US to disarm Iraqi Shias

The United States occupation authority in Iraq may allow the Kurds in the north to keep their weapons, but force the Shia and other groups in the south to give up theirs.

    No more private weapons

    According to a New York Times report, the US has prepared a draft directive to this effect.

    The Shia leadership has not taken kindly to the US proposal. The largest shi'ite group headed by Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr Al-Hakim has informed US officials it does not support occupation  forces but it does not resist them either.

    The Shia leaders are believed to have told the occupying forces that they would prefer the US to direct all groups without exception, including the Kurds, to surrender their weapons.

    The new directive is expected to be issued before 1 June

    .



    Under this, "small arms may be possessed in homes." Such arms include rifles, shotguns, and pistols, but no automatic weapons. In order to carry such weapons outside homes, individuals or groups must have a "weapons authorization card.”

    The Kurds joined the US-led troops and fought the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein.  Recognising this, the draft states that “militias that assisted coalition forces who remain under the supervision of coalition forces" will be authorized "to possess automatic or heavy weapons."

    Kurds are different

    Lt Gen David McKiernan, commander of allied land forces in Iraq, told reporters that under the directive there would be no “militias” inside Iraq except for the Kurdish forces, or the “Peshmerga".

    The Peshmerga fought with coalition forces and their groups would continue to manage parts of the northern areas, he said.

    In addition to the armed Shia groups and the Kurdish ones, the Free Iraqi Forces of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) consists of armed elements. General McKiernan said Chalabi's group was being "demilitarized."

    Shia leaders oppose selective
    disarming of Iraqi groups

    INC forces received

    US training but its members were involved  in a gun battle with a rival group in Baghdad on Thursday night. 

    US forces raided Chalabi’s headquarters and arrested a few of his followers. Though they were released later, the US authority decided to disarm the group.

    The US authority is wary of armed Shia groups, like the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade. The Brigade is under the command of Ayatollah Hakim, who arrived in Iraq from exile in Iran earlier this month, the report said.

    The US, which has demanded that Iran desist from “interfering” in Iraq’s internal situation, hopes to reduce Tehran’s influence by disarming groups loyal to it.


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