Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kurdish Oil Exports Still On Hold

In early May 2010 it was announced that the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had come to an agreement over oil exports. The Kurds would be allowed to resume selling its oil abroad again with the Oil Ministry paying the companies operating there, in return for the profits being deposited in a Baghdad account, which would eventually be distributed to Kurdistan through the regular budgetary process. This was part of a political move by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to woo the Kurds to his side so that he could return as the premier. Within two weeks however the deal was suspended, supposedly because of the political deadlock over forming a new government. It has now been reported the negotiations are being held up because the KRG is demanding that the central government pay for the cost of the investments made in the region’s oil industry. The Oil Ministry is refusing because it claims all the contracts offered by the Kurds are illegal, and that only Baghdad has the right to sign with foreign companies.

Originally the KRG had been allowed to export its petroleum in May 2009, but that quickly came to an end. In June the Kurds starting selling oil to foreign markets, but then stopped in September when its Natural Resource Minister was caught in a stock scandal involving Norway’s DNO, one of the companies pumping oil in Kurdistan. By the next month the two operating petroleum fields were shut down because Baghdad was getting all the profits, but no one was paying the corporations doing the work.

The deadlock over exports has increasingly frustrated Kurdistan. They have gone public with their oil smuggling to Iran, and claimed that they could produce 1 million barrels a day to pressure Baghdad into letting them resume oil sales again, but to no avail. Having signed major deals with international petroleum firms in 2009, the Oil Ministry feels no urgency to give in to Kurdish demands. The Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani is likely to be replaced under a new government anyway, so it’s probably best to hold off on the issue until a new premier and minister are seated and they decide on their energy policy. Until then the KRG will just have to wait.


Kamal, Fatima, “Iraqi Kurds refuse to cooperate with Oil Ministry on oil exports,” Azzaman, 9/17/10

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iraq Produced 900,000 Fewer Barrels Of Oil In August 2010

Iraq released full statistics for its August 2010 oil production. In total, the country had an output of 55.4 million barrels last month. That earned $3.9 billion at an average price of $71.43 per barrel. That was an increase from July when a barrel went for $71.21, but Iraq produced 900,000 fewer barrels in August, resulting in approximately $100 million in lost profits.

Iraq's oil industry has been declining since the end of 2009. In December the country produced 61.3 million barrels. That dropped to a low of 53.0 million in April, before recovering a little to 58.7 million in May. In the next three months it produced less than that amount. This is part of the fluctuations that have occurred since 2003 with output constantly going up and down every couple months due to technical problems, bottlenecks, and attacks. At the same time, prices have been dropping since reaching a yearly high of $79.66 in April 2010. For the last three months a barrel of Iraqi crude has been going for just around $71. This temporary stagnation has been caused by concerns about the world economy.

Iraq currently lacks the infrastructure and know how to boost output. It's hoping that the oil deals that it signed in 2009 with international companies will eventually quadruple production. That will be a gargantuan task as Iraq's petroleum business is in such a poor state after years of wars and sanctions. That's the reason why many believe Iraq's progress will be much slower than what the Oil Ministry is hoping for, and it may never reach the levels it has set for itself.

Monthly Earnings/Prices/Total Production
Month Total Oil Earnings Price Per Barrel Total Oil Production 
Dec. 09 $4.4 bil $73.39 61.3 mil bar 
Jan. 10 $4.4 bil $73.9759.7 mil bar 
Feb. $4.2 bil $73.40 57.9 mil bar 
Mar. $4.3 bil $76.20 57.1 mil bar 
Apr. $4.2 bil $79.66 53.0 mil bar 
May $4.3 bil $73.85 58.7 mil bar 
Jun. $3.8 bil $71.10  54.7 mil bar 
Jul. $4.0 bil $71.21 56.3 mil bar 
Aug. $3.9 bil $71.43 55.4 mil bar


Agence France Presse, "Iraq oil exports slightly down in August: ministry," 9/23/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Rumors And Innuendo About A New Iraqi Government

Iraqi politics continue to be plagued by conflicting statements and rumors. There are reports that Prime Minister Norui al-Maliki and his State of Law are shoring up support for his return to power. At the same time there are stories that the National Alliance and the National Movement will refuse to join any coalition led by Maliki.

First, there are articles about Maliki’s imminent return to power. National Public Radio said that the prime minister is shoring up his support both within and without the country. Maliki has the backing of both the United States and Iran, and perhaps Syria as well. A member of State of Law also told Aswat al-Iraq that Maliki would win the nomination of the National Coalition made up of the premier’s list and the Supreme Council-Sadrist led National Alliance soon. 

At the exact same time the National Alliance and Iyad Allawi’s National Movement have expressed their continued opposition to Maliki. A wisemen committee made up of 14 members, seven each from the State of Law and National Alliance is supposed to decide on the coalition’s nomination for the premiership. The choice is between Maliki and current Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. A member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) however, said that they and the Sadrists would not follow the committee’s decision if they chose Maliki because of his autocratic tendencies. The National Movement also issued a statement saying that they would not join any government headed by the current premier. They claimed that Maliki had been trying to undermine them, and that the National Coalition was sectarian. Ironically, Allawi’s list went on to say that it would continue talks with the National Alliance, the more sectarian Shiite list within the National Coalition.

With Ramadan over, many analysts believed that Iraq’s politicians would finally get around to forming a new government. Instead, it appears like that might still be weeks off. There has been little actual movement besides the nomination of Vice President Mahdi by the National Alliance in early September 2010. Otherwise the various lists have just been posturing, and providing a never ending series of leaks to the media about scenarios that don’t pan out. As ever, the main hold up is the opposition of the National Alliance and National Movement to a second term for Maliki, as well as State of Law’s refusal to allow him to be replaced by Allawi. As long as the two refuse to budge, there will be no progress in Iraqi politics.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Reports on preliminary agreement inside National Coalition on nominating al-Maliki,” 9/24/10

CNN, “Key Iraqi bloc won’t participate in a government led by current PM,” 9/25/10

Ibrahim, Haider, “Coalition parties refuse to back Maliki if his candidature wins internal vote,” AK News, 9/20/10

McEvers, Kelly, “Support For Iraq’s Maliki Puts U.S., Iran In Same Camp,” NPR, 9/20/10

Monday, September 27, 2010

Anbar Awakening Angered By Move To Fire And Demote Local Police

The Washington Post reported on September 26, 2010 that the Interior Ministry has issued orders to fire or demote 410 policemen in Anbar province. One of the Deputy Interior Ministers said that the government is conducting a review of all the police in the country to see whether they are qualified or not. He said the police in question in Anbar didn’t graduate from any police academies, had no education, and were not approved by the Anbar provincial council. Their options were to quit or to be demoted to street police. 95 others in the governorate are going to be sent for training. In total, Anbar has around 30,000 police. The issue is politically sensitive because all of the policemen are from the Anbar Awakening, and were given jobs through the U.S. military.

Some of the police officers went to the offices of Sheikh Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening of Iraq political party that jointly controls the provincial council. Together they called on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reverse the Interior Ministry’s order, calling it sectarian.

In 2005 tribes in Anbar began turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq. By 2006 these forces had coalesced into the Anbar Awakening. They eventually began receiving American aid, and thousands were recruited into the local police force. In Ramadi, one of the hotbeds of the insurgency, 400 tribesmen joined the police in November 2006, followed by 1,000 in December, and another 800 in January 2007. By March it was reported that 6,000 Awakening fighters were in the province’s security forces, with another 2,500 in Emergency Response Units. Some were sent for training, but others were not. This was all part of an American strategy to divide the Sunni population from the foreign led Islamists, and to create an indigenous police force. The move was welcomed at the time by Baghdad, who saw the Awakening as an Iraqi creation.

Since almost all of the police in Anbar are from tribes, the number the Interior Ministry wants to reassign is so small, and the government has never been opposed to the Awakening, it’s hard to see the move as a political one. In fact, the Interior Minister Jawad Bolani ran with Sheikh Abu Risha in the Unity of Iraq list in the March 2010 election. The real question seems to be why can’t the 410 Anbar policemen be sent to a police academy since 95 others are already headed there. The move also comes at a time when Al Qaeda and other insurgents are trying to assert themselves with renewed attacks to coincide with the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The Ministry’s order then can only create tensions in the province at a sensitive time, and should be reconsidered.


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

Fadel, Leila, “Iraq’s Awakening stripped of their police ranks,” Washington Post, 9/26/10

Fletcher, Martin, “Fighting back: the city determined not to become al-Qaeda’s capital,” Times of London, 11/20/06

Hassan, Hussein, “Iraq: Tribal Structure, Social, and Political Activities,” Congressional Research Service, 3/15/07

Kagan, Kimberly, “The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from Its Stronghold in Western Iraq,” Institute For The Study of War and, 4/3/07

Kukis, Mark, “Turning Iraq’s Tribes Against Al-Qaeda,” Time, 12/26/06

Partlow, Joshua, “Sheiks Help Curb Violence in Iraq’s West, U.S. Says,” Washington Post, 1/27/07

Pitman, Todd, “Sunni Sheiks Join Fight Vs. Insurgency,” Associated Press, 3/25/07

Tyson, Ann Scott, “A Deadly Clash at Donkey Island,” Washington Post, 8/19/07

Wong, Edward, “An Iraqi Tribal Chief Opposes the Jihadists, and Prays,” New York Times, 3/3/07

F-16 Fighter Deal For Iraq Progressing

The commander of Iraq’s Air Force recently said that negotiations with the United States for 18 F-16 fighter jets worth $4.2 billion is 75% complete. Baghdad put in the request for the planes in March 2010. In July it was announced that ten pilots would begin training on the fighters, and in mid-September three T-6 training planes arrived in Iraq from the United States to be used for further preparation. Baghdad ordered a batch of T-6s in August 2009, and received the first planes in December. Washington is moving ahead with the deal despite the objections of Kuwait and the Kurds, who are both worried that the planes will be used against them. The acquisition of the fighters would be a major step towards Iraq being able to defend itself from foreign threats.


Arabian Aerospace, “Iraq and Morocco deploy T-6 Trainers,” 7/20/10

Arraf, Jane, “Iraq border concerns spur effort to integrate Kurdish and Iraqi Army forces,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/23/10

Ibrahim, Haidar, “American fighter planes to arrive in Baghdad soon,” AK News, 9/25/10

Najm, Hayder, “iraq’s soldiers not ready to take over security,” Niqash, 8/19/10

Sly, Liz, “Iraq needs help defending its borders after U.S. troops leave in 2011,” Los Angeles Times, 8/12/10

Trimble, Stephen, “Iraq offered new F-16s with older missiles,” Flightglobal, 9/24/10

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SOTALIRAQ CARTOON: Integrity In Iraq "Empty," Corruption "Full"

Driving Iraq: Integrity Gauge On "Empty," Corruption Gauge On "Full"

Source: Sotaliraq, 9/21/10

Iraq Postpones Natural Gas Auction, Again

Iraq’s Oil Ministry has postponed its auction of three natural gas fields for a second time. Originally, the Akkas, Mansuriya, and Siba fields were to be auctioned on September 1, 2010, but that was delayed until October 1 to get more companies interested. That has now been pushed back again to October 20 because the Ministry claims that eight companies have asked to study the auction. The Ministry claims that 45 firms will partake in the October event, but that’s actually incorrect. Baghdad said that all the companies that bid in the two oil auctions in 2010 will be eligible to bid for the natural gas fields, but in reality, only 13 companies have actually paid participation fees. The last two to do so were Italy’s Eni and Japan’s Mitsubishi. Others include Italy’s Edison, France’s Total, South Korea’s KOGAS, and Russia’s TNK-BP.

The three fields have an estimated reserve of 11.23 trillion cubic feet of gas. Akkas is located in Anbar, Mansuriya is in Diyala, and Siba is in Basra. The first two were put up for auction in 2009, but only one company bid on Akkas, and that was rejected.

The Oil Ministry and energy companies have been concerned about this round of bidding because of the lack of natural gas infrastructure in the country. Baghdad is offering the foreign firms the right to export as an inducement. The problem is that there are no gas pipelines to other countries, plus Iraq lacks adequate storage facilities, roads, etc. within the country to support the industry.

Since a number of companies have taken the leap and agreed to Iraq’s terms over petroleum fields, the Oil Ministry may be more successful this time around with its natural gas fields. Iraq has an estimated 112 trillion cubic feet worth of natural gas, the 11th largest in the world, but the industry is completely underdeveloped. If the three fields did get winning bids, it would be the latest step in Iraq’s attempt to regain its standing in the world energy business after years of isolation.


Aswat al-Iraq, “45 companies to take part in gas field auction in October – spokesman,” 9/20/10

Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq delays gas auction, more firms join race,” Reuters, 9/19/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Iraqi Government Banned Electricity Protests

On June 19, 2010 thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Basra, protesting the lack of electricity. They marched to the provincial council building, started throwing objects and setting small fires, which prompted the security forces to fire into the air. In the ensuing clashes two civilians were killed. Demonstrations then spread to Dhi Qar, Anbar, Wasit, and Diyala, and then everything ended. It wasn’t until August that another protest broke out in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, which again led to a showdown with the police. Human Rights Watch has now revealed why Iraq quieted down after June, the Interior Ministry and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued strenuous restrictions on any public assemblies meant to block any repeat of Basra. 

In late June 2010 the Interior Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office moved to stop any more demonstrations in Iraq. First, on June 25, the Ministry of Interior issued new regulations meant to limit public gatherings. They required organizers to get written approval from both the Interior Ministry and a provincial governor, and then ask for an application from the local police 72 hours before any planned protest. The Ministry also gave orders to the police to use whatever force necessary against any protests that turned violent. Around the same time the Prime Minister also put out a secret order telling the Interior Ministry to refuse permits for any planned march about the lack of services within the country. This all happened despite the Iraqi constitution protecting freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstrations.

The security forces also went after protest leaders. After the march in Basra, two organizers were arrested. A few days later an Iraqi Army unit raided the house of another organizers who was not home at the time. The soldiers detained two of his sons, and said they would not be released until the demonstration leader turned himself in. The deputy head of the Basra provincial council condemned the security forces for these actions, and claimed they had been called upon to stop.

It wasn’t until two months later that Iraqis went back to the street in an unauthorized protest. On August 21, around 200 people marched in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar against the lack of electricity again, which led to clashes with the police, water cannons being used, 40 arrests, 16 wounded, and a curfew being imposed on the city. The authorities went out a few days before warning people to stay home, but that didn’t deter them. No other demonstrations have been reported since then, despite no improvement in the power supply, so overall the new rules appear to be working.

The electricity protests that started in June 2010 sent a shiver down the spine of Baghdad. Politicians were caught up in the endless negotiations to form a new government when thousands of Iraqis in several cities across the country demanded better services. There was no way to improve the power supply, and Iraq’s leaders were not use to responding to the public. The authorities response then was predictable ban any further marches. The question is whether this was done because there was a political vacuum at the time, or because Iraq’s elite has no tolerance for public demonstrations that are critical of them. If it's the former than this was a temporary situation, but if it's the latter than some of Iraq's newfound rights exist only on paper.


Associated Press, “Iraqi riot police turn water cannons on protesters as anger spreads over outages,” 6/21/10

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Stop Blocking Demonstrations,” 9/17/10

Al-Shalchi, Hadeel and Juhi, Bushra, “Anger over power cuts leads to violence in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/19/10

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why The Iraqi Budget Is Not Accurate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently did a study of Iraq's spending and came to the conclusion that its budget numbers are not reliable. The major reason is because every year the government spends several billion outside the official budget. From 2005 to September 2009 Iraq made $40.3 billion in advances. That meant while Baghdad reported a $52.1 billion surplus from 2005-2009, it actually ran a deficit the last two years after accounting for the advances. In 2009 for example, Iraq had a $2.2 billion surplus from its $46.8 billion budget, but ended up with a $7.1 billion deficit after advances. Even then, the Board of Supreme Audit, Iraq's main financial watchdog, warned that the government couldn't accurately account for those extra expenditures. In a study of the 2005 budget for example, the Board found that not all the advances were settled at the end of the year, but they were counted as spent anyway, the government didn't follow its own rules in executing the spending, and warned of misappropriations. That's another reason why the official budget numbers are meaningless. Not only are there large amounts of extra spending, those expenditures are not accurately recorded either. The government is supposed to be working on these problems, but it'll probably take years to fix if ever.

Estimated Budget Surplus

$27.0 bil$32.7 bil$43.6 bil$67.2 bil$46.8 bil$217.3 bil
$20.6 bil$25.0 bil$31.2 bil$65.1 bil$44.5 bil$177.4 bil
Surplus$6.4 bil$7.7 bil$12.4 bil$11.1 bil$2.2 bil$52.1 bil

Estimated Accumulated Advances
2004$6.4 billion
2005$10.0 billion
2006$11.9 billion
2007$16.7 billion
2008:$30.4 billion
To Sep. 2009$40.3 billion

Predicted Iraq Deficits, Actual Surplus, Adjusted Surplus/Deficit
Source: Government Accountability Office
Iraq's Estimated Adjusted Surplus
Estimated Budget Surplus$52.1 billion
Estimated Accumulated Advances$40.3 billion
Estimated Adjusted Surplus$11.8 billion


United States Government Accountability Office, "Iraqi-U.S. Cost-Sharing Iraq Has a Cumulative Budget Surplus, Offering the Potential for Further Cost-Sharing," September 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Iraq’s Petroleum Revenue Is Being Distributed Without A New Oil Law

One complaint often made about Iraq, its reconciliation process, and oil industry is the fact that it has not passed a natural resource law that would provide an equitable distribution of its petroleum revenues, which account for 90% of the government’s money. What this argument ignores is the fact that Article 112 of the Iraqi Constitution states:

"First: The federal government, with the producing governorates and regional government, shall undertake the management of oil and gas extracted from present fields, provided that it distributes its revenue in a fair manner in proportion to the population distribution in all parts of the country."

This requirement that the provinces be given a budget according to their population has been followed every year since 2005 when the constitution was passed. In 2009 for example, Anbar with the sixth largest population outside of the three Kurdish governorates, got the sixth largest budget. Muthanna, with the smallest population outside of Kurdistan, received the smallest outlay.

Provinces: Population – 2009 Provincial Budgets
1. Baghdad: 6,995,000 - $551 million
2. Ninewa: 2,820,000 - $236 million
3. Basra: 2,408,000 - $201 million
4. Sulaymaniya: 2,159,800 – Kurdistan N/A
5. Irbil: 1,845,200 – Kurdistan N/A
6. Dhi Qar: 1,687,000 - $143 million
7. Babil: 1,574,000 - $134 million
8. Anbar: 1,427,000 - $112 million
9. Diyala: 1,323,000 - $104 million
10. Salahaddin: 1,158,000 - $97 million
11. Tamim: 1,129,000 - $99 million
12. Najaf: 1,113,000- $93 million
13. Wasit: 1,056,000 - $91 million
14. Qadisiyah: 1,033,000 - $86 million
15. Maysan: 944,000 - $80 million
16. Karbala: 902,000 - $78 million
17. Muthanna: 650,000 - $56 million
18. Dohuk: 616,600 – Kurdistan N/A

The 2010 budget also includes special provisions for oil producing provinces, and those with religious sites. This year the central government will pay each governorate that produces petroleum $1 per barrel. $20 will also be given for each foreign visitor traveling to a province, which is aimed at Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad, and Salahaddin that have famous Islamic shrines visited by thousands of pilgrims annually. This was included in the legislation in part to appease complaints from the south that produces the vast majority of Iraq’s oil, but who feels like it is not benefiting enough from their natural wealth.

Since 2005 Baghdad has been following the constitution and providing each province with funding based upon their population. Oil producing governorates are also getting extra money this year. Since almost all of Iraq’s revenue comes from petroleum it can be said that profits from that industry are being distributed throughout the country. How a new hydrocarbon law would affect that is unknown, but it would seem that complaints that one not being passed is holding up oil money being distributed are misplaced.


Bender, David, “Iraq oil and its future,” The Call, Foreign Policy, 8/24/10

Iraqi Constitution, 2005

Ricks, Thomas, “Did the Iraqi surge succeed?” Best Defense, Foreign Policy, 7/26/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Iraq’s Oil Exports Continue To Decline In August 2010

Iraq’s Oil Ministry released preliminary numbers on its exports for August 2010 and they showed another decline. In August, the country exported an average of 1.788 million barrels of crude a day. That compared to 1.820 barrels in July. The cause for the drop was three disruptions in the northern pipeline. On August 20 the line ruptured in Ninewa along a section that had been bombed in the past. The repairs took nine days. On August 11 Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) blew up the line in Turkey. Earlier in the month there was another technical problem as well.

Overall, output for foreign markets has been going down since the beginning of the year. In February 2010 Iraq hit a yearly high of 2.068 million barrels a day in exports. That then went down to an average of 1.840 million barrels in March, 1.767 million in April, before recovering a little to 1.890 million in May, and then dropping again for the next three months to 1.823 million barrels in June, 1.820 million barrels in July, and finally 1.788 million in August.

This has followed the trend in Iraq’s oil industry since the 2003 invasion with exports continually going up and down. At the beginning of 2009 for example, output climbed from an average of 1.77 million barrels a day in February to 2.04 million barrels a day in July before dipping for the next six month until it reached the 2 million mark again in February 2010. Technical problems, attacks, and bottlenecks have traditionally been the reasons for the ebb and flow in production. 


Alsumaria, “Blast hits oil pipeline on Iraq borders,” 8/11/10

Agence France Presse, “Iraq oil revenue dip despite record exports,” 3/23/10

Associated Press, “Iraq’s Oil Exports Dip in March by 11 Percent,” 4/20/10
- “Iraq’s Oil Exports Inch Up in May by About 7.4 Pct,” 6/22/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Turkey-bound pipeline repair starts – source,” 8/21/10

Bloomberg, “Iraq oil exports via Turkey resume after blast,” 8/22/10

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 12/2/09
- “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 1/13/10
- “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 5/5/10
- “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 9/8/10

Hafidh, Hassan, “Iraq August Oil Exports -1.7% On Month At 1.788 Million B/D Official,” Dow Jones, 9/14/10
- “Iraq Dec Oil Exports Up 4% On Month At 1.977 Million B/D,” Dow Jones, 1/4/10
- “Iraq July Oil Exports -0.16% On Month At 1.820 Million B/D – Official,” Dow Jones 8/9/10
- “Iraq June Oil Exports -4% On Month At 1.823 Million Bbl – Ministry,” Dow Jones, 7/26/10
- “Iraq Oil Flow To Turkey On Hold Since Sunday – Shipper,” Dow Jones, 8/30/10

Reuters, “Iraq oil exports rise in Feb to 2.083 mln bpd,” 2/28/10
- “Iraq oil exports surge to 1.9mbpd,” 6/1/10

Monday, September 20, 2010

Amnesty International 2010 Report On Prisoner Abuse In Iraq

Amnesty International released a report in September 2010 documenting the rampant abuses going on within Iraq’s prisons. Iraqi penal codes bar arbitrary arrests, require that suspects see an investigative judge within 24 hours of their detention, and bans torture. None of these laws are being followed. On the other hand, the Iraqi legal system is largely based upon confessions, which encourages torture and mistreatment to gain one. Iraqi officials regularly announce cases of abuse as a result, but investigations lead nowhere, and no senior officials have ever been held accountable. Amnesty International believes this has created a culture of impunity, which will be hard to break.

Amnesty estimates that around 30,000 people are currently being held in Iraq without a trial. The majority are Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. There are hundreds of Shiites as well, most of which are followers of Moqtada al-Sadr. Many of the jails and prisons they are in are overcrowded, and lack basic services. Detainees often aren’t allowed to contact their family members, and let them know where they are, nor receive visits. The facilities are split between the Justice, Interior, and Defense Ministries. The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry in its 2009 annual report said that it had not been able to inspect most of these prisons.

Detainees in these facilities are routinely denied lawyers. This happens despite Iraq’s penal code, which requires legal representation. Some lawyers don’t want to represent suspected terrorists, while others fear reprisals if they do. The most common reason why no legal representation is provided is because prisoners are held incommunicado, and no one knows where they are. In 2009 the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry reported that this was routine in Defense and Interior Ministry run prisons.

The lack of lawyers during questioning also encourages torture and abuse. Amnesty has heard of rape, beatings, suspension in the air, electric shock, breaking bones, removing toenails, asphyxiation, making people sit on sharp objects like broken bottles, and using drills. Two examples in 2009 came from parliament’s Human Rights Committee who started investigating the case of two women who claimed they were repeatedly raped after they were arrested, while other lawmakers said that security forces had raped more than 21 male prisoners in Baghdad and Qadisiyah. Torture often occurs right after arrest as authorities seek a confession. Police or intelligence officers usually carry out interrogations instead of investigative judges as stipulated by law, which also increases the chances of abuse and torture. Last year, the Human Rights Ministry documented 574 allegations of torture. Amnesty believes the real number is much higher, since the ministry’s access to prisoners is extremely limited.

The Iraqi security forces have also used arrests to extort money from families. In November 2009 the Interior Ministry’s Counter-Terrorism Unit arrested Dr. Adnan al-Mahdawi, Dean of Education at the University of Diyala in Baquba. The unit claimed a colleague’s wife charged Mahdawi with involvement in her husband’s death. After Mahdawi was picked up, a member of the Counter-Terrorism Unit called up his family and demanded money in return for his release. They said they couldn’t pay, and Mahdawi has been locked up ever since. In early 2010 he went to court, but the accusing wife never showed up, and the trial is still on going.

Secret prisons also exist within Iraq. In April 2010 one such facility was discovered at the Muthanna airport in Baghdad. It held more than 400 prisoners, many of which were Sunnis rounded up in and around Mosul in late 2009 that had been tortured. The prison was under the direct control of the prime minister’s office, that subsequently claimed that it was not secret, and judges and lawyers had both gone there. An investigation was launched, but nothing has been heard of it since then, which is also common.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is no better. It holds hundreds of suspected terrorists from the Islamist terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, as well followers of the legal political parties the Kurdistan Islamic Movement and the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The Kurds have also arrested Sunni Arabs outside of Kurdistan in provinces such as Ninewa and taken them to the KRG, and has been rounding up Kurds and holding them in secret jails since at least the 1990s. Many of these detainees are being held without trial, because officials claim they don’t fall under Iraqi or Kurdish laws. Amnesty believes it’s because the authorities don’t want them to go to court, and would rather imprison them indefinitely.

At the end of February 2008 Iraq’s parliament passed an Amnesty Law, meant to address the overflowing prison population. Each province was to create a judicial committee that was supposed to release anyone held for six months without seeing an investigative judge or who had not been sent to court after a year. In practice the law has largely been ignored. Prisoners have not been released after committees have said they should be, and the majority of those receiving amnesty are suspects wanted for questioning or out on bail, rather than actual prisoners. U.S. officials have claimed that Iraq’s outdated and bureaucratic judicial system, lack of computers, judges who don’t want to release people, and the inability of officials to safely travel in parts of the country are the reasons why the Amnesty Law has not been applied. Another possible reason is that the law was simply passed as a political act to make it look like Baghdad was moving towards reconciliation, and to relieve pressure from Washington, with no intention of really applying it.

Amnesty’s September report is just the latest on abuses going on within Iraq. Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and the State Department have all made similar findings. As soon as an interim government was created in Iraq in mid-2004 stories (1) of abuse and torture began to emerge. As ever, the main causes have been the drive for a confession, the isolation many prisoners are held in, and the absence of lawyers and judges. Amnesty International called for a number of reforms by the Iraqis, and for the United States to exert pressure on Baghdad to solve these problems. The on-going insurgency, which leads to a constant flow of prisoners being rounded up, the country’s history of abuse that dates back to the Saddam era, and the lack of interest by three Iraqi administrations since the 2003 invasion points to little progress being made on this issue.


1. Edmonson, George, “Iraq routinely torturing prisoners, group says,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26/05


Amnesty International, “New order, same abuses: Unlawful detentions and torture in Iraq,” September 2010

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor, “2009 Human Rights Report: Iraq,” U.S. State Department, 3/11/10

Edmonson, George, “Iraq routinely torturing prisoners, group says,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26/05

Knowlton, Brian, “U.S. alleges rights abuses by Iraqis,” San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1/05

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

UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, “Human Rights Report 1 January – 30 June 2008,” December 2008

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rumor: Supreme Council-National Movement-Kurdish Coalition To Form New Government

The Iraqi press has begun to talk about a new possible ruling coalition that would break the current deadlock. The main parties involved would be the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and the Kurdish Coalition. According to the media current Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the SIIC would become premier, the presidency would go to Allawi, and the Kurdish Coalition would get the speaker of parliament. There would be one vice president, which would require new legislation to create since the current tripartite presidency is due to expire when a new government is formed. That post would be offered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law. There would also be three deputy prime ministers, which would be divided between State of Law, the National Movement, and the Kurds. 

Allegedly the major parties involved have also agreed to a formula to divide up the major ministries as well. The National Movement would receive nine, State of Law seven, the National Alliance and Kurdish Coalition four a piece, the Iraqi Accordance Front two, and the Communist Party, Christians, and Yazidis one each. The Defense and Interior Ministries would be given to independents. The Foreign Ministry would go to a Sunni of the National Movement in an effort to re-integrate Iraq into the Arab world. The Kurds would control the Oil Ministry, and either the National Alliance of State of Law would get the Ministry of Finance.

There are two contentious points in the proposed deal. First the Supreme Council is supposedly joining this coalition on its own, not as part of the National Alliance. This is to exclude the Sadrists, who are said to be promoting former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari or Iraqi National Congress head Ahmad Chalabi as alternatives to Mahdi within the List. It’s also been said that Sadr is asking for the end of the State of Forces Agreement with the U.S., and either the Interior or Defense Ministries, which no one is willing to give him. Washington has also been pushing to keep the Sadrists out of any new government because it considers them Tehran’s closest allies in Iraq. The Americans are against the SIIC for the same reason as well. The other major problem is that the plan would require changes in the constitution. When a new government is put together the presidency will lose its veto power and be reduced to a ceremonial position, while there will be no more vice presidents. The new regime idea calls for giving the president’s post powers again to appease Allawi, and creating a vice president post that could be offered to Maliki.

On the other hand, there are incentives for the major lists involved to agree to this proposal. The National Alliance and Kurds will recognize the National Movement as the winner of the election, which is what they have been calling for all along, and Allawi will get a newly empowered presidency. The Supreme Council will get the top post in the country, the premiership, and be able to break away from the Sadrists who they were afraid of being eclipsed by since they won the majority of seats within the National Alliance. The Kurdish Coalition will get the speaker of parliament that is more influential than the presidency, and the Oil Ministry, which will end their conflict with Baghdad over petroleum exploration and exports. Both the National Alliance and National Movement have been opposed to Maliki’s return to the premiership, and this will plan will marginalize him by either giving him a minor position or pushing him into the opposition. Some of the smaller parties, even the Communists who did not win a seat in the new legislature, will be included as well. Together, the Supreme Council with 17 seats, the National Movement with 91, and the Kurds with 57 will have 165 total, two more than is necessary to have a majority in the 325 member parliament. If the Accordance Front, Christians, and Yazidis were also included that would give them twelve more seats. The question now is whether this story has any legs or if it is just the latest rumor running through Iraq’s political class.


AK News, “INA threaten to join al-Iraqiya if Maliki insists on his candidacy,” 9/18/10
- “The three presidencies distributed among the main forces, source,” 9/17/10

Alsumaria, “Sadrists intend buoying Jaafari and Chalabi,” 9/17/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Deal reached to have Abdulmahdi as PM, Allawi as president – Iraqiya,” 9/17/10

Inside Iraq, “Iraq’s Election results,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/26/10

MEMRI Staff, “A New Government in Iraq – Signs of a Breakthrough,” 9/17/10
- “Iraq Votes – Part XI,” 3/29/10

Roads To Iraq, “The new “hope-scenario” in details,” 9/18/10

Visser, Reidar, “The Sadrist Watershed Confirmed,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 3/29/10
- “The Seriously Time-Consuming Scenario,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/17/10

Friday, September 17, 2010

Iraq’s Finances Are A Wreck

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in September 2010 trying to determine whether Iraq had a surplus, and if it did whether that money could be spent on security. The GAO estimated that Baghdad had accumulated an $11.8 million adjusted surplus. That was no surprise, as Iraq has never spent all its money since 2005 when it got back its sovereignty from the United States. The real revelation of the GAO study was the fact that Iraq’s finances are a wreck, and the government doesn’t know where all its money is.

Each year the government has made advances on its spending, but it cannot fully account for them. From 2005 to 2009 the GAO found that Iraq had amassed a $52.1 billion surplus. At the same time, Baghdad claimed that it had $40.3 billion in advances, leaving an $11.8 billion adjusted surplus. The Board of Supreme Audit, the main financial oversight organization, found that the authorities didn’t fully report all of their advances, and that some of the money might have been misappropriated. A report by the Board on the 2005 budget for example, claimed that at the end of the fiscal year not all the advances were settled, but they were counted as spent anyway. It also reported that the government didn’t follow rules when executing the advances. The GAO, going through Iraq’s 2005-2009 records, couldn’t determine the nature of 40% of the spending, which was listed as “other temporary advances.” Iraqi officials would not provide any more details about them.

Another problem was that the government couldn’t keep track of all of its deposits. The GAO found that by December 2009 Baghdad had $15.3-$32.2 billion in the Central Bank of Iraq, the Development Fund for Iraq in New York City, and state owned banks. The range of money was due to a discrepancy between what the Central Bank reported to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and what the Ministry of Finance reported. The latter said that it there was $32.2 billion in government funds in the banks, but only $15.3 billion of it was free to be used on spending because the rest belonged to state-owned enterprises, trusts, and pensions. The Central Bank reported no such obligations to the IMF.

In addition, Baghdad said that it had shifted some of its money between the different banks in 2009, but this was not shown in the records. The Central Bank said that the government had transferred $10.3 billion from it to the state-owned Rafidain and Rasheed banks. There was no paper trail of this transaction however. In fact, the government accounts showed a $1.7 billion increase in its deposits with the Central Bank. The Department of Defense claimed that advances made that year could have accounted for the $10.3 billion, but the GAO didn’t find any correlation between the two. The previous year the Ministry of Finance showed a $1.8 billion deficit after advances, while government deposits in banks increased from $29.4 billion to $41.1 billion.

Finally, an independent audit of the state-run Rafidain Bank said that it could not account for its money. The private company Ernst and Young found that the bank could not validate its accounts or financial statements. At the end of 2008 the bank didn’t have records covering $11 billion, and $800 million in 2009. An earlier audit of the Rasheed bank found the same problems.

What the GAO revealed is that Iraq does not know how much it’s spending, how much of a surplus it has, nor where all its money is. That means the budget numbers are largely meaningless because of all the extra spending going on. Reporting on those advances is not trustworthy either. The lack of accountability is probably a major contributing factor to the massive fraud and corruption going on within the government, since no one seems to know where all the money is going. Since Iraq has an antiquated, paper-based bureaucracy that lacks the capacity to handle all of its expenditures, this could’ve been predicted. Under an agreement with the IMF the Iraqi government is supposed to be addressing some of these issues. The question is how effective will the measures be. In all likelihood Baghdad is probably years away from having a competent civil service that can keep track of all its accounts. Until then, Iraq will have to assume that it has money in the bank, it just won’t know how much, nor where all the funds are.  


United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi-U.S. Cost-Sharing Iraq Has a Cumulative Budget Surplus, Offering the Potential for Further Cost-Sharing,” September 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Iraqi Deaths Continue To Climb In 2010

While the Associated Press has not published its count for Iraqi deaths for August 2010, the other three organizations that follow casualties show that they continue to climb this year. Iraq Body Count had deaths going up from 418 in July to 501 in August, while icasualties and Iraq's ministries had declines from 534 to 363 and 535 to 426 respectively. When the four groups' numbers are averaged out they show a steady increase. January 2010 saw an average of 6.1 Iraqis killed per day, one of the lowest counts since the war began. That went to 10.1 in February, 8.7 in March, 10.7 in April, 10.3 in May, 9.4 in June, 14.8 in July, and 13.8 in August. 2010 could end up like 2009 when deaths increased in the first part of the year, and then slowly declined beginning in the Autumn.

Click on image for larger view

The increase in average deaths is due to an up-tick in attacks by insurgents in response to the American withdrawal. Security incidents leveled off at the end of 2009, but there has been a spike in the last several weeks as U.S. forces dipped below 50,000. These operations have been punctuated by a number of high profile, mass casualty attacks such as the September 5 assault upon an Iraqi military headquarters in Baghdad, and shootings and bombings in 13 Iraqi cities on August 28, which were meant to garner headlines and show that the militants have outlasted the Americans.

Click on image for larger view
Source: Office of the Director of National Intelligence
 Security Incidents in Iraq 2004-2010

Click on image for larger view
Source: Office of the Director of National Intelligence 
 Security Incidents in Iraq mid-2007-2010

In the past, the insurgents have not been able to sustain these operations for more than a month at a time. If they are able to maintain their pace into September and casualties continue to increase that could mark an end to the ten-month long dip in attacks that have been the lowest since the war began. At the same time, if the average number of deaths and incidents stays at this level, they will only be at the rate of the first half of 2009, which is a fraction of what they were at the height of the conflict.

Monthly Death Counts
Month Iraq
Icasualties Iraqi
Avg. # Of
Deaths Per
Jan. 10 


CNN, "Hundreds of civilians killed in Iraqi violence in August," 9/1/10

Cordesman, Anthony, "Update On US Withdrawal From Iraq," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9/2/10

Iraq Body Count

Myers, Steven Lee, "Attack Shows Lasting Threat to U.S. in Iraq," New York Times, 9/5/10

Reuters, "Iraq civilian deaths dip as U.S. combat mission ends," 9/1/10

Shadid, Anthony, "Qaeda in Iraq Says It Was Behind Latest Attacks," New York Times, 8/28/10

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Refugee And Displaced Returns Have Slowed To Iraq

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have returned to their country. In the first three years of the conflict, many of those were people that had fled Saddam's dictatorship in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2005 a whole new set of people lost their homes due to the growing sectarian civil war. Beginning in 2008 many of those began to come home as well when security got better. That rate has slowed down considerably this year. The question is what has caused this change.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 1,272,726 Iraqis have returned since 2003. The majority, 808,730, have been internally displaced with just 463,996 refugees having made the trip. 2007 had the fewest returns at 81,420 due to the raging civil war, but that quickly picked up the following two years to 221,260 in 2008 and 204,830 in 2009 due to the improved security. From January to July 2010 however, only 79,490 have come back. If that rate were to be maintained the rest of the year, only around 141,000 would return.

Total Returns 2003-July 2010
2010 Jul. 

Refugee and displaced returns have been concentrated in specific provinces. In the last year most internal refugees have gone back to Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa, Babil, and Salahaddin. It's no coincidence that those have been the most violent areas of the country since 2003 due to their sectarian and political make-up. Baghdad, Diyala, and Babil for example, are all mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, while Salahaddin and Ninewa were Baathist and insurgent strongholds. Those coming back from other countries have mostly gone to Baghdad, Qadisiyah, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Maysan, Karbala, and Najaf. Qadisiyah, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Karbala, and Najaf are all majority Shiite governorates so many of the returnees there might have left Iraq under Saddam or earlier in the Iraq war when Shiite militias were fighting U.S. forces only to turn to exploiting their own people. Overall, Baghdad has seen the most displaced and refugees making the trip back because it has always been at the center of the conflict within the country and has the largest population.

What needs to be analyzed is why are fewer people returning this year. There are a couple possible answers. One is that the remaining number of Iraqis willing to come back is dwindling. All those that lost their homes were not expected to return. Many of Iraq's minorities for instance have been forced out, and they are not likely to come back because Baghdad has proven incapable of protecting them. Sunnis, who make up the majority of refugees, may feel uncomfortable with a government largely run by Shiites and Kurds, while Shiites, who are the largest group of displaced, could  have decided to stay where they are rather than return to mixed areas of the country where violence is still an issue. Still others may not have the means to leave where they currently reside. Another possibility is that aid agencies and neighboring countries have grossly overestimated the number of Iraq's displaced, and most have come back already. In Jordan, the government claims there are around 500,000 Iraqis, but a survey found only 161,000 and even fewer, 60,000, have registered with the UNHCR there. Syria says they have 1.5 million refugees, but other estimates have counted as few as 300,000. The International Organization for Migration cited political uncertainty following the March 2010 elections as another reason in an April report. Finally, there are questions about security, always a major reason for returns, with U.S. forces withdrawing and insurgents picking up mass casualty attacks. More data and polling is needed to figure out exactly why the number of refugees is declining.


International Crisis Group, "Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees In Syria, Jordan and Lebanon," 7/10/08

International Organization for Migration, "IOM Emergency Needs Assessments Four Years of Post-Samarra Displacement In Iraq," 4/13/10

Seeley, Nicholas, "In Jordan, aid for Iraqi refugees is often redirected," Christian Science Monitor, 7/2/08

UNHCR Iraq Operation, "Monthly Statistical Update on Return – July 2010," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, July 2010

This Day In Iraqi History - May 21 Treaty of Arzurum set line between Ottoman and Persian empires with Iraq as border area

  1847 Treaty of Arzurum tried to set border between Ottoman Empire and Persia Gave Sulaymaniya to Ottomans Shatt al-Ara...