[Marxism] (no subject)

ffeldman at verizon.net ffeldman at verizon.net
Tue May 31 08:36:35 MDT 2005

The Guardian - 31 May 2005

Basra out of control, says chief of police

Families can still stroll but militia gangs hold power in port city

By Rory Carroll in Basra

The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had
effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that
sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their
posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his
13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in
Iraq's second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in
policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

"I trust 25% of my force, no more."

The claim jarred with Basra's reputation as an oasis of stability
and security and underlined the burgeoning influence of Shia
militias in southern Iraq.

"The militias are the real power in Basra and they are made up of
criminals and bad people," said the general.

"To defeat them I would need to use 75% of my force, but I can rely
on only a quarter."

In fact the port city, part of the British zone, is remarkably
peaceful. It is largely untouched by the insurgency and crimes such
as kidnapping and theft have ebbed since the chaotic months after
the March 2003 invasion.

In marked contrast to Baghdad, razor wire and blast walls are
uncommon in Basra and instead of cowering indoors after dark
families take strolls along the corniche.

But Gen Sade said the tranquillity had been bought by ceding
authority to conservative Islamic parties and turning a blind eye to
their militias' corruption scams and hit squads.

A former officer in Saddam Hussein's marine special forces, he was
chosen to lead Basra's police force by the previous government
headed by Ayad Allawi and he started the job five months ago.

He praised the establishment of a competent 530-strong tactical
support unit and claimed that 90% of ordinary crime was detected.

But he was frustrated that a weak, fledgling state left him
powerless to purge his force of members of Iraq's two main rival
Shia militias: Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army and the Badr Brigade of
the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

Sciri is one of the dominant parties in the Shia-led government in
Baghdad and Mr Sadr, a radical cleric, has become a mainstream
political player since leading two uprisings against occupation
forces last year.

Both groups have been implicated in targeting officials from
Saddam's ousted regime. Since such people tend to be Sunni Arabs,
the score settling is often perceived as sectarian.

"Some of the police are involved in assassinations," said Gen Sade.
"I am trying to sort this out, for example by putting numbers on
police cars so they can be identified."

In March, police watched impassively as their friends in the Mahdi
army members beat up scores of university students at a picnic
deemed immoral because music was played and couples mingled. Gen
Sade identified the officers, but did not punish them for fear of
provoking the militia.

If there is trouble at Basra, university staff still phone the
police, said Professor Saleh Najim, dean of the engineering college.
"But you can't be sure they will do their duty."

The police chief felt cut off from his superiors at the interior
ministry in Baghdad and lamented that a government commission was
forcing some of his best officers to resign over alleged links with
the ousted regime. He did not know how long he would keep his job.

Colin Smith, a deputy chief constable and Britain's senior police
adviser in Iraq, said the Basra force's ability to patrol and
investigate crimes was an "exponential development" from two years
ago and he expected improvements to accelerate.

"I'm optimistic. It's a five to 10 year project, it won't be
overnight," he said.

He criticised previous British and American trainers for setting the
bar too high for a force being built from scratch. "Too often we
have given the Iraqis plans that don't work. We still don't have an
Iraq police strategy."

For example police stations were given expensive cameras to
photograph suspects without heed to the Iraqis' difficulty in
replacing the batteries, said Mr Smith.

"A lot of the time we're not moving forward but rectifying the
mistakes made in the past two years."

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