A great deal has been written about the strife in Iraq
between the various militias -- independent armies run by a
variety of different leaders, with a variety of different
agendas. This article will focus on one of the militias,
one of the best armed and arguably one of the most
The militia we want to analyze here has been prominently in
Iraq since the spring of 2003. It has caused widespread
destruction and loss of life in many of the cities in Sunni
territory. Its allies are few; only the Kurdish militias
can be said to have made common cause with the militia we
are discussing. This is probably because, uniquely, this
militia is not a Muslim force in any sense.
The members of this militia are, for the most part, very well
armed; they are, for instance, the only force in Iraq having
warplanes at their disposal. Its members are also subject to
very strict military discipline, so it is difficult to ascertain
what motivates them. Many are undoubtedly true believers in
their cause, but some observers claim to have detected signs of
discontent among the rank and file.
At present this militia, like others, is struggling for power in
Baghdad. The only neighborhood where it enjoys total dominance
is a small, heavily fortified region on the banks of the Tigris.
There are other fortified regions, mostly where the supply of
military aircraft are stored and launched from, scattered
throughout other parts of the country.
The leader or this militia is extremely reclusive, although his
name, place of residence, and tribal affiliation are well-known.
This leader appears often on media, uttering cryptic
pronouncements regarding the aims and goals of his militia.
These aims and goals have, however, changed over the years that
his militia has been involved in Iraq; and it is not clear that
new aims and goals will be not be pronounced to the world in
Given the power of this militia leader, and the surmise of many
that violence in Iraq could be lessened if this militia were lay
down its arms, or even withdraw, it is no wonder that a variety
of emissaries, from various polities and with various strategies,
have attempted to engage him in negotiations. So far, however,
none of these attempts have been successful.