Saturday, April 14, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's army seeks a few good Sunnis

Soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army Division in heavily Sunni Anbar province. The overwhelming majority of army forces are Shi'ites.

BAGHDAD - Hundreds of young Iraqi men stood on the street in their underwear outside a Baghdad army base.

The recruiting drive, overseen by the US military, was held for the first time in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah. The idea: balance the mostly Shiite makeup of the Iraqi Army, particularly in this area. It was also seen as a way to address the charges that Sunnis are being mistreated by Iraqi security forces.

But only 20 Adhamiyah Sunni natives showed up, of whom only 10 were accepted. The remainder of the 156 who enlisted were mostly Shiites from the impoverished districts of Sadr City and Shaab. They had been tipped off about the recruiting drive by relatives and friends in the Iraqi Army's 1st Battalion of the 6th Brigade, which is based in Adhamiyah but is about 80 percent Shiite.

Sunday's event underscores the challenges faced by US military trainers in attracting Sunnis to the security forces and keeping sectarianism out of one of the country's most critical institutions.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor