Baker report dismissed as unrealistic and ill-
Michael Howard in Irbil
Friday December 8, 2006
Amid growing Iraqi criticism of the findings of the Baker-Hamilton commission, senior government figures yesterday expressed bewilderment at a proposal to take the police force out of the hands of the interior ministry and put it under the control of the ministry of defence.The report claimed the problems with Iraq’s police – poor organisation and training, corruption, sectarian divisions and infiltration by militias – were so profound that only a radical reorganisation would enable them to carry out their mission “to protect and serve all Iraqis”.
But a senior security adviser to the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, dismissed the proposals. “Like too many of the Baker report’s recommendations, it is likely to cause more problems than it solves,” he said. “The interior ministry needs cleaning of some bad elements, and we are doing so. Transferring the national police lock, stock and barrel to the defence ministry is unworkable and unrealistic.”
He claimed the Iraq Study Group had included the suggestion at the behest of Sunni leaders, who charge the interior ministry, which is under Shia control, with running anti-Sunni death squads. The defence ministry is headed by a Sunni.
Restoring faith in the police among ordinary Iraqis is seen as crucial to reducing popular support for armed militias, which are causing so much damage to communal relations. A recent poll among Shia residents in eastern Baghdad suggested they looked first to their local militias for protection rather than the police.
Despite a lack of equipment and training, the fledgling Iraqi army has remained largely free of infiltration by the militia and the sectarian tensions that are rife in the police. However, forcing the defence ministry and the army into a policing role it is ill equipped to handle is not the answer, said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group.
“It is important to retain a dividing line between external defence and internal security,” he said. “What could also happen is that by importing bad elements from the police you dilute and possibly undermine those relatively good elements in the Iraqi army.”
The report, greeted with much fanfare in Washington, received only a guarded welcome in Iraq. Yesterday as the country’s politicians began to read the fine print of the 79 recommendations, the caution turned to dismay.
“It is not surprising they got so many things wrong,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish MP. “In the nine months it took to prepare this report, they were only in Iraq for four days and never left the green zone.”
Additional reporting by Salaam Jihad