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Prof. Maria Gabriella Pasqualini


1. The MSU deployed in Nassirya Dhi Khar region-Southern Iraq

The special experience gained by the MSU deployed in Iraq will be surely, if I may say, a leading one, not only for the doctrine in progress, but also as far as operational procedures will be definitely settled, keeping in mind that flexibility of this instrument will always be required, because operational theatres have all their own particular characteristics and above all because professionalism in the field of police with military status and flexibility are among the winning assets of a Multinational Specialised Unit: these assets are indeed in the MSU presently deployed in Iraq; this experience is to be taken into account for future deployments in this area or similar ones, in this Arab sector, which proves to be much more difficult than foreseen.


2. General remarks about the present Iraqi situation

In order to better understand which has been and which is the role and the tasks performed by the MSU, at Regiment level, in Nassiriya- Iraq, lead by the Italian Carabinieri, we have, first of all, to remember the very difficult historical and geo-political situation in the Country after the fall of Baghdad and the nearly total, if not total collapse, of every Iraqi governmental and bureaucratic institution and any kind of police, included. On the top, as everyone knows, Iraq is not an homogenous country, with many ethnic and religious conflicts complicating the necessary tranfer of power to Iraqi authorities. This transfer of power foreseen for the end of June, will not possibly improve the situation, though the international community may wish the contrary. Law enforcement and the fight against terrorism are indeed the very first actions to be taken in that area, if really there is a will to reinstate stability and security in this strategic sector of the Middle East, an exceptionally difficult and ambitious program.

We may also say that the combat period is in a way still going on there; though the international community has started the process to stabilize and secure the country; the area of transition to the time of a combat replacement, is still very wide, that ‘grey area’, in which a MSU can perform at best and for which it has been conceived, since its first deployment years ago.


3. Southern Iraq

The operational AOR of the MSU, integrated in the IT-JTF is the small, in comparison with all the Iraqi territory, but sensitive region of Dhi Khar, a totally Shi’ite area therefore, not only the city of Nassyiria. The region is also characterised by the presence of many powerful tribes, whose sheiks are also political leaders, and by the muslim shi’ite clergy, as powerful as the tribe chiefs; to complicate the situation, some of the powerful sheiks are also religious leaders with the consequence that the task of collecting sensitive reliable information is quite hard.

This is one of the tasks performed by some of the components of the MSU in the Dhi Khar region and we can say that especially in the present days the political situation of this territory is quite well known to the Italian on site, thanks to these investigations. Nothing can be done, especially in an Arab Country, if the environment is not known, in a situation which is so far away from our way of thinking. It has to be considered that the region is also very poor, deprived of the basic conditions of life, including water, drinkable or not, or a city sewer system; electricity was a problem in the past when Saddam Hussein used to convey it, to the north, though it was produced in the south, exactly as he did with water. Now the problem seems to be solved unless, for some reasons, electricity will be again conveyed in large quantities to the North.


4. A synthetic chronology

The Italian Advanced Party for this Unit reached Nassiriya around middle of June 2003, while the Main Body reached the operational theatre middle of July, same year, finding nearly total destruction in this city and all the possible turmoil in this Southern zone of Iraq, the almost total population of which follows the Shi’ia confession.

The first turn-over of people took place between October 20 and November 14; February-March 2004, the second turn over. As everyone knows, the Iraq MSU has been integrated by a contingent of Romanian army and Portuguese National Republican ‘Guardia’, the last one reaching the Unit, after November 12, as it was scheduled much time before the Event, the terrorist attack to Base Maestrale, one of the two bases of MSU. The total components of the Unit are, average number, almost 600 men (among them there were very few women), the Italian personnel being around 350 Carabinieri in the different operational situations, chosen for their professional special skills required for the mission to be performed in that area, belonging, to the Paratroops Regiment ‘Tuscania’ , to the 7° Regiment ‘Trentino Alto Adige’ and to the 13° Regiment ‘Friuli Venezia Giulia’, to the G.I.S. - this for the ‘combat’ component, the strong military component, so much necessary in this particular case - and to some other specialisations in the Arma, like experts in environment (NOE), cultural heritage protection (TPC), the Iraqi one being constantly looted; anti-sophistication (NAS), to take care of other ‘civil’ tasks, added values to the work already performed and in progress.


5. Local climatic conditions

We have also to stress the fact that the mission performed by this Unit has undergone very particular difficulties connected also with the Iraqi climate, reaching more than 50° C. from July to September-October, which made the logistic settlement of the bases quite hard. After those months, mud and cold weather have been also a noticeable difficulty. Not to forget the frequent desert storms that sometimes hinder the normal duties or make them very difficult to be performed - personal experience - and can heavily damage, with a kind of talcum powder sand, mechanical engines and sophisticated electronic tools. Which means that a complete analysis of the climatic conditions must always be performed beforehand, in order to supply right equipments and outfits. Therefore this is also a new experience to be taken into account for future deployments of this kind of Unit. As I had the chance to visit the site, in the MSU HQ in Nassiryia, last November, I had the opportunity to watch daily how the different tasks were performed, leaving the HQ on many different occasions during the patrolling or the humanitarian activities, like to escort the Italian Red Cross releasing humanitarian help in villages or to Hospitals and medical consulting places.


6. Some positive results

As you know, one of the most important tasks to be carried out in Iraq is the control of the sensitive areas, performed by patrolling critical spots, also to gather information in order to prevent crimes of every kind (above all, arms and explosives smuggling or illegal digging or drugs’ traffic, and of course terrorism), 24 hours activity.

Just a few figures will give you the idea of the activities performed, in this regard, before and after that 12 November by the Unit: This is to show not only the amount of work performed in a relative short time - eight months - , but also the strong reaction and the cohesion shown by all the components of the MSU regiment after the attack at ‘Maestrale Quarters’. These outstanding operational results are important for one of the primary objectives of their presence in that area: the executive mission for law enforcement and the re-establishment of public order and security. During the period of my visit , every single day and most of the nights the presence of the various components of the Unit was necessary or required even by local authorities in order to control the crowd, for example: every kind of queueing up, be it policemen to be enrolled, salary to be received or the changing of the old banknotes with the new currency was the occasion of a possible turmoil and the Unit was always able to control the crowd, without the use of fire.

JULY 20 2003 - NOVEMBER 12 2003

External duties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.800 Arrested/detained persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 Weapons confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265 Ammunition confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15.063 Explosives confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.047

NOVEMBER 13 2003 - MARCH 11 2004

External duties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.803 Arrested/detained persons handed over to local police . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 Weapons confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 665 Ammunition confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33.299 Explosives confiscated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.737 Source: Carabinieri General Headquarters

Many times the Unit acted as an interposition force, like for example, among the many more occured, one of the last very recent actions that took place in the evening of March 9th, when there has been a very harsh problem between some militia men of political parties and local policemen: four of these policemen were killed and four injured. Members of the Unit intervened, controlled the crowd (almost 150 policemen gathered to counteract against militia people) recuperating also the bodies of the dead ones, put 9 persons under arrest, seized a considerable number of weapons and ammunition, escorted the arrested people to the local prison in the HQ of the Local Police, after having identifyed them: this happened without the need of the using arms. I want to underline the fact that the control of the crowd in an Arab country is particularly delicate for the very special way of behaving of the population, easy to be enflamed and easy to use weapons, even when not needed, but very weak in front of the right show of force, which is anyway very dangerous.

The criminal investigation and intelligence carried out is necessary in order to isolate violent persons or cripto- agents of disrupting groups, in view of securing the area, also with counter terrorism objective: and this has been and is done constantly, also contacting and obtaining the local society’s trust for a better understanding of the real local situation: humint is of great help also in decisions concerning in which areas or spots, not only to enforce peace, but also to give a humanitarian help, where it is most needed or even requested, as I saw it was done there, by those Carabinieri assigned to this kind of delicate investigation.


7. Organizing and training of local Police forces

Always in the field of the preparatory activity for the transfer of power and police responsibility to the various kinds of local Police, which have already been or still to be settled (according to the Coalition Provisional Authorities - CPA Program related to it) much work has been done by some of the Italian components of the Unit.

In Nassiriya, Local Police and Traffic Police are being re-organized and trained by the Italian Carabinieri personnel, according to a Program outlined by the CPA, sometimes starting even from re-building the premises and supplying new uniforms. Following the training by the MSU, Traffic Police in Nassiriya started to be respected by the population and the numerous traffic jams, in a possible way, started to be directed by the Iraqi Traffic policemen. As far as the Local Police is concerned, in this case the Italian help (at the Academy in Al-Zubayr, organized by the UK, 10 Carabinieri together with 34 British elements, 10 from Czecoslovakia and 4 from Danemark) is taking care of training, mentoring the new and old recruited policemen, with control of duties performed by them during normal police service and a kind of ‘on the job training’, patrolling with them, to show practically the way to work.

People under arrest for different crimes are handed over to the Local Police, who is charged to keep them in custody, until a local Court of law decides the case, but frequent inspections are done by the Unit on how these prisoners are treated as far as the Human Rights are concerned: I should say that frequent control at these latitudes is compulsory to obtain some results. Part of the program of re-organizing and training includes also to supply them with new tools, like for example it the 12 pick-up Mitsubishi given by the CPA, through the Italian Force - MSU, last November at the HQ of the Local Police.


8. CIMIC activities

The Unit works in collaboration with the CIMIC Center of the Italian Brigade in order to put into action, for example, also the so called quick impact projects, concerning the restructuring or rebuilding of Police stations or the maintenance of city streets, roads and side walks, normally in very poor conditions: in fact it is compulsory to try to start again also small local enterprises, besides the greater important reconstruction projects (difficult to ‘take off ’) and to circulate money trying to produce legal profits in such a depressed area, where the flux of financial means depends quite only on smuggling weapons, explosives and archaeological findings.

One of the successful activities of the MSU is also to offer medical assistance to local population, besides giving great help in the city hospitals, also going into small villages around Nassiriya: the medical situation is very poor in those places, where it lacks many basic medications, above all for children, who must be constantly treated for even simple pediatric pathologies. This was possible also by means of a vehicle acting as a moving medical consulting room, intended also for a tele-medicine. The idea is successful, as I said, but the vehicle was too high, too big and in a way too sophisticated for that climate and those difficult roads around Nassiriya, where most of the streets do not have tarmac laid on. The need would be for a special car, equipped with medical instrument, but easier to use in those sometimes extreme conditions. As I mentioned before, one added value is the TPC. In fact, one of the special tasks performed by this MSU is related to the protection of the Iraqi Cultural Heritage in very rich Sumerian Dhi Khar area. Just, as above, a few figures will be more effective

JULY 2003 - NOVEMBER 2003

Registered archaeological sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Aerial reconnaissance (with the support of the IT-JTF) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Preventive and repressive motorised patrols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Sequestrated archaeological sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Identified persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Arrested persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 42

The work of this special team, integrated also by a specialist in problems related to the environment and biology, identifies and monitors the archaeological sites, surveying them. An accurate archaeological map of the region has been drawn. The team also built watch-towers and fences and established radio-connections. Besides this, they instruct, also at the use of weapons, a sort of ‘archaeological guards’, to whom the Iraqi Police can extend a Temporary Weapon Card (TWC). An incredible amount of work has been done also to prevent illegal digging, forbidden during Saddam Hussein period, and the subsequent looting, normally performed by a nearby living tribe, whose members are specialised in this kind of survival, knowing the places where to dig by oral tradition and a thorough familiarity with those sites.

During my visit, I saw a good amount of illegal pits, left over in the middle of the digging, most of the time, because of the intense surveillance of the Carabinieri. In this field also investigations have been done to cut the illegal traffic of archaeological Sumerian valuable pieces. We have to note also that a complete list with photographs alway accompany the seized pieces, before sending them to Baghdad, where they are handed over to the competent Iraqi authorities at the Archaeological Museum. This is a positive help for a country to be reconstructed and is well accepted by the Iraqi society; the area is very wide and it is necessary event to have more experts there or to increase and speed up the training of the archeological guards.

JULY 2003 - MARCH 10 2004

Registered archaeological sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Aerial reconnaissance (with the support of the IT-JTF) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Preventive and repressive motorised patrols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 Sequestrated archaeological sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .302 Identified persons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94 Individuals under arrest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 Weapons sequestrated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Source: Unit for the protection of the Carabinieri cultural heritage.


9. Synthesis

A) In my personal opinion, the tasks performed by the Iraqi MSU are the ones needed in such a situation and in this kind of area, up to now not very much known from the operational point of view and from a psychological one; if I may add, also from the historical point of view as for as recent history is concerned, which is also fundamental to understand the present situations. Of course, the fact that the area has a wave of ‘combat’ still in act, means that the ‘combat’ component of this MSU is to be studied, as it has been, with care, in order to see if it fits to the present moment, but also prewieving possible abrupt changes of the situation; it might be necessary to deepen the knowledge of the Country, in consideration of the experiences made and the information gathered, so as to improve the already effective composition of the Unit. Surely there is a need for more Arabic speaking people, or, at least with a good knowledge English, because, by the way, local interpreters speak a very poor English, and sometimes communication is not very easy; B) The activities of training and monitoring local civil police and the ones carried on by CIMIC should be enhanced, since they are the most effective on the local population, and must of course be carried with the consent of the local authorities, state or religious ones, in order not to alter local balances of any kind.

This kind of activities will really help to stabilize and secure the country, and consequently also that strategic sector, which up to now, as anyone knows, is far from being stabilized and secured, notwithstanding the efforts done and the toll of victims. C) From another point of view, I can say that every member of the Unit has been working within the framework of its responsibility, even if the duties were not those typical of a combat situation, with a sense of cohesion with all the group, since everyone felt and is feeling on the first line, and not backwards, belonging them to Arma territoriale or to a particular special regiment.

Altogether the MSU Regiment is developing a very good, though very difficult job, showing also to the Coalition Forces and to the local authorities and population, the way in which the Italians perform their activities - both military and humanitarian help - with a strong sense of discipline and duty. In case Iraqi MSU had the entire command and control of the region, it would perform even much better its functions, already well known in the area to the Higher Commands of the Coalition Forces.


(*) - Lecturer at the University of Palermo.