With the new Security Council resolution the UN is now able to begin the long process of seeking an effective means of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating the many illegal armed groups in Iraq. There was a small high level one-day workshop earlier in the year where the UN and MNF-I came together to discuss what each was doing and what was the way forward. Last month there was a meeting in Denmark where potential donors interested in funding DDR and other reconciliation activities in Iraq gathered with the GoI and brainstormed some ideas. Interest in funding an advisory group of professional DDR experts to assist the GoI was high.

The UN feels that it has to pick and choose the issues that it will work on as it doesnít have the people or the funding to do everything that it would like to do, and they donít want to upset their number one donor in Iraq, so a UN DDR effort may be an especially welcomed activity at this time.

The biggest issue now is how can the GoI implement a DDR like activity focused on the Mahdi Army when MNF-I is expanding the number of armed groups it is supporting (not arming) most of which are outside GoI control. Many of the neighborhood watch members are not fit or smart enough to join the ISF, and frankly most are not interested in serious soldiering or policing - they just want to defend their own neighborhoods and tribes from outsiders. The UN knows that finding the right program that works should be a component of a broader reconciliation strategy with all sectors of the community having a say in the DDR process. It wonít be easy, but DDR is never easy wherever itís been attempted. Recent media reports seem to indicate that the regular people are starting to get fed up with the militias and thatís a step in the right direction.

The MNF-I now have JTERP and various work programs that are actually well thought out and funded, but itís hard for them to understand that as a participant in an armed conflict it will be very difficult for them to be viewed as a viable implementer of any sustainable DDR like program. Insisting that the GoI simply take over their program after the US funding runs out is not a viable plan so I hope that the constructive dialog I participated in earlier in the year between MNF-I and the UN continues.