Report: Militias still control Iraq

Friday, July 2, 2004

The United States has returned sovereignty to a new government in Iraq, but power on the ground remains in the hands of local and regional militia, according to a new report by the Washington Institute.

"If current trends continue, the future Iraqi central government will not hold a monopoly on the use of force, but will instead be challenged by strong regional militias and a broad base of smaller local militias operating without any government mandate," the report said.

The report said that more than a year after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, militias still dominate much of Iraq. The majority Shi'ite community was said to contain 130 militias, Middle East Newsline reported.

Kurdish and Shi'ite militias are expected to control the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in their regions. The report said the ICDC, responsible for counter-insurgency and paramilitary missions, will require the militias for recruitment and operations.

"Although the ICDC may eventually absorb old militias, it will take vigilance and time to ensure that the old chains of command do not remain in place," the report, authored by defense analyst Michael Knights, said.

"Realistically, the ICDC will remain largely under the control of the same local leaders as the old militias for some time to come."

Entitled "Militias and the Monopoly of Force in Transitional Iraq," the report traced the development of the ICDC and other Iraqi security forces.

The ICDC was said to have a strength of about 25,000, with plans to achieve a force level of 40,000.

So far, the force has been employed to man checkpoints and provide interpreters during raids by U.S. military and other coalition troops. ICDC members are recruited locally and do not deploy outside their base area.

The report said a large percentage of the ICDC consists of members of Kurdish peshmerga, the Shi'ite Badr Brigades or tribal forces. Badr is the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq "Hence, ICDC forces in the Iraqi Kurdish region would likely pay as much attention to instructions from their former peshmerga colleagues and other Kurdish officials as they would to orders from their superiors in Baghdad," the report said.

"Similarly, SCIRI is likely to influence the ICDC in the south given the large number of defense corps personnel there who once served in the Badr Brigades."

Knights recommends that ICDC commanders be trained in the United States to help mold the force into one responsible to the central Baghdad. Another recommendation was that ICDC headquarters in Iraq assume responsibilities for recruitment, training and command.

In Baghdad, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and 11 of his top aides were arraigned before an Iraqi judge Thursday. Saddam, 67 is charged with crimes against humanity, including genocide committed between July 17, 1968 through May 1, 2003. Saddam rejected the charges against him telling the court "this is all theater, the real criminal is Bush.''

In Washington, the Pentagon announced that Gen. George Casey has taken over military operations in Iraq as of Thursday.

Casey, a four-star general and former U.S. Army vice chief of staff replaced Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez served over a year as commander of 160,000 U.S. and international troops of Combined Joint Task Force-7.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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