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.

 

Britain wants ‘strategic partnership’ with GCC

Egypt’s 'three-year strategy' seeks to revive struggling economy

Syria forces take control of Aleppo Old City

Over 40 people missing after ship sinks off Yemen

Qatar to invest up to $13bn on 'mega projects' in 2017

Libya's key oil region threatened by renewed fighting

Syria rebels call for Aleppo ceasefire

Rebel rockets scar west Aleppo residents

Egypt jails prominent NGO activist

Turkish soldier killed in Syria bomb blast

IS-linked group ousted from Somalia town

Kerry, Lavrov to resume Syria talks Wednesday

Iraqis swarm to remarry after liberation from ‘caliphate’

Four drown, 34 rescued off Morocco coast

Israel to vote on bill to legalise West Bank settlements

Turkish businessmen embrace Erdogan’s plan to boost lira

Battle for Mosul advances deeper into city

Iran to sign deal with Shell in bid to boost output

Israeli missiles strike targets outside Damascus

Hollande condemns Russia’s ‘systematic obstruction’ of Syria ceasefire

Turkey doing 'everything possible' to push Syria talks between Russia, opposition

Russia army colonel dies after Aleppo rebel shelling

Libyan forces hunt remaining jihadists in Sirte

Iraqi jailed in Sweden for war crimes after Facebook post

Regime forces seize five Aleppo districts from rebels

Israeli artist erects golden Netanyahu statue in protest

Russia says US stalling on Aleppo rebel pullout

Saudi sentences 15 to death for being Iranian spies

US defence secretary says Mosul battle could end before Trump

US, NATO stress 'unity' as Trump raises doubts

Greece to extradite three Turkish coup officers

Egypt arrests 25 human organ traffickers

Morocco PM statement on Russia’s ‘destructive’ role in Syria angers Moscow

Israel far right hails bill to 'legalise' settler homes

Merkel says Aleppo situation ‘disgrace’

Iranian president says sanctions renewal proves US still ‘enemy’

Yemen arrests eight IS suspects in Aden

Turkey arrests opposition advisor over alleged Gulen links

Russia says OPEC, non-OPEC countries to meet in Vienna

British PM joins GCC summit for trade talks

Israel government nears deal that could 'legalise' settler homes

Yemen's Hadi would only give way to 'elected' leader

Russia says medic killed, others injured in Aleppo fighting

Greek court rejects extradition of Turkey officers

Sudan court frees 26 protesters