Iraq: December 3, 2004


The Iraqi police are still under heavy attack, and the problem is that the cops are being hit with military type assaults. Police are not normally trained to deal with this sort of thing. As long as the anti-government gangs can muster platoon (20-30 men) and company (100-200 men) combat forces for attacks on police stations, the cops must be able to respond in kind. Police stations in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq have already been turned into fortresses to help deal with the suicide car bombers and ground assaults. Assigning Iraqi (and sometimes American) troops to defend police stations has had some success, apparently discouraging attacks. But most of the attacks occur only after a particular police stations, and the men who worked in it, are carefully evaluated. Its easy for the Saddam diehards to get a spy inside a police station. The police are recruited locally, and so many of the gunmen are former members of the secret police and security forces, they can present themselves as good candidates for the police. Many records have been destroyed, making it difficult to do background checks. 

But with 18 months experience in recruiting and training Iraqi police, some basic (and quite ancient) truths have been learned. First, the best police commanders are those you send outside the country for up to a year of intense training. And intense means you put them under pressure and flunk out those who cant handle it. The same approach should be used for rank and file cops, although a shorter training course can be used. Stationing cops in areas they are not originally from is not popular in Iraq, but it is a technique successfully used in many other countries to deal with the problem of disloyal (or corrupt) police. Another problem is police corruption. Police in most of the country, where there are no attacks on them by armed gangs, are increasingly unpopular because of the return of the police corruption. This is an ancient custom in Iraq, and stamping it out is difficult. However, one bonus of the longer training courses for police is that these guys tend to be less corrupt, and more willing to run a clean operation. That would be a huge step forward for Iraq, in a region where even honest citizens tend to see the police as a threat.

Iraqs neighbors have gotten together and agreed that they should provide more help to pacify and rebuild Iraq. This is a major change. The new consensus among Iraqs neighbors is that the interim Iraqi government is likely to succeed, despite the continued resistance by Sunni Arab factions. The al Qaeda operations inside Iraq have killed mainly Iraqis, a fact that has become commonly known outside Iraq (for a while, the Arab media tried to hide this fact, and the hatred most Iraqis had for Islamic terrorism). All of Iraqs neighbors are cracking down on al Qaeda terrorism (although Iran still supports Shia Islamic terrorists). Of Iraqis neighbors, only Syria has not suffered al Qaeda attacks. But Syria sees itself as a prime target for more American pressure, so Syria has joined all of Iraqis neighbors to offer better border controls. Saudi Arabia and Iran have offered training for police. And everyone has promised to discourage anti-government groups (money and weapons) from passing through their territory and into Iraq. More than any UN resolution, this decision by Iraqs neighbors is a major recognition that Iraq has a new government.


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