Monday, November 30, 2009

Human Rights Watch: Ninewa’s Minorities Under Pressure From Both Sunni Insurgents and Kurds

In November 2009 Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing the plight of minorities in Ninewa province entitled “On Vulnerable Ground.” The report covers the history of successive governments in Baghdad to Arabize Ninewa by pushing out minorities and Kurds and replacing them with Arabs, and then the ascendancy of Kurds there after the U.S. invasion. They turned around and tried to Kurdicize those same regions to advance their plans to annex the disputed territories there. At the same time, the Sunni Arab insurgency has targeted minorities for being non-believers or cooperators with the Americans. Minorities such as Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis are therefore in a precarious situation being pressured from all sides to either leave or comply with stronger forces.

Map of Mosul Province

“On Vulnerable Ground” starts with some historical background to Ninewa. Beginning in the 1930s the Iraqi central government started a program to Arabize Ninewa, which has historically been one of the most diverse areas in the country. It is the home to Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis, especially in an area known as the Ninewa plains, which are the districts immediately to the east of Mosul. In the 1970s Baghdad stepped up its efforts to move Arabs into Ninewa and push Kurds and minorities out that only got worse under Saddam Hussein. After the Gulf War in 1991 Baghdad tried to pressure Kurds and minorities to register as Arabs, and would not give birth certificates to babies with non-Arab names for instance. They also pressured minorities to join militias and perform other tasks to prove their loyalty or face expulsion. Many Kurds and minorities moved to Kurdistan, which had gotten its autonomy in 1991.

Map of the Ninewa Plain

After the U.S. invasion, the Kurdish peshmerga swept south into Ninewa with U.S. forces. Many Arabs who had moved there under the government’s programs fled before the advance. In the days after the fall of Mosul, the capital of Ninewa, the peshmerga also began kicking out Arab families from towns in the surrounding areas. These factors together increased the ethnic tensions in the province. In all the areas where the Kurds occupied they eventually established their influence through the presence of their peshmerga forces and control of the administration. The divide between Arabs and Kurds intensified after the 2005 provincial elections, when the Sunni Arabs decided to boycott. This allowed the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan, which was made up of the two major Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, to win 31 of the 41 council seats in Ninewa.

The ascendancy of the Kurds, and the displacement and loss of power of the Sunni Arabs directly led to the growth of the insurgency in Ninewa. As reported before, Mosul remains the last urban stronghold of the Sunni militants. They in turn, have carried out some of the largest attacks in the Iraq war against Ninewa’s minorities. Christians, Yazidis, and Shabaks have all been singled out for mass casualty bombings, and targeted killings, taking thousands of lives, and forcing many minorities to flee the region. In one spate in October 2008 for example, the Christians of Mosul faced an organized campaign of murder and intimidation to drive them out of the city. 40 were killed, and 12,000 fled Mosul. Arabs and Kurds exchanged blame for the attacks, but Human Rights Watch’s interviews led them to believe that it was definitely the work of Arab insurgents. Some of the largest bombings in Ninewa this year have also been against Yazidis and Shabaks. Sunni militants consider all three groups, Christians, Yazidis, and Shabaks, to be non-believers or collaborators with the Americans.

From 2005 to the present the Kurds also carried out a systematic campaign to co-opt, cajole, threaten, and intimidate Ninewa’s minorities to support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) plans to annex the disputed areas in the province. This has followed a two-pronged carrot and stick approach. First, the KRG has spent millions of dollars on minorities to win over their loyalty and create patronage systems. For example, the KRG’s Finance Minister Sarkis Aghajan, a Christian, was ordered by the KRG Prime Minister Nerchivan Barzani to build churches, fund Christian community organizations, and create Christian militia groups. They also used these means to undermine those who opposed the KRG’s plans. Second, the Kurds have used pressure and intimidation. Christians told Human Rights Watch that they were encouraged to sign forms calling for the annexation of Ninewa’s disputed areas by Kurdistan. The KRG also considers Yazidis and Shabaks to be Kurds, and have pressured them to register themselves as such to gain aid. Minority leaders and activists have also been targeted with the Kurds implicated in the attacks. Two Yazidi activists opposed to Kurdish aims were arrested and tortured for six months in 2007. The leader of the Shabak Democratic Gathering was killed by gunmen in July 2008 a few meters from a peshmerga checkpoint who did nothing before, during, or after the attack. Another Shabak politician claimed he was attacked by men wearing Kurdish uniforms before the 2009 provincial elections. Other minorities said they were stopped from attending political rallies by anti-Kurdish groups before the 2009 elections, and were warned that if they didn’t vote for the Kurdish Fraternal List they would lose their homes and jobs. Many of these tactics reminded Human Rights Watch of Saddam’s and earlier Arab government policies. Both the Kurds and minorities were victimized and expelled from Ninewa under the Arabization program. Now the Kurds are repeating many of these same policies to annex the northern regions of Ninewa to Kurdistan.

The 2009 elections turned out to be a major setback for the Kurds’ plans. They lost to the Arab led al-Hadbaa party who took all of the provincial offices, shutting the Kurds out of power, and calling for the withdrawal of the peshmerga. In response, the Kurdish Fraternal list is boycotting the provincial council, have refused to allow Arab officials to carry out their duties in Kurdish controlled areas, and have threatened to break away 16 towns and districts from Ninewa and create their own administration in protest. In June 2009 the KRG made the situation worse when it passed a draft constitution that claimed all of the disputed areas in Ninewa as part of Kurdistan, and said that the peshmerga had the right to operate in Ninewa.

In the end, Human Rights Watch is very worried about the future of minorities in Ninewa province. They are concerned as well, as a Christian leader recently said he is worried about increased attacks on his community in Mosul as Christmas approaches. They are facing the violence of Sunni insurgents, and the forced assimilation and co-option by the Kurds. They are also caught in the middle between the dispute between the central government, the al-Hadbaa provincial government, and the KRG for control of the disputed territories in Ninewa. Human Rights Watch’s findings are also not new. In December 2008 two similar reports were released, one by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom on Iraqi minorities throughout the country, and another by the Brookings Institution and the University of Bern on minorities and displacement. They both noted the relentless attacks minorities have faced at the hands of insurgents, and the tactics the Kurds have employed against them. Due to these circumstances, Iraq’s minorities have been left with only two real options. First, many have fled becoming displaced or refugees. 20% of Iraq’s refugees for example are believed to be Christians. Second, those that have stayed in Ninewa have tried to align with one of the more powerful actors, whether it be the Kurds, or now the central government and the al-Hadbaa provincial council. None of these provide the protection and rights Ninewa’s minorities deserve, and as long as the divide exists between the KRG and Baghdad their situation is unlikely to get any better.


AK News, “Christians fear escalation of attacks with approach of Christmas,” 11/28/09

Badkhen, Anna, “Kurds evicting Arabs in north Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 4/19/03

Ferris, Elizabeth and Stoltz, Kimberly, “Minorities, Displacement and Iraq’s Future,” Brookings Institution-University of Bern, December 2008

Human Rights Watch, “On Vulnerable Ground,” 11/10/09

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, "Iraq Report - 2008," December 2008

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kurdish Lawmaker Sums Up Problems With Iraqi Politics

Parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman, a leader in the Kurdish Alliance, was quoted in the November 28, 2009 New York Times summing up the problems with Iraqi politics. When asked about the possibility that the country would hold elections past the January 31, 2009 deadline set in the constitution he replied, “So what? Nothing in Iraq is very legitimate.” Every major piece of legislation and decision in Iraq is endlessly delayed because of power politics and a zero-sum attitude by law makers. Iraq held its last parliamentary elections on December 15, 2005, but it took four months for Nouri al-Maliki to be named prime minister, and a month after that for him to name his cabinet. The last national elections the country held were for provincial councils. They were originally planned for October 2008, but got delayed until January 2009. The new election law was supposed to be passed by October 15, 2009. There’s talk that it may be confirmed in the beginning of December, but there’s also a possibility that Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi will veto it a second time because the amended version reduces seats for Sunni provinces. Elections are now planned for February or March 2010, one to two months passed the constitutional deadline. Otherman is right than, Iraqi politics does lack legitimacy with its public who see the government as dysfunctional because its unable to provide basic services or make big decisions.


AK News, “Hashemi to take final decision on elections law after Eid,” 11/28/09

Chon, Gina, “Iraqis Miss Target Date on Election,” Wall Street Journal, 10/16/09

Myers, Steven Lee, “Benchmarks in Wartime: As Reliable as Promises,” New York Times, 11/28/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09

Economist Not So Sure About U.S.-Qods Force Meeting Now

In the November 19, 2009 print edition of The Economist there ran a story “Iraq and its neighbours, A regional cockpit,” which was reported here on November 25. The piece claimed that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and commander of American forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno met with the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force General Qassem Suleimani to discuss the U.S. withdrawal in the offices of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in September 2009. As soon as the story was put up on the magazine’s website it was pulled however. On November 26 they gave an explanation saying that the story was told to them by an Iraqi politician close to Tehran, and confirmed by a senior American official. Just before The Economist printed it however, Gen. Odierno and Ambassador Hill denied the meeting ever happened. The magazine mentioned these, but since then General Odierno and General David Petraeus gave such a strong objection that The Economist reconsidered and withdrew the story from its website. It now says it takes the American officers at their word.


Economist, “Iraq and its neighbours, A regional cockpit,” 11/19/09
- “Were we wrong?” 11/26/09

Former U.S. Economic Adviser Warns Of Impending Jobs Crisis In Iraq

In the November 16, 2009 New York Times, Frank Gunter, the former senior civilian economic advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq warned of an imminent job crisis unless Baghdad liberalized its economy. He wrote that Iraq is facing the dual challenge of a lack of jobs and increasing numbers of people entering the labor market. The July 2009 Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s report put unemployment at 17.3% and underemployment at 29.4%, for a combined figure of 46.7%. A January 2009 United Nations study found that young people were hit the hardest with men between 15-29 years of age facing 28% unemployment. They were 57% of the unemployed overall in the country. The cause is that the government is the largest employer in the country, constituting 43% of all jobs and 60% of full time work, and it prefers older workers. This was a major concern for Gunter because 250,000 young people enter the labor market each year, and are discriminated against by the largest employer. Not only that, but the drop in oil prices led to a hiring freeze in 2009.

The other part of the problem is the small size and limitations on the private sector. Outside of farming, there are few jobs available from businesses. It is hard to start an enterprise, get the licenses from the government because of complicated laws, slow bureaucracy, and costs, get credit, and trade internationally. That’s the reason why the World Bank has ranked Iraq 153 out of 183 countries for ease of doing business, placing it at the bottom of the region. This forces many businesses to pay bribes to government officials or participate in the underground economy. Either way, the private sector is not big enough to address the employment demands of the nation.

Faced with these two problems, Gunter warns that by next year Iraq’s unemployment rate will begin climbing rapidly, and this might lead to social unrest. He warns that militants have always taken advantage of poor men offering them cash to carry out attacks. Criminal gangs are also very active in Iraq, and young unemployment people might be easy recruits for them as well. The lack of opportunities will also add to the already high levels of discontent towards the government. Gunter recommends simplifying Iraq’s commercial code so that it is easier to establish businesses. There have been few moves in this direction, other than attempts to attract foreign investment with limited success. Instead Iraq maintains a state-run economy with a slow, inept, and corrupt bureaucracy that is largely unable to meet the needs of its people.


Gunter, Frank, “Liberate Iraq’s Economy,” New York Times, 11/16/09

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Iraq Labour Force Analysis 2003-2008,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, January 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09

Friday, November 27, 2009

Parliamentary Seat Allocations At Heart Of Iraqi Election Law Dispute

After Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed the parliamentary election law on November 18, 2009, the major Shiite and Sunni parties amended it to the detriment of Hashemi and Sunni provinces. The bill says there should be one seat in parliament per 100,000 people in each province. The legislation originally used 2009 numbers based upon the Ministry of Trade’s food ration system. That was going to increase the number of seats in Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa, and Salahaddin, which have the largest amounts of Sunnis in the country, by 24 seats. When the law was amended it switched to using 2005 numbers with a 2.8% increase for population growth. The result was that the Sunni provinces lost a total of 6 seats, while Sulaymaniya in the Kurdistan Regional Government got 3 new seats when before it was going to get none. The change was due to the fact that the Kurdish Alliance in parliament had threatened a boycott of the 2010 elections unless they got more seats. At first, they were only going to get three extra seats between the three provinces of the region. The major Shiite coalitions, the Iraqi National Alliance made up of the Sadrists, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and smaller parties, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, also wanted a law passed sooner rather than later, had no interest in increasing seats Sunnis may get, and wanted to punish Hashemi for vetoing the bill.

After the amendment was passed it was expected that Vice President Hashemi would veto the law again. Now there is news of a possible breakthrough, but nothing has been confirmed and parliament is on break until December 8 because of a religious holiday. No matter what, the elections will not happen by January 31, 2010 as the constitution stipulates. A member of the Iraqi Election Commission said they might not occur until February or March 2010. Either way a caretaker government will have to be installed until the election results are finalized, and the major blocs work out a new ruling coalition

Differences In Parliamentary Seat Allocations In Selected Provinces


2005 Election Law

Original 2010 Bill

Amended 2010 Bill






















Bakri, Nada, “Iraq’s parliament passes another election law,” Washington Post, 11/23/09

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Iraqi parliament fails to reach election deal,” Reuters, 11/22/09

Nordland, Rod, “Veto of Iraq’s Election Law Could Force Delay in Vote,” New York Times, 11/19/09

Ramzi, Kholoud, “election faces inevitable postponement,” Niqash, 11/27/09

Visser, Reidar, “Constitutional Disintegration,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/19/09
- “The IHEC Publishes the Distribution of Governorate and Compensatory Seats,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/09

Former British Diplomat Confirms That U.N. Inspectors Were Means To War With Iraq

On November 24, 2009 England began its third inquiry into the Iraq War, this time headed by John Chilcot. On November 26 Britain’s former ambassador to the United States Christopher Meyer testified. He confirmed what has been reported here before, that the Bush White House had decided upon war before the United Nations weapons inspectors returned to Iraq in November 2002. He told the inquiry, “The U.S. military timetable was already in place before weapons inspectors went in.” Meyer said the original invasion date had been set for January 2003, but was pushed back to March. He believed that the inspectors had no time to complete their work by that date, and instead the U.S. and England turned the process into a means to find evidence of Iraq’s WMD to provide a “smoking gun” to justify the war. Meyer told the inquiry, “It was another way of saying, ‘It’s not that Saddam Hussein has to prove he’s innocent, we’ve now got to bloody well prove he’s guilty.’ And we – Americans and British – have never really recovered from that because of course there was no smoking gun.” England’s former ambassador to the United Nations Sir Jeremy Greenstock agreed that the inspectors never had the time to do their job because the drive for an invasion was so strong in Washington.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair had been the original impetus to go to the United Nations and have weapons inspectors return to build support for an invasion. On March 12 and 13, 2002 Blair’s political adviser David Manning met with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice in Washington where he suggested that inspectors be sent back into Iraq to build a legal base for war, and convince the international community of the U.S. and British’s case against Saddam because it was expected that he would refuse to give them unlimited access to his country. Later, on March 17, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had lunch with Ambassador Meyer, where he suggested that inspections would be a way to trip up Saddam over WMD, and help justify regime change. In April President Bush met with Blair in Texas, where the Prime Minister again emphasized the need to go the U.N. route if the U.S. wanted British support. Bush finally agreed after Secretary of State Colin Powell lobbied him on the same point during dinner on August 5, 2002.

U.N. Resolution 1441 was eventually passed on November 8, 2002 and weapons inspectors entered Iraq shortly afterward. The U.S. and England saw them as a means to provide a justification for overthrowing Saddam however, rather than a way to disarm Iraq. When the inspectors found breaches of 1441 but no “smoking gun” Bush went ahead with the war anyway as planned in March 2003.

For more on the U.N. inspections see:

The U.N. Inspectors Were Right: Iraq Was Not A Threat

Charles Duelfer’s Account Of The End Of The 1990s U.N. Inspections

How The Administration Reversed Itself On Finding Iraq’s WMD

Interview With VP Dick Cheney On Weapons Inspections March 2003

2002 CIA White Paper On Iraq Vs The 2002-2003 U.N. Inspectors


Brown, David, “Invasion lacked legitimacy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock tells Chilcot inquiry,” Times of London, 11/28/09

Manning, David, “SECRET – STRICTLY PERSONAL,” 3/14/02

Marsden, Sam and Cordon, Gavin, “Iraq invasion was of questionable legitimacy, says envoy,” The Independent, 11/27/09

Melkle, James and Sparrow, Andrew, “Iraq war build-up ‘left us scrabbling for smoking gun’ says ex-UK ambassador,” Guardian, 11/26/09

Meyer, Ambassador Christopher, “CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL,” British Embassy, Washington, 3/18/02

Burrough, Bryan, Peretz, Evgenia, Rose, David and Wise, David, “Path To War,” Vanity Fair, May 2004

RTT News, “British Investigation Into Iraq War Begins,” 11/24/09

Sparrow, Andrew, “Iraq inquiry – live,” Guardian, 11/27/09

Sparrow, Andrew and Melkle, James, “Iraq invasion legitimacy was in doubt, Chilcot inquiry told,” Guardian, 11/27/09

Stobart, Janet, “Blair words on Iraq changed after 2002 visit with Bush, Briton testifies,” Los Angeles Times, 11/27/09

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Possible Breakthrough On Election Law Deadlock

The Washington Post reported that there might be a tentative agreement on the Iraqi election law. The Post said that the number of seats up for grabs in Ninewa would be increased to satisfy Sunnis. A spokesman for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who vetoed the election bill, said that he had tentatively agreed to this compromise. After Hashemi rejected the legislation, the major Shiite parties and the Kurdish Alliance amended the law that would give most of the seat increases due to population growth to the Kurds. They had threatened a boycott if that didn’t happen. Those came at the expense of Sunni provinces like Ninewa however, which led the Vice President to threaten a second veto. Hashemi’s okay is the only thing holding up the legislation going into affect as the other members of the Presidential Council, President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adul Adel Mahdi have already signed off on the amended version. Iraq is in the middle of an Islamic holiday, Id al-Adha, however, so Hashemi may not sign off on it until the celebrations are over.


AK News, “A spokesman for Vice President Hashimi is expected to send written assurances in writing to the ratification of the election law,” 11/26/09

Alsumaria, “Iraq election law amendment in spotlight,” 11/26/09
- “Iraq leaders seek compromise on election law,” 11/26/09
- “Talabani, Adul Mehdi sign amended poll law,” 11/26/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Provinces’ seats red line – al Hashemi,” 11/26/09
- “Talabani, Shiite VP sign amended election law,” 11/25/09

Al Forat TV, “We have reached a settlement with Hashemite about not canceling of election law again,” 11/26/09

Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraqi Lawmakers Hunt for Election Compromise,” New York Times, 11/26/09

Shadid, Anthony and Bakri, Nada, “Iraqis reach tentative agreement on elections law,” Washington Post, 11/26/09

Wasat, “Hashemi will not invalidate the law of the last elections,” 11/26/09

Maliki Returns To Sectarian Politics

On October 1, 2009 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki officially announced his State of Law list that would compete in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Almost every Western report on his coalition mentioned how broad it was, that it was non-sectarian, and how the Prime Minister was running a nationalist campaign. Recently however, Maliki has been emphasizing sectarian politics by warning of the return of Baathists.

On November 12, 2009 for example, Maliki went to a meeting of tribal leaders in Sadr City, Baghdad and said that Iraq’s enemies were trying to undermine the political process during the elections. Three days later he was more specific when he said that Baathists were trying to use the 2010 vote to get back into power, and that he would never let that happen. Then on November 16 at a press conference Maliki said that Baathists would not be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections in any form, and that all talks with them by the government were banned. Maliki has been emphasizing the Baathist threat to Iraq since the August 2009 Baghdad bombings, which he blamed on former regime elements in Syria. In fact, the government aired a new set of video taped confessions on November 22 of three men who claimed they were Baath party members who carried out the October 25, 2009 attacks on Iraq’s Ministry of Justice and Baghdad provincial council offices. In Iraqi politics, whenever Shiite politicians mention Baathists they are talking about the threat of Sunnis returning to power, just as talk about Iranian influence by Sunnis is about Shiite rule.

Maliki’s rhetoric has angered one of his State of Law coalition partners, Sheikh Ali Hatem Sulaiman. He is the head of the Al-Anbar Tribal Council and the Flags of Iraq Party, and was one of the leaders of the Awakening movement there. The sheikh said that those who keep talking about Baathists sound like a broken record, and that Baathists should be able to participate in elections as long as they don’t have any charges against them. He finished by saying that if Baathists were to be truly banned from Iraqi politics, than half of the Sunnis in Anbar would not be able to participate. This is significant because Sheikh Sulaiman was the only notable Sunni politician Maliki was able to draw into his list. He is a minor player however as his party wasn’t able to win a single seat in Anbar in the 2009 elections, and Maliki’s Dawa Party is firmly in the lead of the coalition.

Of more interest is the fact that Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and member of the Iraqi National Alliance issued a statement saying that Baathists should be able to take part in Iraqi politics as long as they didn’t have blood on their hands. The Supreme Council has always been one of the most ardent proponents of using the Baathist card against any moves towards reconciliation with Sunnis, and only recently called for the banning of Baathists from the 2010 vote as well. His release was almost certainly a response to Maliki’s comments as the National Alliance is the State of Law’s main challenger.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Sadrists, the other major players in the National Alliance, both attacked Maliki and supported him at the same time. First, a Sadrist parliamentarian said that the authorities faked the November 22 confessions of the alleged bombers. At the same time, Moqtada al-Sadr, echoing the Prime Minister, said that there could never be reconciliation with the Baathists. This shows both that Maliki’s attempt to play sectarian politics with the Baghdad attacks is widely questioned within Iraq, while talking about Baathists still resonates in Shiite politics.

The Prime Minister’s emphasis upon the Baathist threat could be a sign of his foreboding about the coming election. While Maliki is still the most popular politician in Iraq, the August and October 2009 ministry bombings in Baghdad have hurt his claim that he has brought security and stability to the country, so bringing up Baathists is a way for him to defer blame. He also has not been able to bring in any new significant partners into his coalition. Some believe that that his announcements are aimed at his potential rivals, specifically the Iraqi National Movement of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Council, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Finally, a return to sectarian politics may be a way for him to firm up his base with Shiites, and distract them from more pressing issues like the continued lack of services and corruption in the government.


Ali, Ahmed, “Iraq’s Elections Challenge: A Shifting Political Landscape,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 11/20/09

Alsumaria, “Maliki warns of enemies ahead of elections,” 11/12/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “PM warns of Baathists’ infiltration through election,” 11/15/09

Chon, Gina, “Maliki Coalition Tries to Bridge Iraq’s Deep Sectarian Divisions,” Wall Street Journal, 10/2/09

Al-Dulaimy, Mohammed, “Maliki unveils new national, nonsectarian Iraqi party,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/1/09

Al-Hayat, Elaph, “In Surprise Statement, Al-Hakim Calls for Involving Ba-athists in Iraqi Political Process,” MEMRI Blog, 11/20/09

Karadshesh, Jomana, “Alleged Baath members confess in videos to Iraq attacks,” CNN, 11/23/09

Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraqi Leader Creates Broad Coalition,” New York Times, 10/1/09

Roads To Iraq, “Ba’ath Party and the election – intro,” 11/24/09
- “Ba’ath Party and the election 1,” 11/24/09
- “Disagreement among the “State of Law” and The political-football crisis,” 11/17/09

Al Sabah, “PMi: No talk with Ba’athists,” 11/17/09

Shadid, Anthony, “Maliki Creates Coalition To Compete in Iraqi Vote,” Washington Post, 10/2/09

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Iraqi Government Sets Up Its Own Youtube Station

The Iraqi government recently launched their own station on Youtube, which can be viewed here:

Here's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announcing its start:

Top U.S. Officials Met With Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander In Sep. 09

In an article entitled “Iraq and its neighbours: A regional cockpit,” the latest issue of The Economist reports that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and commander of Americans forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno met with the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force General Qassem Suleimani in September 2009. Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani facilitated the meeting, which occurred in his offices in Baghdad. Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has not only been one of the staunchest supporters of the U.S. since the 1991 Gulf War, but also has long standing ties with Tehran as it fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and received support from them afterward.

According to The Economist Hill and Odierno wanted to get assurances from Suleimani that Iranian backed groups would not attack U.S. forces as they withdrew in 2010, and to warn him that Tehran should not interfere in Iraqi affairs after U.S. combat forces were out of the country. The first request should be easy to accomplish if the Qods Force commander wishes since Iranian-backed Special Groups are hardly active in Iraq anymore. In October 2009 for example, there were only six attacks on U.S. forces in southern Iraq, which were likely the work of Shiite militants. Iranian agents are occasionally caught trying to cross into Iraq, and Iranian made weapons are still being found as well. The second part, however, is not going to happen. Iraq is one of Iran’s major foreign policy concerns. As reported before, Tehran wants to make sure that Iraq never becomes a rival again, and that a friendly Shiite government remains in power in Baghdad. In fact, Iran’s military policy is subservient to these larger goals, which is probably why there are so few Special Groups operating right now as Iran has scaled back its support for them whenever important political evens occur in Iraq. Right now that’s the 2010 parliamentary elections. Tehran is very involved in trying to keep the Shiites together for this vote so that they can come out victorious. For example, the speaker of Iran’s parliament Ali Larijani visited Iraq for four days in early-November 2009 where he tried to convince Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to join the main Shiite coalition the Iraqi National Alliance. What wasn’t mentioned in The Economist article is what prid pro quo the U.S. officials might have offered General Suleimani to call off his activities in Iraq. Without incentives from the United States there is no reason for Iran to listen as it feels that it has the upper hand with the Americans withdrawing.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been the main way Tehran has tried to influence events in Iraq. In the 1990s the Qods Force was created to carry out the Guards’ foreign policy. In 1998 General Suleimani took command of the Force. It not only funds Shiite parties and militiamen, but is also in charge of trade and smuggling within Iraq.


Alsumaria, “Bombs and missiles seized on Iraqi borders,” 11/16/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Police arrests 2 Iranians in Khanaqin,” 11/18/09

Badkhen, Anna, “The Iranian factor in Iraq insurgency,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8/21/05

Economist, “A regional cockpit,” 11/19/09

Felter, Joseph and Fishman, Brian, “Iranian Strategy in Iraq, Politics and ‘Other Means,’” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 10/13/08

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

Phillips, James, “Iran’s Hostile Policies in Iraq,” Heritage Foundation, 4/30/07

Roug, Louise and Daragahi, Borzou, “Iraq Edges Closer to Iran, With or Without the US,” Los Angeles Times, 1/16/07

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fadhil Sons of Iraq Leader Sentenced To Death

On November 20, 2009 the head of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) in Baghdad’s Fadhil district, Adil al-Mashhadani, was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court. He was charged with the murder of a girl whose mother complained to him about the violence in the neighborhood during the sectarian war. Mashhadani was originally arrested in late March 2009, which set off a day of fighting between Iraqi and U.S. forces, and Mashhadani’s SOI. The SOI leader shows both who the U.S. was willing to work with during the Surge as well as Baghdad’s ambivalent attitude towards the Sons of Iraq program.

In the summer of 2007 General David Petraeus and his top advisers met to discuss a new Sunni policy. It was decided that the U.S. would try to replicate the Anbar Awakening in Baghdad, and other Sunnis areas in central and northern Iraq. In 2005 the Sunni tribes of Anbar had begun to turn on Al Qaeda in Iraq because they no longer perceived them to be allies, but as a threat since the Islamists were attempting to take over the insurgency and impinge on many of the tribes’ businesses. This inspired the Sons of Iraq (SOI) program where American forces began creating ties with insurgents and tribal groups that were willing to fight Al Qaeda.

Fadhil is a small neighborhood in eastern Baghdad near the Tigris River. The area was known for having a very active insurgency in 2006-2007 that was battling Shiite militiamen from Sadr City, which was just to the northeast, and carrying out attacks on the Americans. Adil Mashhadani was a cell leader there. He was a former member of the Republican Guard, and originally joined the fight against the Americans in Fallujah in 2004. In April 2007 Mashhadani’s forces were devastated in a fight with the U.S., followed by Al Qaeda attempting to replace him. Faced with the triple pressure from the Islamists, the Shiites, and the Americans, he decided to switch sides and work with the last. By May the U.S. battalion in Fadhil had organized Mashhadani's men into a SOI unit, and had also been able to work out a deal with the Shiites in the surrounding areas. By June Mashhadani was in firm control, creating his own little fief supported by U.S. troops and reconstruction money. In October Al Qaeda tried to strike back at him with a failed suicide attack. That led to a month’s long battle that expelled the Islamists from the rest of the area. By December 2009 the U.S. got him to reluctantly work with the Iraqi Army and government. This earned Mashhadani the respect of the first two U.S. officers to work with him, who protected him from officials in Baghdad that wanted him arrested for murder.

At the very end of December 2008 things started to change. A new U.S. unit began receiving information about Mashhadani’s men taking part in extortion, rape, and insurgent activity, while it was transferring Fadhil to Iraqi control. This caused tensions with Mashhadani who didn’t want to give up his power. He also complained that hardly any of his men were getting jobs or being paid by the government as promised. That all ended at the end of March when he was arrested by Iraqi Special Forces. His SOI unit, which only numbered about 150 men, was disbanded afterward.

Mashhadani’s detention and the subsequent fighting set off alarm bells in the U.S., but got a much more mixed reaction within Iraq. Many American commentators feared that his arrest would set off a wave of fighting between the government and the SOI since the Prime Minister had never approved of the program since its inception. Sunnis expressed both fear and approval. An SOI commander in Dora, Baghdad for example, was afraid that Iraqi forces would arrest him, while another in Adhamiya said that Mashhadani had been killing people and extorting money and therefore deserved what he got. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha of the Anbar Awakening chimed in that Mashhadani had been breaking the law, and called for an end to speculation that his arrest would undermine security in the country. His subsequent death sentence has created the same sort of mixed feelings amongst the SOI.

Adil Mashhadani was the type of man that the U.S. was willing to work with to bring an end to the sectarian war. The question has only been raised by a few like Nibras Kazimi of the Hudson Institute and Talisman Gate blog, but could the U.S. have avoided this whole ordeal if it had decided to crush the entire insurgency rather than attempting to divide and conquer it? After the Samarra bombing in February 2006, which set off the civil war, the Sunnis quickly realized that they were going to lose, as they were outnumbered 3 to 1 by the Shiites. At the same time Al Qaeda was focusing their violence on fellow insurgents who would not follow their lead. The Americans took advantage of this situation to cut a short-term deal with Sunnis like Mashhadani who were willing to turn on the Islamists to save their own skins, which created a long-term problem with the Iraqi government who never approved of the U.S. policy. Instead they could’ve let Mashhadani and Al Qaeda battle it out, and then swept up the remains. The problem for General Petraeus was that would’ve taken longer and led to more fighting at a time when he was under intense domestic pressure in the U.S. to show results as quickly as possible. The Sons of Iraq program appeared to be a way to do that, and the U.S. and Iraq are still facing the consequences as the Americans are trying to ensure the SOI get as many jobs as possible from a government that lacks both the will and capacity to do so.


Alsumaria, “Awakening council ex-leader sentenced to death,” 11/20/09
- “Awakening forces clash with Iraq police,” 3/30/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Sahwa leader captured in central Baghdad on “terror” charges – spokesman,” 3/28/09

Burns, John and Rubin, Alissa, “U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to Battle Old Qaeda Allies,” New York Times, 6/11/07

Dagher, Sam, “Market bombings: Baghdad locals want security, not Iraqi police,” Christian Science Monitor, 2/4/08

Kazimi, Nibras, “How To Do A “Surge,”” Hudson Institute, 4/2/09

Leland, John, “Iraq Sentences Sunni Leader to Death,” New York Times, 11/20/09

Nordland, Rod, “Rebellious Sunni Council Disarmed After Clashes, Officials in Baghdad Say,” New York Times, 3/31/09

Nordland, Rod and Rubin, Alissa, “Sunni Fighters Say Iraq Didn’t Keep Job Promises,” New York Times, 3/24/09

Parker, Ned and Ahmed, Caesar, “Sons of Iraq movement suffers another blow,” Los Angeles Times, 3/30/09

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Baghdad Arrest Sets Off Clashes,” Washington Post, 3/29/09

Reuters, “Iraqi forces arrest more U.S.-allied Sunni guards,” 4/4/09

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

Rubin, Alissa and Cave, Damien, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict,” New York Times, 12/23/07

Rubin, Alissa and Farrell, Stephen, “Awakening Councils by Region,” New York Times, 12/22/07

Rubin, Alissa and Nordland, Rod, “Troops Arrest an Awakening Council Leader in Iraq, Setting Off Fighting,” New York Times, 3/29/09

Ziezulewicz, Geoff, “Empowered by the U.S., imprisoned by Iraqis,” Stars and Stripes, 9/24/09
- “U.S., Iraqi forces progress cautiously after ‘Sons of Iraq’ arrest,” Stars and Stripes, 4/15/09
- “U.S. troops, Iraqi army work to secure Baghdad district after militia leader’s arrest,” Stars and Stripes, 4/5/09

Monday, November 23, 2009

VP Hashemi Shoots Himself In The Foot With Veto Of Iraqi Election Law

On November 8, 2009 Iraq’s parliament finally passed an election bill after weeks of delay. Ten days later Vice President Tarqi al-Hashemi vetoed it. Hashemi objected to the fact that Iraq’s refugees, the majority of which are Sunnis, would have their votes go towards only eight compensatory seats that would also be shared with smaller parties that didn’t get enough votes at the provincial level, but did well nationally. The Iraqi Election Commission says that there should be one seat in parliament for every 100,000 people, and it’s generally believed that there are at least 2 million Iraqi refugees. The problem was that the Vice President tried to portray his act as a line-item veto, demanding a change in the number of seats set aside for refugees, while claiming that the rest of the bill should not be touched. This is not allowed under Iraqi law however. What his veto did in effect, was open the election bill to the demands of other parties that undermined his own goals.

As reported before, the Kurdish Alliance in parliament objected to the proposed increase in the parliamentary seats from 275 to 323 because the three Kurdish provinces got few to no new seats. Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani even went as far as to threaten a Kurdish boycott unless the arrangements were changed. By vetoing the election bill, Hashemi empowered the Kurds to negotiate this very issue.

They aligned with the two major Shiite blocks, the Prime Minister’s State of Law and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, to pass an amendment on November 23 to the election bill. It skips Hashemi’s request for an increase in seats for refugees, by counting their votes as part of the provinces they were originally from, and rearranges the parliamentary seat allocations by province by using older 2005 statistics with a 2.8% increase for recent population growth, rather than 2009 numbers. Using the 2009 figures, Sunni provinces such as Ninewa were due for large increases in seats, but those will now go the Kurds instead. This suits the Shiite parties as well that were not enthusiastic about any extra seats in Sunni provinces.

Vice President Hashemi’s veto has thus backfired. He not only didn’t get the increases he requested for refugees, but the amendment reduces Sunni chances to get a larger say in parliament. When the changes were voted on members of the Iraqi Accordance Front, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, and some Sadrists walked out. This will likely lead to another veto by Hashemi. The head of the Iraqi Election Commission said on November 19 that elections would be delayed because they can’t happen at the end of January 2010 as planned because that would coincide with Shiite religious ceremonies, while the constitution says that voting must be held no later than January 31. What is probably going to happen is that parliament will attempt to overturn Hashemi’s second expected veto, they need a three-fifths vote and the bill will become law, balloting will be held in February, and a caretaker government will have to be announced in the meantime. This all shows that Iraq is barely a country of laws as its politicians rarely if ever meet any deadlines, whether they’re self-imposed or in the constitution.


Arraf, Jane, “Iraq election official: Even if Kurdish boycott averted, January deadline impossible,” Christian Science Monitor, 11/20/09

Bakri, Nada, “Iraq’s parliament approves amended election law,” Washinogton Post, 11/23/09

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Iraqi parliament fails to reach election deal,” Reuters, 11/22/09

Londono, Ernesto, and Mizher, Qais, “Iraqi parliament passes election law after reaching deal on Kirkuk,” Washington Post, 11/9/09

Nordland, Rod, “Veto of Iraq’s Election Law Could Force Delay in Vote,” New York Times, 11/19/09

Roads To Iraq, “What happened today?” 11/23/09

Visser, Reidar, “Constitutional Disintegration,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 11/19/09
- “The Hashemi Veto Backfires, Parliament Ups the Ante,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/23/09

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Iraq’s Displaced Forgotten In Debate Over Election Law

Iraq’s parliament has spent months debating and negotiating over the 2010 election law. While it has discussed several issues such as the status of Kirkuk and voting for overseas Iraqis, nothing has really been said about Iraq’s internally displaced. The result is that many will likely be disenfranchised as happened in the 2009 balloting.

Recently, hundreds of displaced families protested in Diyala against the planned parliamentary vote. They said they would not participate because the voting rules were rigged against them. In the current election bill, Article IV says that displaced families can vote, but only in their original home district they were forced out of, and are ineligible if they transferred their food ration cards to another district. The Iraqi Election Commission has said that around 1 million displaced can vote under these regulations. The latest United Nations figures record around 1.6 million displaced, which means 600,000 people may be disenfranchised.

Another problem is that even those that can vote still have to register, and few have done so. In October 2009 the Iraqi Election Commission reported that only 20,000 displaced voters had signed up by then. The Commission said that it was setting up special teams to try to get more to participate. The same thing occurred in the 2009 provincial elections when the displaced were confused about the voter rules, and few registered. The result was that tens of thousands didn’t get to vote. That led to several protests.

Since there has been no real debate by Iraq’s politicians to correct these problems the same scenario is likely to play out in 2010. Iraq’s displaced are already facing a plethora of problems from findings jobs, housing, to getting services, now a sizeable number are probably going to be shut out of voting for their representatives for a second time.


Fadel, Leila, “Low turnout in Iraq’s election reflects a disillusioned nation,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/1/09

Naji, Zaineb, “Voter Apathy Among Iraq Displaced,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 9/24/08

Niqash, “election law text,” 11/9/09

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraqi Election Commission Urges Vote Law’s Approval,” 10/7/09

Al Sabah, “Many displaced families in Diyala boycott elections,” 11/17/09

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Return Update Iraq September 2009,” November 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Iraq Moves Down List Of Most Corrupt In The World

Transparency International is a German based organization that tracks corruption across the world. They recently released their 2009 Corruption Index that ranked and compared 180 countries. Since the U.S. invasion in 2003 Iraq has consistently been in the bottom 25 most corrupt nations. In fact, by 2006 it had dropped to the second or third most corrupt in Transparency International’s list. In the latest Index Iraq actually moved down the list for the second year in a row to be tied for the fourth most corrupt country, along with Sudan. Iraq received a score of 1.5 out of 10. Somalia, 1.1, Afghanistan, 1.3, and Myanmar, 1.4, were at the very bottom.

Iraq’s Ranking In Corruption Index 2003-2009
2003 #20
2004 #17
2005 #22
2006 #3
2007 #2
2008 #3
2009 #4

Iraq’s score placed it at the very bottom of nineteen other countries in the Middle East. Qatar, 7.0, the United Arab Emirates, 6.5, and Israel 6.1, had the best scores. Iraq, 1.5, Iran 1.8, and Yemen 2.1, were at the other end of the spectrum.

Transparency International said that nations like Iraq faced severe challenges to establish solid institutions, transparency, and accountability because of instability. That’s apparent each month as there are constant reports about corruption. In November 2009, for example, the Integrity Committee, one of Iraq’s three main anti-corruption agencies, said that it was planning on going after 455 senior officials, including ministers and governors. In October, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s brother was arrested at the Dubai International Airport trying to smuggle Iraqi antiquities out of the country. In September, the Integrity Committee released a poll from June 2009 of 3,500 Iraqis that found 79% had to pay bribes at government departments, and 20% offered money to officials. Finally, in August, terrorists allegedly paid up to $10,000 to members of the Iraqi security forces to get two truck bombs through checkpoints to attack government ministries in Baghdad.

As Transparency International’s Indexes have shown over the years, corruption remains a pressing problem for Iraq. It eats away at the public’s confidence in the government, costs hundreds of millions of dollars for a country desperate for cash for rebuilding and development, and effects security and services. Baghdad and Washington often talk about addressing this issue, but according to Transparency International there has been little progress.


AK News, “Integrity Committee to sue 455 senior Officials,” 11/9/09

Benraad, Myriam, “Iraq’s Enduring al-Qaeda Challenge,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 11/18/09

Inside Iraq, “Officials take bribes, the Government Makes Reports,” McClatchy Newspapers, 9/30/09

Larsa News, “Maliki’s brother arrested in Dubai Airport while trying to smuggle Iraqi Antiquities,” 10/26/09

O’Hanlon, Michael and Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 11/4/09

Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2009,” 11/17/09

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Columbia University Charts Sectarian Cleansing of Baghdad

Dr. Michael Izady of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs recently gave an interview to the Swiss-based International Relations and Security Network. He presented a series of maps that he put together on Baghdad during Iraq’s civil war. They show the effects of the fighting as the capital went from a mixed Sunni-Shiite city, into a segregated one.

Izady’s first map is from 2003 when the U.S. invasion began. There were majority Sunni and Shiite areas peppered throughout Baghdad. Sadr City in northeast Baghdad was the largest and most well known Shiite area, but there were others such as Amiriya in the west by Baghdad Airport, Ghazaliya in the northwest by Abu Ghraib, and Shula and Kadhimiya in the north. Majority Sunni areas were Hurriya in the north, Washash, Mansur, and Karkh in the central region, Sadiya in the south, and Adhamiya on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. The majority of the capital however was mixed Sunni-Shiite, especially in the central, southern, and northeastern regions.

Baghdad 2003

Green – Shiite majority
Red – Sunni majority
Blue – Christian majority
Yellow – Mixed Sunni-Shiite

The next map skips ahead to 2006. The February bombing of the Shiite shrine at Samarra in Salahaddin province north of Baghdad in that year is credited as beginning of the sectarian war, and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army is largely blamed for carrying out most of the ethnic cleansing. In actuality, in 2005 the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Badr Brigade militia took over the Interior Ministry under the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and began setting up death squads and carrying attacks on Sunnis. The Supreme Council also began pushing out Sunnis from the security forces, and replacing them with its followers. The activities of the Badr Brigade were exposed in late 2005 when U.S. forces came across a secret detention facility in the capital holding 169 abused prisoners, some of which were tortured. The Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, a Badr Brigade leader, tried to deny the seriousness of the find.

The 2006 map shows the first changes in the sectarian make-up of the city. These can be seen in the outskirts of the city. Sadiya in the south for example, and Hurriya and Washash on the west bank of the Tigris went from Sunni to Shiite majority. The three neighborhoods directly northwest of Sadr City, Hayy Aden, Sahab, and Hayy Sumer went from being mixed to Shiite. In turn, Amiriya in the west went from Shiite to Sunni, along with Ghazaliya above it, and Jihad went from mixed to Sunni to the south. Karkh in central Baghdad, which surrounds the Green Zone, also went from Sunni to mixed.

Baghdad 2006

Green – Shiite majority
Red – Sunni majority
Blue – Christian majority
Yellow – Mixed Sunni-Shiite

The third map covers early 2007. At that time the sectarian war was still going full throttle. For example, the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index recorded 3,462 killed in November 2006, 2,914 in December, 3,500 in January 2009, 2,700 in February, and 2,400 in March. By that time the segregation of Baghdad was pretty much complete. Adhamiya was the last large Sunni majority neighborhood left in the western half of the capital. Most Sunnis were now concentrated in a strip of western neighborhoods including Kindi, Mansur, Yarmuk, Khadra, Amiriya, and Ghazaliya, along with a few southern district like Dora and Muradiya. Only central Baghdad around the Tigris River had large numbers of mixed areas left with the northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast all Shiite majority now.

Baghdad Early 2007
Green – Shiite majority
Red – Sunni majority
Blue – Christian majority
Yellow – Mixed Sunni-Shiite

The fourth map is from late 2007. The only real change was along the west bank of the Tigris. There, the southern section of Adhamiya became Shiite, while Resaca and Gaitanis became Sunni majority. During that period, the sectarian fighting was petering out. The Iraq Index counted 1,100 deaths in September 2007; the last time it would record over one thousand deaths in a single month. After that there were 950 killed in October, and 750 in November and December each. The Surge had also led to blast walls being erected around many of the Sunni neighborhoods and the creation of the Sons of Iraq program where the majority of the Sunni insurgency gave up and switched sides to align with the Americans rather than face annihilation at the hands of the Shiite militias, Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the United States. Both of those policies solidified the segregation of Baghdad.

Baghdad Late 2007
Green – Shiite majority
Red – Sunni majority
Blue – Christian majority
Yellow – Mixed Sunni-Shiite

The last map is from the end of 2009. There were very few changes by that time. The only noticeable ones were around the Riyad area that went from mixed to Shiite on the western bank of the Tigris across from the Green Zone. By 2009 the sectarian war was over, the insurgency was reduced to largely carrying out terrorist bombings and hit and run attacks, and deaths were dropping.

Baghdad End of 2009
Green – Shiite majority
Red – Sunni majority
Blue – Christian majority
Yellow – Mixed Sunni-Shiite

Izady believes that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad by the Shiite militias and the Sons of Iraq movement were the major reasons why the civil war ended. The Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army effectively removed most of the Sunnis to a western strip of the capital, while the Sons of Iraq signaled the collapse of the insurgency. The Surge didn’t fully get underway until mid-2007, and facilitated the reduction of violence and segregation that was already underway. Izady thinks much of the same for Sadr’s August 2007 cease-fire. Again, the fighting was already winding down by then, and Sadr never told his followers to disarm, and many factions had broken away or become Special Groups that were no longer following Sadr’s direction, so there were plenty of militiamen still active. There were just fewer Sunnis to target, and many militia cells turned to exploiting their own Shiite communities instead.

The BBC did a similar set of maps comparing pre-2006 Baghdad to 2007 based upon information from the International Medical Corps. It found a very similar pattern of Shiite expansion in the east and northwest, the vast reduction of mixed neighborhoods, and the concentration of Sunnis in the west. Many other students of the Surge attribute these same factors for the end of the civil war, but just put different emphasis on each point.

The one disputable point that Izady made in his interview with the International Relations and Security Network was when he said he believed that Sunnis were reduced to 12% of Iraq’s population because of the fighting. He said many became refugees in Syria and Jordan. While the exact percentage Sunnis made up of Iraq and Baghdad are disputed, a general number used in sources such as the CIA Factbook is around 30%. How much they made up of Baghdad before the U.S. invasion is an even harder figure to calculate. In the December 2005 national elections however, the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front and Iraqi National Dialogue Front pulled 22.9% of the vote in the capital, while the Iraqi National List, even though led by a Shiite, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, also draws strongly from Sunnis, got 13.4%. That’s roughly 30% of Baghdad as well. If Izady is to be believed than just over half of the Sunnis fled the country. In 2003 Iraq had a population of around 26 million, if 30% were Sunnis that would be roughly 7.8 million, half of which would be 3.9 million people. The United Nations estimates that there are only 2.5 million refugees however, not all of which are Sunnis. There are other sources that think that Sunnis were only 15-20% of all Iraqis, which would be approximately 3.9million-5.2 million. That would match the refugee numbers much more closely.

Izady’s maps are a valuable resource in charting the changes that Baghdad witnessed after the U.S. invasion. It was and remains the center of power and conflict in the country to this day. The Shiite militias undertook a concerted effort to push Sunnis out of parts of the city beginning in 2005, and largely succeeded as Izady’s graphics show. When the insurgency largely gave up and joined the Sons of Iraq, and the U.S. put up blast walls around many communities, those marked the effective end of the sectarian war. The result is a segregated and Shiite dominated capital, that in a way is symbolic of post-Saddam Iraq as there was displacement across the country, and the Shiite parties are now in firm control of the government, with no real threat from other sects.


BBC, “Baghdad: Mapping the violence,” 2007

CIA, Factbook

Guler, Claudio, “Baghdad Divided,” International Relations and Security Network, 11/9/09

Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, “Legislation Election of 15 December 2005,” 2006

International Crisis Group, “Shiite Politics In Iraq: The Role Of The Supreme Council,” 11/15/07

Matthews, Dylan and Klein, Ezra, “How Important Was the Surge?” American Prospects, 7/28/08

Murphy, Dan, “New Iraqi leader seeks unity,” Christian Science Monitor, 4/24/06

O’Hanlon, Michael Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 8/20/09

Otterman, Sharon, “IRAQ: The Sunnis,” Council on Foreign Relations, 12/12/03

Wong, Edward, “U.S. Splits With Iraqi Official Over Prisoner Abuse,” New York Times, 11/17/05

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Problems With Integrating Sons of Iraq Continue

In May 2009 the Iraqi government took full responsibility for the payment of 95,000 Sons of Iraq (SOI). The SOI were put together by the United States when Sunni tribesmen and insurgents felt squeezed by the Shiite militias, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and U.S. forces. The Sunnis were willing to switch sides to forestall their annihilation, and hold on to what they had left. In 2008 Baghdad agreed to take control of the program from the United States, integrating 20% into the security forces, and finding the rest employment with Iraq’s ministries or in the private sector. Since that time, the policy has run into consistent problems. The government has continued with intermittently arresting SOI leaders, there have been problems with paying them, and only around a quarter have found employment.

At the beginning of November 2009, two Sons of Iraq leaders (SOI) were arrested by the security forces. One was the head of the SOI in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, and the other was a commander in Baquba in Diyala province. Details on the Diyala arrest were scant, but the authorities said that the SOI leader was arrested for taking part in military operations. The case of Mustafa Kamal Shibeeb of Dora was much better known. In October 2007, Shibeeb led his SOI against Al Qaeda fighters from a rival tribe killing several of them. In 2009 some of the relatives of the dead insurgents went to the police, and got an arrest warrant for Shibeeb. He is also charged with holding and beating 30 suspected insurgents, and killing five of them. Shibeeb was supported not only by the U.S., but a local Iraqi Army unit, in his fight against the authorities. Twice police commandos from the Interior Ministry tried to arrest him in the fall of 2009, and one-time Iraqi soldiers, with the backing of the Americans, blocked them. Shibeeb has also tried to work within the Iraqi justice system by hiring a lawyer, and saying that he would go to court. He has attempted to get the Prime Minister involved as well, by joining one of his Tribal Support Councils. The Baghdad Operations Command, which answers directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, ending up ordering a stop to the raids. That didn’t seem to work, as he was ultimately detained in November. Sunni parliamentarians have condemned the arrest, while it’s believed that Interior pursued the case because the victims’ families had tribal connections within the ministry.

This has not been the only time that the government has accepted charges against SOI for killing insurgents. In June 2008 it was reported that the head of the SOI in Amariya, Baghdad was being investigated for killing an Al Qaeda in Iraq leader. In April 2009, an SOI commander in Arab Jabour, a suburb of Baghdad, was arrested for killing Al Qaeda members. SOI members have responded by saying that some of these charges are based upon false information and insurgents who are attempting to undermine them. U.S. officials have told Baghdad to let many of those arrested go, but the government continues detaining them.

Another major problem in the integration of the SOI has been keeping up with their salaries. Since the day that Baghdad agreed to take over the program, they have not always paid the SOI on time. The latest complains came in October 2009, when a unit in Jaweja, southwest of Kirkuk in Tamim, and another in Azamiya, Baghdad said they had not been paid in three months. The U.S. general in charge of military planning in Iraq blamed Iraq’s budget problems for these delays. He said that the government was supposed to make double payments in October to make up for the missed ones. It’s not been reported whether that happened or not.

Finally, finding jobs for the SOI has gone extremely slow. Of the 95,000 SOI fighters that Baghdad took control of this year, only 26% have gotten jobs. The security forces have hired 9,500, 6,800 have gotten jobs in other parts of the government, and 8,800 have gone to work elsewhere. That leaves 69,900 who have not been integrated yet. Out of those, many are simply staying at their posts hoping that the government will come through with their promises. Others have left to find work elsewhere, while still others have probably tried to return to the insurgency out of frustration. It’s unlikely many will take that route as their information is known by the government, which makes it extremely hard for them to operate covertly which is a necessity in any successful guerrilla war, and few have the stomach to return to the fight.

When the Sunni tribes and fighters agreed to join the SOI, they were in effect admitting their defeat. They are now suffering the consequences. Most of them will have to bear with these problems because they have no other choice. Their main benefactors, the Americans, are withdrawing and losing influence. That means they are at the mercy of the Iraqi government, which does have massive bureaucratic and budget problems, but also has shown little enthusiasm for the SOI program since its inception. More stories of arrests and lack of pay are therefore likely.


Ahmed, Caesar, “Prominent member of Awakening movement arrested in Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 11/10/09

Alsumaria, “Awakening Forces warn of quitting,” 10/8/09

Associated Press, “Budget of Iraqi security forces strained, PM says,” 10/7/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Sahwa fighters in Haweja demonstrate demanding salaries,” 10/6/09
- “Sahwa official arrested in Diala,” 11/9/09

Parker, Ned, “Awakening leader’s tale illustrates Iraq’s volatility,” Los Angeles Times, 10/18/09
- “The rise and fall of a Sons of Iraq warrior,” Los Angeles Times, 6/29/08

Parker, Ned and Hameed, Saif, “Sunni paramilitary leader released from Iraq jail,” Los Angeles Times, 4/3/09

Rosen, Nir, “An Ugly Peace,” Boston Review, November/December 2008

Rubin, Alissa, “Arrests Deepen Iraqi Sunnis’ Bitterness,” New York Times, 4/12/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iraq’s 2010 Election Law Faces New Challenge From Kurdistan

Iraq’s 2010 parliamentary election law was finally passed by the legislature on November 8, 2009. It was then sent to the Presidential Council that consists of President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi and Vice President Tarqi al-Hashemi for ratification. It was expected that they would immediately sign the bill into law as it was originally supposed to be done in October. Instead, the legislation has run into more and more problems. As reported before, President Talabani and Vice President Hashemi want the quota for seats given to minorities and refugees increased since that would help their chances in the election. Now Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani is threatening a Kurdish boycott unless the number of seats up for grabs in each province is changed.

President Barzani recently told the press that the three Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya would boycott the 2010 national elections unless more seats are allotted to the region. The number of members in parliament is going to be increased from 275 to 323 next year, and those will be determined by the voting in each of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. The total is based upon numbers derived from the Ministry of Trade’s food ration card system. For every 100,000 people in a province, one seat is to be placed up for election. There are also compensatory and quota seats set aside for minorities, refugees, and smaller parties that do well nationally, but not good enough in the provinces to earn a seat.

Barzani complained that the number of seats increased for several Sunni Arab provinces, but hardly changed at all for the Kurdistan region. For example, Sulaymaniya got no seat increases from 2005 staying at 15, while Dohuk went from 7 to 9, and Irbil went from 13 to 14. In comparison, Ninewa’s seats are going to go from 19 in 2005 to 31 in 2010, and Anbar will go from 9 to 14. In, fact every province, except for Sulaymaniya will see some sort of increase ranging from 1 to 12 seats, with an average of 4.1. According to Norwegian Iraq specialist Reidar Visser, the lack of increases for the KRG reflects the fact that their numbers were believed to be inflated in 2005, while the Sunni areas were not well represented before. The Kurdish Alliance in parliament has gone as far as to threaten a lawsuit against the Trade Ministry, alleging that it is manipulating its numbers.

Parliamentary Seats By Province 2005 vs 2010
Anbar 9 vs 14
Babil 11 vs 16
Baghdad 59 vs 68
Basra 18 vs 24
Dhi Qar 12 vs 18
Diyala 10 vs 13
Dohuk 7 vs 9
Irbil 13 vs 14
Karbala 6 vs 10
Maysan 7 vs 10
Muthanna 5 vs 7
Najaf 8 vs 12
Ninewa 19 vs 31
Qadisiyah 8 vs 11
Salahaddin 8 vs 12
Sulaymaniya 15 vs 15
Tamim 9 vs 12
Wasit 8 vs 11

The Kurdish Alliance and its allies the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) were the main reasons why the election bill was not passed on time. Their demands over voting in Tamim, the home of Kirkuk, and whether to use an open or closed list system, dragged out the discussion over the legislation for nearly a month after it was due. Now the Kurds are threatening the entire process by mentioning a boycott. They not only want the quota for minorities increased, something they should’ve worked out when the bill was under debate, but now also want the number of seats up for grabs to be redistributed to help Kurdistan. Representation is important in any election and country, but the way the Kurds are dealing with this piece of legislation is not only frustrating the Iraqi public, which is already fed up with their politicians and government for not delivering on issues such as basic services and the passage of laws, but also increasing the growing anti-Kurdish sentiment within the Arab population. The reasons behind the Kurds’ tactics are three-fold. First, after the U.S. invasion, the Kurds were one of the largest and most well organized parties in the country, and were able to translate that into a greater proportion of power than they probably deserved vis a vis the Arab majority. They are therefore use to getting their way. Second, the Kurds, along with all the other large political parties see politics in zero sum terms, which makes it hard for them to compromise on any meaningful issue. Third, with the ascendancy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the central government, the Kurds are pushing for as much power as they can get out of fear that Baghdad will once again attempt to take away their rights or subjugate them like what happened under Saddam. All of those factors together, make it extremely difficult to get anything through Iraq’s legislative process, and the 2010 election law is just the latest example.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq’s January vote placed in doubt by presidency,” 11/16/09

AK News, “Kurdish Presidency warn to boycott parliamentary polls,” 11/17/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “KA threatens to sue Trade Ministry,” 11/16/09
- “Kurdistan won’t participate in polls unless allocation mechanism is reconsidered,” 11/17/09

Lucas, Ryan, “Kurdish, Sunni demands may derail Iraqi elections,” Associated Press, 11/17/09

Najm, Hayder, “election law faces new challenges,” Niqash, 11/13/09

Santora, “Kurdish Legislators Threaten Boycott of Iraq Election,” New York Times, 11/17/09

Visser, Reidar, “The IHEC Publishes the Distribution of Governorate and Compensatory Seats,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/09

Monday, November 16, 2009

Iraq’s President and Vice President Want Election Law Revised

In the days after parliament finally passed the 2010 parliamentary election bill, both President Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, formerly of the Iraqi Sunni Party, and now part of the new Iraqi National Movement, have called for it to be revised. They are both requesting that the number of seats set aside for refugees and minorities be increased.

As the election bill now stands, eight seats are set aside for minorities and eight seats are compensatory seats for refugees and political parties that don’t do well locally in the provinces, but do well nationally. Talabani and Hashemi are both asking that the quota be increased to 48 seats out of 323.

Talabani called for an amendment after the Kurdish parliament requested one. Many of Iraq’s minorities have fled to Kurdistan or live in the disputed territories in northern Iraq, so an increase in the quota would probably help the ruling Kurdish parties like Talabani’s PUK. This is a change for the President as he, and Iraq’s other Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, already ratified the bill.

An adviser to Vice President Hashemi said that refugees need more representation since most are Sunnis, which is Hashemi’s constituency. Hashemi’s coalition partner Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq has called for 30 seats for refugees. The Vice President went on TV saying that he will veto the bill unless it is changed by Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

The ball is now back in parliament’s court to either increase the quota or see whether Hashemi is bluffing about a veto. This is just the latest delay after many, as the law was supposed to be passed in October.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq’s January vote placed in doubt by presidency,” 11/16/09

Alsumaria, “Talabani and Abdul Mehdi ratify election law,” 11/14/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “URGENT/VP says won’t endorse election law come what may,”” 11/15/09

Najm, Hayder, “election law faces new challenges,” Niqash, 11/13/09

Reuters, “Iraq VP Threatens To Veto Vote Law Over Refugees,” 11/15/09

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