Sergey Sargsyan

Formation of the legitimate, though temporary, vertical of power in Iraq as a result of the popular vote in January 30, 2005, allows the coalition to start up the gradual handover of the control over the domestic political situation in the country to the national armed forces and law-enforcement bodies.

According to the initial plans, the post-war renewed structure of the Iraqi Defense Ministry should have been included the Armed forces (the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy with the total of 35.000 military,  the National Guard (appr. 51.000) and the Anti-terrorist division (a special task battalion in Baghdad – 800 people). The Air Force and Navy, at least in the initial phase, were designed to play the role of  supplementary forces. It was planned only to establish a military transport and a helicopter squadrons, a search and rescue service and air reconnaissance units; and the Navy should have been included a regiment of the coastal defense and the sub-units of various patrol boats, dislocated at a military navy base.

The Ministry of Interior’s structure was supposed to include the police (more than 150.000 people), the border guard forces (appr. 26.000), department for guarding the automobile roads, deparment for guarding the diplomatic missions, a special service for guarding the key oil infrastructure sites (5,5.000) and the anti-terrorist fast reaction subunits (appr. 5.000 people.)

So at the pla phnning phase it had been supposed that the main task of the Iraqi forces had been to keep the political stability in the country.

However, due to inability to establish full control over security,  the MoD structure has been modified. To improve the operability and combat ability of the Armed Forces, the National Guard (42 battalions) has been incorporated into  the Ground Forces, and it is fortified with artillery, armoured, the communication and transport means.

By May 2005 more than 90.000 servicemen were in the MoD units, and more than 60.000 in the system of the Ministry of Interior, and only the servicemen who have got a special training are taken into account  in the mentioned data. About 14.000 people are trained in various training institutions of the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, including two military and five police academies. In addition, more than 30.000 people have ben recently enrolled in the Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior and are waiting to be sent to training.

At the same time, the quantitative levels do not reflect quite low combat  spirit and poor discipline of the personnel of the MoD and the Ministry of Interior units, which undoubtedly has its impact on their combatability and preparedness. In the periods of intensified armed actions against fighters, desertion reportedly reaches up to 40% of the personnel on the list, which, however, mostly consists of so called “dead souls.”

Unlike the above-mentioned forces, the national Kurdish and Shiite divisions – Peshmerga (appr. 100.000 people) and the Badr Corpse, formally renamed into “organization” (according to different assessments, from 15-20 thousand people).

The situation in the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Interior, which are under Baghdad’s command, can be mostly explained by a number of reasons.

First, as long as foreign troops are present  in the country, the military or police operations of Iraqis against Iraqis have been treated negatively quite often by the public opinion.

Second, the Iraqi President Kurd Jalal Talabani and Prime-Minister Shiite Ibrahim al-Jaffari do not speed up creation of the national army, trying not to put in question the existence of the Kurdish and Shia ethnic-regional armed units. Even more, to attach these units legitimacy, Jalal Talabani suggests that they participate along with the army and police in operations against fighters.

Third, the terrorist activity of the members of international organizations, who are now operating in Iraq, is aimed against the ethnic and religious communities, has led to their increased mistrust. As a result, at present in Iraq there is a growth in number (up to 20.000 people) and in quantity of the illegal armed groups, headed by the local, communal or religious leaders, now created spontaneously in the country. The main declared goal of creating such units – is the combat against the anti-governmental and terrorist activity, for stabilization of the political situation in the country, as well as defense of the community, town, village, etc. As an example, we can mention so called “Brigades of Rage,” spontaneously created by Shiites in some regions of the south of the country with the aim of defensing their populationn from the attacks of Sunni fighters.

Despite some positive effect of such a self-defense system, it is quite probable that the illegal armed units will be used in the inter-clan or inter-confessional struggle for re-distribution of the economic or political spheres of influence. In addition, operating beyond the legal frameworks, such units increase the internal political tension, undermine the role of the central authorities, and in particular, the law-enforcement bodies, reduce their influence and possibilities at place.

Fourth, in spite of the increased money allowance to the servicemen of the Iraqi army (from 70 to 100 USD to soldiers), it is substantially less than the salary of the policemen or a border guards, most of them also have able to get an “additional” income.

However, the coalition’s forces have started the step by step handover of the control over some regions and populated areas to the Iraqi forces. In particular, the responsibility for security in the central districts of Baghdad has been put on the MoD units of Iraq since March 1, 2005. At the same time some military objects, earlier occupied by the coalition’s forces, are also handed over to the Iraqis: since January there have already been given 13 military bases and strong points.

By the new plan of combat training, approved by Pentagon in April 2005, it is envisaged:
1. to intensify the training of already established units of the Iraqi MoD and Ministry of Interior and to improve that training to the level enabling them to conduct combat actions autonomously up to the following terms
– April-August – for platoons;
– September-October – for companies;
– November-December – for battalions.

2. To increase the combat ability, each Iraqi battalion has to be reinforced by a US Armed Forces company.

3. With the aim of improving the combat control and guarantee a close interaction between the Iraqi units and coalition forces, up to 10 advisors and instructors have to be assigned to each battalion of the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior – from the headquarters to a platoon inclusive.

The final goal of these processes is establishment of control over the situation in the country by the Iraqi Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior and concentration of the coalition troops out of the populated areas in several big autonomously operating bases.

At the same time it is necessary to note that it will be possible to really assess the ability and potential of the Iraqi forces in controlling the situation may only be possible during and after the December 15, 2005 elections, which will let reveal and fix the balance and structure of political forces in the country and will mark the finish of a period, when re-division of the spheres of influence was still possible by peaceful, legitimate ways

17 June 2005.