McClatchy: Iraqi army beset by infiltration, corruption, incompetence

Do you even need to ask who wrote it?

Lassetermania, baby:

Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they’d captured…

The shortcomings that Oliver and other U.S. soldiers observed in the Iraqi troops are at the heart of America’s dilemma in Iraq. If the country’s police officers and soldiers aren’t able to secure the capital, a U.S. withdrawal almost certainly would mean even more widespread carnage. Continuing to prop up the Iraqi forces, however, almost certainly would lead to more American casualties, but not necessarily to victory…

American forces usually keep the Iraqis in the dark about upcoming operations, said Helton, 27, of Richlands, Va. “We’re careful not to give them information before a raid. Who knows who they’re affiliated with or who they’re going to call?” he said.

There’s a smattering of vivid anecdotes at the link about the IA taking bribes to let jihadis go, watching cell phone porn during missions, and roughing up Sunnis who may or may not be insurgents. This makes three relentlessly despairing articles in a row for Lasseter: the first was the piece about Mahdi Army infiltration and the second was the one quoting U.S. troops as saying the surge is a lost cause. I’m going to e-mail Michael Yon and ask, first, whether he’s getting the same sense of endemic corruption from the IA where he is and, if not, what his opinion is of Lasseter. No one, including the Times and the AP, is so downbeat. Which could mean he’s the only one telling the unvarnished truth, although I’m skeptical.

Note this passage, too. The details sound familiar:

Staff Sgt. Isaac Hernandez, 30, of Brownsville, Texas, said that a group of Iraqi soldiers at a west Baghdad checkpoint recently found mortars in a car. “They beat the hell out of those guys,” said Hernandez, a 1st Cavalry Division trooper. “But before you talk about Iraqi army brutality, you should spend time at these IA (Iraqi army) checkpoints: They get snipers, small arms fire and car bombs.”

Meanwhile, the “Baghdad Institute for Public Policy Research” has issued a strategy paper based mainly on interviews with senior Shiite politicians, and wouldn’t you know it, they think it’d be a good idea to leave the Mahdi Army alone, at least in the short term. Quote: “Government officials said Thursday it would be considered in setting policy, but some here saw it as reflecting the private thinking of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as more U.S. troops arrive to try to end the violence.” And some Sunni jihadist groups have delivered their terms for a truce. Among the provisions are formal recognition of “the resistance,” repeal of the Iraqi constitution, and reformation of the Saddam-era Iraqi army.

No word yet from the White House.

The next flashpoint: Kirkuk, with Kurds battling Arabs as the Turks watch nervously from the sidelines.