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Dissolving Iraq Army Was #1 U.S. Mistake

by Peyman Pejman

We "Miscalculated Badly" -- U.K. Defense Analyst
(IPS) BAGHDAD -- U.S. intelligence gathering operations are being called into question after the devastating attacks on the weekend, and the rocket attacks and suicide bombings rocking Baghdad and other cities almost every day.

To many Iraqis in the know, and even among Coalition officials, the answer is clear.

"One of the biggest mistakes of the coalition forces was to dissolve the army and the security forces," Brig. Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani told IPS in Baghdad. Shahwani left Iraq in 1990 and became a part of Washington's covert efforts to topple Saddam Hussein.

"We had a good intelligence network," he said. "They knew everybody, they knew the criminals. But they went home. Nobody can do it any more. If you start from the beginning, you need time."

Both Iraqi and U.S. sources here say the order to dissolve the army and other security services was a direct order from the Pentagon, and not an idea promoted by L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's civilian administrator.

Dissolving the Iraqi army also had severe economic consequences, one that many Iraqis say the United States did not adequately consider.

The army is said to have had about 400,000 members. Saddam's Republican Guards numbered about 50,000, with about as many in other security organs. Given that an average Iraqi family comprises six persons, this order from the Pentagon generated three million unhappy Iraqis, accounting for about 12 percent of the population.

Another serious security aspect of dissolving the army was that it opened up Iraq's vast land borders to foreign terrorists.

"Iraq has now become a battleground between international terrorists and the U.S. forces," says Hani Idriss, deputy leader of the Iraqi National Accord, a coalition of seven Iraqi groups that had opposed Saddam.

Many Iraqis say that in the absence of a functioning security apparatus, U.S. forces adopted the 'take control and go solo' mentality. They wanted to take full charge and excluded any Iraqi participation.

Spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress Intifadh Qanbar says the signs came as early as the first days of the war.

"During the liberation of Iraq, when the U.S. army was moving from the south towards Baghdad, it was clear that the Iraqi element as a partner was removed from the war planning," he says. "Everything was handled completely by the U.S. military, and this is something that I think was a mistake."

Idriss says various political parties have offered the coalition forces help in setting up a security system, including recruiting informers to gather intelligence to prevent attacks on Iraqis and coalition members.

"On more than one occasion, we have offered in our meetings of the governing council with the coalition, especially Mr. Bremer himself, to let us help and offer our expertise," says Idriss. So far, they have not received any answers, and he thinks he knows why.

"The coalition forces insist on full control when it comes to making decisions on security," he says. "They have not allowed any role to the political forces in the security area. They think of the political forces as militias and they think they might use their guns, and there would civil war."

In addition, says Qanbar, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has tried to recruit its own informers and "intelligence assets," but this has not worked.

"There was a massive effort to recruit heads of tribes in the south, but clearly this did not bring the results the Americans wanted," he says. "I hear there are efforts here and there in Iraq but this type of work always fails because these people (Americans) do not know Iraq, don't understand the complexities of the Iraqi society."

Other Iraqis critical of the way the United States has handled the security situation say the solution is for Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to make changes, and for Pentagon ideologues to listen to the advice they get from Baghdad.

"Mr. Bremer needs to have advisors and they need to be from inside Iraq," says Saad Jenabi, an Iraqi businessman from a well-known business family in Baghdad.

Jenabi became a business partner of Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, and escaped with him to Jordan. But he went on to the United States after Kamel's return to Iraq and his reported execution by Saddam. He is reported to have played a role in the plans to topple Saddam.

"The problem with the CPA is that it is very slow because most of the people here have never served in the Middle East," he says. "They never served in Iraq. They do not know the people. They come for two months and by the time the start learning, they have to leave."

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Albion Monitor November 5, 2003 (

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