Thursday, May 03, 2007
see us fly on wings of doom -- holy war!:
Why might Sunnis feel that security concerns are weighted against them? Eli Lake reports that the Iraqi Army is targeting only Sunnis, leaving the U.S. to fight the Mahdi Army. An adviser to the Baghdad Operations Command, Major Michael Philipak, explains that while the sectarian imbalance in targeting is troublesome, it boils down to an issue of intelligence collection:

"The intelligence agencies who are developing the targets … are Shia," the major said. "We have not detected they are sectarian or have an ulterior motive. Their sources generating the intelligence tend to be Shia, and they have a great deal of fear that targeting Shia militias will get them killed."

Perhaps, but -- as Eli points out -- Iraq has overlapping intelligence services, one controlled by the Shiites and the other controlled by the CIA and run by a Sunni ex-general named Muhammed Shahwani. As long as both exist, pressure will exist on each to embrace a stance of greater sectarianism as a check on the other's excesses.

Then there's the question of leaving the U.S. in the lead of going after the Mahdi Army. It's hard to know what Maliki's stance is here. It could be that he's forced into the position of directing or acquiescing to greater Sunni targeting as a way of mollifying his fellow Shiites. Or it could be that he's trying to distance himself from his own U.S.-dependent security plan. Alternatively, and somewhat less plausibly, he could know nothing about the operation. In any case, Maliki's relationship with the Sunnis is eroding rapidly. Sharm el-Sheikh should be a lot of fun.
--Spencer Ackerman