Tuesday, June 12, 2007

American Military Money in Iraq

Yesterday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) announced the release of its annual yearbook on armaments, disarmament and international security. According to the SIPRI's report, “world military expenditure in 2006 was [worth] $1204 billion in current dollars, [which means a 3.5%] increase since 2005.” Obviously, the USA outranks every countries with its military spending of $528.7 billion meant for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the press conference, one interesting statement was made.

“It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives, if we talk about avoiding premature deaths and disability due to current dangers[,]” said Elisabeth Sköns, the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme Leader.

Of course, the statement of Sköns can be applied for the context in Iraq. Therefore, is the American government's financial management of the war in Iraq effective as a way to guarantee the security of Iraqi and American lives? Given the tensions that has characterized Iraq, the chasm between Sunnis and Shiites might get bigger.

According to an article published yesterday in the New York Times by John F. Burns and Alissa J. Rubin, the USA “has spent more than $15 billion in building up Iraq's army and police force, whose manpower of 350,000 is heavily Shiite.” Moreover, American military officers decided to provide Sunni Arab groups with weapons, ammunitions, money, supplies and fuel so that they ally themselves with the USA's troops against Al-Qaeda. Despite having ties with Al-Qaeda in the past, these Sunni Arab groups turned themselves against it because they disapprove Al-Qaeda's strategies, particularly suicide bombings that have killed a plethora of Iraqi civilians.

An American military official declared that the tactic certainly works. For example, the province of Anbar, the desert hinterland West of Baghdad, is no longer a dangerous area for the American troops, because insurgents of Al-Qaeda less and less attack them. Furthermore, these Sunni Arab groups are even willing to “[alert] American troops to the location of roadside bombs and other lethal booby traps.” (Burns and Rubins, 2007)

In short, while the number of suicide bombings diminished in and around Baghdad, American military officers also thought about using the tactic called the “Anbar model” in areas mostly inhabited by Sunni Arab groups such as the district of Amiriya along with the provinces of Babil (mostly inhabited by Shiites), Diyala and Salahuddin.

Ethnic map of Iraq
Nevertheless, this tactic evidently has a dark side. Indeed, the weapons and ammunitions provided by American troops to Sunni Arab groups can be used by the latter to attack Shiites. Needless to say that Sunni Arab groups perceived Shiites as Persians, which is a reference to the ties between Iraqi Shiites and their Iranian counterparts. That tells us that the relation between Sunnis and Shiites didn't thaw if we take in consideration the presence of Shiite militias in Iraq. Strange though it might sound, these Sunni Arab groups “show few signs of wanting to work with the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki.”

Many American officers who spoke their mind up against the “Anbar model” averred that the their colleagues are feeding both sides of an upcoming civil war by 1) arming Sunni Arab groups, 2) building up Iraq's army and police force (mostly made of Shiites) and 3) witnessing the existence of Shiite militias. Besides, with the decrease of American military manpower, any weapon given to Sunni Arab groups can possibly be used against Shiites or even American soldiers. Moreover, nothing guarantees us that American soldiers can have a good grip on Sunni Arab groups.

Finally, the tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites can hardly be erased. Many observers fear that Iraq will go through a war of sectarian domination between the Sunnis and the Shiites. In fact, Sheik Khalik al-Atiyah, the deputy Parliament speaker, “said in a recent interview that he would rule out any discussion of an amnesty for Sunni Arab insurgents, even those who commit to fighting [Al-Qaeda],” according to the New York Times. In short, sectarian rivalries are looming straight ahead in Iraq, because the American government never knew how to handle its unjustified military trip in Iraq.

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