The Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki takes support where it can get it. Over 160,000 U.S. troops guarantee its existence. It's cultivating an ever-closer bond with its fellow Shiites in Iran. But Italian criminals have to rank as rather unexpected allies.
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The Iraqi government, a very shady Iraqi company and a group of Italian arms smugglers found a potent business opportunity in Iraq's black market for weapons, according to Italian investigators cited by the Associated Press. And that's a thriving trade. Just last week, a Government Accountability Office report found that the U.S. military's training command in Iraq couldn't account for 190,000 pistols and AK-47s sent to the Iraqi army and police in 2004 and 2005. Those guns, in all likelihood, made their way from the Iraqi security forces to the thriving black market in weaponry, where they're sure to be joined by many more: Iraqi soldiers are set to receive 100,000 M-16s and M-4s from the U.S., making their old AK-47s a new source of quick cash.
Enter the Interior Ministry, by far the most powerful bureaucracy in Iraq, and one that exists as an instrument of Shiite power.