Below the cut is a braindump on what’s going on with police forces in Iraq at the moment, and in particular why they are getting such heavy media coverage right now. I’ve not quite got my head around it, so it’s a splurge more than anything coherent.
[not cross-posted to [IAG](http://www.iraqanalysis.org) until I can make more sense of it all]
I’ve noticed a lot of talk recently about Iraq’s police and other sub-military forces in Iraq. I can think of several possible reasons for this, but I have no idea which are the most plausible:
- Recent developments in Iraq have made the police more of an issue. Either the death squads are becoming a bigger issue, or the communal violence since February has focused attention on the police’s role in sectarian violence
- The Coalition has decided to promote problems with the police to journalists. Perhaps this as a way of putting pressure on the interior ministry, or simply because they consider it an important issue. The high number of reports on the police coming from embedded reporters makes this a more likely explanation
- Some prominent journalist noticed the Iraqi police, and the rest are following like sheep
If it’s the third, the likely goat is a [Newsweek article](http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12335716/site/newsweek/) noticing that Coalition forces were outnumbered by the 146,000 security guards in a sprawling government agency known as the Facilities Protection Service (FPS). The FPS has been portrayed by some (including then Minister of the Interior Bayan Jabr) as an out-of-control mesh of militias, accused of carrying out sectarian killings. This partly results from its organizational structure: when the American administration created the FPS in September 2003, they [designed it to be beyond the control of any ministry](http://www.cpa-iraq.org/regulations/20030904_CPAORD_27_Establishment_of_the_Facilities_Protection_Svc.pdf).
This is one reason for a recent [attempt](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/11/AR2006051100213.html?nav=rss_world/mideast/iraq) to consolidate control of all government security forces within the Interior Ministry. A sensible idea – the problem is finding somebody trusted to take charge of the Interior Ministry. Previous abuses there were commonly blamed on the Minister, SCIRI member Bayan Jabr, who was accused of supporting Shiite groups within the Interior Ministry security forces. Now more than ever Iraq’s politicians want to avoid any one of their rivals holding all the security cards: they are aware of the possibility of civil war. The result is that [Iraq has no interior minister](http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5000016.stm): Nouri al-Maliki could form his cabinet only by leaving that post vacant.
Iraq’s police force has become embroiled in, and tarnished by, the sectarian violence that has been increasing since the Samarra mosque bombing of February 2006. Shockingly, many communities are now more afraid of the police than they are of American soldiers. The San Francisco Chronicle recently [reported](http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/22/MNGO6IVUTN1.DTL) on a common view among Sunni communities in Baghdad:
Sunnis say militias affiliated with Shiite political parties have infiltrated the police and are using their status to kidnap, torture and kill Sunni civilians. Shiite officials have denied the accusations.
American troops are forced to tread a fine line in their relations with the police. Indeed it may well prove impossible for them to retain good relations with the Interior Ministry while pursuing their other objectives. In November 2005, the Coalition challenged the Ministry by raiding one of its prisons in the Jadriyah region of Baghdad. They found that many of the detainees had been maltreated or tortured, and publicized this revelation in a way very hostile to the Ministry. Perhaps in retaliation, the Interior Ministry has [refused](http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1746233,00.html) to employ policemen trained by the US and UK. This has all but invalidated the CPATT, or Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. The Interior Ministry defends this position on the grounds that “they have no control over the CPATT’s selection process”.