Tag Archives: Militias

Disarming Militias: from Iraq to Lebanon to the USA….

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FOR years, at least since 2003, United States officials, lawmakers, think tanks and media in general have been pushing the narrative that militias are destabilizing “other” countries, especially the Middle East. They have argued that only official armed forces and law enforcement should be armed, that parallel forces pose a danger to stability, and to regional peace. All this is true, apparently in most but not all cases.

THE focus has been on hostile unfriendly militias, like Iraqi Shi’a groups with ties to Iran, and Lebanese Hezbollah, which is better armed and motivated than the Lebanese army. In some countries, again especially in Iraq and Lebanon, the line between “the state” and the militias is actually blurred. In Iraq the militias are nominally aligned with the state military. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is allied to Iran but it is part of the Lebanese government, actually its strongest component. Actually close to a “king-maker”.

WHICH brings us to the USA. There probably are as many heavily-armed militia groups here as in any unstable Middle East country. Perhaps smaller units, but more of them. These American militias can and do march fully armed in the streets, intimidating the opposition.

IN the past four years these militias have enjoyed the blessing, often open support, of the ruling Republican regime. During the last (current) election cycle, they have been very active, threatening the safety of state-level officials who oppose President Trump’s policy (or lack of policy) toward the COVID pandemic. Michigan, for example. Some have hinted at disrupting the political process if their candidate, Donald Trump, loses the election. Mr. Trump himself has encouraged these groups to “stand back and stand by”, implying a threat if he loses.

NOW the outgoing president is pretending that he won, that he is now thwarted by plots. He is supported by right wing outlets like Fox News, shady quasi-Fascist organizations like Breitbart and shady web conspiracy disseminators like QAnon. And much of his captive party. The militias are preparing for a march on Washington, encouraged by Trump and his sons. Fully armed of course. Most Republicans in Washington, still terrified of their now-powerless president, are silent for now. All this sounds like Middle Eastern, African, and banana republic politics. It is.

SO, it is a small world after all, and not as diverse in its politics as we like to think and claim.


M.H. Ghuloum

Fog of War: Iraqi Militias, American Militias, Mercenary Militias……..

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Militias have suddenly retaken the center stage in media and in public official discussions of recent developments in Iraq. Apparently Shi’a ‘militias’ are now taking an important role in the Iraqi counteroffensive against the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, ISIS.

There is no denying that some of the Iraqi Shi’a militias can be as nasty as the other armed factions in Iraq. The experience of the mini-civil-war of 2006-2008 showed that. But they are in no way comparable to the Wahhabi cutthroats of Al Qaeda or ISIS, regardless of the nonsensical stuff Gen. Petraeus said recently. Yet there is now a bigger storm of foreign criticism of Iraqis hiring or allowing ‘militias’ to fight government battles. This is especially true in the United States.

Yet hiring and/or using private militias is a worldwide phenomenon in this era of war-for-profit. Apparently there is no stigma on hiring private militias if the militias are Westerners and those who hire them are Western governments. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been known and reported  to rely on private contractors (the Western equivalent of militias) in battle zones. We have read about the American millionaires that were made in Iraq. So, the complaints about Iraqis using militias when they have an army of 200 or 300 thousand sound hypocritical and hollow. The United States has a standing military of millions, yet there is increased dependence on contractors in military zones and even in protecting diplomats and high military officials (as reportedly happened in Iraq).

I shall not speak extensively here about those other hired foreign militias down the Persian Gulf. They are hired by the princes and potentates from humorless places like Jordan, often through the government and certainly with its approval, as well as from Pakistan and other distant lands. These are used to keep the people repressed in such places, and to conduct thorough and ‘enhanced interrogations’ of the restive ones among the native populations. So it can be irksome that princes and potentates who hire foreign mercenaries (essentially militias) to torment their own people complain about Iraqi militias.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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