Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Baathist Revival?

The Iraqi government has recently asked many former junior officers from Saddam Hussein’s army to return to the ranks. After Saddam’s regime was toppled the US purged the army of Baathist elements. However, this was seen as a mistake by many. Although many Shi’ites, include Chalabi, encouraged this measure, the loss of so many experienced officers meant the Iraqi armed forces had to be developed from scrap.

The question still remains whether this is a good idea. On one side having experienced officers would without a doubt improve the effectiveness of the Iraqi Armed Forces. This move may be a political ploy from the Shi’ite majority government to reach out to the Sunnis before the elections in December. However, a political ploy or not, this A balance should be struck between the factions in the armed forces so that no one group will have a preponderance in the military. However, despite possible reservations from some Shi’ite and Kurdish groups, getting Sunnis involved in the government and the army is critical.

The last question revolves around giving incentives for many of these former officers to rejoin the army. Many of these officers have spent the last 2 plus years fighting against the Americans in Iraq, and now they are expected to switch sides. On one hand, the return of the junior officers should enhance the army’s ability to provide security and therefore could expedite the removal of US troops. However, if these officers are unwilling to come back and fight with the Americans then the US will probably be involved in Iraq for a longer period of time.

So then, I ask, what is the best way to recruit these officers back into the army? Or, have I overstated the value of these officers both politically and militarily? Do we really need them and are there viable reasons why these officers should not be involved in Iraq’s new army like Chalabi argued?

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