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Iraqi Police In Militias

File photo of Iraqi police on parade. "The double loyalties of the police forces have caused most Iraqi citizens not to trust them. Pollack said that most Iraqis tend to be very frightened by the police. The danger to civilians is not necessarily in the Shiite militia, but in organized crime and in the fact that when Iraqis encounter the police, they have no idea what they are dealing with in terms of loyalties." Photo courtesy AFP
by Rebecca Pearsey
UPI Correspondent
Baghdad, Iraq (UPI) Feb 23, 2007
Iraqi police wear their uniforms by day, but when night falls they take them off and morph into the sectarian militias. They do this in order to protect themselves, said Nora Bensahel, a senior political scientist at RAND Corporation.

"In a situation where the state doesn't provide security, which is clearly the case today, people seek refuge and identity through often the (sectarian) protection. And in Baghdad today the militias offer way more protection than perhaps the state," said Bensahel, who is also a professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Personal and family safety is the primary reason why so many policemen are also part of the sectarian militias. Ken Pollack is a former Iran-Iraq military analyst for the CIA and currently serves as director of research at the Saban Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Brookings Institution. According to Pollack, avoiding participation in the militias is not usually an option for Iraqi policemen. To not join the militia would be extremely dangerous, leaving them exposed and vulnerable.

"The question they ask themselves," said Pollack, "is, 'How dangerous is it for me not to be recruited? Can I afford to be loyal to the state?'" In a country where the job market is struggling, many Iraqi's have simply joined the police force for the salary. Some are even looking for a second salary through the militias or have otherwise joined the police to add a second income to what they receive from their militia.

The double loyalties of the police forces have caused most Iraqi citizens not to trust them. Pollack said that most Iraqis tend to be very frightened by the police. The danger to civilians is not necessarily in the Shiite militia, but in organized crime and in the fact that when Iraqis encounter the police, they have no idea what they are dealing with in terms of loyalties.

"I think the police suffer from an evil history in Iraq. Under Saddam they were perceived to be the thugs that enforced Saddam's harsh laws," said James Phillips, a research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation. There is a civil war in Iraq that has been driven by sectarian violence from the beginning and will not easily move into any certainty of security.

"When the U.S. went in, there was an assumption that the police and other government institutions could be rebuilt with minimal effort," said Phillips. The corruptions were deep in the Iraqi police long before the United States began their reform of Iraq. And as the insurgent groups shifted powers with the fall of Saddam's regime, the police force also underwent a shift in power.

"Under Saddam the police were dominated by Sunnis. Since the Shiite government has come to power they have put more of an emphasis on recruiting Shiites," said Phillips. The power struggle is imbedded deeply into the police force because unlike the Iraqi army, the police force was not created from the ground up. Now there is more freedom in Iraq for an insurgent power struggle within the police force.

"We have unleashed a civil war there and it will not be resolved by the United States but by Iraq and Iraqis," said Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency.

However, U.S. forces right now are the only stamps of trustworthiness for Iraqi civilians. Bensahel noted that many of Baghdad's civilians deal with police only when U.S. forces are accompanying them door-to-door because they fear being subject to militia violence without that presence.

Creating an environment where Iraqi policemen are a trusted authority will require major time and purging. If Iraq wants to re-establish the police reputation among civilians it will have to create a force where the only loyalties are to the state. Keeping Americans along with the Iraqi policemen is only a short fix, said Pollack.

"It's ultimately up to the Iraqi government to take action to correct the problems and root out bad elements associated with the militia," said Phillips.

Pollack's alternative is idealistically simple: "Create situations where police don't have to fear for their lives."

earlier related report
US Counter Copter Ambushes Chlorine Bombs In Iraq
Washington (AFP) Feb 23 - The US military is scrambling to counter new insurgent tactics aimed at sowing chaos in Iraq, including helicopter ambushes and chlorine bombs, senior US military officials said Thursday. US troops have raided a car-bomb factory making chemical bombs and targeted specialized insurgent cells believed to be involved in recent downings of US military helicopters, they said.

Meanwhile, military commanders are puzzling out how best to respond.

"What we are seeing is a change in the tactics, but their strategy has not changed," said Major General William Caldwell, the US military spokesman in Baghdad. "And that's to create high-profile attacks to instill fear and division amongst the Iraqi people."

In the latest twist on the daily mayhem in Iraq insurgents have twice this week blown up truck-mounted tanks filled with chlorine, leaving scores of people sickened by toxic fumes.

And in Tuesday's raid on the big car-bomb factory near Fallujah Tuesday, troops found chlorine cylinders and fertilizer along with up a pickup truck and three cars that were being turned into bombs, military officials said.

Cells affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq are believed be stalking US helicopters, a vital cog in the US military machine, said Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking US commander in Iraq.

Two or three of the eight helicopters that have been downed since January 20 appeared to have been ambushed, he told reporters here via video link from Iraq.

"I think they've probably been trying to do this for a long time, but my guess is we have a cell out there that's somewhat effective," he said.

The losses came amid a surge in the US military's use of helicopters to move troops and support those on the ground.

In 2005, US military helicopters in Iraq flew 240,000 hours. Last year they flew, 334,000 hours, and at the current rate they will fly 400,000 hours this year, Odierno said.

He said the military was studying the shoot-downs intently.

"And we will learn from those. And we will adapt our tactics," he said.

Caldwell, who was interviewed by CNN, said the military was modifying flight routes, altitudes, formations, times of flights "and a lot of other things in order to offset what they're intending to do against us."

Odierno said US forces captured an insurgent a week ago who confessed to being involved in one of the shoot-downs, and in recent raids broke up part of a cell believed to have shot down another helicopter.

Two people were captured, he said, but would provide no other information.

Of the eight helicopters down, at least six are believed to have been brought down by enemy fire. One helicopter belonging to a private contractor crashed when it struck a wire, officials have said.

The latest loss was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that made a "hard landing" on Wednesday after being hit by hostile fire. All aboard survived.

In all, 27 people have died in the crashes.

In most cases, insurgents have used combinations of different types of heavy-caliber small arms fire to foil heat-seeking countermeasures, military officials said.

But one helicopter was hit by a surface-to-air missile, they said.

The sudden emergence of chlorine bombs also has the military trying to figure out what insurgents are up to and how to manage the consequences of toxic gas attacks.

Caldwell called it "a real crude attempt to raise the terror level by taking and mixing ordinary chemicals with explosive devices."

Two people were killed and seven wounded Wednesday in the explosion of a tanker truck carrying chlorine in western Baghdad, security and medical sources. Another 35 people were sickened by the fumes.

On Tuesday, six people died and at least 105 were wounded or overcome by fumes when another chlorine gas tanker exploded near a Shiite-owned restaurant in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, a security official said.

At the United Nations, the Security Council issued a statement condemning "all terrorist attacks, including the recent chlorine gas and other bombings in and around Baghdad."

Source: United Press International

Source: Agence France-Presse

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The yet-undeclared civil war in Iraq took a turn for the worse as insurgents have turned to detonating "dirty bombs." For the second time in as many days, insurgents used chemicals in attacking civilians, combining chlorine gas canisters with explosives. For the moment, they are still very crude bombs, with the chlorine dissipating by the force of the explosion.

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