Leadership: The Turkish Tradition in Iraq

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May 19, 2006: Iraqi General Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jassim is one of the most senior officers in the new Iraqi Army. Scion of an Arab Sunni family with a long history of military service, the 59-year old armor officer has had a 40 year career in the Iraqi Army. For centuries, when the Ottoman empire controlled Iraq, most of the Arab officers in the Turkish army were Sunni Arabs from Baghdad. Jassim saw combat during the Iran-Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf War. He was one of a number of senior officers who had warned Saddam that his invasion of Kuwait was a bad idea. Therefore, after the Gulf War, the general was forced out of the army, and spent seven years incarcerated in Abu Graib. The general was brought back on active duty by the government in 2004. For a time commander of Iraqi forces in Fallujah, he was later made commander of Ground Forces. In this role, he worked closely with the Ministry of Defense and Coalition personnel to vet the many former officers who were returned to active duty and form the backbone of the army.

While he is a Sunni Arab, general Jassim is committed to a secular multi-ethnic vision of Iraq's future, and has been working to insure that sectarian and ethnic factionalism does not take root in the army. Although the Iraqi Army has been doing surprisingly well, he is pushing for more training, and is developing a long-term program to meet that objective. Jassim believes that the Iraqi army could be as effective as a Western force, and that this level of effectiveness is needed in order to succeed in modern warfare. The general believes that it will be several years before the army is fully capable of defending Iraq, not only from internal problems but also from external threats, and would like to see a Coalition presence continue until that goal is achieved.

 


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