Iraqi police in Basra shed their uniforms, kept their rifles and switched sides
Abu Iman barely flinched when the Iraqi Government ordered his unit of special police to move against al-Mahdi Army fighters in Basra.
His response, while swift, was not what British and US military trainers who have spent the past five years schooling the Iraqi security forces would have hoped for. He and 15 of his comrades took off their uniforms, kept their government-issued rifles and went over to the other side without a second thought.
Such turncoats are the thread that could unravel the British Army’s policy in southern Iraq. The military hoped that local forces would be able to combat extremists and allow the Army to withdraw gradually from the battle-scarred and untamed oil city that has fallen under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists, oil smugglers and petty tribal warlords. But if the British taught the police to shoot straight, they failed to instil a sense of unwavering loyalty to the State.
I know all this intra-Shi’ite infighting is confusing, but thanks to Kevin Drum, we now have a handy cheat sheet so we know who’s shooting whom. Not that it matters. A clusterfuck is a clusterfuck.