May 21, 2003
Allies to Begin Seizing Weapons From Most Iraqis
By MICHAEL R. GORDON
May 20 — Iraqi citizens will be required to turn over
automatic weapons and heavy weapons under a proclamation that
allied authorities plan to issue this week, allied officials
The aim of the proclamation is to help stabilize Iraq by
confiscating the huge supply of AK-47's, machine guns,
rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons that are used by
criminal gangs, paramilitary groups and remnants of the Saddam
Iraqis who refuse to comply with the edict will be subject to
arrest. Only Iraqis authorized to use military-type weapons
because of their police or military duties will be exempt.
"We are in the final stages of formulating a weapons
policy to put rules on who can and cannot possess a
weapon," Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the chief allied land
commander said in an interview. "We want to get explosives
and AK's out of the wrong hands."
The weapons proclamation, which is to be issued by L. Paul
Bremer III, the chief allied administrator for Iraq, and General
McKiernan, is part of a broader effort to improve security in
Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
The need to secure Baghdad and provide security elsewhere in
the country is expected to slow the pace of American troop
withdrawals from Iraq, allied officials said. The United States
has about 165,000 troops in Iraq. It is likely to have 100,000
in the fall, more than American planners had projected just
three weeks ago.
Among other steps to strengthen security in Iraq, American
forces are deploying a 4,000 strong military police brigade and
more Humvees to improve the ability to conduct patrols. They are
also repositioning American forces in the capital.
Allied officials are also considering a plan to bring
Britain's 16th Air Assault Brigade to Baghdad. If approved by
the British government, the British forces would be charged with
training the Iraqi police and helping to safeguard the Iraqi
capital, allied officials said.
Allied forces, however, do not plan to change the rules of
engagement to encourage the shooting of looters, officials said.
Allied commanders are eager to avoid an armed confrontation with
There are some circumstances in which looters can be shot
under the existing rules, but the main emphasis is to enable
American forces to protect themselves against attacks.
Since allied forces toppled Mr. Hussein's government last
month, they have struggled to fill the power vacuum in Baghdad
and provide security in this capital of 4.5 million people.
American military officials insist that the capital is safer
than it was a month ago and that progress has been made in
restoring essential utilities like electricity and water.
"Looting has gone down and violent crime has gone
down," General McKiernan said. "The trend is
But robberies, looting, kidnappings and attacks by
paramilitary forces are still frequent, prompting allied forces
to step up their efforts to secure the country.
The weapons proclamation is an important part of that
endeavor. The intention is to reduce attacks against allied
forces, reduce crime and stop violent fights among rival Iraqi
groups, allied commanders believe.
While General McKiernan talked about the ban in broad terms,
other officials provided details.
Iraqis who are in the military, the police or an authorized
security organization supervised by the allies will be
authorized to carry automatic or heavy weapons. But other Iraqis
will not be allowed to possess weapons, and open-air arms
markets, common in Baghdad, will be banned.
Iraqis will be allowed to keep small arms at home for
For a nation as dangerous as Iraq and as rife with weapons,
total disarmament is impractical, allied officials say. But
Iraqis will not be allowed to take their weapons outside their
home without a special license.
Those who do obtain such licenses — security guards, for
example — will not be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
To ensure that Iraqis are aware of the new policy the allies
will saturate Iraqis with leaflets, use loudspeaker
announcements and radio and television broadcasts. The edict
will establish an amnesty period during which weapons can be
turned in without fear of arrest.
The proclamation will also prohibit celebratory and other
weapons firing within city limits, a measure that is likely to
prove hard to enforce given the shooting that is often heard at
The weapons policy is just one element of the security plan.
Allied officials are also trying to rebuild the Iraqi police
forces. Some 7,000 police officials have indicated that they
want to come back to work in Baghdad. But allied officials say
they need to be retrained.
In the past, they say, the Iraqi police showed little
interest in patrolling. Last night, there were just four police
patrols conducted jointly by Iraqis and Americans, the first
such patrols in the capital.
If the British forces are deployed in Baghdad, as expected,
they will play an important role in the training. To avoid any
association with the security forces of the former government,
the police will wear blue uniforms instead of olive green. The
original plan called for them to wear white shirts, but the
Iraqis complained that that was unmanly and made them look like
Beyond that, allied planners are trying to reconfigure and
reposition the allied force in Baghdad to improve security in
the coming months. The main elements of that force include the
First Armored Division, which is starting to arrive in the
capital. The division has left artillery and air defense units
behind and is being equipped with additional Humvees so that it
can patrol the capital.
The Second Armored Cavalry Regiment is also being deployed.
All told, it will have more than 300 Humvees, Lt. Gen. William
S. Wallace, the V Corps commander, said.
The Third Infantry Division withdrawal was halted for
security reasons, but some units are expected to begin
withdrawing as they are relieved by the First Armored Division.