In the wake of the conviction of the English businessman who sold fake bomb detectors very little has changed in Iraq, which purchased several thousand of them. Baghdad said that it would start using dogs instead, but no timeline was given for when that would happen. Instead the fake devices are still seen throughout the country. So far only two provinces have announced that they would buy dogs on their own. Those two are in the south where there is very little violence. When and if the central government ever takes action on this issue is an open question, and the problem of corruption will hang over any deal that is made.
These fake bomb detectors continue to be used throughout Iraq even though the authorities know they don’t work (AP)
The Iraqi government has tried to downplay the bomb detector case since the verdict was announced. In May 2013, Jim McCormick, the owner of ATSC who produced the fake devices was found guilty of fraud in a British court. In Iraq, the story was widely reported, but the authorities did very little. Deputy Interior Minister Adnan Asadi told the press that the detectors would be replaced, but didn’t say when that would happen. Worse were the comments of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who said that some of the detectors actually worked. This despite the fact that they have no working parts. The premier went on to say that the government would start using dogs instead. That showed that Baghdad did not want to admit to its wrong. The trial revealed that ATSC paid huge bribes to Iraqi officials to buy the devices for instance. To acknowledge this wrongdoing would be to accede to the rampant corruption throughout the government. Not only that, but in this case it cost the lives of thousands of lives who were killed in insurgent explosions. To add to that Maliki is up for re-election in 2014, while violence is increasing, so the bomb detectors could be used against him. The result is that Baghdad has dropped the case.
Since then two provinces have moved towards buying dogs, but corruption will always be an issue. In August, Governor Abdul Rida Talal of Wasit said that it would be buying 70 bomb sniffing canines. Dhi Qar was actually the first governorate to announce the move back in May. It acted as soon as the McCormick case was closed. The problem is if the correct dogs will be bought, if Iraqi forces will be properly trained on their use, and the money isn’t scammed like what happened with the bomb detectors. For example, Niqash reported on the small number of dogs that the Interior Ministry already uses in the capital’s Green Zone. It consulted with a police dog trainer who said that the ministry was mishandling the dogs, and not caring for them properly. The paper then talked with a member of parliament’s security committee who told it that 20 new dogs had recently been bought, but they were not trained to detect explosives. That pointed to another case of fraud or incompetence. There was evidence of that before, when in July 2011, a State of Law legislator commented that he knew of 27 cases of financial and administrative corruption in attempts to purchase police dogs. (1) Bribes and theft is the reason why Iraq is considering getting bomb dogs today. If the Interior Ministry never bought the fake explosive detectors it might have had dogs years ago, and prevented hundreds of bombings. Another issue is that Dhi Qar and Wasit are in the south where there is hardly any violence. They might suffer one bombing between them a month if that. Where canines are really needed are in Baghdad and the surrounding governorates where the insurgency is based.
Iraq is suffering through a wave of bombings as militants are making a comeback. Effective counter measures are needed more than ever. The country already suffered from spending millions on false detectors. Rather than pulling them off the streets, and moving towards dogs and other devices, the central government looks to be doing little. Only in two provinces have officials said they would purchase dogs for checkpoints. If Baghdad ever took interest in this issue there would have to be stringent oversight to make sure that the money wasn’t wasted. With no urgency being shown, that likely means that the bomb detectors will be used for the foreseeable future. Rather than rising to the occasion the country’s leadership is failing like usual, and trying to ignore the entire matter while Iraqis are dying.
1. Al-Rafidayn, “Corruption of one million dollars in a deal that police dogs,” 7/3/11
Agence France Presse, “Iraq PM insists some fake bomb detectors work,” 5/20/13
- “Iraq province to ditch fake bomb detectors,” 5/14/13
Habib, Mustafa, “who let the dogs out? iraqi govt. calls in man’s best friend as violence rises,” Niqash, 7/4/13
Al-Rafidayn, “Corruption of one million dollars in a deal that police dogs,” 7/3/11
Al Rayy, “Wasit decide to buy sniffer dogs and rescue vehicles for the development of the performance of the police,” 8/12/13