CIA plans new secret police to fight Iraq terrorism
Julian Coman
CIA plans new secret police to fight Iraq terrorism
Sun Jan 4 19:13:50 2004

CIA plans new secret police to fight Iraq terrorism
By Julian Coman in Washington
(Filed: 04/01/2004)

Nine months after the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime and his feared mukhabarat (intelligence) operatives, Iraq is to get a secret police force again - courtesy of Washington.

The Bush administration is to fund the new agency in the latest initiative to root out Ba'athist regime loyalists behind the continuing insurgency in parts of Iraq.

The force will cost up to $3 billion (1.8 billion) over the next three years in money allocated from the same part of the federal budget that finances the Central Intelligence Agency.

Its ranks are to be drawn from Iraqi exile groups, Kurdish and Shi'ite forces - in addition to former mukhabarat agents who are now working for the Americans. CIA officers in Baghdad are expected to play a leading role in directing their operations.

A former United States intelligence officer familiar with the plan said: "If successfully set up, the group would work in tandem with American forces but would have its own structure and relative independence. It could be expected to be fairly ruthless in dealing with the remnants of Saddam."

The secret police will be the latest security force created by the US and its Iraqi political allies in an attempt to quell the insurgency.

Although officially banned by the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), militia groups are already patrolling cities and towns in many areas of Iraq against the backdrop of an increasing number of extra-judicial killings of prominent former Ba'athists.

The Pentagon and CIA hope to organise the various and sometimes competing groups into a single force with the local knowledge, the motivation and the authority to hunt down pro-Saddam resistance fighters. According to officials in Washington, the new agency could eventually number 10,000. Initially at least, salaries will be paid by the CIA, which has 275 officers on the ground in Iraq.

Former CIA officials compare the operation to the Phoenix programme in Vietnam, which was launched in 1967. That programme sought to destroy the civilian infrastructure supporting the Vietcong through assassinations and abductions secretly authorised by Washington.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of CIA counter-terrorism, said: "They're clearly cooking up joint teams to do Phoenix-like things, like they did in Vietnam." He said that small units of US special forces would work with their Iraqi counterparts, including former senior Iraqi intelligence agents, on covert operations.

The force is intended to take on a crucial role for Washington in post-Saddam Iraq. The Pentagon and CIA have told the White House that the organisation will allow America to maintain control over the direction of the country as sovereignty is handed over to the Iraqi people during the course of this year.

John Pike, an expert on classified military budgets at the Washington-based Global Security organisation, told The Telegraph: "The money for this has been buried in the 'other procurements' section of the Air Force budget. The CIA is funded out of that category.

"The creation of a well-functioning local secret police, that in effect is a branch of the CIA, is part of the general handover strategy. If you are in control of the secret police in a country then you don't really have to worry too much about who the local council appoints to collect the garbage."

In the short term, CIA officials expect that the very existence of a strongly pro-American security force will terrify civilians who are currently supporting the insurgency into refusing assistance and aid to Ba'athist rebels. Despite the capture of Saddam last month, attacks on US personnel and Iraqis co-operating with them have continued into the New Year.

The scheme is believed to have been heavily backed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, a key advocate of the war to oust Saddam. After deciding in November to accelerate the handover of political power to a sovereign Iraqi authority, Mr Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials are anxious that Iraq should not fall under radical Islamist control or degenerate into civil war.

"The presence of a powerful secret police, loyal to the Americans, will mean that the new Iraqi political regime will not stray outside the parameters that the US wants to set," said Mr Pike. "To begin with, the new Iraqi government will reign but not rule."

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