Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraqi Policy Report: U.S. should concentrate crackdown on Sunnis, leave Shiites alone

BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 -- Iraqi and U.S. forces should not launch a military offensive against the militias -- most of them Shiite -- that are a major source of turmoil in Iraq, but should instead rely on nonviolent steps to bring militiamen into the political fold, according to an Iraqi report that draws largely on the views of prominent Shiite politicians.

"In the short-term at least, there can be no military offensive against the militias. Military confrontation, in the current climate, will only strengthen their appeal and swell their ranks," the Baghdad Institute for Public Policy Research concludes.

The institute said the 18-page report, "Dismantling Iraq's Militias," was based on a round-table discussion by six Shiite politicians, two Kurds and a Sunni Arab. Government officials said Thursday it would be considered in setting policy, but some here saw it as reflecting the private thinking of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as more U.S. troops arrive to try to end the violence.

Maliki has publicly declared that the joint effort will target all lawbreakers equally, regardless of sectarian affiliation. But late last year, his advisers said the prime minister was urging the Americans to combat Sunni groups while Iraqi forces focused on Shiite militias.

"The tense situation between the Mahdi Army militia and the U.S. military means that it would be unwise for multinational forces to go into Shia strongholds at this stage," the report says. The Mahdi Army is led by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a key Maliki supporter.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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