Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sandhurst in Baghdad

Update: Vistors are urged to read the observations of MarkFromIreland in the comments to this post.

Sandhurst used a model for new Iraqi army cadets [from Mehdi LEBOUACHERA (AFP) in L'Orient-Le Jour.]

In January the Iraqi military academy began training young officers based on instruction at the prestigeous British military academy at Sandhurst. This is "back to the source" after a Soviet-style interval which lasted 30 years.

Entry into the academy, located in Al Rustamiyah 10 km south of Baghdad and which will eventually welcome 900 cadets, is reserved to young recruits in excellent physical condition and in possession of a university diploma. It is here where NATO will open its own military academy this autumn. (The project had been delayed due to lack of funds).

In the suffocating heat, 20 recruits, addressed by the number on their uniforms, are running a dusty obstacle course and clearing beams and concrete walls. Even if discipline is not strict, recruits say they have come to serve their country and to measure up to the test. Lance Mohammed, 25, his face dripping with sweat, says he doesn't fear insurgent threats or attacks. This young man tried to enlist under Saddam Hussein but was rejected because his mother was Kurdish. But inshallah, in the new Iraqi army there will be no difference between Arabs and Kurds. British Colonel Neil Hutton, in charge of the training program, says religious or ethnic criteria will not be used to determine eligibility.

Further away, on a huge blacktopped surface, you hear the shouts of 90 cadets in impeccable uniforms learning to march in cadence under the severe gaze of Her Majesty's Instructor. The training we give here is the same as at Sandhurst, emphasized Capt. John Langton. We teach them the values of the British Army: courage, loyalty, discipline, respect for others, personal commitment and integrity.

Iraqi and British military ties go way back. The academy, where fading photos of former cadets who achieved high rank still hang on the walls, was created by the British in 1924 when they administered a mandate over the country.

The instruction methods used at Sandhurst, where many an Arab leader has trained, were in use in Iraq until 1970 when the Ba'ath regime turned towards the Soviet Union for military assistance. Colonel Hutton says the return was inspired not only by the historical ties between the two countries but because the period of instruction is 12 months. Officers can be rapidly turned out to fight the insurgents.

The goal of instruction is to develop their ability of command so that they will become professional soldiers and believers in republicanism, as well as to break the tradition of launching military coups.

The academy is willing to incorporate Saddam-era military men but on certain conditions. It depends on their role in the Ba'ath Party and their past, says Colonel Hutton. This reporter met an ex-officer of Saddam's military who decided to come back. After the fall of Saddam, I tried to work as a civilian but I had no luck. I like the tough life of the military. The 30-something officer was almost apologetic for having served in the ex-dictator's military: I was a soldier and I was not concerned with who was in power.


Blogger Postman said...

"But inshallah, the new Iraqi Army there will be no difference between Arabs and Kurds. British Colonel Neil Hutton, in charge of the training program, says religious or ethnic criteria will not be used to determine eligibility."

Well that will surprise some people, seeing the British Army is bursting at the seams with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Budhists, and soldiers of ever tint and shade of officersof every tinat ans shade of brown and black, not to mention of oriental caste... I understand they even let the Scots in...although in soemhwat reduced numbers now.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous Mark from ireland said...

Hi Nur,

There's quite a few details missing from that story I'll do some filling in:


The has $66 million that's a pretty substantial chunk of the $275 million allocated for the rebuilding of the infrastructure of the Iraqi Army.

Facilities at A1 Rustamiyah are to include:

A full-size stadium,
Olympic swimming pool,
air-conditioned gym (God know's they'll need the air conditioning),
fairly spacious barrack-room accommodation.

Recruits' Background

Now this is new:

"Officer cadets will be recruited from Iraq's universities,"

That's new (and something of a breakthrough) because prior to now educated Iraqis have traditionally climbed the civilian higher-education ladder while military officers attended a separate four-year military university.

They're looking for cadets with BA or a BSc under their belts. The idea is civilian/military integration.

They'll be commissioned primarily into mechanised infantry units of the Iraqi Army, with a few going on to train as pilots for the Iraqi Air Force or go on to complete nautical training before joining the Iraqi Coastal Defence Force. Assuming either of those two ever get off the ground.

Notice how the Iraqi defenses are being structured: Feck all airforce (mostly helicopters from what I can find out.)

And definitely not a navy. What they'll get is basically a weaponised anti-smuggling force somewhat akin to your coastguard.

In their senior term officer cadets will train alongside the SNCO platoon sergeants' course.

(The idea here being to break down barriers between commissioned and enlisted men and build trust between subordinates and commanders.) Great in theory and if Iraq is to have a real army which I for one doubt great in practice too.

Moving on:

The team (I'll come to them in a minute) also worked in the Kurdish regions.

They're bringing in two academies which originally trained Peshmerga into the programme.

At present the academies at Qalahchulan and Zakho will be used to train officers cadets until Al Rustamiyah is completed. Thereafter Qalahchulan and Zakho will be used for field and "specialist" training.

(Incidentally Al Rustamiyah is subjected to frequent mortar attacks and armed raids by fighters who you'll doubtless drop dead with shock to learn they describe as "armed bandits." Now they well may be armed bandits but as there've been no reports of any of 'em being captured alive how do the authorities know?)

Cui bono?

I'm in a cynical mood tonight as you can tell :-)

Construction Contract

A major US firm was awarded the building contract - No prizes for guessing who.

And Security is provided by:

A South African company (for some weird reason I didn't put in who they are into my database sorry) have the contract to secure the site using Angolans as the security force.

The place also has:

Several hundred Iraqi:

"Civil Defence Corps troops,"

"Specialist" Iraqi units.

and ordinary Iraqi Army personnel.

The original British commander of the outfit was a Lt Col Lyle. Apparently he doesn't speak Arabic but he did have a Corporal called Burnett who does speak Arabic. (My hunch would be that he's former SAS.)

Lt Col Lyle has a nice line in understatement whoever he is:

"Local security issues meant we have had to garrison troops to conduct operations in the area as well as attempt to rebuild an academy to train Iraqi officers or the future. There have been issues between parties with different interests and attitudes but we have managed."

Lyle has been replaced by former paratrooper commander Col Neil Hutton who was in command at Catterick. (That's the 2nd Battalion, Infantry Training Centre in North Yorkshire.)

Hutton's 2iC is US Army Capt Mike Kostiw.

IMO they're going down the wrong road here - they'dve been better to have adopted the Saint Cyr model but perish the thought .......

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Mark from Ireland said...


"And definitely not a navy. What they'll get is basically a weaponised anti-smuggling force somewhat akin to your coastguard."

Readers who are either humour-impaired or think that the word "irony" means "containing a lot of iron"

are invited to look at any map of Iraq.

Such as the one here:

or the one here:

and if you still don't get it the one here:

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Mark from Ireland said...

Readers who aren't humour impaired or who think that about the word "irony" are invited to study the map at the location below:

1:31 PM  

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