The US helped to train and now equips the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). The forces are used by Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki to help him centralise power and repress opposing Sunni politicians.
Earlier last year, al-Maliki moved against his Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi, and laid a number of charges against him including that he directed death squads. He was eventually sentenced to death in absentia as he sought refuge in Turkey. Many think that the charges were politically motivated and the court is under the control of Maliki.
The pattern of cracking down on opposition Sunni politicians has continued, with a raid upon the home and offices of the finance minister, as reported recently in Digital Journal. Rafie al-Issawi was a prominent member of the Iraqiya political group. He claims that about 150 in total of his guards and staff had been arrested in the raid. While US authorities expressed concern about the raid, the US continues training and support for Maliki’s special forces.
Robert Tollast claims that Maliki “controls ISOF through the Counterterrorism Bureau, which has proved a useful tool for crushing dissent”, and is “implicated in the intimidation, arrest and even murder of Sunni politicians and opposition figures.” The US provides Iraq with a great deal of military aid and equipment. Even a year ago, there were alarms issued about the provision of arms:
The Obama administration is moving ahead with the sale of nearly $11 billion worth of arms and training for the Iraqi military despite concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite-dominated state and abandon the American-backed power-sharing government.
No doubt the US is worried about the possibility of Sunni Hussein loyalists gaining power within Iraq. However, US material support of Maliki’s repression actually fuels Sunni and Al Qaeda insurgency.
Tony Dodge, an Iraqi expert at the London School of Economics said:
“Maliki is heading towards an incredibly destructive dictatorship, and it looks to me as though the Obama administration is waving him across the finishing line. Meanwhile, the most likely outcomes, which are either dictatorship or civil war, would be catastrophic because Iraq sits between Iran and Syria.”
As Tollast points out, Maliki’s policies do not create security against terrorism, but rather produce recruits for their cause as more and more Sunnis see the Maliki government as illegitimate. Maliki has disenfranchised Sunnis and angered Kurds. Even Muqtada al Sadr a Shia leader has come out against Maliki and in support of those protesting his policies. Recently there have been numerous demonstrations against Maliki’s government as shown on the appended video.