"On January 30, 2005, the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite political parties, won elections for the Iraq National Assembly. Ibrahim al-Jaafari became prime minister; Bayan Jabr, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) was named interior minister. The victors, particularly SCIRI, saw MOI as a prize. The Defense Ministry was under U.S. military control and American soldiers were embedded with Iraqi Army units. MOI had only a small number of foreign advisors and security forces that were largely under Iraqi control. Minister Jabr used his position to place members of the Badr Brigade (SCIRI’s militia) in key positions in the ministry and to replace Sunnis in the commando units with Badr Brigade militiaman. After the February 22, 2006 terrorist bombing of the Shiite al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, police commando units were used to terrorize, torture and kill Sunnis." US Institute of Peace, 2008.
In today's Middle East Diary post, COL Lang highlights reports of infiltration of the Iraqi Security Forces. That this should surprise any current US military or civilian official that was involved with Iraq, or those who have retired since their involvement, is somewhere between amazing and mindblowing. The news media, as well as blogs and websites that linked to or aggregated news media reports in regard to events in Iraq** during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and even US government agencies like the US Institute of Peace (USIP) and think tanks like CSIS, clearly indicated that a significant portion of the Iraqi Army were former Badr Corps members. Most of this coverage was from 2009 and earlier. The Badr Corps, now the Badr Organization, was the militia/military wing of the al Hakim's Supreme Islamic Council for Iraq (ISCI or SCIRI). It was stood up, funded, trained, and overseen by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and many of its members are still receiving Iranian pensions.
If US and coalition leaders are now indicating that they did not know this or did not understand this, then something is very, very wrong. Leave aside the cultural operations info papers and responses to requests for information that I did for my Brigade Combat Team, which were shared with our provincial reconstruction team (PRT - made up of State Department and Interagency personnel), this material was being regularly reported in the news media. If US leadership, military, civilian, on the ground in Iraq, back in DC, were not tracking on this than we have a HUGE problem. Either senior leaders' staffs were not doing their jobs, there was an intelligence failure, or some combination. Given that this stuff was being reported in the news media, I find either of the latter to be highly unlikely and the former somewhat improbable as the material would have made it into Commander's Update Briefings.
There were some good reasons to bring the Badr guys into the Iraqi Security Forces. Namely the same ones for bringing parts of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Awakenings/Sons of Iraq folks. Specifically to facilitate societal reconciliation and coalition building. That the Badr Corps and the Pesh were brought in and the Awakenings/Sons of Iraq largely locked out, shows exactly how far that reconciliation went, which was certainly not far enough. Instead the transition for the Awakenings/Sons of Iraq was short circuited in 2008 - same year the Iraqis rolled us on the provincial elections and the SOFA negotiations - by PM Maliki demanding and being granted control over the transition program for the Sons of Iraq.
* Adam L. Silverman is the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.
** This link transcribes Nir Rosen's Rolling Stone article entitled "The Myth of the Surge". For some reason the link to it at Rolling Stone is dead, so I've linked to Professor DeLong's trancription of it on his blog.