Thursday, October 15, 2009
Ocean's Fourteen: A New Role for the New Iraqi Army
The New Iraqi Army, created in 2003 (and has since undergone many alterations, disbandings, reforms, etc), is charged with the mission of protecting Iraq from internal and external threats. However, the New Army is taking on another role, perhaps better suited to the chaps at Interpol: reclaiming stolen art and artifacts. According to Major General Abdul al-Zaidi, "the duty of Iraqi army is not only to chase the terrorists but also to protect state treasures." After the 2003 invasion, the National Museum of Baghdad was completely looted. The museum held thousands of valuable artifacts dating back to the Mesopotamian era (roughly 7 millennia ago). For any art and archaeology buff, this event was an absolute tragedy, though it was far down on the list of concerns of the Iraqi people.
This attitude has now turned. The Iraqi Army is on a hunt for these lost and stolen antiquities and those who seek to sell them on the black market. Antiquities dealing is a lucrative business since these artifacts are worth billions. Such pursuits may be on the decline, however, with the Army's apprehension of 3 men attempting to sell Sumerian antiquities to an undercover intelligence officer.
Perhaps this new role for the Iraqi Army is a good stepping stone, providing experience in intelligence and operations which could help them in future pursuits against terrorists. Art and antiquities dealers operate in a highly clandestine manner, much like terrorists; an acumen in seeking out off-the-radar operations may prove a vital skill in the future. Though amateur peddlers of ancient artifacts are usually less armed than terrorists or insurgents, you have to start somewhere.