Militias and insurgent groups are funded by four primary sources: the smuggling and resale of gasoline and fuel, kidnapping and extortion, other countries, and Iraq government payrolls. Regarding the fourth source of funding:
"...anti-American Shiite cleric and Mahdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr controls the ministries of agriculture, health, and transportation. Mr. Sadr puts his militia members on the payrolls of these ministries in a broad range of jobs, including as members of the Facilities Protection Service (FPS)."Given the fact that Maliki relies on the support of Moqtada al-Sadr to stay in power, it seems quite unlikely that he will cut funding to his militia. And yet lately Maliki has demonstrated that the Mahdi Army is not immune. Two weeks ago Iraqi security forces arrested 400 members of Al-Sadr's militia and detained a top aide to al-Sadr. Many have suggested that the 400 arrested were likely renegades not dear to al-Sadr and that the top aide was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time (he was not the main target of the raid), but either way it is a sign of progress.
Sunni insurgent group, on the other hand, receive much of their funding from reselling smuggled gasoline and diesel to several countries including Turkey and Jordan. The U.S. could really make a dent in this source of funding if it began pressuring the Turkish and Jordanian governments to secure their borders.
The question of funding coming in from other countries is one that also must be addressed. Some Shiite groups are receiving money from Iran, and there continue to be contributions made from Sunnis around the world and Baathist exiles to Sunni insurgent groups. An article today in The Australian discusses the economic pressure Saudi Arabia is putting on Iran, and the effects it will have on Iran's influence in funding Shiite militias. Along with UN sanctions on Iran and economic pressure being placed through the price of oil, the hope is that Tehran will no longer be able to fund Shiite militias in Iraq.
The current debate between Congress and the Bush Administration on the new strategic plan for Iraq should include dialog on steps the US can take to cut funding to militias. By doing this the US military, along with Iraqi military forces, will have a better chance in dismantling insurgent groups and preventing new ones from forming. If there is to be a sustainable peace in Iraq, the US should put pressure on the Iraqi government to take a stand against funding members of militias and having increased oversight over monies and what individuals or groups are benefiting from them. The steps that can be taken in reducing the influence of insurgent groups across Iraq, will also have the effect of creating greater accountability for the Iraqi government.