There has been a lot in the news, lately, about the cash-for-weapons exchange program going on in Iraq. This sort of "gun buy-back" program has been used in cities in the United States before, and, as we well know, there are no more guns in American cities. Likewise, while the U.S. goverment seems to be happily touting the success of its new program in Iraq, there are reports coming out that it's not really working the way we might like.
"We have taken our precautions," sheik Mussa al-Sari, a local militia commander, said. "Our plan is to maintain our strength."
Furthermore, sources close to the militia in Sadr City said some of the gunmen were handing over weapons that are not properly functioning or were considered surplus. In some cases, they threw in one or two pieces in pristine condition to make the process look genuine.
Cash could be used to buy new weapons, the sources said on condition of anonymity. The process also doesn't require those surrendering weapons to prove al-Mahdi Army membership, meaning ordinary Iraqis were able to trade guns for cash.
On Tuesday, a woman in a black cloak, or abaya, turned in what looked like an antique rifle.
"It's extremely unlikely that al-Sadr's fighters will surrender all their medium and heavy weapons, and, given the widespread availability of military equipment in Iraq, they will be able to easily replace anything they give up, especially as they are receiving money in exchange for weapons," said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East editor for Jane's Sentinel Security Assessments in London. "The Mahdi Army's disarmament is something of a mirage."
Something of a mirage, huh? There have been so many mirages in Iraq in the past couple of years that I'm starting to wonder if the place even exists.
Article cited by Hamza Hendawi of The Associated Press appeared in Albuquerque Tribune Online