Ethnic Balance in the Ministry of Defence (Iraqi Army – Counter Terrorism Service)

Mohammed Salman Al-Tai

Former MP at ethnic equilibrium committee

The US occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of the political system in the country signaled a significant move in the Iraqi security system with all its types and components. The decision of the US civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, to dissolve the Iraqi army and security services has a very serious and complicated influence on reforming the Iraqi military methodology, which was built more than 80 years ago.

This decision has clearly disrupted the issue of security in Iraq since its adoption until today, because it is known that military doctrines require great effort, precise plans and complex mechanisms to modify or change their directions. The United States and even successive Iraqi governments have not been able to provide and benefit from all of these in cases of unstable security situations in the country.

After 2003, a new Iraqi Ministry of Defence was formed, with a new leadership and new mechanisms of action. These mechanisms were based on:

1- Dissolution of the ministry’s structures with all its forms and the dismissal of its members and leaders in a collective manner.

2 - The implementation of the De-Baathification, accountability and justice laws rapidly, which included the lowest military ranks in the system of the ministry in addition to its leadership.

3 - To rely on the military figures who were marginalized during the previous era and who were incompetent and unable to manage all the main joints of the ministry.

4 - Growing sectarian feeling among the Shiite majority of the need to dominate this ministry on the pretext of marginalization and exclusion in the previous era and for the positive impact of this ministry which is influenced by the impact of events in Iraq.  

5 - Failure of the US decision-maker to recognize the step of sectarian and ethnic hegemony over the ministry and the accompanying problems in the future, for the ignorance of the decision-maker at that time about the nature of the Iraqi society formation and its complex composition.

6. The strong Shiite-Kurdish strategic alliance and their mutual feeling of the necessity to control and manage this file directly and to exclude the Sunni Arabs as well as the rest of the Iraqi people from their security decision-making circle.    
When combined, these factors, and there may be others, are what determined the development of the image of the Iraqi army that will be formed to protect the country. This Iraqi mindset and American indifference produced a heterogeneous hybrid Iraqi Army that lacks the most basic elements of organizational and administrative ability and that is confused in its military doctrine, to be controlled with several factors, perhaps the most prominent of which are:

1 - Insisting deliberately to exclude leaders and competencies of the Sunni Arabs and minorities from the joints of leadership and to influence the escalating sectarian feeling at that time.

2 - Reliance on former military leaders who are not known for competency and not even honesty in the leadership of the new army.

3 - The emergence of sectarian and ethnic sense in the new formation since its first cornerstone and the methodological handling on this basis.
4. The Kurdish-Shiite agreement in sharing the administration of this army, which was reflected later on the management of other security files.

Therefore, as a result of these principles and this methodology in the formation of the types and joints of the new Iraqi army, there was a military product which suffers from many structural imbalances and complex problems that have accompanied the army so far. This was accompanied also by a clear community sense that this army cannot be a reassuring institution for large segments of the Iraqi society components, and this feeling is built on the basis of sectarian and ethnic formulations of this army. It is also based on realistic field facts of the proportions of these components in the formation of this institution.

It is true that there are no accurate numerical estimates for the numbers of ethnic and sectarian groups within the Iraqi army, but there are approximate ratios which have changed because of the security and political instability experienced by the country from the establishment of the new system. The percentages, which are ethnically distributed within the military and security system, are based on the following form:

The number of the Iraqi army members is more than 500000, around half a million, and they are distributed as follows:
1- Percentage of Shiites in the joints of command and control reaches 90%
2 - Percentage of Kurds in the joints of command and control is 6%
3 - Percentage of Sunni Arabs and other minorities is 4%

Note that the army leadership is directly linked to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and there is no general command of the armed forces; the rest of the components can participate in expressing their opinion and advice when making decisions.
1- Percentage of those who are officers and members of the Shiite component is 80%
2 - Percentage of those who are officers and members of the Sunni component is 17%
3 - Percentage of those who are officers and members of the rest of the entities, except for the Kurdish component, is 3%
4. The Kurdish component has the independent Peshmerga force, which is neither affiliated to the Iraqi army nor to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

In reality, these are the approximate ratios that unfortunately the new Iraqi army was built on them.   The chaos and insecurity will continue unless the Iraqi leaders find a new way to restructure and formulate the Iraqi army, taking into account the field changes and the nature of the population structure of society.   

* Ethnic balance in the Counter Terrorism Service

The new Counter Terrorism Service was created in 2008 in the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It was an illegal formation (it has no law regulating its work) because it is not part of the Ministry of Defence and is directly linked to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces bureau in terms of:

A/ Management and supervision
B / Administration and armament
C) Tasks and duties
At that time, the country was in a sectarian war at all levels, in addition to the existence of many of the Shiite armed militias, whose leaders were in a political dispute with the Prime Minister (The Mahdi Army also known as Jaysh al-Mahdi - Badr Organization)

There was a tendency to form a new security organization affiliated to the commander-in-chief, which would carry out his orders directly, in accordance with the three principles mentioned above in order to carry out the tasks and duties that the commander-in-chief believes must be dealt with within the shortest possible time and through a loyal, experienced and strong body.

The number of the Counter Terrorism Service officers and associates is approximately 15000. The Americans supervised the formation of the service in early 2007 according to the following ratios:
Percentage of Shiites is 40%
Percentage of Sunni is 40%
Percentage of Kurds is 20%  

By participating in the battles against terrorism, human attrition operations and the withdrawal of US forces in 2011, changes in US bases took place to restructure the service. Consequently, the percentage of components declined, resulting in the increase of the percentage of the Shiite component in this service, which is sensitive to a large extent. These rates are variable over time because of the continuation of this service to fight hard and complex battles against terrorism.

However, the Counter Terrorism Service is now based on the following ethnic distribution:
1 - At the command and control level, 98% of the officers of the Counter Terrorism Service are Shiites.
2 - The Sunnis and Kurds constitute a command and control percentage of only 2% of the total number.
3 - At the level of officers and associates (soldiers), the Shiites constitute 95%.
4 - The percentage of the Sunni in this service of officers and soldiers does not exceed 4%.
5 - The Kurds constitute 1% of the total number of officers and personnel in this service.     
Unfortunately, we say again that the mindset on which the Iraqi army was founded is the same as the one that was forming and establishing this important security service in the past. It is true that the stages of establishment were close, but the mentality of change and modernization, albeit long after the formation, and the accompanying important events are still in place and so far were not convinced of the usefulness of change, including the current Prime Minister (Dr. Haider al-Abadi).

* Ethnic Balance in the Federal Police

This service is the largest and greatest among the security services in Iraq today, as the number of its officers is 850000 officers and soldiers. The spirit of the formation of the Ministry of Defence and the Iraqi army was also present here and for the simple reason that the American attention was absent and the political will was the same. So, the final product should have the same characteristics and orientations but with a narrow margin that the federal police must have headquarters in all provinces and have specific numbers. Because of the circumstances of the sectarian fighting that existed at the phase of establishment, political parties had to be subject to the rule of the status quo and the structure of this service should be from the provinces that were not easy to access or to include the officers of other components and other provinces in its structure. Therefore, the percentage of representation in these became different from the percentage of representation in the army and the Counter Terrorism Service, and proportions were as follows:

1 - At the level of leadership and management, the percentage of Shiites is 90%.
2 - At the level of officers and soldiers, the percentage of Shiites is 70%
3 - Percentage of Sunni Arabs at the level of leadership and management is 2%.
4 - Percentage of Sunni Arabs at the level of officers and soldiers is more than 20%
5 - Other minorities are about 3%

As a result of these relatively high percentages, the other components of the Iraqi society, despite their reservations, feel that they did not get their full rights in this last formation, especially in terms of self-management by its citizens in the provinces and the absence of external departments from other provinces, despite the absence of real representation in the decision-making at the leadership level, but it remains relatively acceptable.  

* The level of ethnic representation in the Popular Mobilization Authority:

The Popular Mobilization is different from other security services since it was founded not by a political decision, but by a religious fatwa from the Marja’ al-Sistani. This fatwa is concerned with a sector of Iraqi society components, who are the Shiites (Sufficiency Jihad).  

The final outcome of the project is that it was formed according to the following principles:

1 - All factions of the armed militias present in the Iraqi arena were incorporated into the branches of the Authority.
2 - It also included large numbers of volunteers and provinces of predominantly sectarian nature.
3 - A confused political leadership after ISIS control of most of the headquarters and weapons of the army and police in four provinces, which are in dire need of any security effort to compensate for the military loss.
4 - Iran’s announcement of its military, security and administrative support of the Popular Mobilization components.

Based on these facts, political work has been carried out vigorously to legitimize this new service. These efforts have been carried out in two stages.

First, connecting the Popular Mobilization Authority with the bureau of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. This measure caused a number of problems, as the Sunni Arabs called on to form the National Guard to liberate their occupied provinces. Connecting this service with the Popular Mobilization does not mean that it enjoys legal cover to allow the monitoring of the crisis funds, arming and processing through the federal budget.      

Second, to work on issuing a law that legitimizes the Popular Mobilization Authority and prevents sceptics from targeting it. This is what happened later. In the context of this atmosphere, the process of structuring this service happened in difficult and complex circumstances and required a number of factors that the political decision-maker believed in their validity, among these procedures: 

1. The leadership of the Mobilization should be 100% exclusively Shiite.
2 - All militias, their weapons, leadership and officers participate in structuring the new authority.
3. The Sunni Arabs and the other components are not allowed to be present in the leadership and decision-making body.
4 - At the beginning of the authority formulation, the presence of a number of Sunni Arabs was rejected, but with the continuation of the battles with the ISIS, limited numbers were accepted.          

With new tough conditions to join the new Authority and continuous deterioration of the security situation, the Popular Mobilization Authority leadership, under the pressure of the Sunni Arab political representatives and the reality of the field in the fighting, had to agree to include 15% of the total number of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which now includes about 140,000 officers. 
* Evolution of ethnic balance in the Iraqi security and defence system and its impact on security

Although more than 14 years have passed since the formation of the Iraqi security forces of all types and the great imbalance of the components within them, they remained in the same place and sometimes retreat with rapid steps, because of a number of main reasons that prevented the development of these services at the time.

1 - Absence of military doctrine with a comprehensive national dimension.
2 - Loss of competencies with military experience, though the security file is still disturbed, especially at the level of the Supreme Command of all formulations (Ministry of Defence - Federal Police – counter terrorism service - Popular Mobilization Authority).
3 - Failure to keep pace with technical developments in the fields of armament, equipment and training that the world is witnessing today. So, it remained very traditional.

4 - Overlap of political and religious orientations with passivity and the doctrine of military professionalism, in addition to the loyalty to some senior leaders of these security services.
5 - Confusing overlap of powers and the existence of high ambiguity in the distribution of specialties and tasks between the pillars of the security service.       

These reasons, and perhaps many others, made the above-mentioned security services unable to carry out their duties in protecting internal security and the lives of the citizens. Added to that, a major and important factor, which may be one of the most important reasons for the weakness of the security services, is the absence of the national balance from 2003 until now. It is well known that Sunni Arabs and other minorities have high and historical experience in the security service file with all its branches. Most of the competent elements were excluded and a liquidation process was carried out due to the disturbed security situation in the country.  

Final  outcome.

The continued and disturbing instability of the security services and the absence of leadership competencies to lead these formations reflect the continued deterioration of security, in addition to the increasing feeling of the rest of the non-Shiites components of marginalization, exclusion and targeting. This may generate an increase of political, security and community problems in the future. The principle of involving everybody according the concept of solidarity of responsibility is the best and most successful option to address the great weakness in the management of the Iraqi security services. Unless clear plans are made with strict timelines for this treatment, the Iraqi population with all its components will suffer greatly and pay a high price for the lack of political understanding of many parties’ leaders and political blocs that form the Council of Representatives of Iraq and the Iraqi government.