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Fears of an Iraqi security split

Baghdad remains a city of barriers - dangerous with deep political and sectarian fault lines. Some Iraqis fear these same fault lines are reflected within the security forces.

Last modified: 14 Apr 2010 14:51
Photo by AFP

Baghdad remains a city of barriers - concrete slabs protect government buildings, seal roads and close off neighbourhoods. Barricades stand between communities, and checkpoints are everywhere in the Iraqi capital.

This is still a dangerous city, where political and sectarian fault lines run deep.

Some Iraqis fear these same fault lines are reflected within the security forces, and question whether all their guns are pointed in the same direction.

Parliamentary elections on March 7 produced no clear winner and Mohanad al-Taeey, who works at a store next to one of Baghdad's many checkpoints, told me that he fears security forces may fight each other in the absence of a political agreement on the next government.

"We have Sunni and Shia forces – if someone doesn’t get the position they want in government, they may use force," Mohanad says.

The structure of Iraq's security forces is complex, with many agencies and units. Some sectarian groups still retain their own militias, although they've laid down their guns for the time being.

But critics insist that the different security forces branches are highly politicized, and are in fact, being used as instruments of power by some political parties.

Those in the opposition are calling for reform, claiming that the forces are built on and around sectarianism.

Fatah al-Shaikh, a member of Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list told Al Jazeera:

"The army is mainly made up of Sunnis and the interior ministry force is mainly Shias. The result – each side is loyal to their sect. They should answer to the law and strike at any group causing instability."

The government blames security lapses on a lack of intelligence information, but also insists that intelligence agencies do share information amongst themselves, and says politicians from different backgrounds and parties are involved in all discussions. 

It is still a dangerous time, as politicians try to form a government and compete for power. And many Iraqis fear security forces might be dragged into that struggle.