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October 13, 2004

More on the Weapons Buyback

Having had a chance to do a small bit of reading on the issue of the Sadr City weapons buyback, there's basically good news and bad news. First, the bad news.

There's a good article on Turkish describing what's going on in Sadr City. Col. Abe Abrams, identified as US commander for the Badghdad slum, warns of Sadr splinter groups who do not support the peace deal. He repeatedly notes that with proper funding, the fighting will continue:

The Iraqi government weapons buyback has the benchmark of thousands upon thousands of arms turned in as the ultimate test of the Mehdi Army's intention, Abrams said.

The Iraqi police and national guard, backed by US forces, will conduct searches in Sadr City following the five-day buyback period which ends Friday.

"If they've turned in thousands of thousands of weapons, arms, ammunitions and explosives, the searches will not be as lengthy. But if we only get in 1,000 RPGs for instance... we've got a lot of work to do," he said.


"As long as they have a steady influx of money those guys can hire guys everyday (to fight). So they are a clear and present danger to the security situation in Iraq and right here in Baghdad."


"The faceless guy who put in the improvised explosive device he'll be hard to finger and get evidence on. But the guys issuing the orders, getting the resources, funneling the money... it will be a lot easier to get the evidence on those guys for their arrests."

Meanwhile, The Washington Post gives us this cost breakdown:
Payments for weapons handed over in Sadr City on Monday reportedly ranged from $5 for a hand grenade to $150 for an AK-47 to $2,000 for a highly specialized mortar. It appeared that both noncombatants and Mahdi Army insurgents were taking part in the buyback.

Abdulla Abu Ghassan, a bakery owner, received $1,200 after turning in a grenade launcher, an assault rifle and ammunition, all of which he said he had kept after serving in the now-disbanded Iraqi army.


At the Habibiya police station, the largest of the three designated sites, just three handovers were observed during a period of three hours, Reuters reported. They included a stash delivered by a Mahdi Army fighter who identified himself as Kamel Hussein. He received $14,500 for several rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars.

They handed nearly $15,000 in cash over to a Mahdi Army fighter, even though the US commander in the area cites continued funding as the primary vehicle for continued violence?

Ok, so thus ends the bad news, at least as far as this report goes.

The good news is that a) this is the most promising step towards a peaceful resolution to the Moqtada al Sadr situation and b) I can find no reports indicating that there is a flourishing foreign weapons trade into Iraq right now, though there are literally millions and millions of weapons flowing freely in the country following the collapse and disbanding of the Iraqi army.

My gut tells me that arms dealers are doing business in Iraq, as they are doing business in every conflict zone in the world, but I can't find any reference to such in the media. If there are foreign gun runners doing business in Iraq, that doesn't mean that al Sadr or his proxies are involved with them.

The problem with Iraq is that every few months, things seem to be improving, and then they completely fall apart. This is an optimistic moment in the occupation, but one that must be met with caution. On Friday, US and Iraqi troops will again be involved in street fighting in Sadr City. It doesn't end here, but I hope that some sort of positive outcome begins here.

Posted by shamanic at October 13, 2004 07:28 AM
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