New Iraqi Soldiers Revolt at Graduation Ceremony

From Scout:

iraqi soldiers revolt

(Jacob Silberberg/Pool/Reuters)

This does not seem all that reassuring.

From the May 1, Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes

HABBANIYAH, Iraq — The first all-Sunni class of Iraqi army trainees graduated from an American-run basic training course here Sunday, marking what U.S. military officials called a significant step in rebuilding the Iraqi security forces.

Some 978 men — including more than 800 from Fallujah — were sworn in as privates in the new Iraqi army, the first cadre of a planned 6,500 Sunni troops to be recruited from and trained in Anbar province.

SNIP

Bringing more of a sectarian balance to the Iraqi security forces has long been a goal of the American military command in Iraq. The Iraqi police — and to a lesser extent, the Iraqi army — is a Shiite-dominated force that many in Anbar accuse of heavy-handed tactics and abuse against Sunni residents. Thousands of Iraqi army troops already operate in Anbar, but their ranks are made up mostly of Shiites from Baghdad and other areas.

SNIP

After the ceremony, word spread through the new troops that they might not, in fact, be deployed in Fallujah, but in other, more violent areas of Anbar. Many of the new troops threw their hats in anger or ripped off their uniform shirts and waved them over their heads.

Then, as an Iraqi sergeant major tried to calm the troops, an unlikely figure grabbed the microphone. Gen. Sha’aban, commander of the Anbar province Iraqi police force, exhorted the soldiers not to give up. As a thousand men crouched and sat in front of him, he told them that they serve all of Iraq, that Iraqis from Basra, for instance, serve in Fallujah and vice versa.

After answering several minutes of questions posed by a representative chosen from among the new soldiers, it appeared Sha’aban had assuaged most of their concerns.

(all emphasis mine)

In addition to the obvious trouble that the new unit could barely get through graduation ceremonies without apparent open revolt, isn’t it more than a bit risky to train separate Sunni and Shite forces in a country hanging on the edge of civil war? Is it the only best option given this mess? Perhaps 6500 is just a token force but I do hope a year or 2 from now we don’t look back with even more regret, in having trained up sides, than we do in having disbanded the Iraqi Army in the first place.