First Published: 2005-04-12

 
Rumsfeld gives Iraqi officials blunt warning
 

US Defense Secretary warns new Shiite elite not to purge security forces on surprise Baghdad visit.

 

Middle East Online

By P. Parameswaran - BAGHDAD

Bluntest message to Iraq's new leaders

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq's new Shiite elite not to purge the fledgling security forces and to beware of corruption as he made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Tuesday.

The US embassy, meanwhile, scrambled to find out more about an American contractor kidnapped from a reconstruction site around noon Monday in the Baghdad area, an embassy spokesman said.

Washington is concerned Iraq's new leaders will "come in and clean house," with newly trained security forces, Rumsfeld told reporters on the flight from Washington to Baghdad.

"You can't do that, if you are trying to create a chain of command in the Iraqi security force and defeat a doggone insurgency," said Rumsfeld, whose country disbanded Iraq's army after the US-led invasion of March 2003.

"Anything they do in the interior and the defense ministries ought to be with an eye to the fact that Iraqis are getting killed, and they better have a good reason for doing what they are doing."

The comment was the bluntest to date by a US official over fears that Iraq's election-winning Shiite political bloc aimed to carry out mass purges of the security apparatus and other ministries.

Rumsfeld told reporters that he would be meeting President Jalal Talabani and prime minister-designate Ibrahim Jaafari and military commanders during his one-day visit.

He was to become the most senior American official to meet the top two representatives of Iraq's new government, which is still being formed more than two months after January 30 national elections.

Rumsfeld also warned against a major overhaul of ministerial staff as the price of political patronage.

"We have an opportunity to continue to make progress politically, economically ... Anything that would delay that or disrupt that as a result of turbulence, or lack of confidence or corruption in government, would be unfortunate," he said.

Such mass turnovers were a problem under the previous transitions from Iraq's Governing Council to an interim government under ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi, Rumsfeld said.

US diplomats have privately told Iraqi politicians that it would be disastrous to expel members of the new security forces, a US official told reporters.

He said Washington was walking a fine line to avoid the appearance of meddling in Iraq's political affairs and tainting the process for the general public.

Jaafari is expected to form a full government in the next two weeks, with the crucial post of interior minister going to Jaafari's religious Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which has the largest share of parliament seats.

UIA members have been calling for a purge of Iraq's security forces, particularly the interior ministry and national intelligence service.

The UIA claims those two branches have been over-run by former Baathists who were recruited by Allawi, himself a former party member who fell out with Saddam Hussein.

One of the largest Shiite parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), is expected to take the interior ministry portfolio and wants to integrate its own Iranian-trained Badr militia organisation into the security forces.

Much of the leadership of elite Iraqi units now deployed in insurgent hotspots across central Iraq, including Fallujah, Samarra, Mosul and Ramadi, are made up of former Baathists. Ironically, many of them are Shiite.

Washington fears the removal of these veterans, who have now proven their stripes on the battlefield, could set America back in the war against Iraq's insurgency.

Attacks continued against Iraqi forces on Tuesday.

Insurgents shot dead a bodyguard in an attack in Baghdad on Iraqi army General Tareq Baldawi and wounded two others, an interior ministry source told AFP.

Ex-Baath Party official Mahmoud Jassem Shaji and two of his relatives were killed overnight by armed men near Baquba, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of Baghdad, an Iraq army officer said.

An army patrol found the three bodies.

A number of ex-Baath Party officials have died in revenge killings since US forces toppled Saddam's regime two years ago.

On Monday, three US marines and three Iraqis were wounded when three suicide car bombers blew themselves up outside a US military base in a volatile area of Iraq near the Syrian border.

A US official said the attack was part of a new strategy by the insurgency's Islamist extremists to try to rally Sunni Arabs with a dramatic strike against the Americans and to deter them from joining the political process.

 

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Cities, monuments dim lights for Earth Hour

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East

Gunmen kill Hamas official in Gaza

Separate Syria air strikes kill at least 32

UN says Israel has ignored resolution on illegal settlements

Veteran politician says Turkey referendum a 'test' for Kurds

More Algerian women in work, but husbands control wages

Beirut university settles US lawsuit over Hezbollah

1.1 million weekend travellers from Dubai hit by laptop ban

Shiite Lebanese women endure painful custody battles

Russia, China seek Iraq chemical weapons probe

Besieged Syrians struggle with dwindling dialysis supplies

Syria army retakes Damascus areas from rebels

Syria says peace talks must first focus on 'terrorism'

12 Syrian refugees dead after boat sinks off Turkey coast

Mosul displaced head into unknown

As war keeps them away, Yemen children dream of school

Ousted Egyptian president Mubarak freed from detention

Iraq's Sadr threatens boycott if election law unchanged

Israel, US fail to reach settlement agreement

Yemen rebel missile kills Saudi soldier

Turkish FM in Switzerland amid rising tensions with Europe

Two more 'significant arrests' over London attack

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva