Monday, January 31, 2011

Oil Production Remained Flat In 2010, But Revenues Were Up

Most of the numbers for Iraq's 2010 oil production have now been released. Overall output and exports have remained largely the same since 2008 because of aging infrastructure that is operating at capacity, bad weather, and occasional attacks upon the northern pipeline heading to Turkey. Despite the lack of growth in the industry for the last three years, Iraq has benefited from increasing oil prices in 2010 that boosted revenues.

2010 saw very little variation in output and exports. Production reached a high of 2.46 million barrels a day in January, and a low of 2.25 in March, while exports saw their highest mark in February at 2.05 million barrels, and the lowest in April at 1.80 million. For the year, Iraq averaged 2.36 million barrels a day in production, and 1.89 million barrels a day in exports. That was slightly down from 2009's marks of 2.40 million barrels in output and 1.90 million in foreign sales.

Prices for Iraqi crude rose and fell throughout the year. In January, a barrel went for $73.97. It then rose to $79.66 in April before dropping to around $71 from June to August. At the very end of the year, prices began to creep back up reaching an annual high of $86.31 in December. Since then, international prices have begun to decline in January.

Due to the rising prices Iraq earned more money last year than 2009. In June, Iraq earned the lowest monthly amount at $3.889 million. The highest revenue was in December with $5.222 million, coinciding with the highest price for the year. Overall the country earned $52.2 billion for the year, compared to $41.3 billion in 2009. That was despite the fact that Iraq produced a total of 689.9 million barrels of petroleum in 2010 compared to 695.5 million in 2009.

Recently, the Oil Ministry claimed that Iraq had reached a new post-invasion high in production due to the work of foreign oil companies. In January, 2011, Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi said that the nation was pumping 2.7 million barrels a day. That was due to a 20% increase in output from the Rumaila oil field, run by British Petroleum and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and a 45% boost at the Zubayr field, operated by Italy's Eni. West Qurna 1, which has a contract with Exxon Mobile also saw a modest rise. The Ministry is hoping to reach 3 million barrels a day by the end of the year. Energy analysts have stated that this should be possible, but Iraq's much larger goal of 12 million barrels a day by 2017 is impossible due to the lack of adequate resources and infrastructure in the country. Baghdad itself has begun to scale back its goals, with a more modest 8 million barrels goal. There are some experts that even question that mark due to how much time, money, work, and decisions Iraq has to go through to achieve a major boost in its output. In the end however, even more modest growth will provide Iraq with much higher revenues, which are desperately needed to develop the rest of the country.

2010 Oil Production - Exports
Jan. 2.46 - 1.92
Feb. 2.44 - 2.05
Mar. 2.25 - 1.84
Apr. 2.38 - 1.80
May 2.35 - 1.88
Jun. 2.41 - 1.86
Jul. 2.30 - 1.82
Aug. 2.32 - 1.82
Sep. 2.35 - 2.02
Oct. 2.35 - 1.91
Nov. 2.35 – 1.92
Dec. 2.41 – 1.95

Month Production (Mil/Bar)Revenue
Avg. Price Per Barrel 

2003-2010 Yearly Oil Production/Export Averages (Million Barrels Per Day)
2003 1.43/0.79
2004 2.25/1.47
2005 2.07/1.36
2006 2.12/1.50
2007 2.11/1.66
2008 2.41/1.84
2009 2.40/1.90
2010 2.36/1.89

Iraqi Oil Production/Exports 2003-2010


Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, "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, 12/15/10

Dow Jones, "UPDATE: Iraq 2010 Oil Exports Down 0.8% On Year –Oil Minister," 1/26/11

Hafidh, Hassan, "Iraq Now Oil Revenues At $4.618B, Year's Largest-Oil Ministry," Dow Jones, 12/23/10
- "Iraqi Oil Output Increases," Wall Street Journal, 1/8/11

Iraq Business News, "Iraq Oil Exports: 2011 Volume Down, Revenue Up," 1/27/11

Rasheed, Ahmed, "ANALYSIS-Tougher times ahead for oil firms in Iraq," Reuters, 1/24/11
- "UPDATE 2-Iraq plans 4th bidding round for gas contracts," Reuters, 1/2/10

Razzouk, Nayla, "Iraq's October Oil Export Revenue Reaches Highest Level in Year," Bloomberg, 11/26/10

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Complaints About Iraqi Prison Abuse

On January 23, 2011 the Los Angeles Times ran a story about a prison at Camp Honor in Baghdad. The paper claimed that the Baghdad Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Bureau ran the facility, both of which are under the direct control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It went on to say that prisoners were being held there incommunicado with no access to lawyers or their families. Both the premier and the Baghdad Brigade have been accused of holding and abusing political prisoners before.

In April 2010 the Los Angeles Times broke another story about a secret prison in Baghdad at the Muthanna Airport. 431 Sunni prisoners from Mosul were held there, and many of them were tortured. The interrogators came from the Baghdad Brigade, and the jail was under the control of the prime minister’s office. The Deputy Interior Minister denied the report, but he was from Maliki’s Dawa Party. Human Rights Watch interviewed some of the detainees, who related stories of rape, abuse, and torture at the prison. In October 2010 Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry sent a letter to the premier demanding that he shut down the secret prison for abuses, and stated that promises to fix the facility had not been followed.

The day after the Times broke the story about Camp Honor, the Deputy Justice Minister responded. He claimed the prison was under the control of Justice, and that the Red Cross and the Human Rights Ministry had visited the facility and found no abuses. He also said that families and lawyers could visit the prison. The Red Cross denied the deputy’s version of events, saying that they had requested to visit Camp Honor, but that their demands were not met, and therefore they had never gone there.

Iraq has a long history of torture and abuse. This dates back to the Saddam era, and the nature of the justice system, which relies upon confessions for prosecutions. The easiest way to obtain one is usually to beat one out of suspects. That has led to report after report about abuses by Iraqi security forces, as early as 2003 by the Americans, British, human rights groups, and even from within the Iraqi government itself. Despite U.S. efforts to change the police and courts to use evidence in their persecutions, the Iraqi system is unlikely to change any time soon. That will lead to continued reports like the two recent ones by the Los Angeles Times about prisons where detainees are cut off from the outside world, and beaten and abused.


Abboud, Assad, “Iraq minister denies prisoner abuse,” Agence France Presse, 1/24/11

Abdul-Ahad, Gaith, “Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq,” Guardian, 4/30/09

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

Parker, Ned, “Alleged abuse at Iraqi detention center prompts oversight concerns,” Los Angeles Times, 1/23/11

Friday, January 28, 2011

Iraq’s Housing Program Isn’t Panning Out

According to the Iraqi government and outside experts Iraq needs between 2-3 million new houses in the coming years. That’s largely due to a 3% annual population growth rate, and the hundreds of thousands of people displaced during the civil war. The problem is that Iraq doesn’t have the money to pay for that many units, and was hoping that with improved security, foreign investment would begin flowing into the country and help to meet this need. In early 2010 the National Investment Commission said it wanted bidders on 1 million new houses worth $50 billion. Since then the government has made several claims about contracts being signed, but nothing much has actually materialized.

By the 3rd quarter of 2010 Iraq claimed that it had signed deals with 35 international firms to build 1 million housing units, but little of that panned out. The government said companies had agreed to construct 244,000 units in Baghdad, 100,000 in Mosul, and 80,000 in Basra, amongst others. In May, after a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, authorities announced that Jordan’s Amwaj International would invest $238 million in houses and hotels. Nothing has happened since then. In September, the National Investment Commission told the media that it had closed deals with two United Arab Emirates construction companies for $66 billion. Since then, no contracts have been signed. In November, the Investment Commission proclaimed that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with a South Korean company for 500,000 housing units. The Korean company later denied that story. All of these examples highlight the bad habit that Baghdad has fallen into lately. It is increasingly releasing statements about deals being signed, development plans moving forward, etc., but then months later nothing becomes of them.

The press has reported several reasons for why companies have been stand-offish towards Iraq. One major problem is Iraq’s laws. In 2009 parliament passed a new bill to allow foreign investors to buy land. The legislation didn’t explain how prices were to be determined however. Officials claim that the cabinet is supposed to come up with rules for valuing plots for sales and rentals soon, but until then, the head of Baghdad’s Investment Commission said this issue is a major detriment to companies entering the Iraqi market. Other factors were the prolonged government formation process that is still not over ten months after parliamentary elections, corruption, security, and the lack of infrastructure.

That may mean that the government will have to rely upon itself to develop its housing industry. The Deputy Housing Minister said his ministry will allocate $230 million for housing in the 2011 budget. The Housing Fund is also supposed to build 15,000 new units, and the mayor of Baghdad claimed that $1.5 billion has been earmarked for housing as well. The new spending bill hasn’t been passed yet however, which means nothing can move forward on these plans yet. Even then, the amounts being talked about are a fraction of what the country needs.

Iraq’s infrastructure is still a mess after years of wars and sanctions. The government wants to turn the corner now that the civil war has ended, but investors outside of the energy sector have not been as enthusiastic about Iraq as hoped for. That hasn’t stopped Baghdad from announcing every negotiation it’s had, whether that leads to an actual deal or not. That may give the impression that progress is being made, and that the housing crunch will be addressed, but so far that hasn’t happened. Iraq’s ministries cannot handle this burden alone, so the laws and regulations have to be changed to encourage outside financing. This may take a lot longer than hoped for since the new cabinet hasn’t been finalized yet, and there are no committee heads yet in parliament either. Until then the country’s housing plans may be on hold.


Kami, Aseel, “Iraq needs billions to meet growing housing shortage,” Reuters, 1/12/11

Kami, Aseel and Benham, Jason, “Baghdad needs $100 billion for new homes: mayor,” Reuters, 11/29/10

The National, “Iraq housing foundations remain rocky,” 12/7/10

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

McClatchy VIDEO: Iraq's Oil Future

World News Video: Iraq: Harsh Living

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Iraq’s Public Sector Looks To Get Bigger In Effort To Fight Unemployment

The Iraqi government announced that its initial plan to fight unemployment in the 2011 fiscal year is to create more public employees. Azzaman newspaper reported that parliament wants to add 171,000 new jobs this year. 100,000 will be in the security forces, and the remaining 71,000 will be in the other ministries. There was an earlier story that the cabinet wanted to add 200,000 policemen just for Baghdad alone this year. These numbers are not only inadequate to counter the jobless rate, but they will only add more unnecessary workers to an already bloated government.

Currently over half of the Iraqi workforce is unemployed or underemployed. 25-27% of Iraqi workers are jobless, while underemployment is estimated at 33%. More importantly for the future, 240,000 new workers enter the job market each year, and those young people aged 15-29 have the highest unemployment rate at 57%.

Baghdad, and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund have all said that they want to develop the private sector in the country, but it appears that for now, the government is going to look to itself rather than businesses to try to create jobs. The government is already the largest employer in the country with 4 million workers, and in 2010 salaries and pensions took up 72% of the budget. The deputy Planning Minister criticized the plan saying that the authorities can’t create enough positions to adequately fight unemployment, and that 30% of public employees only work part-time to begin with. If the 2011 budget includes this idea it would only add more useless jobs to the inefficient public sector.


AK News, “200,000 Police to be Recruited in Baghdad,” Iraq Business News, 1/8/11

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

Hasan, Sarra, “Iraqi government to create 171,000 new jobs but unemployment still high,” Azzaman, 1/18/11

Iraq-Business News, “Transferring Iraq to a Private-Sector State as IMF applies conditions to grant,” 4/5/10

The Iraqi Dinar, “The Iraqi government for the first time reveals: Unemployment in Iraq, 27 percent and foreign debt 126 billion dollars?” 9/13/10

Nakhel News, Al-Mada, “Four Million Government Employees In Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 1/3/11

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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Was Responsible For Attacks Across Northern, Central, and Southern Iraq?

(New York Times)
In mid-January 2011 insurgents launched a series of high-profile attacks across Iraq. These took place in Salahaddin in the north, Diyala in the east, Baghdad in the center, and Karbala in the south. The bombings were all blamed upon Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Baathists, as usually happens, but in reality they were the work of several different groups.

The first attack took place on January 18 in Tikrit, Salahaddin. There a suicide bomber struck a police recruitment center. At the time, hundreds of men were lined up to apply for 2,000 new positions offered by the security forces. At 10 a.m. the insurgent set off his device, killing 54 and wounding 137

The next day insurgents targeted the security forces again, this time in Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala. This was another suicide attack, this time using an ambulance, which struck the Facilities Protection Service headquarters in the city. Five were killed, and 7 wounded, although another report said 12 died.

Militants then moved to Shiites participating in the pilgrimage to Imam Hussein’s tomb in Karbala. On December 19 a suicide car bomb went off amongst politicians and pilgrims outside of Baquba, Diyala. The target was likely the deputy head of the provincial council, Sadiq al-Husseini, who had stopped along the highway to great pilgrims heading for Baghdad. He, along with four of his bodyguards were all killed. The following day three car bombs went off near police checkpoints around Karbala. 52 ended up dead, with another 203 wounded. January 23 saw a bobby-trapped car go off next to a bus in Baghdad carrying Iranian pilgrims to Karbala, killing one and leaving eight wounded. January 24, eight were killed and 88 wounded when two bobby-trapped cars went off in two different sections of Karbala. Finally, on January 25 another bus, this time bringing people back from their pilgrimage, was bombed in Baghdad, wounding six.  

The question is who was responsible for all of these breaches in security? Local Iraqi officials immediately blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq and Baathists as the most likely culprits. Al Qaeda’s front group, the Islamic State of Iraq originally praised the Tikrit bombing, but did not claim responsibility. About a week later however, the Islamic State said that it was behind both the Tikrit and Baquba attacks upon the security forces on a jihadist forum. The change in stance might mean that the Islamists were simply trying to take credit for another group’s work. In actuality, a mix of different insurgents were probably behind the series of bombings. On January 22 for example, police arrested the head of a Sons of Iraq (SOI) unit and his deputy in Hamiyah, Babil for the three car bombings in Baghdad on January 20. The Islamic Army used to be one of the largest insurgent groups, but recently went through a series of divisions. The Army is an Islamist organization, mostly made up of former soldiers who have largely remained independent of Al Qaeda. A few days later, police arrested sixteen suspects behind the January 24 car bombings in Karbala. One was a local official from Iskandiriyah in Babil. A security source in Diyala also told the press that there were many militants active in the province including the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna, and the Naqshibandi Group, and Hizb al-Awda, both Baathist led organizations. 

The recent wave of attacks show the new phase of the insurgency. Al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq are still active, and were probably behind some of the bombings around the country, but today they are mostly in it for the publicity. Other groups made up of Islamists, former soldiers, and Baathists are more active in the day-to-day attacks that still plague Iraq. The arrest of the SOI members and local official in Babil, one of which was connected to the Islamic Army of Iraq, are a sign of this change. In total, 127 were killed and 512 wounded in just over a week. That makes it one of the bloodiest in recent months. Security incidents and casualties ebb and flow in Iraq, and militants were mostly taking advantage of the huge number of people traveling throughout the country to reach the Shiite shrine in Karbala, which happens nearly every year. There was no retaliation by militias, and attacks are likely to drop off until the next surge. These unfortunate events then, symbolize the current security situation in the country.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq nabs Sunni militiamen over Karbala attack,” 1/22/11

Ali, Rafid Fadhil, “Split in the Islamic Army of Iraq over Post-Occupation Strategy,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 11/4/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “3 armed groups pose greatest threat to Diala – source,” 1/22/11
- “Civilian killed, 8 injured in booby-trapped car blast against Iranian visitors in Iraq:,” 1/23/11
- “Eight killed, 88 wounded in two Karbala explosions,” 1/24/11
- “Iraq’s former Baath Party elements, al Qaeda, behind attacks in Karbala, MPs say:,” 1/22/11
- “Karbala blasts leave 28 killed, 203 wounded – medic,” 1/21/11
- “QRD arrests 16 gunmen involved in Karbala bombings,” 1/25/11
- “Six Iraqi civilians injured in explosive charge blast during their return from religious visit,” 1/25/11
- “Suicide attack leaves 45 casualties in Tikrit,” 1/18/11
- “Suicide bombing kills 2 visitors, injures 15 in Diala,” 1/19/11
- “Tikrit attack’s toll reaches 54 dead, 137 wounded,” 1/18/11

Al Dulaimy, Mohammed and Bengali, Shashank, “With U.S. forces set to go soon, Iraqi police step up,” McClatchy Newspapers, 1/21/11

Jakes, Lara, “Iraq’s security berated after 52 die in bombing,” Associated Press, 1/18/11

Jihad and Terrorist Threat Monitor, “Al-Qaeda Organization Claims Responsibility for Recent Large Scale Attacks in Tikrit and Diyala Province,” MEMRI, 1/23/11

Leland, John, “Bomber Uses Ambulance to Hit Iraq Police Headquarters,” New York Times, 1/19/11
- “Car Bombings Kill Dozens on Pilgrims’ Route in Iraq,” New York Times, 1/20/11

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tamim Cuts Deal With Baghdad Over Electricity Supply

On January 17, 2011 Tamim’s governor Abdul Rahman Mustafa Fatah announced that the local power plant at Taza would no longer provide electricity to Baghdad. The governor complained that his governorate only received 3 hours of power a day from the national grid, and that Taza’s production would be used for local needs. The Electricity Ministry responded by saying that it had talks with Mustafa, and offered 200 additional megawatts of power, but that the governor had never responded. Now apparently he has.

On January 22, Tamim reversed course and said it had cut a deal with the central government. The Electricity Ministry announced that it would increase Tamim’s power quota from 170 megawatts currently to 250, with another 90 megawatts added by August. The problem is the province needs 900 megawatts. Not only that but Tamim’s three power stations produce around 500 megawatts, most of which is sent to Baghdad, Dohuk, and Salahaddin.

If Tamim had kept up with its boycott it might have threatened the entire power network. The system in part, relies upon regional power plants contributing to the national grid, which is then distributed throughout the country. If the provinces decided that they would keep the power they produced for themselves there would be a huge drop in electricity for certain areas. While Tamim won’t receive as much power as it needs, no governorate does. The governor can tell his constituents that he was at least able to get a larger quota from Baghdad as a result of his protest. 


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Barjanji, Yahya, “Northern Iraqi governor cuts Baghdad power,” Associated Press, 1/17/11

Agence France Presse, “Kirkuk reconnects to Iraq power grid after row,” 1/22/11

Zangan, Jamshid, “Sit-in strands hundreds on Iraqi Highway,” AK News, 1/17/11

Monday, January 24, 2011

Premier Maliki Wins Control Of Iraq’s Election Commission

One of the major reasons why it took nine months for Iraqi politicians to come up with a partial cabinet for the new Iraqi government was widespread opposition to the rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nearly every party was weary of the premier’s increasingly autocratic ways during his last administration. He has tried to place his followers throughout the security establishment and the bureaucracy, and used the security forces against his political foes. Now with talks still underway to fill the remaining ministries and the leadership in parliament comes a Supreme Court decision that will give Maliki more power in the future.

On January 18, 2011 the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the Iraqi Election Commission, along with all the other independent commissions and the Central Banks of Iraq, would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the parliament. The Court said that the commission will now be part of the cabinet, because the commission’s duties are executive in nature. That directly contradicted Article 102 of the constitution that says all the independent commissions are under the legislature. Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement immediately condemned the ruling saying that it was a strike against the constitution, and a blow to democracy.

The Federal Supreme Court is already considered under the sway of Prime Minister Maliki. During the deBaathification crisis before the March 2010 parliamentary election, the premier intervened with the court so that it sustained the appeals process already under way that led to most of the candidates remaining banned. Many of those barred from participating came from Maliki’s main rival, Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. After the vote, the court again made a consequential ruling that the largest list that has the right to form a new government could be one formed either before or after the balloting. That allowed Maliki to join with the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance, and claim he had the right to lead the next ruling coalition. That eventually secured his second term in office despite the fact that Allawi’s list won the most seats in the election.

Now with the latest court ruling the Prime Minister is attempting to concentrate more power in his hands. This time he wants to have direct influence over the Election Commission. Already, on January 21, a member of the Commission said Maliki had held up the assignment of 29 general managers to the Commission in order to check their qualifications. This is exactly the type of move that forges mistrust not only in Maliki, who is already disliked, but in the country’s fledging institutions as well. That is the real casualty here. Elections are only the most visible form of democracy. The rule of law and strong institutions are what sustain a democratic government. All of those have a cloud over them, and the latest move by Maliki and the Supreme Court will only make the forecast for the future worse.


Bakri, Nada, “Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says,” New York Times, 1/22/10

Brosek, Raman, “Al-Iraqiya challenges ruling on parliamentary committees and describes Federal Court as “unconstitutional,”” AK News, 1/22/11

Danly, James, “Iraqi Elections Update,” Institute for the Study of War, 2/15/10

Hanna, Michael, Wahid, “How much do they hate Maliki?” Middle East Channel, Foreign Policy, 3/26/10

Reuters, "Critics alarmed as Iraq's Maliki centralises power," 1/23/11

Visser, Reidar, “The First Step of the New Maliki Government: Attaching the Independent Electoral Commission to the Executive,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/21/11

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Has Baghdad And Kurdistan Finally Come To An Agreement Over Oil Exports And The 2011 Budget?

On January 18, 2011 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Premier Barham Saleh announced that they had reached a number of agreements over Kurdish oil exports and the 2011 budget. The two sides said that Kurdistan would be allowed to export petroleum again, and at a slightly lower level than originally asked for by Baghdad. The compromise didn’t seem to answer all of the outstanding issues between the two however.

The Oil Ministry told the press about the details of the new deal. It will pay the energy companies operating in Kurdistan for their costs. Those are Norway’s DNO and Turkey’s Genel Enerji that operate the Taq Taq field in Irbil and Tawke in Dohuk. This money will be distributed through the KRG’s Natural Resource Ministry. Foreign sales are to begin in February at 100,000 barrels a day. Originally the 2011 budget called for 150,000 barrels, but the Kurds objected claiming they couldn’t reach that mark initially. There is one major outstanding issue however. Irbil and Baghdad have not decided who will pay the operating companies’ profits, because the Oil Ministry said it would only cover costs. The Kurds are supposed to reach 250,000 barrels a day by the end of the year according to the KRG, so profits will eventually enter into the equation. If that’s not resolved sooner rather than later, the whole compromise could fall apart, similar to what happened in 2009.

In mid-2009 Baghdad and Kurdistan said they had reached a groundbreaking agreement to allow the Kurds to export their oil for the first time. That only lasted a few months because the central government refused to pay the oil companies. The Oil Ministry said the KRG had to pay the businesses out of its share of the budget. That never happened, the deal broke down, and the foreign sales were halted.

Iraqi officials have fallen into the bad habit of making bold pronouncements that don’t always come through. This deal over oil and the budget could work out if further talks are held, and the issue of the companies’ profits is resolved. It seems like Kurdish exports will begin before that happens however, which could cause real problems down the road. Not only could that lead to another break between Baghdad and Irbil over petroleum, but the KRG’s 17% portion of the budget is supposed to be reduced if they don’t meet their export quota. It seems like officials are going for expediency over thoroughness in this situation, which is exactly what got them in trouble in previous years.


Brosk, Raman, “KRG and Baghdad locked over budget bill and oil exports,” AK News, 1/17/11

Mohammed, Hazhar, “Kurdistan to resume oil exports in February,” AK News, 1/18/11

Rasheed, Ahmed, “UPDATE 1-Iraq to pay expenses to oil firms in Kurdish region,” Reuters, 1/19/11

Friday, January 21, 2011

Iraqi Forces Suspected In Escape Of Al Qaeda Officials From Basra Prison

Basra’s presidential palace that houses the provincial government and prison (Daily Mail)

On January 14, 2011 twelve members of the Al Qaeda led Islamic State of Iraq escaped from a prison at the Presidential Palace in Basra. The complex is one of the most heavily guarded areas in the city, and houses the governor’s and provincial council’s offices, the police headquarters, and an intelligence unit. Sources within the investigation said that the intelligence unit, and perhaps a high official in Baghdad helped the prisoners escape. 

The prison break definitely had help from the inside. Before the event the Federal Police who were sent to the jail for extra security were told to leave at 6 am. The detainees were also supposed to be transferred to Baghdad, but the intelligence unit requested more time to interrogate them. A parliamentarian from the Fadhila party speculated that the prisoners were sprung to prevent them from fingering members of the Basra intelligence unit that they infiltrated.

After the escape, the security forces conducted a series of raids and arrests. All of the guards at the facility were held for questioning, along with several members of the Basra intelligence unit. An official from the investigating team told the press that there were still some suspects at large that they were looking for. He also said that a high official in Baghdad connected to the intelligence group was under suspicion. The Basra police chief was also held responsible for the escape, and fired by the provincial council.

Several high level Al Qaeda members were amongst those that escaped. One was a former college professor Majid Abdul Aziz, who is suspected of being the Islamic State’s commander for southern Iraq. He is believed to be behind a bombing in August 2009 in a Basra market that killed around 50 and wounded 100. Mohammad Ishab Yacoub was another prisoner who was thought to be involved in a number of assassinations in the region. In mid-2009 the Iraqi security forces warned about increased al Qaeda activity in southern Iraq, including a threat against the area’s oil infrastructure

This would not be the first time that elements of the security forces helped Al Qaeda-Islamic State prisoners escape. In July and September 2009 high-ranking Al Qaeda members broke out of the Karkh Prison in Baghdad with help from the inside. In one case, the prison warden drove the insurgents out of the facility.

The Iraqi forces have gone through some major improvements in recent years. Amongst the success stories of weapons caches being found and insurgents being arrested, there are also ones like these where corrupt officers have been tempted to work for the other side. It’s probably impossible to counter the threat of these infiltrations, it can only be hoped that in the future there will be fewer and fewer cases. 


Aswat al-Iraq, “13 al-Qaeda members escape from detention center in Basra,” 1/14/11
- “Basra council sacks police chief as al-Qaeda elements escape,” 1/17/11

Latif, Nizar, “Escaped Iraqi al Qa’eda prisoners ‘had inside help,’” The National, 1/19/11
- “Shiite gangs join al Qa’eda in Iraq,” The National, 9/12/10

Al-Rafidayn, “Al-Qaeda Cells Moving To Southern Iraq To Strike At Heart Of Iraqi Economy,” MEMRI Blog, 8/24/10

Reuters, “Twelve insurgents escape from prison in Iraq’s Basra,” 1/14/11

Al-Shishani, Murad Batal, “Iraqi Oil Facilities Threatened as Islamic State of Iraq Intensifies its Campaign Against the State,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 9/23/10

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Electricity Protests Spread To Northern Iraq

Protests against Iraq’s troubled electricity network have spread to the north. In Tamim province there was a street demonstration against the lack of power. The governor also announced that electricity produced locally would be used for the governorate’s own use, rather than be sent to Baghdad. Tamim joins seven other provinces that have complained about the troubled power network in the last several months.

First, on January 17, 2011 people in the city of Prde blocked the highway between Kirkuk and Baghdad to protest the spotty electricity supply. They set tires on fire, and threatened on coming traffic with rocks, shutting down the route for a period of time. The local mayor tried to convince the demonstrators to go home, but rocks were thrown at him as well, which led the police to fire into the air to try to stop them. According to AK News around 600 people took part in the event.

That same day, the Associated Press reported that Tamim’s governor was diverting power from a local power plant meant for Baghdad. Governor Abdul Rahman Mustafa Fatah said that the Taza power plant’s output was no longer going to the capital, but would rather be used for Tamim itself. He claimed talks with the Electricity Ministry over sharing the power from Taza had failed, which led to his action. A Ministry spokesman, however, claimed that the negotiations had been inconclusive, and that it was willing to give 200 additional megawatts to the province if the governor agreed to the deal. Members of the provincial council added that they were trying to put off protests, but its actions came to late to stop the demonstration in Prde.

The events in Tamim were the latest in a series of complaints against the troubled power system. Earlier in January Wasit’s provincial council announced that it was refusing to pay the Electricity Ministry’s new power bills that doubled rates. In October 2010 Karbala rejected the new prices as well. That followed protests in Basra, Dhi Qar, Anbar, Diyala, and Wasit that lasted from June to August. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki secretly banned any further demonstrations, and there was a lull that also coincided with parliamentary elections and the protracted government formation process. It now appears public anger is spreading to new provinces. That creates a catch-22 for the capital. On the one hand, the government needs to impose a new system that raises funds and controls consumption. On the other, it can’t do that until it improves supply. Currently, most Iraqis don’t pay their bills because supply is so bad, but have increased demand every year. While it’s nice to see Iraqis using their new found freedoms to demand better services from the authorities, unless Baghdad is able to find some kind of compromise their authority and the energy network may be undermined by rebelling provinces.


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Barjanji, Yahya, “Northern Iraqi governor cuts Baghdad power,” Associated Press, 1/17/11

Zangan, Jamshid, “Sit-in strands hundreds on Iraqi Highway,” AK News, 1/17/11

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Were Iraqi Police Involved In Recent Raids Against Christians In Baghdad?

While there are reports that the Iraqi police are improving in professionalism, capabilities, and cutting down on the corruption and connections to militias, there are still plenty of others that point out the remaining problems. On January 15, 2011 for example, the New York Times reported on raids against Christians that involved the Iraqi police. 

The offices of the Christian Ashurbanipal Cultural Association in Baghdad after the January raid (New York Times)

In mid-January, the Christian Ashurbanpial Cultural Association in Baghdad was vandalized, had its equipment stolen, and members beat by eight men carrying guns and pipes. During the attack they were told Iraq was an Islamic country. The Assyrian Christian group claimed they were singled out because they ran a club that served alcohol. The government has recently been shutting down nightclubs and liquor stores, which are mostly run by Christians, on moral grounds. The association claimed that just before the raid, three police vehicles blocked off the street. Local authorities were accusing each other about the event. A police major claimed that the men responsible for the attack were working for the provincial council, while the head of the Baghdad council said that they were police officers in civilian clothes. The Times also interviewed two alcohol shops who said that their establishments were raided as well with police complicity.

If these stories prove to be true, it would come as no surprise. Early on when the Iraqi police were being put together, many political parties, insurgents, and gangs were able to place their followers within its ranks. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council for example, got one of their militia commanders Bayan Jabr to be Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Interior Minister. He went on to place Badr Brigade members throughout the police and ministry. The police have always been the most open to political influence as well because they are locally recruited. Therefore Iraqi police working as part of an Islamist party or just corrupt officers looking to take advantage of the government crackdown on alcohol for their own personal gain are plausible scenarios for these recent raids against Christians.


Iraq Business News, “Kidnap in Iraq,” 1/11/11

Jones, General James, “The Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq,” Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, 9/6/07

Leland, John, “Baghdad Raids on Alcohol Sellers Stir Fears,” New York Times, 1/15/11

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wasit Joins Ranks Of Iraqis Not Paying New Electricity Bills

Wasit has refused to pay new power bills (Wikimedia)
The southern province of Wasit announced on January 13, 2011 that it would not be paying the Electricity Ministry’s new power bills. According to a local official, the prices were too high for many of the poor citizens of the governorate. In June 2010 the Electricity Ministry began a new program to double the costs of electricity use, and base the bills upon usage. That same month Iraqis took to the streets in spontaneous demonstrations against the lack of power. The first protests were in Basra, but then spread to Dhi Qar, Anbar, Diyala, and Wasit. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to respond, by first, firing the Electricity Minister, and then secretly ordering the Interior Ministry to ban any further outbursts. At the same time the government said that it would be unable to change the situation anytime soon.

Iraq is stuck between a rock and hard place over its power production. In the third quarter of 2010 Iraq reached a new all time high in output since the 2003 invasion at an average of 6,540 megawatts per day. However that continued to be outstripped by demand that stood at an estimated 12,605 megawatts per day for that period. After the protests Maliki said that it would take up to two years to fix the power system, while a U.S. general in charge of reconstruction projects in the Middle East speculated that it might be three. An Electricity Ministry official warned that supply might continue to increase even after the electricity supply was increased. That’s largely due to the fact that Iraqis continue to buy consumer goods such as air conditioners and refrigerators, which were limited during the decade of international sanctions.

In the meantime, with security greatly improved, services have now become the top priority for Iraqis. According to a June 2010 survey by the International Republican Institute, 66% of those polled said services were the most pressing issue facing the country. 60% nationwide felt that electricity had gotten worse over the last year, and that number went up to 68% in the southern provinces where Wasit is located.

Wasit has also not been alone. In October 2010 Karbala’s provincial council rejected the new pricing plan, saying that no one should pay them until service improved. In November, the Electricity Ministry announced that it was owed roughly $450 million in unpaid electricity bills. Iraqis hardly paid them to begin with because supply was so spotty, and the higher rates did not change their attitudes.

Iraq’s electricity network has suffered from twenty years of neglect and war. During the 1991 Gulf War, the system was extensively bombed, and has never recovered. After the 2003 invasion, the U.S. spent almost $5 billion on the industry. The supply of power has greatly improved as a result, but it has never been able to catch up with demand. The government eventually needs to institute a workable billing program that will not only generate revenues, but will also act to curb consumption. The problems with output however need to be fixed before the public is probably willing to accept any such plan. That is still years away, and until then many Iraqis won’t be paying for the service.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq unable to meet current power demand until 2013: US,” 9/7/10

Ashour, Muhammad, “electrical storm,” Niqash, 7/5/10

Al-Haffar, Hassoun, “Karbala Council rejects new electricity tariffs,” AK News, 10/26/10

Al-Hamdani, Karim, “Unpaid electricity bills in Iraq amount to more than half a billion dollars,” Azzaman, 11/15/10

International Republican Institute, “Survey of Iraqi Public Opinion, June 3 – July 3, 2010,” 9/16/10

Juhi, Bushra, “Electricity-starved Iraqis’ obsession: generators,” Associated Press, 6/26/10

Al-Shayeb, Nabil, “Wasit citizens will not pay electricity bills pending revision,” AK News, 1/13/11

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

Russia Today VIDEO: Trashed In Iraq

Monday, January 17, 2011

Iraqi Security Forces Can’t Sustain Themselves

How many of these tanks and helicopters will the Iraqi military be able to maintain?

In November 2010, the Defense Department’s Inspector General released a report, “Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts to Develop the Logistics Sustainment Capability of the Iraq Security Forces.”
This was the third paper on Iraq’s attempt to build an enduring logistics system. Since the last two reports that came out in 2007 and 2008, the Inspector General found lots of progress. The Iraqi Defense, Interior, and military command have all developed some good leaders who are focusing upon sustainment of their forces. There are more classes available to Iraqis on those subjects than ever before. The problem is that the U.S. withdrawal is happening before Iraq has a working maintenance and supply system. That is threatening all of the accomplishments made in recent years.

The Inspector General found that the U.S. withdrawal is having a negative affect upon Iraq’s security forces and ministries. That begins with the number of American personnel working on logistics with the Iraqis. In September 2009 there were 659 in the country. By April 2010 that had gone down to 502, and in August there were only 300. The U.S. logistics team that worked with the Federal Police withdrew in the summer of 2010. The advisers at the Taji maintenance depot left at the end of the summer. The Americans were also working with the Iraqis to help them develop a strategic plan for logistics. The Interior Ministry has come up with a basic idea for supporting its forces, but the Defense Ministry has not. With U.S. forces drawing down, they may not be able to finish this work.

That will cause major problems down the road, because by December 2011, the date set for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq, the nation’s military and police will not be able to sustain themselves. They still have issues with planning, programming, budgeting, and execution. They will need training and support on all of those issues, probably for several more years, but that may not be available to them with the withdrawal.

The reason why Iraq is just now developing its logistics system is due to American policy. From 2003-2008 the U.S. focused upon pumping out as many soldiers and police as possible to fight the insurgency. The Americans didn’t start giving supply and maintenance serious consideration until just the last few years. When they finally did get around to the matter, the U.S. never came up with an integrated plan for how to develop those capabilities for the Iraqis. Now the U.S. is leaving, and Baghdad may not have the know how or motivation to finish the task.

That brings up one major barrier on the Iraqi side to achieving their goals; they have not shown much appreciation for the matter or how the existing system works. The Inspector General found some shocking examples. For one, Defense Ministry officials don’t know who comes up with the requirements for logistics, what the process is to make proposals, and then how to send them up the chain of command. In another case, the officer in charge of maintenance at Defense said he wasn’t consulted about parts requirements when orders were made, which led to huge waste. 80% of the repair parts on hand with the Iraqi Army didn’t go with any equipment they had. The government overall also had a bad record of assessing its needs. When it did find one, it couldn’t adequately budget or contract to meet it. Finally, the Defense and Interior Ministries tended to only plan short-term, year-to-year, rather than long-term. This has all led to a chronic shortage of equipment, weapons, and parts. An American adviser suggested that the Iraqi logistics system was broken.

In a more specific case, the Inspector General found that the Defense Ministry hardly budgets any money for sustaining the Navy. It provides no maintenance support. That meant that for the last five years the Navy has only gotten a small budget to buy parts, most of which are purchased at local markets, and are of poor quality. In one example, an Iraqi patrol boat ran aground in 2009. The sailors didn’t have the money to fix it right away, but instead had to buy the parts one by one from Iraqi suppliers. One year later the Navy still didn’t have all the necessary pieces to fix the boat.

This same experience was repeated throughout the Iraqi military. Only the equipment bought through the American Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program received maintenance packages. Those include the C-130 transport plans and the M1A1 Abrams tanks. The problem is 75-80% of the Iraqi vehicles, weapons, etc. were purchased outside of the FMS.

Overall, by the end of 2011 the Ministry of Defense will have around $10 billion worth of equipment. American advisers estimate that it will take between $300-$600 million a year to maintain them. In 2009 however, the military command only asked Baghdad for $200 million for maintenance, only got $53 million in the budget, and then spent just $16 million of that. A senior Iraqi officer told the Inspector General he didn’t think Defense had the capability to spend much more. Another logistics officer said that the result would be that the military would be short spares, maintenance capabilities, and repair parts in 2011 because it hadn’t budgeted for them.

The U.S. has been trying to help the Iraqis with the Asset Management Program software. It is the only automated system within the Iraqi military. It is supposed to keep track of parts, orders, stocks, etc. It is only as good as the information entered into it, which is a major issue. The contract for the software also expires in January 2011 and the Americans don’t know whether Baghdad will renew it.

Iraqi forces have problems with reporting overall, not just inputing data into the Management Program. Iraqi commanders regularly overstate the operational readiness of their units, especially with vehicles and weapons. Officers would routinely state that 90% of their Humvees were operational, when the true number was usually between 50-75%. That was because commanders didn’t want to send their broken equipment to workshops. Often, when they did, they never got it back. Another factor was that the Defense Ministry had a fuel quota based upon the number of vehicles on hand. If a unit turned in the broken ones, they would not get as much gas. Battalions, brigades, and divisions also didn’t list all the parts they had in stock, many of which were the wrong pieces for what they had, and they didn’t re-order after they used anything. Like the Navy, soldiers were often told to go find comparable parts at local markets, which were often low quality and broke quicker.

Maintenance depots for the Iraqi Army were found lacking as well. The Taji workshop didn’t have equipment and trained personnel for certain tasks. It received $1 million per month for refurbishing and rebuilding T-72 tanks for instance, but not one had been completed. The Al Asad and Numaniyah location commands were also not being used effectively. Al Asad had no supplies, no fuel, and its warehouse was empty. Numaniyah on the other hand, was fully stocked, but the division it was supposed to support didn’t use it because the chain of command and paper work necessary were a deterrent.

The one major positive of the report was that the Interior Ministry was farther ahead than Defense. Interior had come up with a basic maintenance doctrine. It had also improved its planning, budgeting, and strategies. It still couldn’t adequately plan and contracts for vehicle parts however.

Based upon the Inspector General’s investigation it doesn’t seem likely that the Iraqi security forces will have a workable logistics system up and running by the time U.S. troops are expected to exit the country at the end of 2011. There are too many problems within the Defense Ministry, with the supply system, reporting, and orders. To fix the problem, the Iraqi command needs to realize that logistics is the key to keeping their forces ready and operable for the long-term. The Inspector General found some dedicated officers in Baghdad working on this issue, but obviously there are not enough of them. The generals at the top have to be convinced of the importance of maintenance and supply, and then there needs to be a lot more training about how the supply, planning, and budgeting system works from the top to the bottom. The chain of command and orders also need to be changed so that commanders have incentives to send in their equipment for repairs, that they report their stocks, and that the right pieces are ordered. This will be a very long process, which the Inspector General doubts can be completed without more U.S. support. That is declining with the withdrawal however. Washington therefore needs to play its part as well by either shifting personnel to this task or finding contractors that can do the work. Otherwise the Inspector General feels that the Iraqis will never have the support necessary to finish the task. If not, much of Iraq’s current weapons and vehicles could end up on the scrap heap.


Inspector General United States Department of Defense, “Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts to Develop the Logistics Sustainment Capability of the Iraq Security Forces,” Department of Defense, 11/17/10

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Sadr Left Iraq

In February 2007 Moqtada al-Sadr fled to Iran. Several reasons have been given for his departure. Those range from Sadr running from U.S. forces, to his falling out with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to losing control of his militia. It’s impossible to say which factor was the most important, but it seems feasible that a combination of all of them played a role in Sadr’s decision.

In 2006 U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. Casey said that most of the violence was due to Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army (ABC News)
The U.S. military began focusing upon Sadr’s Mahdi Army once again in mid-2006. In August, the American commander in Iraq General George Casey said that 60% of the violence in the country was due to Shiite militias. Most of that was being committed by Sadrists. That was a reflection of the exploding sectarian civil war that had hit full throttle after the February bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra, Salahaddin. As a result, the U.S. was increasingly putting pressure on Maliki to allow them to crackdown on Sadr’s forces. The premier would let the Americans conduct a few raids over specific events, but otherwise the prime minister protected the Mahdi Army. When a senior Sadrist was arrested in October, Maliki ordered his release. Maliki was afraid that his coalition would unseat him. He was therefore leaning on the Sadrists, who put him into office in the first place in early 2006, for support and protection.

(Global Security)
At the same time, the Mahdi Army was splintering and growing out of control. The militia had already been breaking apart as early as 2004, and as the sectarian war took off, hundreds of Shiites joined their ranks. Some of them were part of gangs that used the chaos for their own gain. By October 2006, the U.S. military estimated that around one-third of the Mahdi Army had split off, and were no longer following Sadr. That same month he fired 40 militia commanders in an attempt to assert his control, but the Mahdi Army had no real organization. Rather they were a collection of fighters under the individual control of local leaders. Sadr could only make pronouncements and hope that his followers were listening. The problem was fewer and fewer were as the civil war intensified.

In November, things fell apart politically for Sadr. At the end of the month, Maliki met with President Bush, and Sadr ordered his 30 parliamentarians and five cabinet ministers to withdraw in protest. Sadr was hoping that this move would strengthen his nationalist credentials, but instead it opened up the possibility for Maliki to move away from him.

From late-2006 on, the White House was pressuring Maliki to form a new ruling coalition without Sadr. The Kurds, the Iraqi Accordance Front, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council were all on board with Washington’s agenda, but Maliki was hesitant. Again, he was afraid that the other parties would replace him, and therefore did not want to give up on his alliance with Sadr. With the Sadrists withdrawal however, the prime minister began to reconsider his position.

In January 2007 the Americans announced the beginning of the Surge, and Maliki ended his protection of the Mahdi Army. Sadr ordered his politicians to return to their positions to fend off the move, but it was too late. Not only did the prime minister let the U.S. target the Sadrists, he allowed the Supreme Council to do so as well, whereas before he tried to mediate between the two rival Shiite parties. The next month Sadr departed for Iran where he would stay for nearly four years. 

In around six months Moqtada al-Sadr’s fortunes took a dramatic turn. At the beginning of 2006 Sadr helped put Maliki into office, gained five ministries, while in the streets Shiites were increasingly turning to his militia for protection during the sectarian fighting. Sadr could not manage his success. His militia grew out of control, and splintered more and more. At the same time, as the Mahdi Army went on the offensive the U.S. began singling them out for more and more attention. Maliki was protecting him up to that point, but when Sadr decided to withdraw from the government he undermined everything he had achieved. The premier could no longer fall back on the Sadrists for support, and decided to try his luck with the Americans. That led to Sadr’s departure for Iran where he tried to regroup, reform his image, and gain new status through religious studies. Now he’s back trying to see whether he can do a better job this time around. 


Associated Press, “Iraqi leader drops protection of militia,” 1/22/07
- “Shiite militia may be disintegrating,” 3/21/07

Burns, John, “Precarious Cease-Fire in Amara Holds,” New York Times, 10/22/06

Glantz, Aaron, “Iraqi Health Ministry Severs Ties With US Over Raid,”, 8/15/06

Kazimi, Nibras, “Where Things Stand in Iraq,” Talisman Gate Blog, 10/20/06

Michaels, Jim, “Shiites Redefine Battle in Baghdad,” USA Today, 8/10/06

Murphy, Dan and al-Talee, Awadh, “Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers have clashed with US and Iraqi forces in the past week,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/23/06

Parker, Ned, “Hard-line Iraqi clerics group shut down,” Los Angeles Times, 11/15/07

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Sadr Casts a Shadow Over Bush-Maliki Meeting,” Washington Post, 11/30/06

Tavernise, Sabrina, “Influence Rises but Base Frays for Iraqi Cleric,” New York Times, 11/13/06
- “Many Iraqis Look to Gunmen as Protectors,” New York Times, 10/21/06

Wagner, Thomas and Yacoub, Sameer, “Al-Sadr Loyalists Boycott Iraq Government,” Associated Press, 11/29/06

Wong, Edward, “Iraqis Consider Ways to Reduce Power of Cleric,” New York Times, 12/12/06

Friday, January 14, 2011

Report Finds Iraq A Hybrid Democracy

In December 2010 the Economist Intelligence Unit released a report on the state of democracy in the world. This was the third edition by the group. The first was in 2006 and the second was issued in 2008. The new one includes 165 countries and two territories. Each was compared using five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, governance, political participation, and political culture. Those were given a score of 0-10, and then averaged out. The states were then placed within four categories: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian ones. Iraq was one of three hybrid governments in the Middle East and North Africa, which was the least democratic region of the world according to the Intelligence Unit.

The Economist Intelligence Unit found a decline in democratic governments since 2008. In 2010 the report ranked 26 countries, 15.6% of the total as full democracies, 53 countries as flawed democracies, 31.7%, 33 countries as hybrid democracies, 19.8%, and 55 countries, 32.9%, as authoritarian. What the Unit found alarming was that the average scores between 2008 and 2010 declined for 91 countries out of the 167 in its Democracy Index. 48 countries saw an increase, and 28 stayed the same.

In the Middle East and North Africa the Intelligence Unit ranked twenty nations. None of them were full democracies, one was flawed, three were hybrids, and 16 were authoritarian. Israel was the one flawed government with an average score of 7.48, and was ranked 37 overall. Lebanon, score 5.82, Palestine, score 5.44, and Iraq, score 4.00, were the three hybrid democracies. Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Egypt, Oman, Iran, Libya, Qatar, Tunisia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia were all ranked authoritarian in that order. The average score for the region was 3.43 compared to 4.23 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 5.53 in Asia and Australia, 5.55 in Eastern Europe, 6.37 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 8.45 in Western Europe, and 8.63 in North America, firmly placing the Middle East and North Africa as the least democratic region in the world.

Ballot box after 2010 Iraqi election
Of the hybrid regimes in the area, Iraq had the lowest score, and was barley above some of the authoritarian ones. A hybrid democracy has irregularities in elections, opposition parties and the media are often intimidated by the government, there is a weakness in political culture, government, participation, rule of law, corruption is common, and the judiciary is not independent. Iraq’s overall score was 4.00. It did best in political participation at 6.11. That was followed by 5.00 in civil liberties, 4.33 in electoral process and pluralism, 3.75 in political culture, and 0.79 in governance. The country did best in participation probably because of its relatively high voter turnout in the recent elections. It did worse in functioning government since Baghdad is largely dysfunctional. It has not dealt with any of the major issues facing it such as oil, the disputed territories, Arab-Kurdish relations, etc., and misses just about any deadline that it sets for itself, which can be seen in the fact that ten months since the parliamentary vote Iraq still does not have a full cabinet. Even so, Iraq is doing relatively better than it did before because of the greatly improved security situation allows the government to function better. In 2008 for example, it was ranked 116 overall, and in 2010 it was 111. As the Economist Unit points out, voting is not all that democracies are about. Iraq has had three elections since 2009, but the other elements of Iraq’s politics have some deep flaws. That’s why its score was only slightly above the 3.88 of Kuwait, the 3.79 of Morocco, and the 3.74 of Jordan even though they are ranked as authoritarian ones.

Governments In The Middle East/North Africa (Avg. Score/Rank Overall)
Israel: 7.48 #37
Lebanon: 5.82 #86
Palestine: 5.44 #93
Iraq: 4.00 #111
Kuwait: 3.88 #114
Morocco: 3.79 #116
Jordan: 3.74 #117
Bahrain: 3.49 #122
Algeria: 3.44 #125
Egypt: 3.07 #138
Oman: 2.86 #143
Iran: 1.94, #158
Libya: 1.94 #158
Qatar: 3.09 #137
Tunisia: 2.79 #144
Yemen: 2.64 #146
UAE: 2.52 #148
Sudan: 2.42 #151
Syria: 2.31 #152
Saudi Arabia: 2.31 #152

Iraq is one of the few anomalies within the Middle East and North Africa. Despite its problems, it is one of only three hybrid democracies in a region that is thoroughly authoritarian. Iraq really needs to improve upon its governance however, if it wants to move up the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index. That will be hard to accomplish with this group of political elites. Too many are leaders from the Saddam era who were suppressed and sometimes cajoled by the former regime, which fostered a culture of secrecy and distrust. Many went into exile, came under the influence of the neighboring dictatorships, and are divided by sometimes decades long rivalries. That makes finding compromises difficult. That was on full display when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former premier Iyad Allawi could not agree upon a government after the 2010 elections even though they had the most in common ideologically. Instead their personal differences were what dominated their negotiations, as neither was willing to let the other have power. These disagreements have wide ranging affects upon all kinds of issues throughout Iraq, and are a major barrier to further democratization.


BBC, “Iraq election voter turnout ‘62%,’” 3/8/10

Economist Intelligence Unit, “The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2010,” December 2010

Knights, Michael, “Iraqi Election Success? Not So Fast,” Foreign Policy Online, February 2009

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Many Iraqi Refugees Are There?

The United Nations used to say that Iraq was one of the worst refugee problems in the world. Most of the displacement came after the February 2006 bombing of the shrine in Samarra, Salahaddin that accelerated the civil war to its highest point. By 2007, many aid groups were claiming that 60,000 Iraqis were being displaced a month. Thousands of people fled throughout the conflict, but the exact amount is unclear. From 2006-2009 the most common number given was 2.5 million. Almost 2 million of those were said to reside in Syria and Jordan. Many experts now think those numbers were far too high.

Iraqis registering at a Syrian immigration center (UNHCR)

Syria and the United Nations have said that between 1.2 million to 1.5 million Iraqis came to the country from 2003-2009, but that’s now disputed. From February 2006 to October 2007 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) claimed that up to 600,000 Iraqis entered the country. From 2003-2010 however, the UNHCR had only registered around 260,000. Damascus has also always acknowledged a constant flow of people back and forth between the two nations. In February 2007, the UNHCR for example, reported that a Syrian immigration official told them that 1,200 Iraqis had entered Syria in January, but around 700 went back at the same time. In 2010 that led the United Nations to revise its number of Iraqis refugees in the country. People that didn’t contact the UNHCR offices for four months or did not pick up food vouchers for two months were dropped from its rosters. That led to 58,000 being eliminated. By April 2010 the U.N. only had 165,493 Iraqi refugees on its books in Syria. Returns, deaths, and moves to other countries were reasons given for the decline. The United Nations and other aid agencies believe that there are more Iraqis in the country than are registered, but not many more. In a March 2008 survey, the UNHCR found that 86% of refugees had signed up with them. Despite the changes in the U.N. numbers, the Syrian government has stuck with its own figures.

Iraqis at aid agency offices in Amman, Jordan (New York Times)

Jordan’s experience with Iraqi refugees has been almost the same as Syria’s. Amman claimed that around 500,000 Iraqis had fled to their country, but the UNHCR only registered 65,000. In 2007, the Norwegian Institute Fafo conducted a survey of Iraqis in Jordan and estimated that 161,000 were there. The Jordanian government disagreed with the findings, delayed the release of the paper, and when it did finally come out, had the government’s official number of 450,000-500,000 included in it. In 2007 Jordan opened its schools to Iraqi students and expected 50,000 to show up. Instead, less than 12,000 arrived, and in 2008 the Jordanian Education Ministry issued a report saying that the actual number was even less than that. Just like Syria, Amman continues to claim that around half a million Iraqi refugees are still in their country.

There are a couple reasons offered for why Syria and Jordan have stuck with the high numbers, but the main culprit appears to be that both governments have used the refugees crisis for their own benefit. When both countries have asked for assistance with Iraqi refugees, they have included the demands of their own publics within the requests. The governments claim they need to provide something for their own people so that they don’t turn on the Iraqis. Jordan for example has received around $400 million to help Iraqis. Most of that went directly to the Jordanian government who spent it on schools, hospitals, water and sanitation projects. With far fewer Iraqis in the country than the government claims however, that means most of this aid went to poor Jordanians rather than refugees. To maintain this aid Amman and Damascus have refused to revise their estimates for Iraqi refugees in their countries.

The state of Iraqi refugees has changed over the last couple years. Many have returned to Iraq, while others have moved on to Western Europe, the United States and other industrial countries. Host countries in the region continue to claim that there are around 1.5 million refugees, but Refugees International recently estimated that there may be only 500,000. Originally, the international community and aid groups were caught by surprise by the flood of Iraqis out of the country due to the civil war. Without adequate studies of the event, the U.N., aid groups, and the media began calling it a crisis. Syria, Jordan, and others took advantage of the situation by claiming hundreds of thousands of refugees had come to them. They requested and received huge amounts of aid as a result that they mostly spent on their own people rather than Iraqis. Not wanting to loose that assistance, they have continued to talk of the costs Iraqis impose on them. The question now is whether aid will shift to be more targeted towards Iraqis or whether it will eventually wither as world attention focuses on other crisis points because there are still large communities of Iraqis throughout the Middle East that need help.


Cohen, Robert, “Iraq’s Displaced: Where To Turn?” American University International Law Review, Fall 2008

Dagher, Sam, “In quieter Baghdad, perils still lurk,” Christian Science Monitor, 12/24/07

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

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, “Middle East: Population Displaced from Iraq,” 4/29/10

IRIN, “MIDDLE EAST: Iraqi refugees – interpreting the statistics,” 12/28/10
- “SYRIA: Number of Iraqi refugees revised downwards,” 6/20/10

Refugees International, “Iraq: Preventing the Point of No Return,” 4/9/09

Seeley, Nicholas, “In Jordan, aid for Iraqi refugees is often redirected,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/2/08
- “The Politics of Aid to Iraqi Refugees in Jordan,” Middle East Report, Fall 2010

UNHCR Briefing Notes, “Iraq: Latest return survey shows few intending to go home soon,” UNHCR, 4/29/08

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “UNHCR Syria Update on Iraqi Refugees,” February 2007

United Nations Security Council, “Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1770 (2007),” 1/14/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Refugee Assistance Improvements Needed in Measuring Progress, Assessing Needs, Tracking Funds, and Developing an International Strategic Plan,” April 2009

This Day In Iraqi History - Jul 20 Ayatollah Khomeini endorsed ceasefire in Iran-Iraq War

  1920 Pro-Independence delegation of Iraqis met UK High Commissioner Wilson who invited 20 pro-British Iraqis Meeting w...