Securing The Iraqi Homeland: The Differing Faces Of Security | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Securing The Iraqi Homeland: The Differing Faces Of Security


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:20 pm

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One of these "trainers," Tom (he doesn't offer his last name) from Massachusetts, walks through the training area just before my lesson.  A former Special Forces Marine, he will be catching the next plane out of Iraq; his six-month contract with Dyncorp has ended.  His specialty is weapons training, and while in the Marine Corp he participated in everything from raids to patrols.  He was in country - down south - before the war actually began, and helped the resistance during the war.  When I ask him why he left the Marines, he says, "My contract was up.  I spent 15 years and got tired.  It took up a lot of my time."  He adds, " You make $60,000 a year but you can make six figures a year doing this."

Networking with former military contacts has helped him get a variety of jobs in Iraq.  Some last three months, others six.  As far as working with the trainees at SIS, Tom says, "after observing them for three weeks we identified deficiencies, so we showed them new ways.  They were very dedicated and willing to learn."  I ask him if supplying security is the biggest moneymaker in Iraq these days.  "Yes.  A lot of big money is being shelled out for security."

Indeed.  As of May 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority Web site had the names 62 private security companies listed as operating in Iraq.

The expense of security is evident as one attempts to enter the Sumer complex.  The honk of a vehicle driving through the two closely placed 16 foot high cement barricades placed just far enough apart to allow entrance cues a car, which acts as a gate, to slide back and allow the first level of entry to the complex.  As it slides back in place blocking exit, a swarm of security guards surround the entering vehicle, open its hood, trunk, and scan its underbelly with huge mirrors on long poles.  Once cleared, a second gate car glides back to allow entry.  Once inside, armed guards poised with Kalashnikovs are clearly visible in fortified positions both on the ground and along the upper levels of buildings.  This is the ultimate in security living in the new Iraq.

I am used to this routine having been here several times, visiting Hussain Sinjari, Editor-in-Chief of Baghdad's Ahali newspaper.  It was during a dinner at his home that my lesson was arranged.  I asked if it was possible to learn how to shoot a Kalashnikov.  "Oh yes, of cooourse," he replied, pointing to his cousin who was seated across the table.  "Farhad will teach you."  Hussain explained my request to Farhad who then offered a deal.  "As a good businessman," he began.  "I will give you this lesson if you do a story about my security company."  I laughed out loud and said I was getting the best part of the deal - a glimpse inside the workings of an Iraqi security company would simply be a bonus to my learning how to shoot a Kalashnikov.

Founded on May 14, 2003, SIS was, according to its Web site, "the first private security company established after the liberation of Iraq."  SIS, in partnership with DynCorp, provides security for international dignitaries, business executives, US and Iraqi government agencies (CIA and Governing Council members), sensitive sites in Iraq like power plants, and escort protection for the transport of oil, under the aegis of the UN Oil for Food Program.

The head of SIS is Farhad Sinjari, a quietly intense, former peshmerga fighter who learned his trade beginning at age 17 in the mountains of Kurdistan.  Nothing misses his eye.  He speaks only Arabic, so we converse through Zee, his 22-year old personal interpreter who speaks perfect English.  Interviewing him is akin to scaling a glass wall.  His answers are guarded, carefully executed, and brilliant in their deflection of anything with even the slightest political tinge.

According to Farhad, each potential client is closely scanned.  He will not work with just anyone.  When asked what will his huge security force - which to some translates into "mercenary force" - will do once things settle down in Iraq and it is no longer needed, he responds, "They will go home."  I explain that there are some who worry about the future of such a large militaristic group of men once violence abates.  What will they do for employment?

"If Iraq becomes stabilized, the economy will be strong enough to support other means of support.  This will happen automatically.  Once the safety and security is back in this country, jobs will be looking for these people, they won't be looking for jobs, says Farhad.  "I hope to change my job as soon as possible," he adds.

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