Iraq: June 10, 2004

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Renegade members of the al-Mahdi Army of Muqtada al Sadr attacked two police stations in Najaf. Five people were killed, including three policemen, and 27 wounded. Al Sadr claimed the attackers were renegades. Local residents reported that, since June 5th, when Iraqi police began patrolling Najaf again, some of the al Sadr militiamen resented the attempts by the police to control militia activities (which included petty crime). The militias apparently attacked the police to show who was really in control. American troops refused to intervene, because the truce with al Sadr calls for U.S. forces to stay out of Najaf. More importantly, the coalition forces are intent on getting the Iraqi police to deal with the militias. Too often, local militias will attack police stations to free militiamen who had been arrested, or simply to get the police to back off. Coalition military leaders have been telling the Iraqi interim  leadership that they have to be more forceful in using their police to maintain order, especially when local militias try to defy the police and do whatever they want. There have been many confrontations between militias and police that ended in the militias backing off. These incidents rarely make the news, even the local Iraqi media. But in places like Fallujah and Najaf, larger and more aggressive militias are not yet willing to recognize police control.

The coalition expects the Iraqi police to deal with more of the militia and terrorist violence after the interim government takes over on July 1st. The coalition has shown that they can defend themselves, for the militias and terrorists would rather kill foreigners than Iraqis. The coalition has built a communications and intelligence system in the country that gives the police access to coalition resources, and good information on hostile forces. But the Iraqi police have to do the fighting, and the coalition troops won't intervene unless the government formally asks for assistance. Iraqi government leaders would prefer to have coalition troops do the heavy fighting, but the coalition countries are not willing to risk their troops lives doing work the Iraqis should be doing. The coalition death toll in Iraq is now 936 (826 American and 110 other countries). Although this is a historic low for such an operation, that fact doesn't get reported. Each death is portrayed by mass media as a failure of coalition strategy, or a victory for Iraqi resistance to foreign domination. This is not likely to change, so the coalition has yet another reason to force the Iraqis to do their own fighting and dying.

 

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