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Unformatted text preview: Organized Crime and Corruption in Iraq PHIL WILLIAMS This article seeks to put organized crime in Iraq in a broad comparative perspective. It examines the evolution of organized crime in Iraq, from a largely state-controlled phenomenon under Saddam Hussein to a free market in criminality under the current regime, and identifies the factors which led to this transformation. It also delineates the most prevalent and lucrative criminal activities and identifies those groups and factions involved. It argues that organized crime activities have become the funding mechanism of choice, as well as a means to consolidate local control, for most of the actors engaged in violence in Iraq. The analysis also suggests that a struggle for control over resources related to criminal activities has itself helped to foment violence among certain groups. Consequently, combating organized crime must be central to the US mission in Iraq. The focus should be principally on criminal activities that contribute most to the insecurity of the Iraqi people. The analysis concludes by considering ways in which the power of criminal organizations can be diminished and the consequences of criminal activities mitigated. When the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, organized crime and corrup- tion were the last things policymakers in Washington were thinking about. Since then, however, criminal enterprises, criminal activities and corruption have had profoundly debilitating effects on US efforts to impose political and military stability as well as on its reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Although Iraq does not fit neatly into the classic notions of peace operations, the problems and challenges which emerged in the aftermath of the invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein are not very different from those which have bedevilled peace operations elsewhere. Organized crime (which includes criminal enterprises and systematic criminal activities) in Iraq although only one com- ponent of a complex and highly intractable environment emerged as a major spoiler in the post-war security environment, helping to finance insurgency, terrorism and sectarianism, hindering the emergence of a legitimate central gov- ernment, and rendering complex economic problems still more intractable. 1 The initial looting of national infrastructure, economic assets and military bases had profoundly debilitating consequences, facilitating the development of organized crime and insurgency. Corruption also became endemic, undermining public trust and confidence in the new government while also facilitating much of the criminal activity. Most assessments of Iraq, however, focused on terrorism, insur- gency and sectarian conflict, largely ignoring the way in which criminal activities both fed and exacerbated these other problems. There were exceptions to be sure....
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