Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Iraq After The U.S. Withdrawal

June 30, 2009 is a historic day for Iraq. The U.S. has officially withdrawn its combat troops from Iraqi cities in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). There are reports that Iraqis were out in the streets celebrating and fireworks could be seen in the skies. The date is more symbolic than anything else however.

Americans will still be in many Iraqi cities having their bases re-designated outside their borders. American advisers will still be with Iraqi units, U.S. troops will still go out on patrols with their Iraqi counterparts, and the Provincial Reconstruction Teams will continue their work in the provinces. U.S. officials are also scattered throughout Iraq’s ministries in Baghdad.

Iraqi forces will probably be able to handle their duties, as most of the country is actually relatively quiet, and the sectarian war is over. The insurgency is a shell of its former self, fears of the Sons of Iraq or the Mahdi Army returning to the fight are overblown, and even the Iranian-backed Special Groups have been mostly inactive lately. This doesn’t mean Iraqis won’t still be killed daily, just that the ebb and flow of the fighting has changed from what it was in the past.

The bigger problems today are political, economic, and social. Iraq is on the eve of its fifth election since 2003, which only increases the on-going struggle for power amongst elites. Tensions between Arabs and Kurds are increasing, and could tear the country apart, while the conflict between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could lead to the beginning of democratic norms of ruling and opposing parties, or lead to autocratic rule. This has largely prevented Iraq’s leaders from thinking about how to improve the country, which is seen in the fact that the government is still largely dysfunctional, corruption is rampant, there is little rule by law, the economy is a mess, services do not meet demand, and only around 5% of Iraq’s 4-5 million refugees have returned.

It is unfortunate that Iraqis find themselves in this situation after three wars and years of international sanctions. Getting rid of Saddam offered many hopes and promises, yet Iraq still finds itself plagued by a slew of new problems that complicate everyday life for its people. The situation there is neither victory, nor a total collapse. The real question is will anyone care in the coming years?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Administration Needs to Prepare Congress and Public For A Long Stay In Iraq Says Iraq Analyst

As U.S. combat troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, Anthony Cordesman, one of the top military analysts on Iraq from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that the administration needs to build up support for a long-term presence there. This is a position that he has consistently called for. Cordesman worries that too much emphasis is being put on withdrawal, when the goal should be institutionalizing support for Iraq so that it can become a strong U.S. ally in the region. This is especially important because Cordesman does not believe that the U.S. has won in Iraq, but rather will continue to face challenges there before Iraq becomes a stabile and independent state. Cordesman wrote about these issues in a memorandum to General Ray Odierno after a recent trip to Iraq.

The main problems America faces in Iraq today are not what they use to be. Violence is down, and the Iraqi security forces are better. The sectarian war is over, and he does not believe that the Sunnis and Shiites want to return to fighting each other. Rather the main divisions today are over politics. The two main ones are between Arabs and Kurds, and with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his critics. The ethnic divisions are now the most pressing issue in his opinion as tensions are rising between Arabs and Kurds, and the two sides are losing patience with each other. Politically, Iraq is still dealing with integrating the Sunnis, and they themselves still lack strong leadership. This struggle has now become entangled with the Prime Minister, as the Sunnis have become the major opponent of Maliki trying to assert power.

Iraq faces an additional problem developing its economy. Iraq is almost completely dependent upon oil for revenues. That industry and the rest are all underdeveloped. Iraq needs to diversify, and open up to foreign investment so that it can build up its infrastructure and provide better services. The Iraqi government has been incapable of doing either so far, even with better security. Cordesman believes that Baghdad lacks the knowledge of how to create effective business deals and legislation, and politicians are too caught up in either defending their country against the perceived threats of foreign corporations or thinking about the possible profits, rather than on how to make things better.

Cordesman believes that these two issues will require constant attention and mediation by the Americans. The main tool he believes in using is aid. First, the U.S. needs to maintain its level of financial assistance flowing to Iraq. This is especially hard now with most Americans focused upon getting out of Iraq and the economic crisis at home. The U.S. also needs to help with the country’s political and economic troubles. American aid and mediation for example, could help integrate the Kurdish peshmerga into the security forces, an idea that is now dead due to the political divisions. This could assure the Kurds of security, while allowing Baghdad to continue with its plans of expanding its military. On the economic side, the U.S. should provide business models for Iraq to improve their contacts with foreign companies. The Americans have been working to revive the State Owned Enterprises, which have the potential to add much needed jobs as well. The U.S. should also get the World Bank involved with development more because the U.S. presence will shrink with the withdrawal of combat forces. To accomplish this the U.S. needs to maintain both military and civilian advisers in Iraq past the 2011 deadline for withdrawal.

Cordesman found that some planning for this is already being done in Iraq. The military especially is trying to transition from a security operation to a rebuilding mode. He did not see as much evidence of that on the civilian side however. Too many political and economic plans he saw were focused upon finishing specific programs rather than looking at the bigger picture of what needs to be done in the future.

Overall, Cordesman argues that the U.S. will be remembered for what they leave behind in Iraq, rather than on how they got there. The U.S. military and diplomatic staff in Iraq is thinking this way, but he’s not sure Washington is. Too much emphasis is being put on short-term goals such as pulling out of the cities this summer, and the withdrawal in 2011. Cordesman, like many other American Iraq experts, believes that the U.S. should have a long-term presence in Iraq that may last as long as 2020 or further. Unless the administration begins setting the groundwork for this by telling the public and Congress of the sacrifices needed, and the journey ahead, no one will support it, and Cordesman worries that will mean all the blood and money spent in Iraq will go to waste.

This will ultimately come down to whether President Obama wants to make this kind of commitment. There will be a diplomatic presence in Iraq no matter what. His real task is deciding on whether he will maintain troops there or not. He has been very open to his military commanders, and they will assuredly ask for tens of thousands of American advisers to stay past 2011. Coming up with the money for a robust assistance package however after most combat troops are out will be much harder as the public and Congress have already lost interest in Iraq.

The main problem with Cordesman and other similar analysts is that they often overlook the system of dependence the Iraqis have built up upon the Americans, which a long-term presence will only continue. Cordesman mentions this once when discussing the opening of the oil sector to foreign investment. He writes that Baghdad has offered oil contracts, but then expects Washington to do the rest of the work, pushing international companies to sign them. This is true for a whole range of other issues as well. As reported earlier, the U.S. has spent millions trying to build up the maintenance and logistics capacity of the Iraqi Army, but they have refused responsibility for much of it, leading to the Americans to do most of the work instead. The Americans need to get the Iraqis to do more rather than hold their hands for the next ten years. That’s basically what Cordesman and others want the administration to do. They want every issue in Iraq to be dealt with before a full withdrawal. This will not be like the U.S. presence in South Korea either as President Bush once suggested, because Iraq is likely to see violence during that entire stay. The Obama White House needs to do a cost-benefit analysis of what its willing to expend on Iraq, and how much responsibility they want to have for it because Cordesman, other Iraq experts, and the U.S. military are asking for an open-ended commitment.


Cordesman, Anthony, “Observations From a Visit to Iraq,” 6/15/09

Gwertzman, Bernard, “U.S. ‘Winning’ Unpopular War in Iraq, but ‘Losing’ Popular War in Afghanistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, 9/8/08

Nagl, John and Burton, Brian, “After the Fire: Shaping the Future U.S. Relationship with Iraq,” Center for a New American Security, June 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Argument For Maliki Being Iraq’s Next Strongman

Reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be becoming a strongman have become part and parcel of Iraq reporting today. In the Spring 2009 edition of World Policy Journal Los Angeles Times’ reporter Ned Parker laid out a good argument for this in an article entitled “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia.” Parker’s position is that Maliki has successfully used a divide and conquer and carrot and stick approach with various groups across the country that is a move towards authoritarian government. The Prime Minister has also promised security and stability for a population that has been traumatized by the invasion and civil war. This has them looking towards a leader, Maliki, rather than institutions or democracy to provide a normal life, allowing the Prime Minister to become an autocrat.

This change in Iraq began with the end of the sectarian war in 2007. The Shiites won, and the Sunnis were defeated. This was shown when the majority of the insurgency switched sides to the Americans to escape the pressure from the Surge, Iraqi forces, Shiite militias, and Al Qaeda in Iraq. With the threat of the insurgency largely contained, Maliki was freed to move against his former supporter Moqtada al-Sadr. In 2008 Maliki sent the Iraqi army and police to crush the Mahdi Army in Basra, Sadr City, and Maysan. By mid-2008 the government was now free of two of its largest threats. In turn, this changed Maliki’s image from a weak and feckless leader to a nationalist one willing to impose order from the chaos that was engulfing Iraq.

Parker provides three examples of how Maliki has used his newfound power and position since then. First, the Prime Minister built up his own independent base by forming Tribal Support Councils across southern Iraq. These became a huge patronage system for Maliki, which helped his State of Law list win a majority in Basra, and pluralities in the rest of the south in the 2009 provincial elections. In Diyala, the Prime Minister used force to try to break the alliance between the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Sons of Iraq. In July 2008 and May 2009, he used the security forces to arrest and intimidate Sunni leaders, while trying to peel others away to join his Tribal Support Councils. Finally, in the Saydiya district of Baghdad, Maliki convinced the local Sunnis there that he was the center of power. At first, they felt intimidated into electing a Shiite from the SIIC’s Badr Brigade to head the local council, but later when that same official was arrested, the Sunnis took it to be a sign that Maliki had turned against the Shiite militia, and that he was becoming a fair and just ruler. All of these moves are examples of the carrot and stick, divide and conquer strategy Maliki has employed since 2008. He has wooed both Sunnis and Shiites to his side, while threatening others with the security forces and the threat of arrests. It shows that the new status quo in Iraq is not based upon the rule of law or institutions, but rather the relationship between individuals and groups to the Prime Minister. He is now the center of Iraqi politics, able to wield his power to give some jobs and position, or to send others to jail.

Parker believes that the new Iraq that has emerged from the sectarian war is actually a return to its autocratic tradition. After the bloody years of the past, the most important thing to Iraqis is stability so that they can return to their normal lives. This is what Maliki has offered them. He has crushed or wooed his opponents including the Shiite militias and the Sons of Iraq, while offering protection, jobs and patronage to those that side with him such as Iraq’s tribes. It’s one man, Maliki that the people now look to. He represents the Iraqi state, much as Saddam or other past Iraqi leaders did. This is what makes “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia” one of the better arguments for the strongman theory that is becoming popular in analyses of Iraq. It is still up to debate however, whether Maliki is really moving in this direction. Many of the powers he is assuming are those that the government should have, but that it was not able to exert since it was so weak after the U.S. invasion. A regular government for example, should have a monopoly on force, so Baghdad should’ve cracked down on the Shiite militias. At the same time, Maliki has built up organizations like the Tribal Support Councils, which are outside the authority of the government, and used the security forces to take care of his opponents. Iraq seems to have gone from one extreme where the state had no real authority to where Maliki is using it everywhere for his own ends. Now however, the new speaker of the parliament is trying to strengthen the legislature to provide a check on Maliki’s power. This will be the real test as to whether the Prime Minister can become an autocrat. If he can shape the parliament after the 2010 elections then there will be no others in the country that can limit him.


Nordland, Rod and Santora, Marc, “Iraq Leader Omits a Bit in Lauding U.S. Pullout,” New York Times, 6/11/09

Parker, Ned, “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009
- “U.S. prepares to withdraw, Iraqi resistance prepares for battle,” Los Angeles Times, 5/25/09

Rosen, Nir, “The big sleep,” The National, 4/24/09

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

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Shadid, Anthony, “In Iraq, a Different Struggle for Power,” Washington Post, 6/25/09

Wiseman, Paul, “U.S.-supported Iraqi militias clash with government,” USA Today, 5/27/09

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iraq Ranked No. 6 On Failed State List

Foreign Policy Magazine run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Fund for Peace released their latest Failed States Index for 2009. Iraq was ranked number 6 out of 177 countries. That was a very minor improvement from 2008 when Iraq was number 5. In 2007 it got its lowest mark as the second worst country in the index. Each nation was ranked from 1.0 to 10.0 with one being the best and ten the worst in twelve different social, economic, and political categories. In 2009 Iraq received a total score of 108.6. Only the Congo, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Somalia got lower marks. In 2008 Iraq was only behind Chad, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia. While missing some of the major changes in Iraq since the end of the sectarian war, the report does highlight the instability and challenges that remain in the country.

Four social indicators were covered first. Iraq received an 8.7 on demographic pressures, down 0.3 from 2008. Much of Iraq is urbanized, but that is also where most of the violence takes place. Travel within many cities is limited due to checkpoints. The report believes that as security improves, Iraq will improve in this category. On refugees and displaced it got an 8.9, down 0.1 from 2008. Due to the violence 4-5 million Iraqis were forced from their homes, one of the largest refugees crises in the world. The process of return has begun, which accounts for the minor improvement in the score, but it is still happening at very low levels. Iraq received a 9.7 in group grievances, again a 0.1 improvement from 2008. The report sees the country still largely divided between Sunni and Shiites and between Arabs and Kurds. All of their examples however were from 2005 to 2008. While there are still plenty of differences between Sunnis and Shiites, much of this is now being played out in the political rather than military world as most of their events show. The dispute between Arabs and Kurds on the other hand has increased. This could be one area where Iraq could earn a better mark since there is not even half as much violence as there was before resulting from these differences. On human flight Iraq went from a 9.3 in 2008 to a 9.1 in 2009. The report cited the continued absence of much of Iraq’s professional class, and oddly attacks on journalists as a reason why the nation continues to score poorly in this category. Very few Iraqis have been displaced since 2007, which is what the category seems to be about. The latest report by the International Organization for Migration for example, found that only 2.0% of Iraq’s displaced lost their homes in 2008. The fact that Iraq’s middle class has left and not returned yet would seem to go under the refugees’ category, so the country should’ve scored better here. Overall, the study could’ve done better in ranking Iraq in group grievances and human flight.

Economic concerns were next. In uneven development Iraq did worse going from 8.5 to 8.6. The report found that Shiites areas still did better than Sunni ones. This could be partly due to the fact that Sunni areas have little to no oil, but the study also believes this has been done on purpose because of sectarian biases. United Nations reports on Iraq however, would partly dispute this finding. The Shiite south for example, has the highest rates of poverty. Since violence has been concentrated in Sunni areas, that could also be a reason why there has been less development there. In terms of the economy overall, Iraq improved 0.1 with 7.6 in 2009. The improved security meant there was more opportunity for Iraqis to return to their normal lives and conduct business. Iraq is also on the verge of its first round of bidding for long-term oil and natural gas contracts with foreign oil companies. While the study notes that Iraq is largely dependent on oil, it seemed to have missed the fact that the world recession and subsequent drop in crude prices have imposed severe limits on revenues this year. The rest of the economy is still largely underdeveloped due to wars, sanctions, and neglect.

Last the Failed State Index went through six political and military categories. First was legitimacy of the state where Iraq moved from 9.4 in 2008 to 9.0 in 2009. Iraq’s government still suffers from massive corruption, but has been able to bring back different groups that were boycotting the cabinet in 2007. The report does not take into account the new found standing of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has increasingly presented himself as an Iraqi nationalist that is intent upon rebuilding the Iraqi state and government authority. The strength of his argument was displayed in Maliki’s strong showing in the 2009 provincial elections. In public services Iraq received an 8.4. Baghdad is still not able to meet many of the public’s needs, but it is making small improvements. On human rights, Iraq moved up from 9.6 to 9.3 due to the weakening of the insurgency. Iraq’s security forces are still accused of human rights abuses. For security forces Iraq went from 9.9 to 9.7. In this category, the study seems stuck in the sectarian war mentioning the fighting between Sunnis and Shiites, which ended in 2007, and the role of militias. That is now largely over however. Iraq received a 9.6 for factionalized elite. Here the study was right on noting that Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish politicians are still deeply divided upon the direction of the country. Finally Iraq maintained a 10.0 score on external intervention since the United States is still occupying the country. On legitimacy and security apparatus Iraq should’ve done much better, but the Failed State Index seemed to do okay on the other marks.

The Index gets the general idea that Iraq is still a very troubled country. There are deep political divisions within the country, the economy is dependent upon oil, services are bad, and Iraq has one of the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world, very few of which have come home. At the same time there has been a huge improvement in the security situation, very few Iraqis are being forced from their homes anymore, and Maliki has begun the process of rebuilding the image of the state. On those issues, the Failed State report is stuck in the past. This was a more marked problem in the 2008 report. While the study had problems with some individual categories, it highlights the massive problems that are still ahead to make Iraq a stable and prosperous country. This raises the question of course, of who will be responsible for trying to improve Iraq, Baghdad or Washington.

Top 10 Failed States And Total Scores
1. Somalia 114.7
2. Zimbabwe 114.0
3. Sudan 112.4
4. Chad 112.2
5. Congo 108.7
6. Iraq 108.6
7. Afghanistan 108.2
8. Central African Republic 105.4
9. Guinea 104.6
10. Pakistan 104.1

2009/2008 Marks for Iraq on Failed State Index
Total Score: 108.6/110.6
Demographic Pressures: 8.7/9.0
Refugees & Displaced: 8.9/9.0
Group Grievances: 9.7/9.8
Human Flight: 9.1/9.3
Uneven Development: 8.6/8.5
Economy: 7.6/7.8
Legitimacy of State: 9.0/9.4
Public Services: 8.4/8.5
Human Rights: 9.3/9.6
Security Apparatus: 9.7/9.9
Factionalized Elites 9.6/9.8
External Intervention 10.0/10.0


Foreign Policy and The Fund for Peace, “The Failed States Index 2009,” June 2009

The Fund for Peace, “Country Profiles – Iraq,” June 2009

World Food Programme, “Comprehensive Food Security And Vulnerability Analysis In Iraq,” November 2008

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oil Minister Under Attack On Eve Of Awarding New Contracts

Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani is under attack from all sides as he is about to award new long-term oil contracts to foreign companies. There are those that are afraid of the influence of international corporations, others that object to the legality of the contracts, some that want to go after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since Shahristani is an ally, and finally those that oppose the Minister’s direction overall. Despite these troubles, Shahristani is intent on going forward with his plan to boost Iraq’s oil production through these deals.

On June 29 and 30, 2009 the Oil Minister will award 20-year oil contracts for six of Iraq’s largest oil fields and two undeveloped natural gas ones. 35 companies have been pre-approved for bidding on these deals including Exxon-Mobile, Shell, Italy’s Eni SpA, Russia’s Lukoil, and China’s Sinopec. The oil fields have up to 44 billion barrels, while the gas ones hold up to 22 trillion cubic feet in reserves. This is part of the Oil Minister’s plan to boost overall oil production to 2.9 million barrels per day by the end of 2009, and 6 million barrels per day in several years. Iraq currently is production about 2.3 million barrels per day.

Before the bidding begins however, the Oil Minister has come under increasing attacks from all sides. On June 23 he appeared before parliament’s oil and gas committee who demanded that the oil deals be approved by parliament. These complaints are motivated by a number of factors. First, the head of the committee is a Kurd. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has had a running battle with Oil Minister Shahristani over its independent oil policy for over a year now. Many lawmakers that are opponents of the Prime Minister want to assert the authority of the parliament to be a check on his power, hence their demand that the legislature confirm the contracts. Oil Minister Shahristani is also a close ally of Maliki who ran as part of his State of Law list in the 2009 provincial elections.

The KRG itself has warned the Oil Minister about his plans as well. The Kurds demand that they be included in any negotiations over oil deals in Kirkuk. They have warned that they will reject any deals that they are not consulted about, and will not provide security or their cooperation with oil companies that conduct work there as a result. The governor of Tamim province, the home of Kirkuk, who is a Kurd, said he and the provincial council should also be brought into the process. The Kurds consider Kirkuk there’s, even though it’s a disputed territory whose future is caught up in the political divisions within the country. Their threats about oil deals there are part of their attempt to establish de facto control of the area.

Members of the state-run South Oil Company, the largest in the country, have also come out against the oil contracts. The Oil Unions’ Federation in Basra demanded that the 1st round of bidding be cancelled. They said that Iraq’s oil could be sufficiently developed by the Oil Ministry with no outside help. The Director General of the company also sent a memo to Shahristani a few days earlier saying that the deals would cripple the economy, and objected to their length. He said that the government run oil companies were already doing much of the same work, and that they only need technical help from foreigners. The director also warned that the deals could be held up in court because they could conflict with existing laws and projects. The Director General suggested that the Oil Ministry only give out short-term technical service agreements instead. This group of critics is motivated by fear of neo-colonialism. They want to protect Iraq’s natural resources from foreign oil companies who they believe will exploit the nation for themselves and leave nothing for Iraq.

Finally, two former Oil Ministers and current officials of the ministry have also come out against the contracts. Saddam’s Minister Esam al-Chalabi said that it was a mistake to start with fields that were already producing, because that would create conflicts between the existing and future work. He warned that any new contracts could be annulled as a result. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum voiced the same concerns as the South Oil Company about the potential for foreign control of Iraq’s resources. There are allegedly several high Oil Ministry officials that are also against the contracts complaining about technical issues. This is another group of former and current members of the oil industry that are concerned about Shahristani’s approach to boosting Iraq’s production. They are worried about conflicts his policy might lead to, and the overall direction Shahristani is going in.

There is plenty more to criticize the Oil Minister about as well. His plans have been haphazard at best. In 2008 he was ready to give out short-term oil contracts, and then suddenly cancelled them. Since then the Ministry and state-run petroleum companies have begun giving out a slew of contracts for new work, some of which will happen in fields that are up for bid. Those deals and contracts for foreign consultants should’ve been given out last year when the country was flush with money. It’s also not clear that the Ministry has any ideas about how to create effective business models to effectively develop the field. All of these problems may be due to the fact that Shahristani had no experience in the oil business until Prime Minister Maliki appointed him. Beforehand, Shahristani was a nuclear physicist who after the U.S. invasion was best known for his contacts with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Iraq’s oil business is a mess. After several wars, years of sanctions, and attacks from the insurgency the infrastructure is falling apart, and many technocrats have fled. Oil is especially important because it accounts for the vast majority of the country’s revenues. Oil Minister Shahristani believes that the industry needs up to $50 billion to be developed. The only way that it can obtain that is through partnership with foreign companies. It’s difficult to enter into these contracts since Iraq has been unable to pass a new oil law since the U.S. invasion. That has led the Minister to push ahead with his own strategy to gain investment and boost production, which has been full of missteps. This has drawn the ire of all sides from those afraid of foreigners, to ones opposed to Maliki and the central government, to ones with different views of Shahristani’s approach. None of these groups are likely to stop the bidding round at the end of June, but it’s likely they will continue to stand in the way of Shahristani’s policy at every turn, making the deals very risky for any companies that win them. That will mean more problems for Iraq’s most important resource.


Abbas, Mohammed, “Iraq Kurds say must have say on Kirkuk oil fields,” Reuters, 6/1/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Kirkuk governor urges coordination over oil contracts,” 6/17/09

Chon, Gina, “Big Oil Ready for Big Gamble in Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, 6/24/09

Cockburn, Patrick, “Iraqi Oil Minister accused of mother of all sell-outs,” The Independent, 6/18/09

Cordesman, Anthony, “Observations From a Visit to Iraq,” 6/12/09

Dow Jones, “2nd UPDATE: Iraqi Oil Workers Demand Bid Round Cancellation,” 6/22/09

Ibrahim, Waleed, “UPDATE 1-Iraq oil min in parliament, facing foes of deals,” Reuters, 6/23/09

Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Sat: The I’tilaf is Back!” IraqSlogger.com, 6/19/09

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “The Oil Sector in Iraq: Prospects and Problems,” Middle East Media Research Institute, 6/11/09

Reuters, “ANALYSIS-Risk rises on Iraq oil deals after industry revolt,” 6/21/09

Shadid, Anthony and Vick, Karl, “Candidate Slate Shows Shiites Closing Ranks,” Washington Post, 12/7/04

UPI, “Iraqi oil director wants to scrap deals,” 6/18/09

Visser, Reidar, “The Map of Electoral Coalitions South of Baghdad Is Taking Shape,” 10/31/08

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don’t Expect Vote on SOFA Anytime Soon

On November 27, 2008 Iraq’s parliament passed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which set the future relationship between Iraq and the United States. The only real concession the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front was able to get included in the agreement was a referendum on the deal to be held in July 2009. That date is quickly approaching, but there’s no rush in Baghdad to have the vote happen.

Having the Americans go is popular in Iraq right now, and politicians like to talk about it to gain favor before the January 2010 parliamentary election, but in practice there is no real effort behind having the July referendum. In mid-May 2009 the Iraqi Election Commission said that it was ready to hold the vote, but that parliament needed to pass a law and budget for it. On July 9 it appeared that this was moving forward when the Councils of Ministers, Maliki’s cabinet, allocated $99.575 million for the referendum. It was then reported that the cabinet wanted to delay the vote for six months so that it would happen at the same time as the January 2010 parliamentary balloting. If Iraq’s legislature acts like normal, it could take six months or longer to pass a law to regulate the referendum. In addition, the U.S. is also working behind the scenes to try to have Baghdad cancel the vote altogether.

If the referendum is held, many American observers believe that it will not pass. That would mean U.S. combat troops would have one year to withdraw from Iraq after the voting day. The White House and Pentagon need to make contingency planning for this possible outcome. At the same time, given Iraq’s parliament’s recent history, it’s unlikely that they can pass any legislation on time. One that is political sensitive like a referendum on SOFA is likely to drag out even longer. At the same time, since Iraqi nationalism is on the rise the referendum could very likely correspond with the parliamentary elections, so Iraqi politicians could use it to their personal advantage. Also of importance is the fact that a large training/advising force will probably stay behind to provide logistics, air and sea support, and intelligence for the Iraqi forces whether the U.S. pulls out in January 2011 or December 2011.


Alsumaria, “IHEC ready to hold referendum on US pact,” 5/14/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraqi govt. allocates $100 million for referendum on security agreement,” 6/9/09

Rubin, Alissa, “Iraq Moves Ahead With Vote on U.S. Security Pact,” New York Times, 6/10/09

Rubin, Alissa, Robertson, Campbell and Farrell, Stephen, “Iraqi Parliament Approves U.S. Security Pact,” New York Times, 11/27/08

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

United Iraqi Alliance Ready To Be Reconstituted

As recently reported, both the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and Iran are desperately trying to put together the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) before the 2010 parliamentary elections. Al-Hayat newspaper recently reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to rejoin the List as long as he gets to set the agenda. According to the paper, the coalition will be called the Coalition of the State of Law, after Maliki’s successful list in the 2009 provincial vote. The alliance will also be open to any party, and not just be a Shiite one like it was when it was originally formed. The Prime Minister has talked to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani about creating such a list.

An SIIC member was also quoted in the Azzaman paper that they were consulting with the Sadrists to bring them back into the fold as well. Sadr’s followers left the alliance in September 2007 after there were efforts to push him out of the ruling coalition behind Maliki’s government. The Sadrists and SIIC are long-time rivals who carried out a running battle against each other across the south after the U.S. invasion. Maliki launched a crackdown on the Mahdi Army in March 2008 that largely broke up the militia. That didn’t stop the State of Law List from reaching out to the Sadrists after the January 2009 elections. The Sadrists have recently been protesting against their followers still being in prison, and being abused after the government’s offensives. They have blamed Maliki and the Supreme Council for these arrests, and their release may be a precondition for them to rejoin the alliance. Until then the Sadrists have said they will run on their own like they did in the provincial vote.

If Maliki goes ahead and rejoins the Supreme Council they could be a powerful force in the 2010 balloting. Maliki’s State of Law won the most seats in the provincial elections, but only came away with a majority in two provinces. Including the Supreme Council, and other parties would make the alliance a dominant force, and give Maliki say over any new coalition that was put together in parliament, thus cementing his role as kingmaker and center of Iraqi politics.


Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Sat: The I’tilaf is Back!” IraqSlogger.com, 6/19/09

Parker, Ned, “Sadr’s bloc quits Iraq’s ruling coalition,” Times of London, 9/16/07

Al-Sharqiyah Television, “Iraq Al-Sadr bloc leader speaks of unjustified detentions, views spat with Kuwait,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/11/09
- “Iraq detains Interior Ministry employee over prison rights violations; update,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/15/09
- “’Special groups’ leaders arrested in Iraq; political, security roundup,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/15/09
- “US troops start withdrawal from Al-Sadr City; Iraq roundup,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5/29/09

Tavernise, Sabrina and Mizher, Qais, “In Iraq’s Mayhem, Town Finds Calm Through Its Tribal Links,” New York Times, 7/10/06

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update On Political Dispute In Ninewa

Things remain tense in Ninewa province. Since the January 2009 elections, the province has been divided between the ruling Al-Hadbaa party and the Ninewa Fraternal List. The Kurdish Fraternal List was previously in power, but was defeated by Al-Hadbaa who ran on a largely anti-Kurdish campaign. Since the new council was seated in April the Fraternal List has been boycotting it. They have been steadily upping the ante.

On June 9 there was a shootout between Kurdish peshmerga forces and police in Zammar as Al-Hadba council member Ahmed Awad al-Sheikh Issa was visiting. Issa claimed that he was seeing local officials there when peshmerga forces surrounded the building. When the police came, they exchanged gunfire with the peshmerga. According to IraqSlogger, the officials that Issa met with were later arrested by the peshmerga and taken to Dohuk in Kurdistan.

Four days later Al-Sharqiyah Television reported that the Fraternal List was considering setting up their own administration of districts and towns in Ninewa with Kurdish majorities that were refusing to cooperate with the Ninewa council. The head of the List Khisru Guran said that the move would be unconstitutional, but that there were all kinds of violations of the law such as not implementing Article 140 that is to resolve the future of disputed territories.

Finally, on June 20 former Deputy Governor of Ninewa and Fraternal List member Khasro Ghoran told teachers in Bashiqa that they should only run their classes in Kurdish from now on. The town was the sight of an earlier confrontation when Kurdish forces refused to allow the Al-Hadbaa governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Nujafi to attend a sporting event there in early May.

As would be expected, the Al-Hadbaa party has condemned all of these moves. Various officials have said that the Kurds are trying to divide the people of Ninewa and sow dissent. They have also said any attempt to form a separate Kurdish led government in the province would be illegal. They have also accused the peshmerga of human rights abuses and violating the law. Overall, Governor Nujafi has said he will only cooperate with the Kurds if they give up their aspirations to annex parts of Ninewa and withdraw their militia.

Outside forces are in the process of trying to mediate this dispute. At the beginning of June the Iraqi Islamic Party said they were sending officials to Ninewa to talk with both sides. The Islamic Party holds three seats on the Ninewa council, and has an alliance with the Kurds in parliament. The new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill has also offered his assistance. The Kurds have talked to him, and the brother of Governor Nujafi, a parliamentarian said that he hopes that the U.S. can help. Finally, the Sadrists in parliament have sent a delegation to meet with the parties.

Neither side seems willing to compromise in this dispute. While three different groups have gone to Ninewa, there has been no word of any breakthroughs or dialogue between Al-Hadbaa and the Fraternal List. The Kurds are demanding that they be given leading positions in the council, while Al-Hadbaa is asking that the Kurds given up any aspirations they might have over disputed areas in the province. The bigger threat of course, is that this might lead to violence. The shoot out in Zammar could’ve easily escalated. The Americans are especially worried about this as they withdraw. In the short-term at least, things look like they will only get worse in the province.


Aswat al-Iraq, “IIP delegation to visit Ninewa to work out solutions to power sharing,” 6/2/09
- “Ninewa chieftains protest Peshmerga, Asayesh presence,” 5/12/09
- “Sadrist delegation in Mosul to defuse crisis,” 6/13/09

Dagher, Sam, “Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis,” New York Times, 5/18/09

Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “arab domination rejected by kurds in makhmour,” Niqash, 5/22/09

Al-Hayat, “US ambassador to Iraq offers to mediate between Kurds, Arabs in Mosul – paper,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/4/09

Sbay, “Iraq Kurdish officials and Ninewa governor’s exchange accusations – website,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5/30/09

Al-Sharqiyah Television, “Iraq roundup: Al-Sadr Trend mediates in Ninawa; security incidents,” BBC Monitoring Service, 6/14/09

Smith, Daniel, “Arabic Language Barred in Ba’shiqa Schools,” IraqSlogger.com, 6/20/09
- “Gunfire Between Pesh Merga and Al-Hadba Guards,” IraqSlogger.com, 6/12/09

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Center for a New American Security – Maintain The Status Quo In Iraq

In June 2009 the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released a position paper on what U.S. policy towards Iraq should be under the new administration entitled, “After the Fire: Shaping the Future U.S. Relationship with Iraq.” The two authors, John Nagl, a famous former Army officer, and Brian Burton argue that the U.S. should foster Iraq as a long-term ally in the Middle East. The problem is that the U.S. is pulling out, the American public has grown tired of the war, and there is a recession. The CNAS paper worries that short-term thinking will outweigh the long-term goal of the U.S. to have stability in the Middle East. Almost all of the paper’s recommendations however are already being implemented, so what it’s really about is asking for the status quo to be maintained in Iraq past the U.S. withdrawal.

The paper sees four major challenges for the U.S. in Iraq. First, is the increasing divide between Arabs and Kurds. As reported before, a recent journal piece in Middle East Policy argued that this dispute could lead to the fall of the government, become a new source of violence, and even break up the country. Second, is integration of the Sunnis, who still need to find their place in the new political order. Third, is whether Iraq will slide back to authoritarianism. As a paper by two United States Institute of Peace officials recently noted, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now at the center of Iraqi politics. His opponents are worried that he may become an autocrat. Finally, Iraq’s future is threatened by its over reliance upon oil, which provides almost all of its revenue. The economic downturn has affected Baghdad’s hopes for development, jobs, services, and maintaining the security forces to name just a few.

To meet these challenges and ensure that Iraq is a long-term ally, the CNAS paper suggests five strategies Washington should follow. To deal with the Arab-Kurd divide, the U.S. should act as mediators, and support the United Nations effort to resolve the disputed territories, especially Kirkuk. The U.S. is already trying to help talks between the two sides across northern Iraq, and has stepped in to stop military confrontations. The U.S. also backs the U.N.’s plans for the disputed territories. With regards to the integration of the Sunnis, the writers believe supporting elections is the best course of action. The U.S. has been largely unsuccessful pushing Baghdad to reconcile with the Sunnis, so backing free and open voting where Sunni parties can gain power is the best alternative. This is something Washington has done since 2005. The U.S. also needs to help Iraq diversify its economy. CNAS suggests agriculture should be cultivated. The last few Defense Department quarterly reports to Congress have said the same thing. The problem is that Iraq’s farm sector faces so many institutional barriers such as a lack of tariffs and government support, inadequate irrigation, etc. that it could take over a decade for it to recover. To prevent the return of an autocratic leader in Iraq, the two writers suggest supporting institutions and professionalism. The U.S. already has advisers throughout the Iraqi military and ministries. Washington should also emphasize that it stands behind the Iraqi government, and not just Maliki, something that the Obama administration has already done as well. Finally, to encourage Iraq as a long-term ally the U.S. needs to re-integrate it into the region, and foster more ties between Washington and Baghdad. Getting Iraq’s neighbors to accept the Shiite led government in Baghdad has proven more difficult than expected. Countries like Saudi Arabia have given Iraq a cold shoulder since the invasion. Turkey on the other hand has changed its policy and become much closer recently. Other steps could be bringing more Iraqi military officers and students for training and education in the United States. The authors also believe that the U.S. needs to keep both civilian and military advisers in Iraq past the 2011 deadline for a U.S. withdrawal of combat troops.

Almost everything that the CNAS paper advocates is already being done by the U.S. administration. It is working with the Iraqi government and military, it is trying to mediate internal disputes, it is helping with the economy, it is trying to bring its allies in the region to open up to Baghdad, etc. The only question is whether President Obama will be open to keeping up this support for Iraq after 2011. That’s what “After the Fire” is really about, trying to ensure that all of these programs are maintained into 2012 and beyond.


Anatolia News Agency, “Turkish general says MoU between Turkey and Iraq to contribute to peace,” Today’s Zaman, 6/12/09

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” March 2009
- “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” September 2008
- “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” December 2008

Al-Hayat, “US ambassador to Iraq offers to mediate between Kurds, Arabs in Mosul – paper,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/4/09

International Crisis Group, “Oil For Soil: Toward A Grand Bargain On Iraq And The Kurds,” 10/28/08

Kazimi, Nibras, “Iraq: Trouble for Maliki,” Hudson New York, 4/24/09

Nagl, John and Burton, Brian, “After the Fire: Shaping the Future U.S. Relationship with Iraq,” Center for a New American Security, June 2009

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Stansfield, Gareth Anderson, Liam, “Kurds in Iraq: the struggle between Baghdad and Erbil,” Middle East Policy, Spring 2009

Williams, Timothy and al-Salhy, Saudad, “Allotting of Iraqi Oil Rights May Stoke Hostility,” New York Times, 5/29/09

One Year Anniversary Of Musings!

June 17 was the one-year anniversary of Musings On Iraq. I obviously got into the blogging game late. I’d been reading and writing about Iraq since 2002, but I only posted on message boards and comment sections. I never knew how easy it was to start a blog until last year.

This is obviously a labor of love, which takes up a lot of my free time after teaching and taking care of the family. You don’t know how many complaints I hear from them about working on Musings. I guess it’s all worth it. I’d especially like to thank all the loyal readers. I hope more will check out the site, but this is a bad time, since Iraq is becoming the “forgotten war.” The U.S. is likely to be heavily involved there for the next decade so I should have enough to write about in the future. Thanks to everyone that stops by. - Joel

Friday, June 19, 2009

Iraqis Unwilling To Maintain Their Army

Nearly every official report on Iraq’s security forces notes that they do not have the ability to supply and support themselves. Few if any details however, are ever given on what exactly this means. In April 2009 the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) conducted an audit on the U.S. military’s effort to build up the Iraqi Army’s logistics capabilities. The SIGIR found that the Iraqi Defense Ministry has refused to take responsibility of the maintenance program created by the Americans, has not sent soldiers to be trained in these duties, and that the Iraqi Army cannot operate independently as a result.

Beginning in early 2005 the U.S. command in Iraq began working on Iraq’s supply system. The goal was to allow the Iraqi Army to act autonomously without U.S. support. The program focused upon maintenance, supply, transportation, and health services. The plan has gone through six phases, two of which are still operating. In total the program has received $682.2 million in funding, $572.0 million of which has been spent. The orders for the plan were never clear, they have been changed 161 times, there was little oversight, and has not been supported by the Ministry of Defense. The result is that costs have increased $420.5 million, and are expected to go up an additional $60 million until the last order expires in January 2010.

The SIGIR audit focused upon Orders 3, 5 and 6. Order 3 was started in May 2005 and completed in June 2007. It set up ten maintenance facilities, one for each Iraqi Army division. The order was also to provide training for Iraqi soldiers so that they could operate the bases. Order 5 was a follow up to provide training and maintain the ten facilities. It was supposed to end on May 31, 2009, but has been extended to November 30, 2009. Order 6 was for maintenance on 8,500 HUMVEES that were transferred from the Americans forces to the Iraqis. It is due to expire on July 6, 2009, but will be extended until January 6, 2010.

The three orders have faced daunting challenges since they began. On the American side, the U.S. never assigned enough personnel to oversee the orders, which could have led to corruption and waste. Many of the benchmarks were unclear, changed, or never followed. For example, 80% of the Iraqi vehicles were to be operational at all times, but this was never enforced. Order 3 and 5 had no details on how they were to be evaluated as successful or not. The U.S. has also transferred eight of the 10 maintenance facilities to Iraqi control, despite the fact that the Defense Ministry has not accepted responsibility for them. There is no agreed upon process for the handover of these bases, yet they are happening anyway. The Iraqi Army also only sent one class of soldiers to be trained. Many of them lacked the education for the training. That is not uncommon. An on-going Iraqi Army audit has found that 24% of the force is not qualified for their jobs, and that 15% are illiterate. This is mostly blamed on the Americans drive to increase the security forces as quickly as possible, which emphasized quantity over quality. Most of the soldiers that did show up for training complained about not getting paid for weeks, and quit before they were finished. The Defense Ministry has not sent any new soldiers since then. That was the major reason why Order 5 was issued when Order 3 ended, and why the U.S. military is looking to extend Order 5 and 6 as well.

In the end, the Special Inspector General does not believe that the Iraqi Army has improved at all under this program. There is no evidence that the Iraqi forces are any more capable of maintaining their equipment now than when the plan began in 2005. The main reason is that the Defense Ministry has given no support to the effort at all. That leaves the Iraqi armed forces almost completely dependent upon the Americans for their logistics. The two existing programs have already been extended, and will probably be again and again until Baghdad does something about this problem. This will likely be another cause for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government to ask President Obama to maintain a residual force in Iraq after the December 31, 2010 deadline for all combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. The Iraqi security forces still don’t have the equipment to protect themselves from outside threats. The SIGIR audit shows that they can’t even sustain their counterinsurgency campaign without the Americans as well.


Arraf, Jane, “Iraqi Army: almost one-quarter lacks minimum qualifications,” Christian Science Monitor, 5/22/09

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” March 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09
- “Security Forces Logistics Contract Experienced Certain Cost, Outcome, and Oversight Problems,” 4/26/09

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trying To Revive the United Iraqi Alliance

Almost as soon as the new provincial councils were named after the January 2009 elections, campaigning began for the January 2010 parliamentary vote. One major move afoot is an attempt to revive the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). The UIA was once the dominant force in Iraq’s legislature, but quickly broke apart in 2007. Several Shiite parties, including the Sadrists, left the coalition then, and in 2008, an emboldened Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began moving away from the group as well. Now there is a drive by both internal and external forces to bring the alliance back together.

The United Iraqi Alliance was a grouping of several different parties, brought together under the urging of Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and Iran. The current Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani was tasked by Sistani to put the coalition together in 2004. Iran’s Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards also played a role providing advisers, printing presses, broadcast equipment, etc. The leading members of the group were the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and its allies the Badr Organization and Hezbollah Movement in Iraq, the Dawa Party, and later the Sadrist movement. Together they ran 228 candidates in the January 2005 elections for the transitional parliament, coming away with 140 seats. In April they named Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the head of the Dawa Party, to be Prime Minister. In the December 2005 elections for the permanent parliament, the UIA, this time with a slightly different line-up including the Sadrists, again came out victorious with 128 seats. Months later in April they named Nouri al-Maliki, again of the Dawa Party, the new Prime Minister.

The electoral victories of the United Alliance covered up the fact that the coalition was one of convenience rather than shared vision. As early as December 2005 there were reports of dissatisfaction with the UIA’s performance. On December 9, 2005 the New York Times for example, ran an article where the coalition was criticized for not having a vision for the country, and not appointing qualified people for office. Iraqis were also voicing dissatisfaction with the administration of Prime Minister Jaafari. The lack of coordination within the alliance should’ve been apparent from the beginning as it was made up of so many different parties with different views. The SIIC for example, proposed a nine province Shiite federal region in the south, but the Sadrists who wanted a strong central government opposed this. There were also Shiites in the south that wanted just a Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar region, and some that wanted Basra federalism. After the December elections, the rivalary between the Supreme Council and Sadrists came to the fore, as they split over naming a replacement for Jaafari. It took them five months to pick Maliki as a compromise candidate.

By 2007 the alliance began to crumble. In March the Fadhila party withdrew its 15 seats. The Fadhila was a breakaway Sadrist movement from Basra that had long disagreed with the Supreme Council over the direction of the south. In April the Sadrists withdrew their five ministers from Maliki’s cabinet, and then boycotted parliament from June to July. By September Sadr had officially withdrawn from the UIA, taking his 30 legislators with him. The Alliance’s control of parliament was greatly reduced by these defections going from 128 to 83.

When campaigning for the January 2009 provincial elections began, it was apparent that the UIA was dead. Most importantly Prime Minister Maliki formed his own State of Law List rather than run with the Supreme Council. Former Prime Minister Jaafari and the Fadhila party also ran independently, while the Sadrists supported two independent groups. That left the SIIC to put forward their own group, the Al-Mihrab Martyr List, as well. When the different parties were forming ruling coalitions, Maliki’s State of Law also attempted to shut the SIIC out, which worked in many provinces.

Now all of the parties are focusing upon the January 2010 parliamentary elections. The Supreme Council is trying to reform itself after its defeat in the 2009 vote. As part of this they are hoping to revive the United Iraqi Alliance by bringing Maliki back into the fold. Iran too is pushing for the UIA to be rebuilt, so that Shiite power is maintained as well as Iranian influence over the leading Iraqi parties. The Prime Minister on the other hand, has everyone guessing as to what he’s going to do. In February 2009 Asharq al-Awsat reported that Dawa wanted to form a new alliance that was more in line with Maliki’s policies of a strong central authority, and better government and services. At the end of May however, he flew to Tehran to meet with SIIC leader and head of the United Alliance Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is undergoing cancer treatment there. It’s also been reported that Maliki is willing to rejoin the UIA if he is its leader, and his Dawa Party is given a more prominent role.

The UIA is also in contact with other former members, and may reach out to new ones. According to Al-Sharqiyah TV, the United Alliance has approached the Sadrists, but they appear to be leaning towards the same strategy they took in the provincial vote, backing independents. Ex-Prime Minister Jaafari has also recently commented on the UIA saying that it needs to learn from its mistakes and be more issue oriented. There is also talk of the UIA reaching out to independent Sunnis. That could be an important step for the UIA’s image, as it is most associated with sectarian politics. A member of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen also said that the UIA will focus more upon national issues and appointing technocrats rather than giving out positions based upon sect.

Whether the UIA will be a major player in the 2010 parliamentary elections all depends upon Prime Minister Maliki. If he rejoins the alliance then it will be a real force in the voting. If he doesn’t, it could very well go down to defeat like the Supreme Council did in the provincial balloting. Maliki’s position is unknown. He could run as part of his State of Law List again. The problem is that while his coalition was the biggest winner in 2009, he only gained two majorities in Baghdad and Basra, and pluralities in the rest. If he is given the leadership of the UIA he could finish much stronger, and be assured of being the kingmaker again as he tried when the ruling provincial councils were being put together. That might also lead to some of the smaller Shiite parties such as Jaafari’s Reform Party to rejoin as they didn’t do as well as they thought in the provincial vote. Iran is also applying a lot of pressure upon Shiite politicians to run together. This fits into their policy of assuring Shiite rule, which Tehran hopes will mean Iraq will not become an enemy again. The future of the UIA therefore, is one of the most important early moves in the campaign for Iraq’s new parliament.

Members of the United Iraqi Alliance In the January 2005 Election
Badr Organization (SIIC)
Center Grouping Party
Dawa-Iraq Organization
First Democratic National Party
Future Iraq Grouping
Hezbollah Movement in Iraq (SIIC)
Iraqi National Congress
Islamic Action Organization
Islamic Grouping in Iraq
Islamic Master of Martyrs Movement
Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen
Justice and Equality Grouping
Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council
Turkeman al-Wafa Party

Members of the United Iraqi Alliance In the December 2005 Election
Al-Shabak Democratic Grouping
Badr Organization (SIIC)
Center Grouping Party
Community of Justice
Dawa-Iraq Organization
Free Iraq
Hezbollah Movement in Iraq (SIIC)
Iraqi Democratic Movement
Islamic Master of Martyrs Movement
Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen
Justice and Equality Grouping
Malhan al Mukatir
SadristsSupreme Islamic Iraqi Council
Turkomen Loyalty Movement


Allam, Hannah, Landay, Jonathan, and Strobel, Warren, “Iranian outmaneuvers U.S. in Iraq” McClatchy Newspapers, 4/28/08

Asharq al-Awsat, “Al Maliki Wants An Alternative To The Current Shiite Alliance That Will Support The Central Government And Reject The Sectarian Quota System,” 2/16/09

Associated Press, “Six parliamentary factions to coordinate efforts in Iraqi parliament, lawmakers say,” 6/8/08

Aswat al-Iraq, “Politician calls on UIA to reach out to people,” 6/8/09

BBC News, “Guide to Iraqi political parties,” 1/20/06
- “Iraqi Shias unveil poll coalition,” 12/9/04

Cole, Juan, “Platform of the United Iraqi Alliance,” Informed Comment Blog, 12/31/04

Filkins, Dexter, “Split Veredict in Iraqi Vote Sets Stage for Weak Government,” New York Times, 2/14/05

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi Shiites try to revive sectarian coalition,” Associated Press, 6/8/09

Ignatius, David, “In Iraq’s Choice, A Chance For Unity,” Washington Post, 4/26/06

Kaplow, Larry, “Iraq Steps Out of Iran’s Shadow,” Newsweek, 6/6/09

Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Government Formation and Benchmarks,” Congressional Research Service, 1/31/08

Najm, Hayder, “shiite parties look to renew grand alliance,” Niqash, 6/9/09

Parker, Ned, “Sadr’s bloc quits Iraq’s ruling coalition,” Times of London, 9/16/07

Press TV, “Iraq’s Maliki at Hakim’s bedside in Tehran,” 5/31/09

Reuters, “Small party breaks away from Iraq Shi’ite bloc,” 3/7/07

Rossmiller, Alex, “Fickle Attraction,” American Prospect, 4/11/07

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Shadid, Anthony and Vick, Karl, “Candidate Slate Shows Shiites Closing Ranks,” Washington Post, 12/7/04

Al-Sharqiyah TV, “US troops start withdrawal from Al-Sadr City; Iraq roundup,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5/29/09

Visser, Reidar, “Beyond SCIRI and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim: The Silent Forces of the United Iraqi Alliance,” Historiae.org, 1/20/06

Wong, Edward, “Iraq’s Powerful Shiite Coalition Shows Signs of Stress as Parliamentary Elections Loom,” New York Times, 12/9/05

Worth, Robert, “Iraq’s New President Names Shiite Leader as Prime Minister,” New York Times, 4/7/05

Xinhua, “Sadrist bloc quits ruling Shiite parliament bloc,” 9/16/07

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iraq’s Lack Of Budget Execution

In April 2009 Iraq passed its latest budget. It is larger than the 2008 one, but not as big as originally planned. The increases that individual ministries have received are largely for operational costs that go towards things like salaries and pensions, rather than for investing in the future. Another problem is that the major ministries responsible for revenues and services are still incapable of spending most of their capital budgets. This comes at a time when Iraq desperately needs to boost its growth.

Iraq’s 2009 budget is for $58.6 billion. That’s a 25.8% cut from the original amount of $79.8 billion, but still a 17% increase from the 2008 budget of $49.9 billion. Both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Finance Minister Bayan Jabr were against the cuts saying that it would hamper services and the development of the economy, which is still mostly state run. It would have been impossible for Iraq to cover that original amount however. Even with the lower figure, Iraq is still expected to have a $20 billion deficit.

Most of the 2009 budget is for operational costs, with a cut in capital spending. The operational budget is for $45.9 billion, 78% of the total. The capital budget went down from $13.1 billion in 2008 to $12.7 billion in 2009, a 3% cut. In 2008 oil revenues were so large that a supplemental budget was passed, which increased the overall capital budget to $21.1 billion.

With U.S. reconstruction funding coming to an end, Iraq’s capital spending is the largest source of funding for rebuilding the country. Appropriately than, most of this year’s money will go to the Oil, Electricity, Finance, Water, and Industry and Minerals Ministries. Iraq’s Oil Ministry’s capital budget went up slightly from $2 billion in 2008 to $2.2 billion in 2009. The Electricity Ministry on the other hand, will face a 17% decrease in its capital spending from $1.3 billion in 2008 to $1.08 billion in 2009. The Ministry is worried that it won’t be able to increase capacity with that amount, as they originally asked for $7 billion. The Health Ministry will have the largest capital increase at +489%, going from $83.3 million to $408.1 million.

The problem is that Iraq has rarely been able to spend its capital budget. In 2005, when Iraq formally got its sovereignty back from the United States, it only spent 23% of its capital budget. That went down to 19% in 2006, and then up to 28% in 2007. In 2008 Baghdad made a huge leap when it expended 39% of its capital budget. Iraq’s main revenue, budget, and services ministries did worse however. The Oil, Water, and Electricity Ministries for example, appropriated $11.9 billion for capital spending from 2005 to 2007, but only spent $985 million of it. In 2007 Oil and Electricity only expended $1 million each from their capital budgets.

What are skyrocketing instead are the operational budgets. Nearly every ministry will see an increase in that department. The Oil Ministry for example will see a jump from $103.7 million in 2008 to $954.4 million this year in its operational account. The Electricity Ministry’s operational budget will go from $89.1 million in 2008 to $2.31 billion in 2009. The Health Ministry’s will increase from $1.872 billion in 2008 to $3.095 billion in 2009. Most of this money will be spent if Iraq follows its past trends. From 2005 to 2007 it spent $67 billion, 90% of which went to operating costs.

Iraq’s poor budget execution has led to massive surpluses. In 2005 Iraq had a $6.5 billion surplus. That went up to $29 billion leftover from the 2008 budget. The GAO estimated that Iraq built up a $47.3 billion surplus from 2005 to 2008. When parliament was drafting the 2009 budget they believed that they could tap into this money to pay for the expected deficit, but after the bill was passed the Finance Ministry and Central Bank of Iraq let them know that they were not obligated to use the surplus to cover the budget. Baghdad has had to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund instead to cover the difference.

Each year Iraq has passed a larger budget, and each year it has been able to spend more of its money. The major ministries however, are still only spending a measly portion of their budgets, and most of that is going towards salaries and pensions, rather than investing in Iraq’s future. The 2009 budget will pose an additional problem for Iraq, as it still has not earned enough from oil to pay its bills. Many ministries did not get the money they requested either, and each still needs billions. The Ministry of Oil said it requires $25 to $75 billion to reach its target of 6 million barrels per day. The Electricity Ministry estimated that it needs $27 billion over the next 6 to 10 years to meet all of the country’s demand by 2015. The U.S. thinks the actual amount might be twice as high. The World Bank believes that Iraq has to have $14.4 billion to fix its water system. These amounts will largely have to come from Baghdad from now on as foreign investors are still largely staying away, while U.S. and international donations are coming to an end. The inability to spend its capital budget, while operational costs are skyrocketing do not point to meeting these goals anytime soon in Iraq.

Major Revenue And Service Ministries’ Budgets 2008-2009

Oil Ministry
2008: $103.7 mil operational, $2 bil capital. TOTAL $2.103 bil, 16% spent
2009: $954.4 mil operational, $2.2 bil capital. TOTAL: $3.160 bil
2008-2009 Changes: +920% operational, +10% capital

Electricity Ministry
2008: $89.1 mil operational, $1.3 bil capital. TOTAL: $1.389 bil, 12% spent
2009: $2.31 bil operational, $1.08 bil capital. TOTAL: $3.39 bil
2008-2009 Changes: +259% operational, -16% capital

Water Ministry
2008: $109.6 mil operational, $375 mil capital. TOTAL: $484. mil. 48% spent
2009: $168.6 mil operational, $563.5 mil capital. TOTAL: $732.1 mil
2008-2009 Changes: +53% operational, +50% capital

Municipalities and Public Works Ministry
2008: $42.6 mil operational, $416.7 mil capital. TOTAL: $459.3 mil, 22% spent
2009: $479.6 mil operational, $468.2 mil capital. TOTAL: $947.8 mil
2008-2009 Changes: +1125% operational, +12% capital

Transportation Ministry
2008: $121.6 mil operational, $250 mil capital. TOTAL: $371.6 mil, 29% spent
2009: $209.7 mil operational, $324.2 mil capital. TOTAL: $533.8 mil
2008-2009 Changes: +72% operational, +29% capital

Communications Ministry
2008: $14.4 mil operational, $250 mil capital. TOTAL: $264.4 mil, 30% spent
2009: $88.2 mil operational, $216.1 mil capital. TOTAL: $304.3 mil
2008-2009 Changes: +612% operational, -15% capital

Health Ministry
2008: $1.872 bil operational, $83.3 mil capital. TOTAL: $1.956 bil
2009: $3.095 bil operational, $408.1 mil capital. TOTAL: $3.503 bil
2008-2009 Changes: +65% operational, +489% capital

Budget Expenditures 2005-2007

Iraqi Budget Expenditures 2005-2007
2005: $16.151 bil operational, $1.432 bil capital. TOTAL: $17.583 bil
2006: $21.173 bil operational, $1.615 bil capital. TOTAL: $22.788 bil
2007: $23.164 bil operational, $3.434 bil capital. TOTAL: $26.599 bil

Oil, Water, Electricity Ministries’ Capital Appropriations Versus Spending
2005: $3,482 mil appropriated, $373 mil spent
2006: $4,473 mil appropriated, $502 mil spent
2007: $4.034 mil appropriated, $110 mil spent
TOTAL: $11,990 mil appropriated, $985 mil spent

Oil Ministry Spending
2005: $160 mil spent, $49 mil operational, $111 mil capital
2006: $191 mil spent, $48 mil operational, $143 mil capital
2007: $36 mil spent, $35 mil operational, $1 mil capital

Water Ministry Spending
2005: $163 mil spent, $42 mil operational, $120 mil capital
2006: $145 mil spent, $54 mil operational, $91 mil capital
2007: $236 mil spent, $128 mil operational, $109 mil capital

Electricity Ministry Spending
2005: $147 mil spent, $5 mil operational, $142 mil capital
2006: $281 mil spent, $13 mil operational, $268 mil capital
2007: $78 mil spent, $77 mil operational, $1 mil capital


Agence France Presse, “Iraq presidency approves slashed budget,” 4/3/09

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

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” March 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09

United States Government Accountability Office, “IRAQ Key Issues for Congressional Oversight,” March 2009
- “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Open Season On Out-Going Provincial Officials

In January 2009 Iraq conducted its second provincial elections since the U.S. invasion. All of the new provincial councils and governors have been named. As national leaders in Baghdad have been caught up in an anti-corruption fury, so too have these new local politicians. Several have gone after their outgoing peers, but for much different reasons than their counterparts in the capital.

In early June 2009 the new Diyala council issued arrest warrants for the two former deputy governors Razzaq al-Khalisi and Aouf Rahoumi. Both were accused of stealing money. Rahoumi, who belonged to the Iraqi Islamic Party, fled to Germany as soon as he found out about the charges. Khalisi, an independent Shiites, escaped to Kurdistan. The Public Integrity Committee, the main anti-corruption agency in Iraq, believes that the two were involved in stealing up to $130 million from the province. In April the former head of the Diyala council Ibrahim Hassan Bajilan of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan also had a warrant put out for him. He is allegedly involved with embezzling up to $128 million. The former provincial council was ruled by the Coalition of Islamic & National Forces in Diyala, an alliance of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Dawa Party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Kurdish Arabic Turkmen Democratic Coalition – Diyala, made up of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

At the same time Salahaddin went after its health director, while the former head of the Karbala council was arrested. On June 8, Salahaddin fired the provincial director of the health department Hassan Zein al-Abedeen Naqi. He was accused of signing fake contracts, making illegal deals over medicine purchases, and housing relatives in Health Ministry buildings. The council said that his case was being sent to the Integrity Committee. On June 1, police arrested the outgoing head of the Karbala provincial council Abdulaal al-Yasseri for corruption as well. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council controlled the governorate after the 2005 elections.

Baghdad is currently embroiled in corruption investigations as well. In May 2009 the Trade Minister Abdulfalah al-Sudani was forced to resign, and later arrested. Sudani and his two brothers were accused of misappropriating money meant for the country’s food ration system, the largest in the world. Parliament, and its new speaker Ayad al-Samarraie of the Iraqi Islamic Party forced Sudani’s resignation. Samarraie is intent on increasing the power of the legislature to provide a check on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s power. Sudani was a member of Maliki’s Dawa Party and reportedly close to the Prime Minister. In response, Maliki has promised a crackdown on corruption as well. It’s likely that he will use this against his opponents in retaliation for Sudani’s arrest.

National and local leaders appear to have different intentions when it comes to corruption. The leaders of the main political parties in Baghdad seem most concerned about obtaining power at each other’s expense. The main struggle now appears to be between Maliki and the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has become the Prime Minister’s main critic. At the provincial level, many politicians are more concerned about getting their governments working. In Diyala for example, the three major parties that ruled the province after 2005 still rule it today. That didn’t stop them from going after some of their own. Politics are so divided in Iraq that it’s likely this difference will continue for quite some time.


Agence France Presse, “Former Iraqi officials accused of corruption flee to Germany via Kurdistan,” 6/10/09

Alsumaria, “Diyala former governor deputies to be held,” 6/10/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Ex-trade minister appears before Samawa court on corruption charges,” 6/1/09
- “Former deputy governor escapes to Germany following corruption charges,” 6/8/09
- “Karbala provincial council ex-chairman arrested,” 6/1/09
- “Salah el-Din council sacks health official over financial corruption,” 6/8/09

Bakri, Nada, “Iraqi Leader Sees Fraud as a Top Worry,” Washington Post, 5/10/09

Chon, Gina, “Graft Case Against Ex-Minister Splits Iraq Parties,” Wall Street Journal, 6/1/09

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

Sly, Liz, “Ex-trade minister arrested after attempting to flee Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 5/31/09

Monday, June 15, 2009

Baghdad Hoping For Supplemental Budget Later In 2009

World oil prices have slowly crept back up in recent months. A barrel of oil is selling for around $70 per barrel on international markets. Iraq crude sells at a lower price, but it has been going up as well, along with exports. Baghdad is hoping that if the trend continues, the government will be able to pass a supplemental budget later in 2009 that will help alleviate some of the country’s financial problems.

At the beginning of April Iraq passed its 2009 budget. The budget went through three revisions before it was finally passed, and was still expected to run a $20 billion deficit. That was because it was based upon 2 million barrels a day average in exports and a $50 a barrel price, neither of which Iraq was achieving at that time. By May the Oil Ministry claimed Iraqi crude had reached the $50 mark, but was still only selling 1.905 million barrels a day. To make up the difference the Finance Ministry took out a two-year $7 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The budget crunch is being felt already in the provinces. At the end of May, Maysan officials announced that they were going to run a deficit in 2009, and had no new money for development projects. They were looking for outside investment to fund growth. At the beginning of June, IraqSlogger reported a similar situation in Basra. The head of the reconstruction committee there said they too had no money for new projects, and were short about $84 million for what they needed.

With oil prices going up, Baghdad is now more optimistic about its money problems. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently said that he was hoping that the central government could pass a supplementary budget later this year if Iraqi crude continued to accrue in price. That would hopefully add much needed money to the ministries and provinces, all of which have had to cut their budgets. Of course, there’s also the issue of spending their funds, something Baghdad and the provinces still struggle with.

Iraq needs billions of dollars to improve its governance, services, and economy. U.S. reconstruction is coming to an end, so Iraq is increasingly on its own to provide money for development. The 2009 budget problems then, come at a bad time. Even if Iraq is able to meet its oil production and price goals, it will still be in debt to the IMF, and many of Iraq’s provinces will be left wanting until if and when a supplemental budget is passed. That will mean much needed rebuilding will be delayed.


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraq passes sharply reduced budget for 2009,” Associated Press, 3/5/09

Agence France Presse, “Iraq presidency approves slashed budget,” 4/3/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Finance ministry to sign new agreements with IMF,” 5/27/09
- “Increase in oil exports contributes to budget balance – ministry,” 6/2/09

Iraq Directory, “Maysan province seeks to attract foreign investment to compensate the fiscal deficit in budget,” 5/30/09
- “New supplementary budget with the rise of oil prices,” 6/10/09

IraqSlogger.com, “Basra: Moritorium on New Development Projects,” 6/3/09

Reuters, “As oil prices rise, Iraq nurtures budget hopes,” 6/8/09

Friday, June 12, 2009

One American Attempt At Building Democracy In Iraq Looks To Be Fading

One goal of the United States before it departs Iraq is to leave it a functioning democracy. The U.S. has facilitated four national elections, two provincial, one parliamentary, and a referendum on the 2005 constitution, since the U.S. invasion. In January 2010 Iraq is to have its fifth balloting for a new parliament. Voting is only the most visible form of democracy. Since 2003 the Americans have been building up local councils to give everyday Iraqis a say in their government. These look to disappear however when the U.S. leaves.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was the first government agency in the U.S. to seriously contemplate democracy building in Iraq. It joined the post-war planning in August 2002. The State Department was supposed to be in charge of governance in Iraq after the invasion, but never came up with anything concrete. That left the USAID to create a policy on its own. They wanted to decentralize power away from Baghdad to the local level. Under Saddam, the Baath party was in control of all levels of government. The USAID wanted to break that hold. They wanted to create neighborhood councils that would create jobs, be in charge of reconstruction, and give common Iraqis a say in their government. When they presented their plans to a National Security Council subgroup on humanitarian issues in Iraq, their ideas were rejected. The official stance was the U.S. was not going to be doing nation building in Iraq, and USAID had just crossed that line.

The situation in Iraq after the invasion proved so chaotic, that the U.S. military began implementing some of the USAID’s plans without knowing it. American units wanted Iraqi partners in their area of operation. To find some they began building up local councils across the country. This was done on an ad hoc basis, as there were no orders from above on how to do it. In Mosul for example, General David Petraeus, who was then the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, set up a convention of 270 delegates from the city representing its diverse population, who in turn elected 24 city council members and a mayor. In Najaf, General James Conway of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force started organizing provincial elections, registering parties, finding candidates, etc. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had to step in at that point letting the general know that he could not carry out such a large undertaking because Iraq did not have an election law to legalize any voting. Some were far less representative and participatory. In the Karkh district of Baghdad only around 2,500 Iraqis of 30,000-35,000 showed up to vote for their council. In al-Kindi, fifty-five Iraqis elected 12 members to the council there. The U.S. military funded all of the councils they created, but believed that they would eventually hand them over to some other government body. That never happened, as the USAID lacked the money and personnel to deal with them. The U.S. military is still in charge of running these councils to this day.

The USAID was doing a similar job independent of the military. Iraq’s bureaucracy disappeared with the invasion. The tie between Baghdad and the rest of the country was severed in the process. The USAID tried to step in, offering three contracts to companies to create local councils. One company set up 22 offices across Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 to complete this task. In April, the USAID also allocated $120 million to start local reconstruction that would assist these local groups. $61.7 million was spent in the end on 1,700 projects.

The U.S. military and USAID’s work eventually clashed with the CPA and the fledgling new Iraqi government. By 2005 437 neighborhood, 195 sub-district, and 96 district councils had been created by the Americans. CPA head Pual Bremer wanted to build a democracy in Iraq and decentralize power as well, but was more focused upon the provincial governments than local councils. The councils also ended up clashing with the Iraqi ministries and director generals over priorities and power.

This became more complicated after the two Iraqi elections in 2005. The provincial and parliamentary votes were closed list, meaning Iraqis voted for coalitions, which in turn picked the politicians. This was a blow to the U.S. military and USAID’s effort to empower local forces as the large national parties were in control of the process. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came out the major winners in both votes. They too wanted to disperse power outside of Baghdad, but into their hands. As the new rulers of the provincial councils and ministries they too came into conflict with the U.S. created councils over authority. A mid-2006 report by the Americans for example noted that the SIIC and its militia the Badr Brigade had tightened their grip on the provincial governments, and were against any new elections or reforms that would weaken their power. The result was that provinces and ministries largely refused to work with the U.S.-backed local councils.

By the time the Surge started in 2007, the situation had grown no better. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) were created to build up local and provincial governance, reconciliation, and reconstruction. They spread out across Iraq and began working with the local and district councils. They still had no real authority in the Iraqi government however. They had a small budget to pay salaries, which they got from the Americans, and some small scale U.S.-funded rebuilding projects, but no real say in ordinances, taxes, larger reconstruction efforts, provincial councils, or Baghdad.

Today it seems like only the U.S. military still considers these councils relevant. Stars and Stripes reported that few Iraqis go to the councils. The Iraqi political parties ignore them as well. If Iraqis want something done they go to the U.S. or Iraqi security forces, sheikhs, or other local leaders. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is also intent upon recentralizing authority in his hands. The attempt to give everyday Iraqis a say in their government was an admirable move. Simply voting does not make a democracy. A culture and norms also have to be created. The local councils were a move in that direction, but they were another sign that the Americans cannot dictate to the Iraqis how to develop their society. For better or worse, the post-invasion Iraqi elites are now in control of this process. That will mean these councils will all but disappear when the U.S. leaves. After all, they will have no more money to run, and have never been able to integrate into the new Iraqi political system.


Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Warden, James, “Focus turns to matching old, new Iraqi institutions,” Stars and Stripes, 3/1/09
- “Local leaders are making a comeback in Iraq,” Stars and Stripes, 3/2/09

This Day In Iraqi History - Jun 15 PM Nuri al-Said made cover of Time magazine Was Prime Minister of Iraq 9 times

  1920 War Min Churchill wrote UK Cabinet that he was ready to give up Mosul province to save costs ( Musings On Iraq ...