Iraq’s military recruitment drive has intensified over the last few days. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday announced that all Iraqis should join the national army.
His word counts. He’s the highest Shia religious authority in the country and as such is the spiritual guide for millions of Shia in this country, but his statement was meant to include all Iraqis not just Shia.
On state TV, patriotic songs fill the space in between the news and cooking programmes. One song shows Iraqis of all ages join together on the steps of what looks like a mosque. They are each draped in the national flag while an orchestra plays a sweeping score underneath.
With each line they sing louder, lauding Iraq and Iraqis. Another video sees a unit of the Iraqi military stand menacing in the background while a slightly uncomfortable, overweight singer dressed to the nines in battlefield gear sings the praises of Iraq’s army.
It all points to the further militarisation of Iraqi society. On Sunday the National Security Council hosted a press conference. One of the messages caught my ear: “If you have weapons at home, please bring them to the recruitment centre, there we will register you.”
‘Join and fight’
The official line is clear. Iraqis must join up and fight. However, there is concern that the call to arms is being manipulated for political and sectarian purposes.
Speaking to a foreign a diplomat here I got a sense that he was worried.