The National reported on Saturday that the Iraqi government has started to absorb former Mahdi militiamen into its ranks. According to the article, the Iraqi government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, has worked to integrates former members of the militia, whose members form the paramilitary wing of the Sadrist movement. Currently, the Sadrist political bloc is aligned with Maliki’s State of Law coalition and gave the PM the edge in last years closely contested elections.
The National reports that:
An arrangement with the government designed to entice the Sadrists to abandon militancy may already be unfolding, according to Iraqi media reports. Hundreds of Mahdi Army fighters have joined security services, some at high ranks, even though they are less qualified than other applicants, the reports say.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two Iraqi government civil servants with knowledge of recruitment practices confirmed that such a deal had been struck. They said government staff had been told to approve job applications submitted by former Mahdi Army fighters, in preference to similar applications by ordinary Iraqis.
The militants “are being taken into the interior ministry, the defence ministry, the air force, the border guards, Baghdad operations command, everywhere,” said one of the officials.
Maliki may have come to this agreement as a way to curry favor with the Sadrists, who have been critical of him at times. For their part, the Sadrists may have also pushed the alleged agreement forward, in order to leverage for more influence within the government. Either way, the agreement would seem to be mutually beneficial to both in the short term.
For many Iraqis however, this is anything but good news. As the List Project has detailed in the past, the Mahdi army was complicit in many deaths and reprisal killings of Iraqis throughout the war, including a large number of Iraqis who had worked for the United States and were thus deemed “collaborators” and “agents of the occupation.”
According to the List Project’s sources in Iraq, the Mahdi army and its remnants are still very much a threat to these Iraqis. Moqtada al-Sadr himself has made it clear in many statements and speeches that there is no room in Iraq for Iraqis who worked with the United States. Today, reprisal killings still take place daily, and we have received many recent reports of our Iraqi clients hiding from what they say are groups of Mahdi Army men seeking them out.
If these Mahdi militiamen are integrated into the Iraqi security forces, it will put their already endangered lives even more at risk.
Iraq gives Mahdi militants preferential treatment – The National