November 18, 2004


In Mosul, Kurdish militia helps keep order (Thanassis Cambanis, November 18, 2004, Boston Globe)

Real power on Iraq's streets often lies in the hands of men like Sadi Ahmed Pire.

Iraqi police fled in the face of the insurgent offensive in Mosul that began last week, and only a handful of Iraqi Army troops stayed behind when their colleagues went to assist the US-led attack on Fallujah.

That's where Pire and his fighting force came in.

In name, Pire is a politician, head of the Mosul bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. In theory, the Kurdish peshmerga militia has been fully absorbed into the Iraqi National Guard.

In practice, however, in a society whose increasingly inadequate national institutions are dissolving under the pressure of a sustained insurgency, the Kurdish political parties and their peshmerga fighters have maintained tight discipline -- as well as loyalty to the American presence.

That makes Pire and his soldiers in Mosul an undeniable fact on the ground, part of the patchwork of locally powerful groups across Iraq that exercises control and provides security.

It is not the police or the governor appointed by Baghdad who really runs Mosul, but rather, a constellation of groups -- insurgents and Arab nationalists on the west bank of the Tigris River, Kurdish political parties and militia on the east bank, and Turkomen in pockets throughout the city.

This week, nearly 2,000 Kurdish reinforcements streamed down the mountain to Mosul from the Kurdish city of Erbil, some in Iraqi National Guard uniforms, some wearing the gray-wool baggy pants and vests of the peshmerga, and some in civilian clothes. Half of them fall under Pire's command, the rest under his counterpart from the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

This is why we should have left Iraq right after the war--we should be backing them up, not vice versa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 18, 2004 8:13 AM

No we wouldn't. If we'd bailed out, some gangster or other would have taken over.

By now, the same gangster might not still be in charge, but it would be a gangster.

Once the king is down, it's always a bareknuckle brawl to get the new king. Democrats (however defined) do not do well in such contests.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 18, 2004 8:49 PM

We could have had Chalabi and the Shi'ites up and running by Labor Day 2003 and the country evolving naturally towards democracy.

Posted by: oj at November 18, 2004 9:25 PM