Call For Iraqi Civilians To Take Up Arms: A New Surge? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Boiling Over

While the White House scrambles to maintain GOP support for the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqi politicians have apparently begun to draw their own doubtful conclusions about the latest Bush administration effort. Following the bloody weekend in which over 200 Iraqi's were killed, a number of prominent Iraqi politicians are calling for the arming of civilians in an effort to bring the security that has evaded the war torn country for well over four years.

The proposals to arm civilians reflected growing frustration over the inability of Iraqi forces to prevent attacks, while the string of bombings in the Iraqi capital showed that extremists can still unleash powerful strikes there despite the US security crackdown.

Abbas al-Bayati, a Shi'ite Turkman lawmaker, said yesterday that, in the absence of enough security forces, the Iraqi government should help residents "arm themselves" for their own protection.

The call to arms for civilians was echoed by the country's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al- Hashemi, who said "the people have no choice but to take up their own defense."

The idea of organizing communities to handle their own defense has been gaining support here after the success that Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar Province have had in driving Al Qaeda from their towns and villages.

Hashemi said the government should provide communities with money, weapons, and training and "regulate their use by rules of behavior."

"People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies protection for their lives, land, honor, and property," he said in a statement.

While these calls for Iraqi's to defend themselves and their neighborhoods suggests that the U.S. effort is once again inadequate, it may also be the first real indication that the Iraqi's have concluded that winning the peace will ultimately have to be a task of their own making.

Such an endeavor is undoubtedly rife with risk since providing weapons to citizens with little oversight could simply result in better armed sectarian groups which would further foment the violence. On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to criticize the realization on the part of Iraqi politicians that more of the same is not likely to achieve the hoped for results.

In many ways, this wave of self-determination may suggest that the Iraqi's are finally ready to tackle the long-standing conflicts that have served to pit members of one sectarian group against another. If nothing more, it may signal the emergence of what Joe Biden and several others have been suggesting for months...the need to first partition the country into three distinct and autonomous regions and then begin to develop a framework by which the various groups can create a functional national identity.

What is abundantly clear is that resolution will require more than a shift in U.S. must originate within the Iraqi people and be motivated by a desire to bring order to a nation plagued by chaos and a virtually endless civil war. One could argue that U.S. efforts have done little more than serve as a backdrop for, and a distraction from, the need to address the fundamental sectarian differences.

Further, our presence has likely promoted the influx of extremists intent on using Iraq to promote their radical agenda...which has simply added complexity to an already mind numbing dynamic. The conventional belief that our exit would exacerbate the violence may be fully flawed or at the very least overblown.

One might view it as akin to placing a lid on a boiling pot...the lid may seem prudent...but eventually the pressure builds and whatever is in the pot builds enough steam to spill over. At that point, removing the lid may be exactly what is needed. While the pot may still be boiling, the pressure is relieved...and if the temperature can then be managed...a position of stasis may be attainable.

One thing is certain; the U.S. effort to craft a palatable Iraq has left a bad taste in the mouths of its citizenry as well as the American voter. Maybe its time to remove the lid of U.S. occupation and hand over the keys to the kitchen to the Iraqi's and see if they have the will and the wherewithal to craft a country that the Iraqi people will be inclined to "serve".

Perhaps "hell's kitchen" is best watched from a distance? Who knows, the Iraqi's, when put in the primary position to perform, may design a recipe that surprises us all.

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Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2007 | 12:13 PM
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