- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

BAGHDAD U.S. forces yesterday acted for the first time against followers of a self-proclaimed "mayor of Baghdad," arresting a man who said he had been named chief of police by Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi.
Marines detained the man when he turned up at the city's main police station to challenge the authority of Zabar Abdul Razaq, whom U.S. officials had placed in charge of police this week.
Mr. al-Zubaidi, a recently returned exile, has been busily touring facilities, meeting interest groups and naming supporters to key positions in the city since he declared himself mayor of Baghdad last week. One of his followers has said he plans to represent Iraq at an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting this week in Vienna.
Asked Monday about Mr. al-Zubaidi, U.S. coordinator for central Iraq Barbara Bodine said, "We don't really know much about him except that he's declared himself mayor. We don't recognize him."
Mr. Razaq complained to U.S. forces Monday that he was being intimidated by supporters of Mr. al-Zubaidi, who had been coming to police headquarters and saying he was the rightful police chief.
"One of them came here last night and threatened me," Mr. Razaq told Lt. Col. Alan King, a civil affairs specialist attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. "He said, 'Why are you going into my areas? I'm the chief, I'm responsible. I have my own men there.'"
Col. King replied to Mr. Razaq that if the man whose name was unavailable returned, he would be arrested, as indeed he was yesterday.
"Let there be no doubt: This is the only police department we recognize," Col. King said. "This is the interim [police force] until the Iraqi government is installed."
That is not to say there are no questions about Mr. Razaq, who served on the Baghdad police force for 34 years, most of it under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
U.S. officials insist that the new chief has been thoroughly vetted and is committed to overhauling the force. They say he was fired a few years ago for being "too soft" on civilians.
At their meeting Monday, Col. King sternly warned Mr. Razaq that he and his senior officers would be held accountable for any corruption, torture or other human rights violations committed under their watch.
The new police chief smiled and nodded, and said impassively that he understood the situation. But the resistance to change is clear, even on small matters.
While the former officers who make up Mr. Razaq's new force seemed delighted at a promise of new blue uniforms, they objected to orders to remove their military epaulets and pins and patches with the eagle logo of the defeated regime.
Some pointed out that the symbol predates Saddam and was widely used in Egypt and Syria as well. When Col. King compared Saddam's eagle to Hitler's swastika, the officers grew defensive.
They also continued to use military titles, even after being told it was to be a civilian force.
There are more serious challenges as well, as the fewer than 300 officers seek to police a city of some 5 million people that has been flooded with weapons, pillaged by looters and littered with unexploded ordnance.
The new force will soon hold intensive training in basic police practices such as crowd control, weapons safety and human rights. They expect to hire and train an additional 1,000 officers in the next five months. The full force could number more than 15,000.
"We are starting to make progress, but it won't be easy to give these people a model police department," said Col. King, who said one of the force's toughest tasks will be to win the trust of the Iraqi people.
Many Baghdad residents are outraged to see so many familiar officers back at work in the same olive uniforms that had come to symbolize abuse and fear. Thousands demonstrated at a west Baghdad public square on Monday to protest Mr. Razaq's appointment.
Mr. Razaq told the Americans that police officers were making as little as $5 a month under the old regime, "so many of them had to do things to get money, and people didn't like the police department."
U.S. officials promised a pay increase and a budget for new uniforms, but said they didn't know yet where the money would come from nor how quickly it could be disbursed.
Col. King has also made clear that the new Iraqi police must defer to U.S. troops in the event of any disagreement or they will face arrest by the military and treatment as prisoners of war.


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