U.S. Warns Iraq It Won’t Support Sectarian Goals

Sabrina Tavernise and Robert F. Worth report that the United States has warned Iraqi leaders that, if they use government to force religious agendas, it will be without U.S. money.

The American ambassador to Iraq issued an unusually strong warning on Monday about the need for Iraq’s political factions to come together, hinting for the first time that the United States would not be willing to support crucial public institutions plagued by sectarian agendas. “The United States is investing billions of dollars” in Iraq’s police and army, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. “We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian.”

Mr. Khalilzad spoke at a news conference on a day of fresh violence across Iraq. It was the bloodiest day in almost two months. He was addressing allegations that Shiite death squads operate within the Interior Ministry. Such reports have grown in recent months, with accounts of hundreds of Sunni men being rounded up by men in police uniforms and found dead days or weeks later. The deaths have infuriated the Sunni Arabs, whose radical fringe leads the insurgency here, and have sharpened their distrust of the Shiite-led government that swept into power last spring.

[…]

American officials have long argued that new cabinet ministers should place the interests of their country over those of their sects. But by linking American financing to a fair, nonpartisan army and police force, even if not intended as a direct threat, Mr. Khalilzad pressed the American position more forcefully and publicly than before.

[…]

The violence came amid signs of serious disagreement over the shape of the government. The new Parliament is required by law to meet for the first time on Saturday, and Mr. Khalilzad’s remarks seemed calculated to put pressure on Iraqis to overcome their differences. He has sharply criticized Interior Ministry abuses in the past, echoing Sunni concerns about the ministry’s failure to stop the killings. He amplified those concerns on Monday, urging the leaders to appoint interior and defense ministers who are “nonsectarian, broadly accepted and not tied to militias.” If Iraq cannot control the sectarian agendas within its government, Mr. Khalilzad said, it “faces the risk of warlordism that Afghanistan went through for a period.” Mr. Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan and served as an American envoy there before coming to Iraq last year.

Of course, government-sponsored death squads are problematic, to say the least, even if they are non-sectarian.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. LeftwingConservative says:

    So Faith Based government only counts when the money is going toward politicallly correct religions?

  2. McGehee says:

    So Faith Based government only counts when the money is going toward politicallly correct religions?

    If by “politically correct” you mean religions that don’t encourage people to strap bombs to their bodies and walk into pizza parlors full of innocent people who just happen to belong to the “wrong” faith, you know what? I don’t have a problem with that distinction.

  3. Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    If by “politically correct” you mean religions that don’t encourage people to strap bombs to their bodies and walk into pizza parlors full of innocent people who just happen to belong to the “wrong” faith, you know what? I don’t have a problem with that distinction.

    Well, they support religions that encourage people to kill doctors, deny science, handle snakes and deny medical care to children.

    Or perhaps both comments are just a liiiiiiiittle too broad…

  4. tubino says:

    Of course, government-sponsored death squads are problematic, to say the least, even if they are non-sectarian.

    I still get a lot of heat from folks when I point out that the US (Reagan admin) supported death squads in El Salvador.

    And I still get a lot of heat from folks when I point out that the Bush admin is reported to have considered supporting death squads in Iraq as a strategy, based on its effectiveness in El Salvador. And that support may be happening now, surreptitiously.

    We know that innocent people are kept in Gitmo, are tortured, and have no legal recourse or representation. You got used to that. In time you’ll learn to support our death squads too.

  5. john ryan says:

    the occupation is not going well, even the troops no longer want to be there according to the latest and actually first Zogby poll. Iraq has been a huge setback for American interests. http://www.nbc4.com/news/7541767/detail.html