Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anbar’s Forgotten Sheikh

Out of the Anbar Awakening emerged three young and ambitious tribal sheikhs, each of which wanted both provincial and national power. One was Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the brother of the slain founder of the Anbar Salvation Council. The second was Sheikh Hameed al-Hayes who split from the Salvation Council to join with the third figure Grand Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Sulaiman. He was the head of the Dulaim tribe, one of the largest in the country. Sulaiman founded the Al-Anbar Tribal Council. All three once worked together, but then went their own separate paths looking to make a name for themselves. All of them worked with the Americans to fight the insurgency, reached out to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to establish themselves as Sunni leaders, and then each formed his own political party to run in the January 2009 provincial elections. Abu Risha and Hayes were victorious, while Sulaiman failed to gain a single seat on Anbar’s provincial council. Now the Sheikh is talking about leading a nationwide tribal revolt against the Maliki government. This seems more an effort to regain face however, as Sulaiman probably feels like the forgotten Sheikh of Anbar.

In April 2009, Sheikh Sulaiman told the Los Angeles Times that he was organizing a national tribal meeting. He said he wanted to organize tribes from across the country to make demands on the government. He didn’t say what they were, but threatened an uprising against Maliki if they were not met. Sulaiman and his former partner Sheikh Hayes were famous for making such inflammatory statements in the past, but nothing ever came of them. It was simply a way to make a name for themselves. That is probably what Sulaiman is doing now.

Sheikh Sulaiman was from the Dulaim tribe, the largest in Anbar, and one of the most prominent in Iraq. His grandfather was the most powerful sheikh in Anbar, and he has strived to attain that position himself. He, along with Sheikh Hayes formed the al-Anbar Tribal Council as a breakaway group from Abu Risha’s Anbar Salvation Council. They were famous for threatening their opponents. In February 2008 for example, the two sheikhs told the Iraqi Islamic Party who controlled Anbar’s provincial council that they had 30 days to leave or they would be attacked. At the same time, he showed a willingness to work with Baghdad, forming a Tribal Support Council in Anbar that were meant to back-up Maliki.

All three sheikhs went their own ways in 2008 when the provincial elections were announced. Sulaiman formed the National Front for the Salvation of Iraq. He and the other tribal chiefs argued with the Islamic Party over the timing and security of the elections, at one time saying that the voting should be postponed, and then warning that his patience was wearing thin with delays. Personally, he ran a campaign based upon nationalism and his prominence in the fight with Al Qaeda in Iraq, along with promising better governance and services. When the final results were announced in February 2009 however, his party failed to gain a single seat in the elections. Abu Risha was the victor with eight seats, and he formed an alliance with Sheikh Hayes who’s party, the Iraqi Tribes List, walked away with two seats.

It’s probably out of frustration that Sulaiman is now threatening the government. Seeing his former friends turned rivals gain power in Anbar is a bitter pill for the head of the largest tribe in the province. His alliance with Maliki through the Support Council apparently didn’t help, so now he has turned to attacking the government as a way to regain notoriety and put his name back on the political map. This is a tactic that Sulaiman and Hayes perfected in the days when they worked together. Sulaiman’s poor showing in the provincials is probably a bad sign for his chances if he chose to run in the parliamentary vote. If he couldn’t win in the local elections, he’s unlikely to gain more votes in the balloting for national office.


Ali, Fadhil, “Sunni Rivalries in al-Anbar Province Threaten Iraq’s Security,” Terrorism Focus, Jamestown Foundation, 3/11/08

Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Hamid, Nirmeen, “al-suleiman: awakening movement is over,” Niqash, 10/24/08

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Iraq Sunni Arab dispute may delay Anbar handover,” Reuters, 7/16/08

Lynch, Marc, “Iraqi Sunnis after the Awakening,” Abu Aardvark Blog, 6/20/08

Parker, Ned, “Iraq’s Nouri Maliki may gain power with U.S. security agreement,” Los Angeles Times, 11/24/08

Robertson, Campbell and Oppel, Richard, “Iraqis Fail to Agree on Provincial Election Law,” New York Times, 8/7/08

Sly, Liz, “IRAQ: Mutterings of tribal revolt,” Babylon & Beyond Blog, Los Angeles Times, 4/28/09

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Massive Security Raids In Basra

On January 24, 2009 Basra’s Operations Command (BOC) announced a security crackdown in the southern province in preparation for the January 2009 provincial elections. The campaign started off slowly, but has continued to this day with massive arrests. So many have been detained that there are few details on who they are other than members of criminal gangs and militias.

The security operation has no name, but involves both Army and police units. They have set up checkpoints across Basra City, and conduct several raids a week. Besides people, they have also confiscated weapons, cars and motorcycles. On April 25 for example, it was reported that 19 wanted men were arrested on terrorism and criminal charges, along with 36 unregistered cars and 17 motorcycles.

In the first phase of the operation from January 24 to the end of February 220 people were detained. That picked up in March with 567 arrests. This month the authorities have taken away 1,037 people for a grand total of 1,626. Along the way there have also been sporadic incidences of violence against Iraqi and Coalition forces, as well as top local officials. On April 5 an improvised explosive device (IED) targeted Basra’s governor Mohammed Mosbeh al-Waeli. The governor was unhurt. Five days later a bomb went off targeting an Iraqi army unit, and a Multi-National Force patrol was hit by an IED on April 20. Both attacks resulted in no casualties. On the 27 the Director General of the police in Basra also escaped an IED. While no suspects were mentioned in any of the press reports, they were most likely Special Groups or members of the Mahdi Army, who have probably been prime targets of these raids since they were the largest and most dangerous armed groups in the province.

No other area of Iraq has reported so many arrests in recent weeks as Basra. The provincial elections are over, but the operation is continuing. It’s not unusual for 50, 60, up to 100 men or more to be carted away in a day. The fact that there have been so few reprisal attacks by militias or gangs as a result shows their weakened position after Maliki launched his first crackdown there in March 2008. This is quite a turn around for a province where every political party had its own militia, and Iran was actively involved in supporting gunmen. It also shows the new status quo of the Sadrists who were once one of the most powerful groups in the area. The Mahdi Army has largely been disbanded, the movement has split several times, and the loyalists are now emphasizing politics, religion, and social services over militancy. This has allowed the government to sweep up his followers in the south, while reaching out to them in the new provincial councils in what has become a classic carrot and stick approach by Maliki.


Aswat al-Iraq, “2 wanted men arrested, explosives seized in Basra, 2/6/9
- “3 wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 1/26/09
- “5 arrested in Basra,” 2/22/09
- “5 wanted men, 2 Iranians arrested in Basra,” 1/24/09
- “6 wanted men arrested in Basra,” 3/3/09
- “6 wanted men detained in Basra, 2/10/09
- “6 wanted men nabbed, 2 Grad rockets seized in Basra,” 2/18/09
- “6 wanted men nabbed, ammo found in Basra,” 2/9/09
- “6 wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 2/4/09
- “7 wanted men arrested, kidnapped child freed,” 2/14/09
- “8 wanted persons, 14 suspects arrested in Basra,” 3/6/09
- “9 wanted persons arrested in Basra,” 1/25/09
- “10 wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 3/25/09
- “15 wanted men arrested in Basra,” 4/22/09
- “16 wanted men arrested in Basra,” 3/5/09
- “16 wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 3/2/09
- “16 wanted persons arrested in Basra,” 2/12/09
- “17 wanted men arrested, explosive materials seized in Basra,” 4/23/09
- “17 wanted men arrested in Basra,” 3/23/09
- “18 wanted men arrested in Basra,” 3/24/09
- “19 arrested during Basra raids,” 4/25/09
- “20 persons detained in Basra,” 4/9/09
- “21 arrested in Basra,” 4/10/09
- “21 wanted men, 15 suspects nabbed in Basra,” 3/15/09
- “21 wanted men arrested on criminal, terror charges,” 3/11/09
- “29, 2 IEDs defused in Basra,” 4/12/09
- “30 wanted men detained in Basra,” 3/19/09
- “30 wanted men detained in Basra,” 3/20/09
- “32 arrested in Basra,” 4/4/09
- “32 wanted persons arrested in Basra,” 2/15/09
- “38 arrested in Basra on ‘terrorist and criminal’ charges,” 2/20/09
- “40 arrested on ‘terrorist and criminal’ charges in Basra,” 3/14/09
- “44 suspects, wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 4/19/09
- “48 wanted men, 19 suspects arrested in Basra,” 2/24/09
- “50 wanted persons, suspects arrested in Basra,” 4/2/09
- “57 wanted men, suspects nabbed in Basra,” 3/17/09
- “60 wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 3/31/09
- “65 wanted men, suspects nabbed in Basra,” 4/7/09
- “65 wanted persons, suspects arrested, arms seized in Basra,” 4/9/09
- “73 persons arrested in Basra,” 4/14/09
- “74 suspects, wanted men arrested in Basra,” 4/6/09
- “75 suspects, wanted men arrested in Basra,” 4/1/09
- “79 suspects, wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 4/16/09
- “81 wanted men, suspects arrested in Basra,” 3/8/09
- “91 wanted persons, suspects captured in Basra,” 4/16/09
- “103 wanted men, suspects captured in Basra,” 3/16/09
- “109 suspects, wanted men nabbed in Basra,” 4/21/09
- “149 wanted, suspects arrested in Basra,” 4/15/09
- “Basra police chief escapes attempt on life,” 4/27/09
- “Bomb targets Iraqi army in Basra - advisor,” 4/10/09
- “MNF detains group on terror charges,” 4/19/09
- “Police arrest 10 wanted men in Basra,” 2/3/09
- “Police detain 4 wanted men in Basra,” 3/26/09
- “Roadside bomb hits MNF patrol in Basra,” 4/20/09
- “Sadr urges followers to abandon violence,” 3/18/09- “Security operation launched in Basra ahead of poll,” 1/24/09
- “URGENT/Basra governor escapes attempt with IED,” 4/5/09

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Saudi Role In The Iraqi Insurgency

Two countries are most often mentioned as being direct threats to Iraq’s sovereignty, Syria and Iran. Hundreds of former Baathists fled to Syria after the U.S. invasion in 2003 where they took up residence, and began funding and orchestrating the insurgency. Iran on the other hand has had extensive ties with Shiite militias such as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Badr Brigade, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and the break away Special Groups. The U.S. has repeatedly blamed both for fomenting violence in Iraq. The close ties between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. however, has prevented the Americans from saying much about that country, which has been one of the main financiers of the insurgency, and accounts for almost half of the foreign fighters that have traveled to Iraq.

In February 2009 Newsweek magazine interviewed Abu Ahmed, a former Salafist and insurgent leader. Ahmed joined an insurgent group in May 2003, and would later become a leader who worked with Al Qaeda in Iraq. In 2007 he was talked into switching sides to help the Americans to hunt down his former Islamist brethren. He mentioned that his group received direct funding from Saudi Arabia, but during the sectarian war of 2006-2007 his benefactors stopped sending money because they thought Iraq was spinning out of control, which reminded them of what happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal.

Much of this cash comes from donations to religious charities. One tenant of Islam is that followers should give to the poor. In Saudi Arabia’s case, some of this money was directed towards the Sunni insurgents in Iraq instead. In December 2006, the Associated Press reported that some Saudis knew where the money was going, while others just gave to clerics. A main way of transferring the funds was to hide it in buses taking Iraqi pilgrims who went to their pilgrimage in Mecca back to Iraq. Iraqi trucks carrying goods were also used. The cash in turn was distributed to Iraqi politicians, clerics, and insurgents. A senior Iraqi official in 2006 said that there was one case where an Iraqi cleric received $25 million from Saudi Arabia and bought weapons with it.

The other major form of aid that Saudis provided was fighters. Up to 40% of all foreigners that came to fight in Iraq are estimated to come from Saudi Arabia. In December 2007 the U.S. released a study of captured insurgent documents that had information on 606 foreign fighters that had come to Iraq from August 2006 to August 2007. The largest number came from Saudi Arabia, accounting for 41% of the total. Likewise, a July 2007 news story said that 45% of all the foreigners held by the U.S. were Saudis. Many came to be suicide bombers. Saudis also played a leadership role in Al Qaeda in Iraq. In mid-April 2009 there was a report that a senior Al Qaeda commander was arrested in Basra who was a Saudi.

There has been very little mention of the role of the Saudis in the U.S. In April 2008 President Bush sent General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to Saudi Arabia to try to get them to support Iraq. The two U.S. emissaries were also supposed to discuss the Saudis’ role with the insurgency. Back in August 2007 the U.S. had a similar mission when Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to the kingdom to discuss the same topics. Earlier in that year the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalizad had accused the Saudis of destabilizing Iraq with their backing of the insurgency. Both times the U.S. administration was rebuffed. Saudi officials admitted that their young people were going to Iraq, and said they were doing what they could to stop them, but denied any role in fund raising for the insurgents. In 2006 the Iraq Study Group also mentioned the Saudi role, saying that the government was either passive about it or didn’t care.

The Saudis have four reasons for their policy. First, the Saudi kingdom opposed the U.S. invasion, and warned the Bush administration against it. Second, the Saudi elite rejected having a Shiite led government in Iraq. There are some ultra-religious Sunnis who do not believe that Shiites are real Muslims. Third, the Saudis felt that the combination of the American-led war and the ascendancy of Iraq’s Shiites would open the door to Iran, the Saudis main rival in the region. Many view Iraq as the main battleground between the two countries. Last, the kingdom is afraid that terrorists will flow into their country from Iraq. As a result the Saudis have been the most standoffish of the Arab countries towards Iraq. Since 2005 the U.S. has been pushing the Saudis unsuccessfully to support Baghdad. They have failed to follow through with their promise to forgive 80% of Iraq’s $15 billion debt, or provide $1 billion in reconstruction aid. They have also refused to open an embassy in Baghdad despite repeated pledges to do so.

Fighters and money continue to flow into Iraq through Syria, but in much smaller amounts as the insurgency has waned. Whether the Saudis are still playing a role or if they backed off as they did with Abu Ahmed’s group is unknown. The Saudis felt they could pursue this policy of supporting the Sunnis in Iraq because of their position as a leader in the Arab and Muslim world, along with their belief that the U.S. needed them to help with OPEC, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Iran. This allowed them to reject pressure from Washington. This policy has barely changed since 2003. Even if they are not supporting militants as much, they continue to refuse to have full relations with Baghdad because of their fears of Shiites, Tehran, and terrorism. They are likely to be one of the last countries to accept the new status quo in Iraq, which will slow Baghdad’s acceptance in the region.


Associated Press, “Report: Iraqi Officials Track Financing for Sunni Insurgents to Saudi Citizens,” 12/8/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Saudi AQI member captured in Basra,” 4/18/09

Dagher, Sam, “Is the Mahdi Army’s ‘cease-fire’ over?” Christian Science Monitor, 3/17/08

Dunne, Charles, “Iraq Going Forward: Threats to its Sovereignty, Prospects for its Future Role in the Middle East,” Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations, College of William and Mary, 4/13/09

Johnson, Scott, “Portrait of a Shadow,” Newsweek, 2/23/09

Oppel, Richard, “Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are tied to Allies of U.S.,” New York Times, 11/22/07

Parker, Ned, “The Conflict In Iraq: Saudi Role In Insurgency,” Los Angeles Times, 7/15/07

Regan, Tom, “Report: Private Saudi citizens funding Iraq insurgents,” Christian Science Monitor, 12/8/06

Roberts, Kristin, “Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters: study,” Reuters, 12/19/07

Schmitt, Eric, “Bush Dispatches Envoys to Arab Capitals as Part of Iraq Plan,” New York Times, 4/11/08

Youssef, Nancy and Strobel, Warren, “U.S., Saudi Arabia have drifted apart,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/2/07

Zavis, Alexandra, “Foreign fighters in Iraq seek recognition, U.S. says,” Los Angeles Times, 3/17/08

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ninewa Struggles Between Arabs and Kurds Continue

Disputes over the results of the January 2009 provincial elections are continuing in troubled Ninewa. The al-Hadbaa party walked away with 19 of the province’s 37 seats. They made a deal with the Islamic Party that won three seats to take all of the top positions such as governor, head of council, and their deputies. As a result, the Kurdish alliance is boycotting the government. Not only that but the Sinjar, Shikhan, and Hatra districts all said they will refuse to work with the al-Hadbaa led government. The head of Sinjar said he would only take orders from Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. Those areas also demanded that they be annexed by Kurdistan unless the Kurdish List was given positions in the new provincial administration. The Kurds have also staged street protests there as well. Al-Hadbaa’s leaders have been no less compromising asking the government to send a new division to the province to take the place of the Kurdish peshmerga, and threatening repercussions for the district leaders that refuse to work with the council.

The dispute is becoming national as well as Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani criticized the Arabs for monopolizing all of the council spots in mid-April. The Kurdish Alliance in parliament also warned of a rising autocracy in Ninewa, and demanded that al-Hadbaa share power. The Kurds have began using a common refrain against their opponents by calling al-Hadbaa Baathists, and tried to link their actions with Maliki’s drive for power in Baghdad. Al-Hadbaa’s leader and new governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Nujafi replied that officials from the Kurdish Regional Government should not be interfering in the province’s affairs.

The Kurds took power in Ninewa in 2005 because the Sunnis boycotted the elections. In 2009 the al-Hadbaa party not only ran on an anti-Kurdish platform, but also promised better government and development. As a result 60% of the province’s voters turned out, tied for the third highest in the country. American officials told the New York Times that they expect al-Hadbaa to become more pragmatic because Ninewa is so poor and lacks resources, but that’s hard to believe. With a majority in the council and a Prime Minister eager to pressure the Kurds there’s little reason for the party to compromise.


Alsumaria, “Kurdistan PM criticizes Hadbaa List,” 4/23/09
- “Yazidis call to join Sinjar to Kurdistan,” 4/15/09

Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Kurdish lawmaker warns against autocracy,” 4/20/09
- “Lawmaker urges KRG to avoid escalating tension in Mosul,” 4/23/09
- “Mosulians fear political tension effect on council’s performance,” 4/27/09
- “Tribal chiefs, notables in Makhmour want Asayesh forces out,” 4/25/09

Kamal, Adel, “kurdish boycott threatens ninawa stability,” Niqash, 4/27/09

Reilly, Corinne and Abbas, Ali, “Kurdish-Arab tensions continue to grow in northern Iraq,” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/14/09

Reuters, “Tensions rise in Iraq’s Mosul amid Kurdish boycott,” 4/22/09

Robertson, Campbell and Farrell, Stephen, “Iraqi Sunnis Turn to Politics and Renew Strength,” New York Times, 4/18/09

Tyson, Ann Scott and Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Gates Cautiously Upbeat on Iraq,” Washington Post, 12/6/07

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Iraq’s New Provincial Councils – Update

More information is now available about Iraq’s new provincial governments. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list was the big winner coming in first in nine of the fourteen provinces that held elections. Early reports were that Maliki was attempting to forge an anti-Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) coalition across the south. State of Law reached out to the Sadrists’ Independent Trend of the Noble Ones, the Fadhila Party, ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party, parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, and ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List. Maliki’s List was able to form governments in Babil, Dhi Qar, Karbala, and Qadisiyah with various combinations of these parties. In Maysan, Najaf, and Wasit however, State of Law cut deals with the Supreme Council to rule. This has not gone well in all of those places however, as Najaf has a State of Law head of council, but still no governor. Some of this was due to differences amongst local State of Law officials. In Baghdad and Basra State of Law won majorities so they didn’t need to connect with other parties. The parliamentary coalition that actually keeps Maliki in office made up of the SIIC, the Iraqi Accordance Front and the Kurds, maintained their ties in Diyala. The Accordance Front also gained control of Salahaddin. Otherwise this group was the big loser as the Kurdish Alliance lost control of Ninewa, while the SIIC lost its majority across the south. New Sunni parties like al-Hadbaa took power in Ninewa with the help of the Islamic Party, and the Awakening of Iraq and Independents came to office in Anbar. Muthanna is the only province that has no government. There the State of Law was tied with the SIIC’s Al-Mihrab Martyr List with five seats apiece. Maliki has tried to form an anti-Supreme Council alliance there, but the parties are evenly split 50-50 leading to deadlock so far.

Overall, Maliki’s State of Law might have won the most provinces, but the Prime Minister’s plans have not worked out as well as he wished. While his List will run all of the nine provinces that they won in, the alliances that they wanted have not always come to fruition, resulting in the Supreme Council hanging onto power in three southern provinces, plus Diyala. More importantly, the SIIC and Maliki’s constituency have stopped the Prime Minister from making moves like reaching out to Baathists meant to solidify bonds with Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front. This will all complicate Maliki’s attempt to form a new ruling coalition after the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of this year at the earliest.

Note: Not all the members of the ruling coalitions are known. What are listed are those that have been reported so far.

Anbar – 29 seats
Governor Qaseem Muhammad – Independent
Head of Council Jassem Mohammed Hamad – Iraqi National Project
Ruling Coalition
Awakening of Iraq and Independents – 8 seats
Iraqi National Project – 6 seats
4 other unnamed parties

Babil – 30 seats
Governor Salman Hassan al-Zarkani – Independent
1st Deputy Governor Iskander Wattout – Civil Society List
2nd Deputy Governor Sadeq al-Mhanna – National Reform Party
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 8 seats - Visser
Civil Society List – 3 seats
Independent Trend of the Noble Ones (Sadrists) – 3 seats
Iraqi National List – 3 seats
National Reform Party – 3 seats

Baghdad – 57 seats
Governor Salah Abd al-Razzaq – State of Law
2nd Deputy Governor Kamil Saeed al-Saeedi - ?
Head of Council Kamil al-Zaydi – State of Law
Deputy Head of Council Thamir Riyad al-Addad – State of Law
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 28 seats

Basra – 35 seats
Governor Shitagh Abbud – State of Law
Head of Council Jabbar Amin – State of Law
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 20 seats

Dhi Qar – 31 seats
Governor Taleb Kazem Abdulkarim al-Hassan – State of Law
Deputy Governor Hassa Layoos - ?
2nd Deputy Governor Haydar Bunyan - ?
Head of Council Qusai al-Ibadi – State of Law
Deputy Head of Council Abdulhadi Mohan – State of Law
Ruling Coalition
State of Law - 13 seats
Independent Trend of the Noble Ones (Sadrists) - 7 seats

Diyala – 29 seats
Governor Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah – Iraqi Accordance Front
Deputy Governor – Furat Mohammed - Diyala Coalition
Head of Council Taleb Mohammed Hassan – Kurdish Alliance
Ruling Coalition
Iraqi Accordance Front – 9 seats
Kurdish Alliance – 6 seats
Diyala Coalition (SIIC) – 2 seats

Karbala – 27 seats
Governor Amaleddin Majeed Hameed Kadhem – State of Law
1st Deputy Governor Abbas al-Musawi – Hope of Rafidain
2nd Deputy Governor Youssefl al-Habboubi – Independent
Head of Council Amal al-Rafidayn – Hope of Rafidain
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 9 seats
Hope of Rafidain – 9 seats
Youssef al-habboubi – 1 seat

Maysan – 27 seats
Governor Muhammad al-Sudani – State of Law
Head of Council ? – Al-Mihrab Martyr List
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 8 seats
Al-Mihrab Martyr List (SIIC) – 8 seats

Muthanna – 26 seats
No government

Najaf – 28 seats
Head of Council ? – State of Law
Ruling Coalition
State of Law - 7 seats
Al Mihrab Martyr List – 7 seats

Ninewa – 37 seats
Governor Atheel al-Nujafi – Al Hadbaa List
2nd Deputy Governor Hassan Mahmoud Ali – Independent
Head of Council Faisal Abdullah al-Yawir – Al Hadbaa List
Deputy Head of Council Wild-dar Zebari – Al Hadbaa List
Ruling Coalition
Al Hadbaa List – 19 seats
Iraqi Islamic Party – 3 seats

Qadisiyah – 28 seats
Governor Salim Husayn – State of Law
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 11 seats
Iraqi National List – 3 seats

Salahaddin – 28 seats
Governor Mutashar al-Aliwi – Iraqi Accordance Front
Ruling Coalition
Iraqi Accordance Front – 5 seats

Wasit – 28 seats
Governor Lateef Hamad al-Tarfa – Independent
Head of Council Mahmoud Abdulrida Talal – Al-Mihrab Martyr List
Ruling Coalition
State of Law – 13 seats
Al-Mihrab Martyr List (SIIC) – 6 seats


Abdullah, Muhammed, “sectarian polarization in diyala,” Niqash, 4/20/09

Agence France Presse, “Sadr renews idea of local alliances with Iraq PM,” 2/20/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “Atheel Nejefi elected as Ninewa governor,” 4/12/09
- “Babel council elects independent engineer as governor,” 4/18/09
- “Baghdad’s second deputy governor elected,” 4/20/09
- “KA, IAF agree to share leading posts in Diala,” 2/24/09
- “Karbala governor assumes duty after republican decree issued,” 4/19/09
- “New Baghdad governor elected,” 4/12/09
- “New Diala governor elected,” 4/11/09
- “New governor picked for Anbar,” 4/11/09
- “New provincial council’s head, deputy selected in Thi-Qar,” 4/16/09
- “Presidential decrees to appoint governors of Thi-Qar, Babel,” 4/22/09
- “Wassit governor, provincial council chief elected,” 4/15/09
- “Zaydi unanimously elected to chair Baghdad provincial council,” 4/8/09

Hanna, Michael Wahid, “The reawakened specter of Iraqi civil war,” Middle East Research and Information Project, 4/17/09

Reilly, Corinne and Abbas, Ali, “Kurdish-Arab tensions continue to grow in northern Iraq,” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/14/09

Reuters, “Tensions rise in Iraq’s Mosul amid Kurdish boycott,” 4/22/09

Roads To Iraq Blog, “Reconciliation without reconciliation,” 3/10/09

Al-Sa’dawi, Ahmad, “post-election analysis: real change or more of the same?” Niqash, 2/19/09

Shadid, Anthony, “New Alliance In Iraq Cross Sectarian Lines,” Washington Post, 3/20/09

Visser, Rediar, “Iraq’s New Provincial Councils: A Mixed Picture North of Baghdad, Unexpected Complications in the Centre and the South,”, 4/13/09
- “Maliki Suffers Setbacks as Samarrai is Confirmed as New Speaker and More Governors Are Elected South of Baghdad,”, 4/19/09

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is Violence Increasing In Iraq?

A recent spate of mass casualty bombings in Iraq has many worried that violence is on the up tick, and that the security gains accomplished over the last year may be unravelling. On April 23 for example, there were two suicide bombings. One in Diyala was aimed at Iranian pilgrims killing 56 and leaving 39 wounded. The other was an attack in Baghdad on displaced families who were standing in line to receive food that claimed the lives of 22 and wounded 30. The next day two suicide bombers set off their devices near the Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya neighborhood that resulted in 60 dead and 125 wounded. Again, Iranian pilgrims were amongst the casualties. Some fear that this might be part of an effort by Al Qaeda in Iraq and Baathists to cause chaos as the U.S. withdraws its forces. On April 22 the Defense Department’s top Middle East official, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Colin Kahl echoed this thought telling the Associated Press that security incidents were likely to increase over the next few months as well. The U.S. is also emptying its jails as required under the Status of Forces Agreement releasing thousands of prisoners, worrying some that a few will return to the insurgency. One ex-detainee already killed himself in a suicide attack. When looking at the numbers for casualties and security incidents however, it appears that the level of violence in Iraq is simply returning to what it was in 2008 before a dip at the beginning of 2009.

Number Of Attacks

The last numbers released by the Pentagon showed a steady decline in attacks at the end of 2008. From April to September 2008 Iraq averaged 1,749.8 attacks per month. In the last two months of the year however that dropped to 1,169 per month. This decrease occurred across the country even in the six most violent provinces, Anbar, Tamim, Diyala, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Baghdad. In Baghdad for example, the site of the most violence in the country, the number of attacks went from 924 from July 1, to September 30, to 511 from October 1 to December 31, 2008. Numbers for 2009 have not been released so far, but other statistics on violence show that this year has not reached 2008 levels yet.

Reports on attacks on Coalition and Iraqi institutions and bombings do not show much of an increase. The latest chart released by the Pentagon on enemy attacks on the Coalition, Iraqi Forces, infrastructure, and government facilities shows that from June to November 2008 there were around 200-300 such incidents a week. In the middle of November 2008 to April 2009 however, such attacks dropped to below 200. The Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index found that there were an average of 20.66 mass casualty bombings per month for the last half of 2008. In the first three and half months of 2009 there were an average of 12. The average monthly number of deaths resulting from such bombings went from 167.16 from July to December 2008 down to 116.85 from January to April 15, 2008. The number of such attacks remained fairly constant from January to March 2009 with 11, 11, 9 respectively, but half way through April there were already 11. The number of deaths also increased each time going from 89 in January to 105 in February to 143 in March.

Number of Mass Casualty Bombings
July 19
August 22
Sep. 22
Oct. 14
Nov. 24
Dec. 23
TOTAL: 124
Monthly Avg. 20.66 attacks

Jan. 11
Feb. 11
March 9
April 1-15 11
Monthly Avg. 12 attacks

Deaths from mass casualty bombings
July 181
Aug. 195
Sep. 164
Oct. 102
Nov. 169
Dec. 192
TOTAL: 1,003
Monthly Avg. 167.16 deaths

Jan. 89
Feb. 105
March 143
April 1-15 - 72
TOTAL: 409
Monthly Avg. 116.85

The number of deaths overall in Iraq are also going up in 2009, but they are not up to the levels of 2008 either. As reported before, there are several different sources for casualties in Iraq. They range from the high of Iraq Body Count to the low of Despite their differences all the reports follow the same broad trends. According to Iraq Body Count there were an average of 538.16 deaths per month from July to December 2008. August had the most casualties with 591, while November had the lowest at 472. From January to April 23, 2009, there were an average of 327.75 deaths. In January there were 275, going up to 343 in February, and then reaching 392 in March. From April 1 to 22 there were 301 deaths. although much lower than Iraq Body Count had the same pattern with deaths slowly declining at the end of 2008 and then taking a large drop in 2009. From July to December 2008 there were an average of 336.83 deaths, compared to 222.33 in the first three months of 2009. Numbers provided by Iraq’s ministries show the same thing with casualties going down in 2008 only to go back up in 2009, but still not reaching the previous year’s. From July to December 2008 they claimed there were an average of 454 deaths per month, which then went down to 233 per month in 2009.

Iraq Body Count - Iraqi Death Numbers

July 583
August 591
Sep. 535
Oct. 527
Nov. 472
Dec. 521
TOTAL: 3,229
Monthly Avg. 538.16

Jan. 275
Feb. 343
March 392
April 1-23 301
TOTAL: 1,311
Monthly Avg. 327.75 - Iraqi Death Numbers

July 419
Aug 311
Sep. 366
Oct. 288
Nov. 317
Dec. 320
TOTAL: 2,021
Monthly Avg. 336.83

Jan. 187
Feb. 202
March 278
TOTAL: 667
Monthly Avg. 222.33

Iraqi Ministries - Iraqi Death Numbers As Reported In The English Language Media

July 851
Aug. 462
Sep. 440
Oct. 317 or 320
Nov. 340
Dec. 316
TOTAL: 2,726 or 2,729
Monthly Avg. 454.3 or 454.8

Jan. 191
Feb. 258
March 252
TOTAL: 701
Monthly Avg. 233.66

Iraq remains a very violent and deadly country. The recent spate of bombings reminds people of the human toll of the war, which is far from over. Early speculation that the country might be spiraling downward however, seem to be premature. While attacks and deaths are creeping back up, they are still not at December 2008 levels, let alone the rest of the previous year. What appears to have happened is that insurgent groups decided to hold off on some of their activities as the January 2009 provincial elections occurred. This was probably because so many Sunni parties were participating for the first time in local balloting. With that completed the militants have gone back to what they were doing before, and casualties, bombings, etc., have all gone up as a result. If the number of attacks eventually goes above the levels seen in the last half of 2008 than that would be a strong indicator that the security gains are withering and that Iraq is entering into a new phase of violence. If they only go back to what they were however, it just shows that the early 2009 decline was temporary rather than the beginning of a new trend.


Agence France Presse, “March violence claims 252 Iraqi lives,” 4/1/09
- “Iraq Hails Lowest Monthly Death Toll in Three Years,” 1/2/09

Alsumaria, “Iraq death toll lowest since five years,” 2/2/09
- “Iraq violence kills 320 people in October,” 11/1/08

Al-Ani, Abbas, “Ten killed in truck bombing at Iraqi market,” Middle East Online, 3/5/09

Associated Press, “AP count: Iraqi civilian, security details drop to near lowest level,” 3/3/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “60 killed, 113 wounded, al-Baghdadi arrested in Iraq,” 4/23/09
“Diala suicide blast casualties up to 95,” 4/24/09
“URGENT/Kadhemiya death toll up to 60, wounded 125,” 4/24/09

Jakes, Lara, “Pentagon: Insurgent attacks likely to rise in Iraq,” Associated Press, 4/22/09

Karim, Ammar, “Iraq death toll for February ‘rises to 258,’” Agence France Presse, 3/1/09

Kenyon, Peter, “Billboards Serve As Reminders Of Death In Baghdad,” Morning Edition, NPR, 9/9/08

Myers, Steven Lee and Dagher, Sam, “At Least 60 More Are Killed in Attacks in Baghdad,” New York Times, 4/24/09

O’Hanlon, Michael Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 4/16/09

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Deaths of Iraqis in July Lower Than in May, June,” Washington Post, 8/2/08

Reilly, Corinne and Hammoudi, Laith, “Attacks in Iraq kill dozens; fears mount of wider violence,” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/23/09

Rubin, Alissa, “Iraqi Militants Show New Boldness,” New York Times, 4/1/09

Rubin, Alissa and Santora, Marc, “Bomber Kills Dozens in Iraq as Fears of New Violence Rise,” New York Times, 3/11/09

Williams, Timothy, “80 Are Killed in 3 Suicide Bombings in Iraq,” New York Times, 4/23/09

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Battle Over Control of Iraq’s Natural Resources Heats Up

In April 2009, the secretary of Iraq’s Oil and Gas Committee in parliament, Jabir Khalifa Jabir said that the government’s deal with Royal Dutch Shell to exploit natural gas in the south was illegal. That same committee criticized the Shell proposal in November 2008 as well. Both times the committee said that there was no transparency in the negotiations, no competition, and that it went against the interests of the country. This is part of the growing battle over who has control of Iraq’s natural resources.

In September 2008 the Oil Ministry contacted Shell to create a joint venture with the state run-South Oil Company to extract natural gas from the southern oil fields. The Iraqi government would control 51% of the joint company, and Shell 49%. The Oil Ministry claims that it looses $40 million a day in natural gas, which is burned off during oil production, because it doesn’t have the means to exploit it. The contract is supposed to last 25 years, and would give a virtual monopoly to Shell. The corporation is supposed to use the natural gas for both domestic needs and exports, but there are no specifics on how this is to work. It’s estimated that Shell could make up to $3-$4 billion in the next five years as a result, making it the largest oil or gas deal in the country’s history. In February 2009 the OIl Ministry also announced that Japan’s Mitsubishi would be working with Shell on gas production.

This has drawn the ire of the Oil and Gas Committee in parliament. In both November 2008 and April 2009 they have criticized the Shell deal. First there were no other companies considered. The Oil Ministry claims that this was okay because it will be a joint venture with a state-run company. The Ministry however, is not applying that standard for its oil deals where it is taking tenders from several different international corporations that are expecting to work as joint ventures as well. Second the committee objects to the fact that the wording of the agreement says that Shell will be the sole producer of natural gas in southern Iraq, giving it a monopoly. Jabir also claims that Article 97 of the Iraqi constitution requires all new natural resources contracts to be approved by parliament, and this has not happened, making it illegal. Jabir is also concerned that Shell will use most if not all of the gas it produces for export, rather than for domestic consumption.

The conflict between the Oil Ministry and the parliamentary committee is only the latest in a growing feud over control of Iraq’s oil and gas. As reported before, Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani has formulated a largely haphazard, and sometimes contradictory oil policy, which has failed to produce many results so far. Shahristani has been criticized as a result, and there are moves underway to strip him of much of his power. Other problems include the fact that the Iraqi legislature has not passed a new oil law, the petroleum companies have the upper hand with the drop in crude prices, and parliamentary elections in Iraq could make the Shell deal a campaign issue. Finally, much of the Iraqi public is extremely suspicious of foreign corporations, and are generally opposed to them exploiting the country’s resources. All of these issues together, probably mean that there will be little movement on the Shell contract or any oil one in the immediate future. The Oil Ministry and its critics will continue to argue over control, while the oil companies will be stand offish until the domestic situation in Iraq stabilizes.


Ciszuk, Samuel, “Iraq politics impact Shell gas deal,” Iraq Oil Report, 4/20/09

Crooks, Ed and Khalaf, Roula, “Shell in Iraqi gas deal worth up to $4bn,” Financial Times, 9/8/08

Graeber, Dan, “Iraq approves gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell,” Iraq Oil Report Blog, 9/7/08

Hafidh, Hassan and Herron, James, “UPDATE: Iraqi Govt OKs Mitsubishi To Join Shell In Gas Deal,” Wall Street Journal, 2/12/09

Iraq Oil Report, “Iraq opts for long term oil deals, ditches no-bids,” 9/9/08

Khadduri, Walid, “Oil in a Week – Iraqi Oil 2008-2009,” Al-Hayat, 1/12/09

Lando, Ben, “Shell-Iraq gas company is a monopoly, secret agreement shows,” UPI, 11/4/08

Lando, Ben and Majeed, Alaa, “Gas deal no monopoly, Shell and Iraq say,” UPI, 11/6/08

Macalister, Terry, “Iraq parliament promises to push Shell out of gas deal,” Guardian, 4/18/09

Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq Lawmakers Say Will Challenge Shell Gas Deal,” Reuters, 11/26/08

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraqi official: Mitsubishi to join Iraq gas deal,” Associated Press, 2/12/09

Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraq, Shell sign deal,” Associated Press, 9/22/08

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” – Chapter 3 The Department of Defense Takes Charges

The third chapter of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR) review of the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq covers the confusion that ensued when the Pentagon was given control of the post-war effort in January 2003. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claimed that the Pentagon would provide unity of effort in Iraq after the invasion, but in fact, it just made the chaotic planning even more disjointed. Instead of creating one command, there emerged three separate organizations each with its own leader. Rumsfeld also became personally involved in the war planning and staffing, which undermined the effort as well. These were trends that had emerged from the very beginning of post-war planning, and would continue for years afterwards. This was one of the major reasons why the SIGIR believes the U.S. failed to rebuild Iraq.

In October 2002 the Pentagon decided not to create a civilian organization to plan for post-invasion Iraq because it thought it would give the wrong message when the White House was claiming that it was doing everything possible to avoid war. That left most of the planning to the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Command (CENTCOM), the military staff in charge of the Middle East. As reported before, this effort was uncoordinated with few of the working groups knowing about each other. On the NSC side, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had created a humanitarian and reconstruction plan, and started signing contracts with companies to carry out the work. The Pentagon was in charge of securing and running the oil sector. The Treasury Department was working on Iraq’s finances. CENTCOM had its own group working on what was called Phase IV, post-war planning. There was no overall agency in charge of this effort however.

In mid-October 2002 the NSC was briefed on what its groups had come up with so far. The planners said that there would be a civil administration of Iraq, although there were no actual plans behind it. The administration didn’t agree with the level of U.S. involvement, which caused major problems. The White House and Pentagon believed that the U.S. would be liberators, but had no concept of how this would actually work.

During this period CENTCOM’s Phase IV group was also getting sidelined for all the invasion work. On August 2002 the Joint Chiefs became worried about this, especially because there were only 2 majors doing most of the planning. In December 2002 they intensified their effort, and got more staff. They gave a briefing to the Joint Chiefs that month saying that there would be chaos after the invasion because there would be no Iraqi government. They believed that eventually either the U.N. or the U.S. would run Iraq, but had no specific ideas on how that would work. After that meeting, the Joint Chiefs realized that Phase IV didn’t have enough workers so it was made into Joint Task Force 4 (JTF 4) with 58 more officers.

The Pentagon became more involved when President Bush said that war was inevitable at a NSC meeting on December 18, 2003. This spurred Rumsfeld to finally create a civilian organization within the Defense Department for post-war planning. Following this Rumsfeld convinced the President to give the Pentagon control of post-invasion Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed to this saying that his agency lacked the personnel and capacity to do the job. Rumsfeld argued that there would be unity of command with Defense in control. On January 20, 2003 President Bush signed National Security Presidential Directive 24 (NSPD 24) giving Rumsfeld this authority. The Pentagon went on to create the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) as a result.

NSPD caused chaos within the administration. It effectively put an end to all the NSC’s projects. The officials that had been working there were shocked at the change. The Pentagon in turn ended up shunning a lot of these other groups that had been working on Iraq previously. More importantly, rather than creating unity of command, it led to three separate organizations with their own leaders. One was ORHA, the other was JTF-4, and the third was CENTCOM. As with the earlier planning, none of these groups worked with each other, and actually competed, causing more problems.

JTF 4 did away with half of CENTCOM’s Phase IV work, and tried to assert its authority over the planning process. Phase IV had a two part plan for Iraq. First humanitarian issues would be dealt with, and then reconstruction would begin. JTF-4 shut down the humanitarian work and just focused upon rebuilding. This happened in mid-January 2003, just two months before the invasion. The Joint Chiefs had also envisioned JTF-4 as the command for postwar Iraq. It was supposed to take over as soon as military operations were over, and coordinate with all the other government agencies. The problem was, that was supposed to be the job of the OHRA.

In early January Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith called up retired General Jay Garner to head the OHRA. Rumsfeld knew him from before, and thought a military man who had worked in Iraq after the Gulf War would be ideal for the job. Garner started his work 56 days before the invasion with no staff and no integration with the military. This was a major drawback as OHRA had no secure communications, and thus was cut out from Washington, CENTCOM, and the military command set up in Kuwait to run the invasion. The lack of staff was also another major drawback. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice told other government agencies to send officials, but it never really happened. One reason was that the other agencies resented the creation of OHRA as they were told about it after the fact. Garner ended up with an ad hoc group made up of retired soldiers, private contractors, military officers, and government officials. This was another trend that would continue for years with the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq. Garner also started his job from scratch as he was not told about the earlier efforts.

When Garner started getting the OHRA up and running it was believed that he would just be operationalizing the ideas that had already been created. Garner found out that there were no concrete plans, and didn’t even find out about all the groups that had been working on the effort. He discovered the State Department’s Future of Iraq Project and Undersecretary of Defense Feith’s Office of Special Plans for example by mistake just before the invasion. On his own Garner came up with three jobs for the OHRA: humanitarian aid, governance, and reconstruction. This closely mirrored the work already done by the NSC and Phase IV. The State Department was to run the humanitarian and governance efforts. This largely took over the work that the NSC had done. Likewise, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) continued on with its NSC job of reconstruction. The USAID had already signed contracts with companies to do this task. One such business, the International Resource Group briefed the USAID in February 2003 telling it that it didn’t have anywhere near the money it needed to rebuild Iraq. An ominous foreshadowing of what was to come.

The cost of reconstruction became a major point of contention within OHRA, and with Garner’s superiors. At one briefing Rumsfeld asked Garner how much reconstruction would cost, and he said billions. Rumsfeld said he must be crazy. In fact, the U.S. went on to spend $50 billion on rebuilding Iraq. There were also heated debates amongst the OHRA staff about what reconstruction actually meant. Some believed it was just fixing war damage, while others thought about how it could lead to a new Iraqi government. This occurred during the earlier planning when the USAID was the only agency that believed rebuilding was an integral part of creating a democracy in Iraq. Rumsfeld and the White House however wanted that form of government without the U.S. doing the work.

What Iraq’s government would look like after Saddam was also a major point of contention. The State Department’s governance group had little to go on because there was so little information about how Iraq worked internally. The Pentagon leadership also thought that the U.S. would pass off Iraqi to Iraqis quickly, and therefore didn’t think that State had to really plan for the matter. Garner went ahead and looked into the issue anyway. A review warned that there would be a power vacuum after the invasion and criminality would result if authority wasn’t established immediately. Many in the U.S. believed that the Iraqi government would continue to operate after the war, and Garner planned to have a senior U.S. advisor help each of the country’s ministries to keep operating. The problem was OHRA didn’t even know how many ministries Iraq had.

Rumsfeld then began interfering as well, just adding to the difficulties. The Defense Secretary demanded that the Pentagon control all three of Garner’s reconstruction efforts rather than have State and USAID involved. This was all part of Rumsfeld’s belief that he was creating unity of command. That was far from reality.

CENTCOM was the third group that thought it was going to be in control of Iraq after the war. Its leadership didn’t like either the JTF-4 or OHRA. Rumsfeld believed that Garner would just be part of CENTCOM, but the military didn’t want him. CENTCOM commander General Franks tried to assert his control over OHRA, but Garner said he was independent because he was created by a presidential directive.

Franks was too caught up in the military planning for the invasion anyway. The original U.S. war plans for Iraq called for 500,000 troops. Rumsfeld was unhappy with this number as it didn’t fit his vision of a transformed military. Eventually Rumsfeld cut down the force to 160,000. At a briefing, President Bush asked whether this would be enough to secure the country and Franks said that it was. He asserted that in every village in Iraq there would be a mayor, a lieutenant, and captains to maintain civil order. In fact, there was no such plan. Others down the chain of command in the U.S. military were also uneasy about the reduced invasion force. Coalition ground commander General David McKiernan for one didn’t think there would be enough troops to secure the country after the invasion.

These ideas and agencies were put to the test one month before the invasion in a drill. All of the different groups that were working on post-war Iraq were present, although the State Department, CENCOM, and JTF-4 were told not to fully participate. The drill brought up major problems that would actually materialize after the invasion, but it was not able to prevent them. First the main difficulty that emerged was securing the country. The 160,000 strong invasion force was simply not large enough to do the job. The drill predicted that there would be civil chaos after the war that would undermine the establishment of a stable Iraq. The second problem was that there was no set reconstruction budget. Instead the U.S. was going to war with no idea about how much it would have to spend on rebuilding or whether it would be adequate. This too could lead to unrest amongst Iraq’s poor, who could rise up as a result. Third the lack of coordination between the various groups within the U.S. government was another hinderance.

President Bush and other top officials were later briefed on the drill and other plans. Garner warned the President that there was still lots of work to be done. Garner said that the Iraqi civil service, police and army all needed to be maintained to ensure domestic order. He suggested that the army be used for reconstruction. Bush okayed this plan. The same day, the President was briefed on a deBaathification plan. The idea was that only the top Baathists would be removed to ensure that the government would keep running. Bush agreed to that idea as well. Two days later Undersecretary Feith presented his plan for the creation of an Iraqi Interim Authority that would help with governance. Bush had previously vetoed the idea of creating a provisional Iraqi government before the invasion. The Interim Authority would now be doing just that using Iraqi exiles and the Kurds that the U.S. had been meeting with. Bush affirmed that idea too. The Authority would initially work with the U.S. military after the invasion before eventually taking over leadership of the country. There were no set plans on how this was to work, and it was decided to do it on the fly based upon facts on the ground in Iraq. None of these plans were actually adhered to.

Finally, days before the invasion was to begin Rumsfeld again interfered with planning. The Secretary told Garner that he had to get rid of two State Department officials from his staff. One was the head of the Future of Iraq Project. Garner was forced to get rid of him, but kept the other member of State. Then two days before the war began, Rumsfeld called Garner telling him that he was going to appoint all of the advisors that were to help run Iraq’s ministries. Garner at first objected, but then gave in.

Years later Garner lamented that the U.S. started too late to have an effective post-war planning effort. His OHRA was put together only two months before the invasion, and never had the staff to do all that was asked of it. Garner was also competing with General Franks at CENTCOM and JTF 4. This was a trend that started early on in planning when the NSC, Pentagon and CENTCOM’s Phase IV were all working independently. On top of all that Secretary Rumsfeld continually imposed himself on planning even though he had no experience in making war or reconstruction. His insistence on reducing the invasion force from 500,000 to 160,000 made it impossible for the U.S. to ensure security in Iraq. He also interfered with Garner’s staff picks, and most importantly did not believe in rebuilding Iraq. Even before the March 2003 invasion the U.S. was setting itself up for failure when it came to dealing with post-Saddam Iraq.


Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Amnesty International Report On Human Rights Abuses In Kurdistan

In April 2009 Amnesty International released a report on the human rights situation in Kurdistan called “Hope and Fear, Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.” Kurdistan consists of Iraq’s three most northern provinces, Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya. Under the 2005 Iraqi constitution it is an autonomous region. It has had far more stability than the rest of Iraq, which has allowed its economy and government to grow. Amnesty still found major rights violations however such as beatings, torture, warrant less arrests, detention without access to lawyers, disappearances, etc. Much of this is due to the activities of the Asayish security forces and the two intelligence agencies run by the governing parties. There are also many honor killings against women, and government intimidation and limits on the press. Amnesty believes that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needs to work on all aspects of ensuring freedom and rights for suspected terrorists, dissidents, women, and reporters, as well as fostering rule of law.

Kurdistan gained its de facto autonomy after the 1991 Gulf War. The two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani, the KRG President, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, control the region. In 1992 they held elections for the 105-member Kurdish parliament. The KDP and PUK won 50 seats each, with the other five going to Assyrian Christian parties.

The PUK and KDP agreed to joint rule and power sharing until disagreements led to fighting that lasted from 1994 to 1997. During that period Barzani of the KDP cut a deal with Saddam Hussein to send in the Iraqi Army to crush his rival Talabani and the PUK, which they did. The two sides didn’t come to a peace agreement until 1998. Since then the two parties have run their own security and intelligence agencies. Each party has its own peshmerga militia, Asayish security force, and intelligence agency. The KDP has the Parastin run by Masrour Barzani, the son of Massoud, while the PUK has the Dezgay Zanyari headed by Pavel Talabani, the son of Jalal.

After the U.S. invasion, Jalal Talabani was made President of Iraq, and the new 2005 Iraqi Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region, giving the KRG formal authority and the ability to pass its own laws. In the December 2005 elections, the PUK and KDP’s Kurdish Alliance won 53 seats in the 275-member Iraqi parliament, and became part of the ruling coalition behind the subsequent prime ministers. In January 2006 the KDP and PUK signed the Kurdish Regional Government Unification Agreement that merged the two separate administrations. That was true for all the ministries and bodies except for Finance, the peshmerga, Asayish, and intelligence agencies. In May 2006 a new Kurdish government was formed with Massoud Barzani the President of the KRG and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani the Prime Minister. There are also five smaller parties that hold seats in parliament. Despite these successes, many Kurds interviewed by Amnesty and others have complained about corruption, nepotism, and the lack of transparency in the KRG. Many claim that Barzani and Talabani can do what they want without regards to the Kurdish parliament or laws. The Kurds have also taken control of many northern regions of Iraq that they claim are historically Kurdish such as Kirkuk, and administer them even though they are formally under the control of the central government based in Baghdad. There are also Kurdish and Islamist groups, both violent and peaceful that disagree with the KRG. These political disputes are at the heart of the abuses that Amnesty recorded.

The Asayish were formed in 1992 and started operating in 1993. The Kurdish Interior Ministry originally controlled the organization. After the fighting between the KDP and PUK in the mid-1990s each party formed their own Asayish. In 2004 they were made independent of all ministries, with their own budgets. They report directly to the heads of each party. Each town and city in Kurdistan has an Asayish office that also operates its own jail. The headquarters are in Irbil for the KDP, and Sulaymaniya for the PUK. The PUK Asayish is headed by Seif al-Din Ali Ahmed, and the KDP branch is run by Ismat Arguishi. Both agencies have been charged with human rights abuses, including torture. Neither is apparently bound by international, Iraqi or Kurdish law. The Kurdish government has not investigated these charges, and members of the Kurdish parliament say that they can’t make the Asayish accountable either.

Similar allegations have been made about the KDP and PUK intelligence agencies the Parastin and Dezgay Zanyari respectively. They have been charged with arbitrary arrests, running secret prisons, abuse, and torture. The intelligence forces have also gone after critics of the political parties as well as suspected terrorists.

The Asayish and intelligence forces hold hundreds, perhaps thousands of prisoners. An Amnesty report in August 2008 raised concerns about these detainees, and the KRG responded by releasing more than 3,000. Many were required to make weekly check ins with the Asayish on their activities. The main targets of these arrests have been the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, and legal political parties like the Kurdistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Group. Critics of the government and journalists have also been held. These arrests are made without warrants. There are also occurrences of disappearances, when the security or intelligence forces take away a suspect without telling anyone about their activities or the person’s whereabouts afterwards. This practice started in the 1990s when the KDP and PUK were fighting each other. The suspects are then taken to prisons, jails, and at times private houses, some of which are secret, for interrogation. Some have very bad conditions. One jail was closed down in mid-2007 after the Minister of Human Rights visited. During this period the detainees are often denied lawyers and access to their families. Iraqi law provides these legal rights to all that are arrested, but the Kurdish forces are not following them. There are reports of detainees being tortured as well, ranging from beatings to electric shock, to suspension by their wrists. Some have died during this process. Beatings are the most common since the Iraqi justice system relies upon confessions for prosecutions. Detentions can last anywhere from days to months to years. The Kurdish Human Rights Ministry considers all of these activities illegal, but has not power to stop them from happening.

Kurdistan’s court system also has problems. Not all suspects picked up by the Asayish and intelligence units are taken to regular courts. Some are secret. There are also stories of trials that only last for one hour, the use of forced confessions, the denial of lawyers even during trial, etc. Some Kurdish lawyers told Amnesty that they were afraid to protest these practices out of fear that they too would be arrested. One judge even wrote an article criticizing the Asayish and received a threatening call afterwards by a top Asayish official. Many don’t believe the Kurdish judiciary is independent. The Kurdish Human Rights Ministry is not happy with the system either and consider it a work in progress.

Women in Kurdistan have made great strides, but traditional practices such as honor killings are a major concern of Amnesty. The KRG has passed laws, setup shelters, and created non-government organizations to deal with women’s rights and issues. Parliament has taken up the issue lately as well. The government and local police all monitor violence against women now. As a result, Kurdistan has far more protections for women then the rest of Iraq. The main problem Kurdish women face today is honor killings. The government counted 102 of them from July 2007 to June 2008. 262 other women were also severely injured or committed suicide during that same time. Amnesty believes that many of these cases were attempts to cover up murders. Despite all the laws and groups, Kurdish women’s lives are extremely limited. They have arranged marriages, limited educations, and very few are active in the workforce. Many attacks against women are not reported, and some police and courts are unwilling to deal with the issue as well. Some women’s organizations have also been threatened for their work.

Due to the relative security of Kurdistan, the region’s media has also flourished. There are many news outlets, and the number has increased. Many are run by the political parties, but there are also more independents as well. Most avoid criticizing the government or security forces however out of fear. Those that do are often threatened or arrested by the Asayish or intelligence forces. They have even gone after writers in Kirkuk, even though it is not part of Kurdistan. One reporter died under suspicious circumstances in 2008 while being held. The government has also sued several newspapers claiming defamation. President Talabani for example, sued the Hawlati newspaper for publishing a translation of an American article that was critical of the KRG. The authorities claim that many of these papers are not professional. As a result, the government has tried to regulate the press in Kurdistan. In September 2008 a new press law was passed, which was aimed at giving them more freedom by banning detention for defamation, and reducing fines, but the security forces have not followed it.

Amnesty’s paper shows that the KRG has two parallel systems operating. One is the Kurdish parliament and regular government bodies that follow the law. The other is a secret one run by the PUK and the KDP, enforced by their security and intelligence agencies that operates by its own rules. Amnesty’s findings about abuses in Kurdistan follows closely a paper by Human Rights Watch from December 2008 entitled “The Quality of Justice, Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court.” Human Rights Watch reported that there were abuses throughout the criminal justice system in Iraq, including Kurdistan. Because the courts rely upon confessions rather than evidence to find guilt, police routinely beat suspects to obtain one. Torture and overcrowding in jails and prison were also common. The Iraqi justice system also lacked due process as suspects were held for months and years without ever going to court, many had very limited access to lawyers, and forced confessions were often accepted by judges. Amnesty’s investigation of Kurdistan shows that it is no different from the rest of Iraq in this regard.


Amnesty International, “Hope and Fear, Human rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” April 2009

Human Rights Watch, “The Quality of Justice, Failings of Iraq’s Central Criminal Court, December 2008

Majid, Kamal, “An Assessment of the conditions in the Kurdish part of Iraq,” Brussels, 7/23/08

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who Is And Isn’t Running Iraq’s Provinces

It’s been two and a half months since the January 2009 Provincial elections, and five of the fourteen provinces that voted have not named their governors or other top officials. This is due to political disputes between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law List and other Shiite parties. Maliki’s State of Law won in eight of the nine southern provinces. Karbala was the one exception where an independent, Youssef Majid al-Habboubi won. He didn’t run as part of a party or List however, so the State of Law gained control there as well. Still, the State of Law only won majorities in Baghdad and Basra, so they needed coalitions in the rest of the provinces to rule. As Norwegian Iraq analyst Reidar Visser points out, Maliki could’ve either formed broad Shiite coalitions to rule or tried to rule with Dawa on top. He chose the latter. This has held up appointing governors, heads of councils, etc. because Maliki has been unable to put together enough parties to form majorities. Even in provinces where top officials have been named there has been controversy. This has happened in Ninewa where the Kurds are boycotting the new Sunni Al-Hadbaa-led council, and in Diyala where the State of Law is protesting Maliki’s current backers in parliament. Rather than ushering in a new era of Iraqi politics, the provincial elections have simply re-arranged the parties at the top, while kept up the bickering and in fighting. They will also face greater problems when they actually try to rule, as their budgets will be about 50% less than the previous year because of the country’s fiscal problems.

Below is a list of the officials that have been named so far, and those provinces that still lack a government. Also how the Lists and individuals finished, and how many seats they received.

Anbar – 29 seats
Governor Qaseem Muhammad – Independent (Backed by Awakening of Iraq and Independents – 1st 8 seats)
Head of Council Jassem Mohammed Hamad – Iraq National Project – Tied for 2nd 6 seats

Babil – 30 seats
Governor Salman Hassan al-Zarkani – Independent ?
1st Deputy Governor Iskandar Wattout – Civil Society List – Tied for 3rd 3 seats
2nd Deputy Governor Sadeq al-Mhanna – National Reform Party – Tied for 3rd 3 seats

Baghdad – 57 seats
Governor Salah Abd al-Razzaq – State of Law – 1st 28 seats
2nd Deputy Governor Kamil Saeed al-Saeedi - ?
Head of Council Kamil al-Zaydi – State of Law
Deputy Head of Council Thamir Riyad al-Addad – State of Law

Basra – 35 seats
No officials
The State of Law List has a majority with twenty seats, but has not been able to fill any positions yet.

Dhi Qar – 31 seats
Head of Council Qusai al-Ibadi – State of Law – 1st 13 seats
Deputy Head of Council Abdulhadi Mohan – State of Law

Diyala – 29 seats
Governor Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah – Iraqi Accordance Front – 1st 9 seats
Deputy Governor Furat Mohammed - ?
Head of Council Taleb Mohammed Hassan – Kurdish Alliance
The Iraqi National List who came in second with six seats, the Iraqi National List that came in fourth with three seats, the State of Law that came in tied for fifth with two seats, and the National Reform Party that came in last with one seat are disputing these appointments. They have held street demonstrations.

Karbala – 27 seats
Governor Amaleddin Majeed Hameed Kadhem – State of Law – Tied for 2nd 9 seats
1st Deputy Governor Abbas al-Musawi - Hope of Rafidain – Tied for 2nd 9 seats
2nd Deputy Governor Youssefl al-Habboubi – Independent – 1st 1 seat
Head of Council Amal al-Rafidayn – Hope of Rafidain

Maysan – 27 seats
No officials
On April 12 the Maysan council was supposed to meet to elect officials, but that was cancelled when the Sadrists of the Independent Trend of the Noble Ones who came in third with seven seats claimed the State of Law that finished first with eight seats was not going to give them the governorship.

Muthanna – 26 seats
No officials
The State of Law List, which tied for first with five seats, has not been able to put together a majority coalition yet.

Najaf – 28 seats
No officials
The State of Law List that came in tied for first with the Supreme Council’s Al-Mihrab Martyr List has not been able to name any officials yet.

Ninewa – 37 seats
Governor Atheel al-Nujafi – Al-Hadbaa List – 1st 19 seats
2nd Deputy Governor Hassan Mahmoud Ali – Independent
Head of Council Faisal Abdullah al-Yawir – Al-Hadbaa List
Deputy Head of Council Wild-dar Zebari – Al Hadbaa List
The Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood List that came in second with twelve seats is boycotting the provincial council.

Qadisiyah – 28 seats
No officials
State of Law came in first place with 11 seats. The Iraqi National List, which finished tied for 3rd, quit an alliance with them over who should be named deputy governor and deputy head of council. Fadhila, who tied for fifth place with two seats, was also supposed to be part of this alliance, but is arguing over positions as well.

Salahaddin – 28 seats
Governor Mutashar al-Aliwi – Iraqi Accordance Front – Tied for 1st 5 seats
The other provincial positions have not been filled because of political disputes. Salahaddin had the most parties elected to office.

Wasit – 28 seats
Governor Lateef Hamad al-Tarfa – Independent Trend of the Noble Ones – Tied for 3rd 3 seats
Head of Council Mahmoud Abdulrida Talal – Al-Mihrab Martyr List (SIIC) – 2nd 6 seats
Lateef Hamad al-Tarfa was re-elected governor of Wasit by the SIIC. The State of Law List who came in first with thirteen seats, was trying to block his nomination. They held street protests for a few days. The Dawa Party – Iraq also left the State of Law alliance in Wasit taking with it its three seats.


Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “Atheel Nejefi elected as Ninewa governor,” 4/12/09
- “Babel council elects independent engineer as governor,” 4/18/09
- “Baghdad’s second deputy governor elected,” 4/20/09
- “Dawlat al-Qanoon in Wassit wants governor out of office,” 4/13/09
- “Demonstrators want Wassit governor out of office,” 4/11/09
- “Final deal to share sovereign posts in Diwaniya – official,” 4/13/09
- “Iraqi List quits Dawlat al-Qanoon alliance in Diwaniya,” 4/13/09
- “Karbala governor assumes duty after republican decree issued,” 4/19/09
- “New alliance of winning blocs formed in Thi-Qar,” 3/30/09
- “New Diala governor elected,” 4/11/09
- “New governor picked for Anbar,” 4/11/09
- “New provincial council’s head, deputy selected in Thi-Qar,” 4/16/09
- “No decrease in salaries because of oil prices – planning minister” 12/19/08
- “Shahid al-Mihrab names 2 members for Missan council,” 4/11/09
- “Shiite party quits alliance in Wassit,” 4/11/09
- “Squabbles impede election of Salah al-Din council chief,” 4/12/09
- “Thousands stage demonstrations in Diala,” 4/8/09
- “Wassit governor, provincial council chief elected,” 4/15/09
- “Zaydi unanimously elected to chair Baghdad provincial council,” 4/8/09

Hendawi, Hamza, “Iraqi Shiites rally for populist candidate,” Associated Press, 3/14/09

Reilly, Corinne and Abbas, Ali, “Kurdish-Arab tensions continue to grow in northern Iraq,” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/14/09

Visser, Reidar, “Iraq’s New Provincial Councils: A Mixed Picture North of Baghdad, Unexpected Complications in the Centre and the South,”, 4/13/09

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Old And New Alliances Argue Over Control Of Diyala Provincial Council

On April 11, 2009 the new provincial council in Diyala named Abdulnasir al-Muntasirbillah governor. He received 17 out of 29 votes. Taleb Mohammed Hassan of the Kurdistan Alliance was made head of the council. Four losing lists, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, former Prime Minister Iyad Alawi’s Iraqi National List, and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Reform Movement boycotted their election. They are also going to court to contest the elections. These four diverse groups that include Sunnis and Shiites, Iraqi exiles and former Baathists represent the possible face of a new alliance for the upcoming parliamentary elections planned for the end of the year. In Diyala they are taking on a coalition of Iraqi Accordance Front, the Kurds, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which have been working together since 2007. This struggle represents a clash of old and new alliances for not only control of Diyala, but possibly for the country.

When the results of the January 2009 provincial elections were announced the Iraqi Accordance Front led by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s Iraqi Islamic Party came out the winners. They received 9 of 29 seats on Diyala’s provincial council followed by Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project List with six, the Kurdish Alliance with six, Allawi’s Iraqi National List with three, Maliki’s State of Law with two, the Supreme Council with two, and Jaafari’s National Reform Party with one.

Results of January 2009 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 29 seats total
1. Iraqi Accordance Front - Hashemi: 9
2. Iraqi National Project – al-Mutlaq: 6
2. Kurdish Alliance: 6
4. Iraqi National List - Allawi: 3
5. State of Law - Maliki: 2
5. Diyala Coalition – SIIC: 2
7. National Reform Party – Jaafari: 1

This was a marked change from the 2005 elections when the Sunnis boycotted. Then a coalition of the Supreme Council and the Dawa party came in first with 20 of 41 seats, followed by the Iraqi Islamic Party with 14, and the Kurds with seven.

Results of January 2005 Provincial Elections
Diyala – 41 seats total
Coalition of Islamic and National Forces in Diyala (SIIC & Dawa): 20
Iraqi Islamic Party – Hashemi: 14
Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition Diyala Governorate – Kurds: 7

The Sunni majority was able to assert themselves in the 2009 balloting in Diyala, although their votes were spread out over several parties. The Kurds, who reside in the northern section of the province, were able to largely hold onto their power on the council, while the Shiites came out the losers. Despite these changes however, the old alliance of the Accordance Front, Kurds, and SIIC were able to push through their candidate for governor. These three parties make up three-quarters of the governing alliance in parliament behind Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Supreme Council and Kurds have a long-standing relationship, and when the Accordance Front rejoined the government in 2008 after a boycott, they became a triumvirate.

By February 2009 the Accordance Front and Kurdish Alliance had cut a deal to divide up the top posts in Diyala. That drew the ire of the losing parties. On March 1 for example, thousands of their followers protested the election results in two cities in the province. Some 10,000 people were reportedly out in the streets. They were organized by the Diyala Support Council, a group formed by Maliki’s government to garner tribal support and divide the Sunni Sons of Iraq in the province. The protestors called for new elections and for the State of Law List and others not to participate in the new council. Shiites also claimed that the Election Commission was controlled by Kurds and Sunnis, and denied them votes.

Perhaps coincidently, but perhaps not, on the first day that the new council was supposed to be seated on April 6, police sent by Baghdad tried to raid the council building. They had six arrest warrants accusing new members of the council with links to the insurgency, displacing people, and murder. No names were mentioned or which parties they were attached to. U.S. forces stopped the police however. This led to more protests.

The dispute in Diyala is a microcosm of new political divisions occurring in Iraq after the provincial elections. As reported before, Maliki is trying to forge a new ruling coalition. The Prime Minister was originally put into office as a compromise candidate between the Sadrists and Supreme Council. He was supported by the Iraqi United Alliance that included the Dawa, the SIIC, the Sadrists, the Fadhila Party, and Shiite independents, plus the Kurds and the Iraqi Accordance Front. Now Maliki is abandoning those parties for a new mix. In Diyala his State of Law List is working with Saleh Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Iraqi Reform Movement, all of which are protesting the new council. Maliki has also talked with the Sadrists in other parts of the country. The reason for this change is because Maliki has a different vision for the country and different goals from his former supporters. The SIIC and Kurds support a weak central government, federalism, and autonomy on oil deals. The Prime Minister on the other hand, wants a strong government based in Baghdad with him at its head. He is wrapping his campaign in Arab nationalism as well, which challenges the Kurds’ desire to expand southward and annex various areas of northern Iraq. Maliki is beginning this push for new partners in the provincial councils, and is hoping that some winning combination will emerge before the parliamentary elections. This new struggle is playing itself out in various provinces now such as Diyala, and others. The major problem is that as it stands now, Maliki’s new partners do not have nearly enough to form a majority in Iraq’s 275-member parliament, so there will be plenty more maneuvering before everything is said and done.


Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “4 blocs to contest the results of Diala council votes,” 4/12/09
- “KA, IAF agree to share leading posts in Diala,” 2/24/09
- “New Diala governor elected,” 4/11/09
- “Police prevent Diala council from holding first session,” 4/6/09
- “Thousands of protesters call to dissolve IHEC-Diala,” 3/1/09
- “Thousands stage demonstrations in Diala,” 4/8/09

International Crisis Group, “Iraq After The Surge II: The Need for a New Political Strategy,” 4/30/08

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Rossmiller, Alex, “The Bush administration’s four-year history of erratic meddling in search of an Iraqi ‘savior.’” American Prospect, 4/11/07

Russo, Claire, “Countdown To Diyala’s Provincial Election: Maliki & The The IIP,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/30/09

Sabah, Zaid and Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Hundreds of Iraqi Shiites Protest Voting Results, Allege Fraud,” Washington Post, 3/2/09

Shadid, Anthony, “New Alliance In Iraq Cross Sectarian Lines,” Washington Post, 3/20/09

Visser, Rediar, “Iraq’s New Provincial Councils: A Mixed Picture North of Baghdad, Unexpected Complications in the Centre and the South,”, 4/13/09

Friday, April 17, 2009

Center For Strategic And International Studies Briefing On Iraq

In early April 2009 Anthony Cordesman, one of the top military analysts on Iraq, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released the latest version of his briefing on the war, “The Changing Situation in Iraq: A Progress Report.” Cordesman comes from the camp of American think tank writers who believes that the U.S. needs to stay long-term in Iraq to ensure its stability. Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) however, Iraq’s military presence will end in 2011. This comes at a time when Iraq is facing a plethora of new issues including elections, power sharing, and a financial crisis, along with continuing violence. There is no telling whether the Iraq government will be able to maneuver through these problems, which means that the U.S. will have a lot to work on while they still have substantial forces in the country.

Iraq is a different place from what it was just a few years ago. A recent public opinion poll by ABC, NHK, and BBC from February 2009 detailed here shows that most Iraqis are feeling positive about their future. When asked how things were going in their life 65% said they were good compared to 35% who said that it was bad. This was the highest positive response since the poll was started back in 2005. Then 71% said things were going well in Iraq. After that the numbers dropped to 39% in February and August 2007, before climbing back up to 54% in March 2008. When asked how the entire country was doing at the time 58% said it was doing well in February 2009 compared to 43% in March 2008, 22% in August 2007, 35% in February 2007, and 44% in 2005. At the same time military and security issues dropped from being the most important issue at 58% in August 2007 to 33% in March 2008 to 22% by February 2009. Economic issues now predominate at 67% in February 2009. These match similar results found by polls coducted by the State and Defense Departments. As attacks and deaths have decreased since their peak during the sectarian war of 2006-2007 Iraqis are feeling better about their lives and the future of the country, while hoping that the economy, services, and government improve.

That doesn’t mean that security is not still a concern. Cordesman believes that Iraq could see violence for the next 4-5 years. He warns that Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency, and the Shiiite militias are down, but not out. In March 2009 Interior Minister Jawad Bolani warned that there were still Al Qaeda sleeper cells in the country, and the recent spate of bombings shows that militants are still active in the country. What has changed is the number and intensity of the fighting. Attacks are now down to 2004 levels. Most of those are concentrated in just four provinces, Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salahaddin, whereas before they were across the entire nation. The February 2009 poll found that Iraqis are experiencing one-third less violence than they did in August 2008. IEDs and suicide attacks still persist, but crime, corruption, and the lack of rule of law are becoming more important.

The political arena is where most of Iraq’s rivalries and struggles are now taking place. Cordesman argues that the January 2009 provincial elections were the beginning of a political transition in Iraq. The balloting was important because it showed Iraqis that their votes counted as almost all of the ruling parties were replaced. It also raised expectations that the incoming councils would be more accountable, perform better, and provide services. The problem is that almost all of the provincial councils will require a coalition to rule. Some of these will not be stable and may break into factions. New politicians also don’t automatically mean better governance.

Cordesman noticed several trends in the provincial balloting that are different than other commentaries on them. First Arab nationalism rather than Iraqi nationalism was a winning theme. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list and new parties like al-Hadbaa in Ninewa ran on this platform championing a strong central government, but general opposition to the Kurds. As a result, they were the biggest losers. There were many reports that the election was a defeat for the religious parties and a move towards secularism, but Cordesman believes it was actually ones promising technocrats and better management that were successful. Maliki of course was the biggest winner, having rode into the voting with a 70% approval rating. Even his standing amongst Sunnis increased from 10% in February 2008 to 33% before the election. Maliki’s State of Law List won in Baghdad and across the south except for Karbala as a result. The Iraqi Islamic Party and and the Sadrists also did well despite some writing them off. The Sadrists will play an important role in coalitions in the south, while the Sunnis got greater representation after having boycotted the 2005 provincial vote.

The election also brought out the on-going struggle for control of the south and leadership of the Shiites. After the 2005 elections the Supreme Council was dominant. They suffered a crushing defeat after they claimed they would win Najaf, Babil, Qadisiyah, and Dhi Qar, and be the largest bloc in the rest of the south. They ran on a religious and federalist platform that was largely rejected for Maliki’s call for good governance and strong control.

More problematic is the increasing Arab-Kurdish divide. Only 44% of Iraqis say that relations between the two groups are good. In the provincial elections the Kurds lost control of Ninewa and Salahaddin. That will probably mean that there will be more tension there. This is already being seen in Ninewa where the Kurds are boycotting the al-Hadbaa headed council. The issue also threatens the unity of the Iraqi security forces. In the summer of 2008 for example, when Maliki sent the Iraqi Army into the Khanaqin district of Diyala a Kurdish battalion commander and 200 of his soldiers in Ninewa deserted and went to Irbil in Kurdistan in protest. A Kurdish brigade in Diyala also refused to take orders from the central government at that time. The fact that the insurgency is now largely based in the north in those exact same provinces is only making the matter worse. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has not helped the situation either as he has made monthly attacks on Baghdad and Maliki. The U.S. believes that this is the number one source of instability in the country, and could lead to new violence in the future.

The provincial elections were just the opening salvo of these two struggles. Cordesman thinks that they will continue up to and after the parliamentary elections. They are scheduled for December 2009, but it could take up to six months afterwards for a new government to be formed and take office. There is also the added issue of dissatisfaction with Maliki’s rise to power. Some think that he has too much strength. The Prime Minister has direct control over the special forces and counterterrorism units for example. These fears could be moderated by the necessity for coalitions to rule. Maliki will have to have a Sunni party in this alliance, and might also join with the Iraqi National List of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. On the other hand, Maliki may reject compromising with his foes if he comes out victorious. None of these problems is really being address, but are rather being exploited by political parties for votes and support.

On top of all this Iraq is running into a budget crisis. This will affect all the other problems in the country. Cordesman argues that money was one of the main things that held Iraq together over the last couple years. Each year Iraq’s budget increased as oil prices rose. This money was distributed to the various ministries, each of which is controlled by a different political party, and used for patronage and to garner support. Now Iraq is expected to run a $24 billion deficit in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and a $13 billion one in 2010-2011. Security will be affected as the Interior Ministry announced that it is having a hiring freeze, and is canceling its plan to hire 66,000 new police. This will also hold up crime prevention and the establishment of rule of law, which are increasingly becoming important to the Iraqi public. The rest of the armed forces will also not be able to buy new equipment and weapons. While the Iraqi forces are getting better at counterinsurgency operations, Cordesman believes that they are still 3-5 years away from being able to defend their own country from other nations. Some U.S. commanders are worried that the U.S. will leave Iraq before the Iraqi forces are capable. U.S. advisors will still remain with Iraqi units after the June 2009 deadline to be out of Iraq’s cities, and have until 2011 to conduct training operations. The Iraqis can also extend those dates if they want.

With better security and new elections Iraqis are also expecting better services. This too will be slowed down by the budget problems. The political divisions have slowed developing Iraq’s oil resources, and many Iraqis are opposed to foreign companies doing business in the country fearing exploitation. The government is also the largest employer in the country. The budget deficit will mean few new hires. Salaries and pensions that form the backbone of the operational budget take up 90% of spending, leaving only 10% for development and investment, known as the capital budget. The amount of money Iraq has been able to spend overall has increased each year since 2005, but capital budget expenditures remain anemic. In 2007 Iraqi spent 80% of its $29 billion operational budget, but only 28% of its $12 billion capital budget. That increased to 39% of the $24 billion capital budget in 2008. That year the core ministries that raise revenues and provide services only spent 23% of their $16 billion capital budget.

Foreign investment has also been slow due to laborious government regulations. The World Bank’s 2009 Ease of Doing Business Report for example, ranked Iraq 152 out of 181 countries in ease of investment. That was down six spots from 2008. The 2006 National Investment Law doesn’t have a means to implement it, the National Investment Commission doesn’t have a chair, and the provincial investment commissions are weak. Kurdistan is the only region of the country that has large-scale investment coming in at about $15 billion. The country overall still needs billions of dollars to reach its targets for oil, electricity, and water production. That’s not likely to come any time soon.

Cordesman finishes by saying that real success in Iraq requires political reconciliation. While he provides a checklist of the benchmarks set by the American Congress during the Surge on key legislation, he seems more concerned about the actual actions of Iraq’s political parties. There the struggle for power is intensifying with the elections. That could last for years. Not only are the Shiite parties competing with each other, but the Sunnis still lack strong leadership, and the Arab-Kurdish dispute is only growing in intensity. At the same time, with violence down, average Iraqis are thinking more positive about their current and future situation. According to the February 2009 public opinion poll 59% of Sunnis and Shiites say relations between them are good. That’s up from 48% in 2008. At the same time, only 33% of Sunnis say they feel safe in their neighborhoods compared to 67% of Shiites and 85% of Kurds. That reflects the fact that the Sunnis were the losers politically with the fall of Saddam Hussein, and were then defeated by the Shiites in the sectarian war. Economic issues are also coming to the fore at just the time that the country is running out of money with the collapse of oil prices. As stated before, Cordesman is one of many American think tankers that believes Americans need to stay for the long-term in Iraq until its problems are solved. In practice that means an open ended commitment, and Cordesman’s report is part of that argument as it outlines the myriad issues facing the country that are not going to be resolved anytime soon. Cordesman does now seems to have come to terms with the fact that American forces will be out by the end of 2011 with the Status of Forces Agreement. That means that while American military forces will eventually be out, U.S. diplomats will still be working there for years.


Abouzeid, Rania, “Arabs-Kurd Tensions Could Threaten Iraq’s Peace,” Time, 3/24/09

BBC, ABC, NHK, “Iraq Poll February 2009,” 3/16/09

Cordesman, Anthony, “The Changing Situation in Iraq: A Progress Report,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 4/1/09

Derhally, Massoud, “Iraq Freezes 66,000 New Police Hires, Minister Says,” Bloomberg, 3/22/09

Gamel, Kim, “Iraqi budget woes force security hiring freeze,” Associated Press, 3/20/09

Zelikow, Philip, “The new strategic situation in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Online, 2/9/09

Security In Iraq May 15-21, 2024

The Islamic State and the Iraqi Islamic Resistance were both active in Iraq during the third week of May.