Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Allawi Still Enjoys Backing of Security Forces

Outgoing prime minister is seen as a secular strongman who is well placed to tackle security problems.
By Zaineb Naji

The party of outgoing prime minister Ayad Allawi may have been locked out of power, but many members of the country’s police and National Guard remain fiercely loyal to him.

While the Iraqi List head will not be part of the new leadership that was recently sworn into office, Muhsin Kadhim of the Iraqi National Guard, ING, still believes that Allawi is the only person who can solve Iraq’s security problems – and told IWPR that he will remain loyal to him.

“He is strong and he worked in the interests of the ING,” said Kadhim. “He is the only person who can establish a strong army that can control the country’s security situation.”

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance took over Allawi’s post after the mainly Shia bloc received the most votes in the January elections. The alliance is backed by Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, while Allawi is a secular Shia.

Jaafari was formerly spokesman for the Islamic Dawa party, the oldest Shia movement with links to Iran. The 58-year-old is a doctor who fled to Iran to escape persecution in Iraq in 1980, and lived in London until Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

Jaafari’s links to Iran has worried some security officials in Iraq.

"We reject having people in the security sector whose loyalty is to other countries such as Iran,” said Muhammed Hammad al-Dulaimi of the Anbar provincial police department.

“We support a secular person who is not biased toward a big party and does not have a militia. And the best person to take over [Iraq’s] security is Allawi."

Haider al-Moosawi, spokesman for Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, also a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, said the government was not in a position to measure the extent of the security forces’ loyalty to Allawi. He said some police and guardsmen are concerned that they might lose their jobs under the new government.

“The new security programme for the incoming government involves reorganisation and the elimination of corrupt people, terrorists or those related to the former Saddam regime,” he said.

“But we will deal with each case on its own.”

Iraqi security forces are used to pledging allegiance to a single leader as opposed to being loyal to a country or government, after decades of control by the Ba’ath party regime.

Political analyst Alaa Khidhir al-Dulaimi said another factor was the persisting notion of loyalty to a particular tribe and its leader.

“With their tribal nature, Iraqis want to be loyal to individuals like the president and the prime minister because they see their own strength and continuity in that loyalty," he said.

Guardsman Said Muhammed said he voted for Allawi and would like him to stay in power. "He understands everything and he always supported the ING and gave us a lot of privileges," he said.

Another guardsman, who asked to remain anonymous, said the ING and the country owe a lot to Allawi.

“The stability in some of the cities is because of the work of Iraqi-led security forces, and that is evidence of [Allawi’s] success," he said.

But some members of the security agencies said it didn’t matter who was in power, as long as they solved problems facing personnel.

"I don't care who manages the security departments,” Baghdad policeman Muhammed Hasan told IWPR.

“What is important is that they should work only in the interest of employees of the interior and defence ministries,” he said, adding that compensation for the families of policemen killed on duty was one of the most important issues.

Retired Staff Brigadier General Ahmed Abdulrahman, a former lecturer at Iraq’s military staff college, said any quick change in leadership would affect the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces, regardless of where their loyalties lay.

"Setting up a military [hierarchical] pyramid takes a long time and is not easy,” he said. “Such a change will have an affect on strategy and performance.”

Zaineb Naji is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.