself.

    Plus, they equate disaster for America in Iraq with disaster for conservatism in America, and vice versa. So their views are understandable.

    I believe that if things start to go well in Iraq -- which is by no means guaranteed -- that conservatives should be very, very careful about not falling into some sort of triumphalism. We want to give that section of the liberal movement who are not pathologically anti-American, a way out -- we want to encourage them to share in the triumph of democracy and liberal values, etc. We want to do everything we can to rebuild the kind of bi-partisan consensus we had with liberals in the 1950s.

    So --- if there are Iraq Victory Parties some day -- knock on wood!!! -- be kind and invite your favorite liberal and let him pretend he was part of the effort. Okay, politics is a dirty game but we must all do our duty.
     
  4. DeadCanDance
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    DeadCanDance Senior Member

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    In the ebb and flow of violence in Iraq, its always good when there's fewer deaths. I didn't want us to go into iraq in the first place, remember? There would be no civil war without your president.

    In the broader context, what have we accomplishes? 5 years later, a trillion dollars down the toilet, 30,000 dead and wounded american soldiers, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and what do you have to show for that incredible sacrifice?: A splintered nation, split almost hopelessly along sectarian lines, infiltrated by militia groups, a thousand different political and military interests jockeying for control. A nation that will NEVER be a jeffersonian democracy, or even a true reliable US ally, in our lifetime. A nation that will take decades to heal from the bloodshed you and your president unleashed.

    Bush supporters enabled all this nightmare to occur. Rather than high-fiving each other about the "good news", I'd be on my knees praying that when I meet my maker, he doesn't cast me down to the lowest circles of hell.
     
  5. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    Well you should be down on your knees for even SUGGESTING anyone should have voted for either moron the Democrats presented in the past two elections, and for the two they're trying to perpetrate on the American public now.
     
  6. Doug
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    Doug Active Member

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    Will Iraq ever be a Jeffersonian Democracy, or a true reliable US ally?

    I doubt it very much. I know of no Jeffersonian democracies today, and I don't think we were one even in Jefferson's time.

    But can Iraq become, in the next few years, a basically democratic country? As democratic as, say, Northern Ireland is today? Or South Korea? Maybe not, but I don't think it's a completely crazy idea.

    And as for being a reliable US ally ... that's not so important. In fact, I believe we are where we are today because in the past we concentrated on getting reliable allies and didn't appear to care very much if they were democratic. This has cost us dearly in countries like Iran, where the deep currents of pro-American opinion have to push against the popular knowledge of our role in destroying what was for them, a democratic government in 1953.

    But if a country is a democracy, it doesn't matter so much whether or not it is a reliable ally. France is not a reliable ally, but it is a democratic country, which puts huge restraints on its ability to make mischief in the world.

    In fact, democracy, when it comes to the Middle East, is initially going to bring Islamists to power. Not the crazy head-hackers, but more moderate ones, such as rule Iran today.

    This will be an enormous step forward for us, if it happens.
     
  7. doniston
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    doniston Member

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    Kindly show me which of the Present republican candidates are any better.

    The fact is, this liberal is likely to vote for a republican but the only one of note I would vote for at this time, isn't running. (HAGEL) On the Dem side, the only one I would vote for is Richardson.
     
  8. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    Dude, DO try and keep up. Obviously President is better than either offering, and I as soon see Bush or Bill Clinton do a 3rd run than have either of the two front-runners for the Dems now.
     
  9. trobinett
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    trobinett Senior Member

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    Aww, but GunnyL, lala land is SUCH a sweet retreat..........:eusa_whistle:
     
  10. Toro
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    Toro Diamond Member

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    Iraqis are now starting to turn on al-Qaeda in a serious way. Blowing up car bombs near mosques tends to do that.
     

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