Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Iraqi's discover need to read fine print in enlistment papers

No matter which version you decide is closer to the truth, the US who is downplaying the incident or the al-Jazeera one, this is just one more stumbling block to creating a large enough security force to enable the US to leave.

As reported in the above Washington Post article:

The graduation of nearly 1,000 new Iraqi army soldiers in restive Anbar province took a disorderly turn Sunday when dozens of the men declared that they would refuse to serve outside their home areas, according to U.S. and Iraqi military authorities.

The protest was triggered by an announcement that the new soldiers, all residents of Anbar province -- widely considered the heartland of Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgent movement -- would be required to serve outside their home towns and outside the province as well.

The men claim they were promised that they would serve in their own province....

A mediator, Brig. Salah Khalil al-Ani, said the soldiers were angry because they believed they would be assigned to serve in their province and home towns according to an agreement worked out by tribal and religious leaders in Anbar with Defense Ministry officers.

But (Lt. Col. Michael Negard, spokesman for the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq) said the soldiers knew what they were getting into when they enlisted. "They're recruited for national service, and they know this," he said. "They're prepared from the beginning to serve where the needs of the Iraqi army go."

That seems to be up for dispute, and it doesn't sound like all of them are prepared from the beginning to serve outside of their province....

"We had volunteered to serve our cities and communities, particularly our families in Ramadi and Fallujah, who have been mistreated by the present soldiers of the Iraqi army, who come in large part from Shiite areas," said one of the recruits, Ahmad Mahmoud Azzawi. "If they disperse us to Shiite and Kurdish areas, we will not go. Frankly, we would much rather go back to our land, to plant and reap our produce, than to serve others.

That points out one of the problems in Iraq, the Shia versus Sunni division that realistically is not going to be solved by sending Sunni into Shia regions. They may want a "diverse" Iraqi army but right now the problem is trust and situations like this don't help.