Iraq: June 26, 2005

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Sunni Arab and al Qaeda gangs agree on one thing; their biggest enemy is the Iraqi police. The cops have become the major threat to the anti-government forces. This despite the fact that the police have had a hard time building a loyal, well led and trained force.  This is because they had to start from zero. The Saddam era police were purposely kept weak, poorly trained and corrupt. These police were dismissed shortly after Saddam's government was put out of  business. During Saddam's time, the real police work was done by the secret police and security units known more for their loyalty to Saddam than their interest in keeping the peace. The men who served in these units are wanted for war crimes. Many of them now work in anti-government gangs.

Saddam often made deals with criminal gangs, taking a share of their profits in return for leaving them alone. The gangs were also expected to report any signs of disloyalty, to Saddam, and were sometimes used to terrorize neighborhoods that were thought to be potential hotbeds of opposition.

The coalition has spent two years trying to build a new police force. Kurds and Shia Arabs were not allowed into the secret police units, or the higher ranks of the regular police, when Saddam ruled. Thus there were few loyal Iraqis available to staff the new police force. Over the last two years, men who were willing to undergo months of training, and dangerous duty commanding newly formed police units, have grown into a new leadership for the police force. Some of these men are experienced police commanders from Saddam's time. Many of these men were hired, despite the risk that many were corrupt (despite promises that they had changed their ways), or were still loyal to Saddam. The corrupt, and the Saddam loyalists, have been dismissed in large numbers, leaving some experienced, effective, and largely loyal and corruption free, commanders. In Kurdish and Shia Arab areas, there are now effective police forces. The big problems remain in central Iraq, in Sunni Arab, or mixed Shia-Sunni Arab areas. But the police have become effective and reliable enough that the enemy has not, since last fall, been able to attack and take a police station. The enemy still tries. In the last week, there was a major attack on a police station. Over a hundred men took part in the attack, which was defeated by the police and army alone. At least ten of the attackers were killed, and 40 were captured. Many of the enemy wounded got away. Thus over half the attacking force was killed, wounded or captured. The anti-government forces are desperate to show they are more powerful than the police, and nothing does that better than taking, and pillaging, a police station. This latest defeat makes the enemy appear weaker, and encourages more Iraqis to actively side with the police. During the recent attack, the police received 55 calls from civilians around the police station, to report the attack and demand reinforcements. Some Iraqi civilians were seen firing, from their homes,  at the men attacking the police stations.

Unable to take a police station, the Sunni Arab and al Qaeda gangs have concentrated on assassinations against police. Al Qaeda does this by sending suicide bombers into police stations, or as close as possible. The Sunni Arab gangs assassinate individual policemen, threaten others with the same treatment if they don't quit, or become a spy for the gangs. Groups of off duty police are attacked, or kidnapped and later killed. Out of a national police force  of some 140,000, over 200 a week are being killed. So far, the anti-police violence has only encouraged more people to join the police. Many Kurdish and Shia Arab police volunteer to serve in Sunni Arab areas, where are not enough local men willing to be police. While this kind of service is dangerous, it gives these men a chance to fight back, after decades of oppression by Sunni Arabs. This is the civil war pundits warn is just around the corner. The civil war has been going in Iraq for a long time, and is now playing out in the battles between Kurdish and Shia Arab cops, and Sunni Arab gangs.  

 

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