US Draft Law Causes Upset in Baghdad

One of the main reasons for the lack of progress is the growing strength of the Shiite Muslim militias, which number anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 fighters. The power of the militias, which play an important part in the fight against the Islamic State, or IS, group, has been growing compared to the power of the Iraqi army or police.

“The Shiite militias became very arrogant after the liberation of Tikrit,” Nasser al-Dulaimi, a tribal leader from the Anbar province, much of which is currently controlled by the IS group, told NIQASH. “And they decided not to allow the National Guard to be formed so that they would remain the strongest in the country - even stronger than the army or the police. They  don't want to see a major Sunni power emerge,” he argues.

“The Shiite militias want to be able to liberate Sunni cities all by themselves,” says al-Dulaimi, who has met with a number of the militia leaders. “But this is something we cannot accept. We are very concerned that we will see the same kind of acts of revenge here as we saw in Tikrit. Anbar doesn't need fighters,” he concludes. “We need weapons.”

Most international analysts suggest that the draft US legislation is unlikely to be enacted. The New York Times reported on a statement issued to Iraqi news media in the country: “US policy toward Iraq has not changed. We support a unified Iraq. All of our military assistance and equipment deliveries are provided through the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces. ... US foreign policy is determined by the president,” it said, noting that the law was just a draft and a Republican one at that.

Even if the legislation did somehow make it into law, what it suggests doing would be extremely difficult, and maybe impossible, to achieve – especially because the US has no troops in action in Iraq outside of military bases where US soldiers are training their iraqi counterparts, or acting as advisers.

“The US could actually arm the Kurds directly,” local analyst Ahmed al-Allusi tells NIQASH. “Because the Kurdish region has been independent for years and has its own borders and airports. It could easily get weapons sent by the US. But the US would not be able to arm the country's Sunnis because Sunni cities and their inhabitants are not organized – in some cases they are divided.”

There would be no point in trying to repeat the success of the so-called Awakening movement in Iraq between 2006 and 2008. At that time the US military enlisted, and paid for, the support of Sunni tribes to defeat another extremist Sunni group, Al Qaeda. But back then the tribes were more unified and the US army was the most powerful military force in the country, with over 160,000 soldiers in the country in 2007.

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