A few months ago, I was talking with an Iraqi friend of mine in the government about American pressure on Al Maliki to rein in Sadr’s Mahdi Army. We were discussing how it might be political suicide for him to do so, since he depended on Sadr for some of his political support and how it would probably be physical suicide, since government troops don’t have the firepower to take on the militias. My friend kept stressing to me that “the Americans won’t give us the weapons to get rid of these guys!”
Of course, concerns about American weapons ending up in the wrong hands are warranted, particularly since so much of the Ministry of the Interior has been infiltrated by the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigrade. But if the Iraqi government is ever going to be able to beat the militias politically, the state will have to have a monopoly on military force. And for this to be possible, it’ll need additional firepower.