- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

BAGHDAD — Members of the Shi’ite coalition that won Iraq’s elections are demanding that the new government, when it is formed, cleanse the security services of terrorist informers and Saddam sympathizers as its first order of business.

Pressure for a purge of the new services is coming from within the ranks of the United Iraqi Alliance, many of whose mainly Shi’ite members complain of being harassed by Sunni officers much as they were persecuted under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

“There’s a certain grass-roots feeling on the Shia side, a concern at what they claim to be a sort of re-Ba’athification process in the security ministries,” said a senior British diplomat, who spoke to a small group of reporters on the condition of anonymity. “They feel that something needs to be done about it.”

The complaints come from people like Muhammad Munir Abdullah, a 57-year-old former soldier who was arrested just before the Jan. 30 elections while putting up alliance campaign posters in Baghdad.

He and his friends were taken to a police station, where they were accused of plotting a terrorist attack on a bridge before being released.

“All we had with us was posters and glue,” Mr. Abdullah said. “The police have good elements, but many are no good. They also have many terrorist elements.”

Iraq’s police and military forces collapsed after the United States overthrew Saddam two years ago. The United States has struggled to rebuild and train new forces from scratch amid equipment shortages and mass desertions.

U.S. diplomats, concerned about further turmoil, say they have sought assurances that the winning coalition will maintain stability within the security forces and that no mass firings will take place.

“Our concern is that the progress that has been made over the last year in terms of standing up and equipping new elements in the security forces, that that progress not go backwards,” a U.S. diplomat told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

“They won the election, and they’re interested in personnel issues,” he said. “We say that’s fine. There are laws that describe how ministries are to be handled and staffed. We expect those laws are to be adhered to.”

But within the Shi’ite rank and file, there is mounting pressure to rid the ministries of many persons hired by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi — who ended the process of “de-Ba’athification” begun in the early months of the U.S.-led occupation and welcomed back many of Saddam’s former officers.

The Shi’ites accuse both Mr. Allawi’s interior minister, Falah Hassan al-Nakib, and his defense minister, Hazem Shalaan, of being Ba’athist sympathizers.

Mr. Shalaan, a secular Shi’ite like Mr. Allawi, is particularly despised for publicly accusing the alliance of being a dupe for Iran in the run-up to Jan. 30 elections.

In October, Iraq’s intelligence director, Mohammed al-Shahwani, publicly accused the Badr Corps — an Iranian-trained Shi’ite militia that has been turned into a civic group and part of the Shi’ite alliance — of masterminding the assassination of several of his agents.

The Shi’ites rejected the charges and accused Mr. Shahwani of staffing Iraq’s new intelligence service with veterans of Saddam’s military who are out to settle old scores with Shi’ite militias that they fought in the 1980s.

The Shi’ite parties seethed when reports emerged that three members of the Badr Corps had been tortured to death by security forces in early March. When images of the victims’ mutilated bodies appeared on television, Mr. Allawi announced an investigation.

Another complaint is that police and security forces are riddled with terrorist sympathizers and informants.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a moderate leader of the Shi’ite coalition, said in a recent interview that the security forces had not done enough to rid their ranks of insurgent sympathizers.

“There will be a major continuation of the work done,” he said. “Whenever we find a dangerous person that has ties to the insurgency, decisions will be made. That has not been done enough.”

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