New Ministry To Recruit Paramilitary Force In Iraq
- Washington Post
September 2, 2003
New Ministry To Recruit Paramilitary Force In Iraq
Interior Chief Envisions Using Former Special Forces Troops
By Daniel Williams, Washington Post Foreign Service
BAGHDAD, Sept. 1 -- Iraq's newly appointed interior minister will recruit a paramilitary force composed of former Iraqi army special forces troops to pursue guerrillas, terrorists and saboteurs who are undermining the country's stability, officials said today.
The so-called Civil Defense Battalions are to come under the command of the Interior Ministry, which will operate under the tutelage of U.S. occupation authorities. Iraq's advisory Governing Council named Nouri Badran, a former diplomat with intelligence experience, as interior minister, one of 25 cabinet members formally announced today to usher Iraq toward self-rule.
Badran was among several in the cabinet whose appointments had been previously disclosed.
"The plan for the Interior Ministry envisages a total force of 70,000, including the Civil Defense forces, police, traffic police and border guards," said Ali Abdul Amir, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Accord, one of the many political parties with a presence on the Governing Council. The INA, which has been long supported by the CIA, has taken the lead in drawing up security plans for Iraq.
INA chief Ayad Alawi heads the Governing Council's security subcommittee, which drafted the proposal for the Civil Defense Battalions, Abdul Amir said. Badran was the INA's spokesman before being named interior minister.
The Interior Ministry also will oversee the national police force, which is still being formed. Perhaps most controversially, the ministry will include a domestic intelligence-gathering section. Iraqi and U.S. occupation officials have already begun to recruit former intelligence officers from Saddam Hussein's government, as well as exiled veterans of his security services, to monitor suspected subversives. In effect, the Interior Ministry is in line to become the most important security apparatus in post-Hussein Iraq.
The Interior Ministry's security plan appears to be a refinement of a proposal aired in July by the head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid. Abizaid said that the United States would create a militia to fight alongside U.S. and allied forces in Iraq against resistance forces.
Since then, frequent ambushes of U.S. troops have been accompanied by significant sabotage of infrastructure. Last month, three car bombings killed more than 150 civilians. The latest, an explosion Friday outside a major Shiite Muslim shrine in Najaf, killed at least 95 people, including a prominent religious leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim.
After having dismantled Iraq's army in the spring, the United States is apparently now trying to retrieve the cream of Iraqi military forces to help battle anti-occupation fighters. Although the Interior Ministry will recruit elite former soldiers from Hussein's army, none will come from military units personally loyal to him, especially not the Republican Guard or the Special Republican Guard, Abdul Amir and Governing Council officials said. Iraqi and U.S. officers will re-train the recruits. "We want to do this as fast as we can," said Abdul Amir. "Three months at most."
Because intelligence officials under Hussein largely were committed members of his Baath Party, Abdul Amir said, he expected recruiting them for a new intelligence agency to provoke controversy. Many Iraqis considered Hussein's intelligence apparatus one of his most effective and vicious tools of repression. U.S. officials have blamed Baath Party loyalists and former secret policemen for much of the violence directed at U.S.-led occupation troops.
Abdul Amir said that Iraqis' growing fear of violence and uncertainty would override other concerns. The new domestic spies will be trained in the ways of democracy, he added. "At this point, Iraqis want to see any aspect of control of the security situation. People blame the Governing Council for not taking action, and now we are doing something," he said.
"This will be interesting," said Siyamend Othman, an Iraqi political analyst. "We will have Baathists chasing Baathists."
Proposals from Governing Council members to use militias affiliated with Iraqi political parties or religious organizations have apparently been scrapped. "We do not want to form militias. We want a true Iraqi security force," said Ahmed Chalabi, the former exile who leads the Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi today became the Governing Council's second president; the position is being rotated monthly among nine council members. "We want to build up a state, not warlords," he told al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite news network.
Chalabi appealed to Iraq's neighbors to stop anti-occupation forces from infiltrating the country. He said the Governing Council itself "is a target for terrorists."
The new cabinet was selected along sectarian lines. Shiite Muslims, who make up 60 percent of Iraq's population, received 13 seats. Sunni Muslims and Kurds, who are also largely Sunni, each received five posts. One position each went to a Turkmen and a Christian.
By prior agreement, two Shiites, one Sunni and one Kurd were appointed to four ministries considered to be especially important -- oil, foreign affairs, finance and interior.
The new oil minister, who will oversee Iraq's key natural resource, is Ibrahim Bahr Uloum, a Shiite with experience in the petroleum industry. His father, a member of the Governing Council, recently suspended his membership in the body in protest of what he termed the U.S. failure to provide security for Iraqis.
Hoshyar Zubari, a top official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was named foreign minister. A Sunni, Kamil Mubdir Gailani, is the new finance minister. Badran is a Shiite.
No defense minister was named; the armed forces, including Kurdish militias, are under U.S. command. The Governing Council also did not establish an Information Ministry, an omission that signals that in the new Iraq, news media will not fall under government control.
There is no prime minister. U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator in Iraq, in effect plays that role.