London, Asharq Al-Awsat – A prominent Iraqi Government official has asserted that “any member of the armed forces or security organs who rebels against his government and military authority will be punished. Iraqi and international laws stipulate this.”
The official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity denied that the Iraqi Government would take back the security elements which rebelled in Basra, did not carry out their duties, and surrendered to Al-Mahdi Army’s militias.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Government earlier this week to back down on its decision to expel hundreds of policemen and army soldiers from service for refusing to fight his Al-Mahdi Army.
However, the Iraqi Government official told Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Baghdad that “those who rebelled and failed in their military or security mission must be punished according to the laws of the Iraqi military establishment which is their authority. Their loyalty should be to it and to the Iraqi Government.” He hinted out that those “who weakened during the “Knights Assault” operation to impose law in Basra will be punished; otherwise the laws and security will have no place in Iraq after today.”
On his part, Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri underlined the “need for Al-Sadr Trend to disband Al-Mahdi Army if it wants to participate in the political process” and denied that “there is any Iraqi political entity or party which has an armed militia today apart from Al-Sadr Trend.” Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from his office in Baghdad, he added that “no political party has taken up arms against the state and government except Al-Mahdi Army and Al-Qaeda. Al–Sadr Trend must declare that it does not have any armed militia and say clearly if you arrest any person from the Trend carrying weapons illegally then arrest him. We did this and we reiterate it constantly and tell everyone if you suspect any Badr organization member of carrying a weapon illegally, then arrest him and we support applying the law against him.”
The leader of the Badr Organization, which was the military wing of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council before turning into an unarmed political organization, went on to say: “For the past five years, there has not been any party carrying weapons illegally except Al-Mahdi Army.” He asked: “Give me the name of any political entity or party that has taken up arms against the state today.” Referring to the Badr Organization elements, he said “some of them enlisted in the security forces in accordance with a government decision and others retired or turned to work in civilian establishments. We do not have any military force at all.”
On Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to refer the decision to disband Al-Mahdi Army he leads to the religious leadership, Al-Amiri said: “They did not consult the religious leadership when they formed Al-Mahdi Army. The leadership did not establish this army and has always underlined the importance of the weapons being in the government’s hands. This is a clear call to disband all the armed militias operating outside the law.” He pointed out that “disbanding Al-Mahdi Army does not mean punishing or arresting them but involving them in the political process as a party or political organization and not as an armed militia.” He explained that the “decision that a political entity would not participate in the elections if it did not announce clearly the disbanding of its armed militia is an old decision and not that of the Iraqi Government today and the constitution even underlined this.
Anyone who wants to join the political process must respect the laws and the constitution. It is not possible to participate in the political process on one hand and take up arms against the government and threaten the security and political process on the other.”
On his part, Fouad Masum, leader of the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi House of Representatives (parliament), asserted that the “Peshmerga forces mean the border guards and maintaining security in the region of Kurdistan” and pointed out that “a linguistic difference prevents some from understanding the meaning. We call the police (police), the security (sayish), and the region’s guards (Peshmerga), which are regular forces with their own units and have a ministry in the region’s cabinet.” Masum asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat: “We support the supremacy of the law and the building of a constitutional state.
We supported the Political Council’s decision to back the government’s ban on armed militias or the illegal carrying of weapons.”
But Ghufran al-Sa’idi, member of Al-Sadr Trend and House of Representatives, defended Al-Mahdi Army and considered it “an ideological army and not a militia.” She told “Asharq Al-Awsat” by telephone from her house in Sadr City east of Baghdad that Al-Mahdi Army “is an ideological army and its members do not receive salaries and their weapons are personal.” She added: “We will agree to disband it when the other parties’ militias are disbanded and when we agree on the concept of the militia.”