Iraq's newly appointed Minister of Interior, Samir Sumaidy, was previously a member of the US appointed temporary government in Iraq - the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). He replaced Nouri Badran, who resigned in early April. Sumaidy is in charge of all security forces in Iraq, from the newly-formed Iraqi Civil Defence Corps, to police directing traffic on the streets.
In an interview with IRIN he admitted he faced a huge challenge with frequent reports of insecurity in the country and the recent spate of kidnappings of foreigners, but says he is bringing valuable experience to the job.
QUESTION: We have seen so many kidnappings, both of foreigners and Iraqis in recent weeks. What are you doing about it?
ANSWER: This is part of an increasing rate in crime. But this also comes at a time when there are many political crimes. (At one point in the last week, 40 foreigners were being held by various forces). I have ordered a specialist unit to be created to deal with kidnappings and to follow up on political kidnapping. Foreign ambassadors are contacting us all the time to find out about the people who have been kidnapped so far. This gives a very bad impression of Iraq, so I hope we solve it soon.
Q: What is your background for the job?
A: I'm a total novice, and the best thing to do is to admit it immediately. I have management ability. I think that is the main thing I bring to this task with the help of Iraqi experts and (US-led administrators) the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). I'm looking at this in terms of management and the best way to marshal the resources available for a specific task.
Q: How are you dealing with the political confrontations in Iraq, especially in Fallujah and Najaf?
A: Any attempt to decide political will by force of violence is not in the interests of the Iraqi people. We need peaceful channels to reach political goals. We were preparing for fair elections organised and supervised by the United Nations, so people who want to use violence - we need to deal with them decisively.
Q: Will you create new security bodies, such as the former mukhabarat, or security police?
A: We are capable of creating these bodies. We should bring together all the people with expertise in this field, but it needs to be done by the rules and with legislation (through the Governing Council or a future elected government). This needs to be done as soon as possible before the situation gets worse.
Q: How will you deal with police who ran away from their duties in recent weeks?
A: After the change in power one year ago, there was a security vacuum. The ministry began in a period where people were appointed without a thorough security check. Now we can review the situation and take the qualitative point of view in terms of choosing members, rather than the quantitative view. If we have multiple problems, this means the end of the police force. We must get rid of them. Those who have proven that they don't regard the law, we will get rid of them.
Q: Are you saying that police who made mistakes will be expelled?
A: We should set criteria if we are talking about expelling people. It's not just something based on my mood. There should be a code of conduct applied to individuals. We don't want to hurt these people, but we cannot tolerate this. We must differentiate between those who showed responsibility and those who did not. We need to raise the technical and ethical level, to make sure we establish a competent institution.
Q: So, why do you think these police ran away from their duties?
A: The CPA was under great pressure to produce results quickly. We know a pregnant woman can deliver a baby in nine months. But nine pregnant women cannot deliver nine babies in one month. We know some (Iraqi Civil Defence Corps) units that were formed have proven to be problematic, mainly because of the way some people were selected.
We're looking closely at this, because it's no good to have units that we can't use in crisis situations. We found many police abandoned their posts. It wasn't a significant number, but it was a significant indicator, because of the stress they were under. For example, in Hilla, the commander called for support, and his men stood beside him. They were well-trained, well-prepared and reliable. In other places, that wasn't true.
Q: When the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis happens (scheduled for 30 June), is the ministry ready to accept the security side of the transition?
A: Our first mission will be to take over security for our government. All of the institutions must be able to perform this duty. I don't claim that the ministry can take over all of the security. All citizens must also take responsibility. We want to be close to the people to find out their opinions on how to improve the situation.
Q: We have been told that Badr forces (conservative Shiite forces loyal to IGC member Abdul Aziz al Hakim) took over several police stations in recent weeks. What happened?
A: There cannot be more than one government in a country. It must be centralised - there cannot be many centres of power. But we want to avoid bloodshed at any expense. We want to see authority and supremacy of the state, not individual groups.
Q: Will the Ministry of Interior take over police training, since it has been done in the past by Coalition forces?
A: Training is very important, since the police force is a professional force with specific requirements all over the world. We have training programmes that must be completed. In the early months, there was a need to graduate the police officers. Now, we find they need more training, so we are developing and deepening our future training programmes. We are also going to restructure the ministry to make it more efficient.
Q: Why can't the traffic police control the traffic situation?
A: Certainly the traffic issue in Baghdad is a reflection of the general situation. (Traffic on main streets is often jammed for hours because of concrete barriers and blocks in front of key locations). If traffic is organised, it will give the citizens a chance to realise that things are going well. But one of the problems facing us is that we have no valid law or penalties concerning traffic. We will solve this problem.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions