US Draft Law Causes Upset in Baghdad

“The US embassy is receiving a lot of complaints as part of a campaign organized by some Iraqi MPs,” said a local staffer at the embassy, speaking off the record.

A draft law has been submitted to the Iraqi Parliament by Shiite Muslim MPs, that could forbid outside powers to provide arms to anyone without asking Baghdad first. This saw Sunni Muslim and Kurdish MPS withdraw from the session, refusing to take part. Such withdrawals happened a lot during the regime led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who alienated almost anyone outside of his own party by the time he left power.

But notably, this is the first withdrawal of MPS from a session in almost a year. On the whole Parliament has been a more conciliatory affair lately. But it is also true that the Sunni and Kurdish MPs have already complained that Baghdad hasn't provided them enough support or arms in the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State.

Although US diplomats rushed to assure the Iraqi government that the legislation was only a draft and that their country had no intention of splitting Iraq up, the reaction was still intense.

Despite what appears to be an ill-considered attempt at meddling in Iraq's affairs by some US politicians, the central problem the US legislation addresses does need to be considered. When al-Abadi took on the Prime Ministership he declared his willingness to form a National Guard in Iraq. Such a force would effectively allow local people to form their own military units and police their own areas and was considered an antidote for the marginalization of Iraq's Sunnis and Kurds that seemed to be one of al-Maliki's central policies.

Two months after al-Abadi's government formed, the different parties in Parliament agreed that the National Guard should happen, with tens of thousands of members; around 70,000 from Iraq's Shiite-dominated provinces, 50,000 fighters from Sunni-dominated provinces and further additions from the Iraqi Kurdish forces. The plan was to have the National Guard armed and controlled by the Iraqi government, so that all of those currently fighting in, and being paid through, informal militias would be back under state control.

But that was months ago.

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