Monday, February 28, 2011

Continued Talk Of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement Splitting

Throughout the extended process of forming a new Iraqi government there have been rumors that Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement could be fracturing. By the end of 2010 for example, several major players in the list were threatening to leave to cut their own deal if Allawi didn’t agree to join a national unity coalition with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Iraqi National Coalition. Since then, every month brings more news of possible divisions within the National Movement.

The Iraqi National Movement is made up of several different political parties. The major ones are Allawi’s Iraqi National List, Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi’s Iraqiyoon, former Vice President Tariq Hashemi’s Renewal List, Minister of Finance Rafi Issawi’s Future Current, Jamal Karbuli’s Solution Movement, and Rafidain Son’s Movement. This has been a raucous group as many major players such as Allawi, Mutlaq, Nujafi, and Hashemi have large personalities, and their own individual agendas, which differ from each other. That’s been the source for the constant rumors of the list splitting. At the end of January 2011 for example, Parliamentarian Hassan Allawi, who was shut out of getting the Ministry of Culture, said that he and twelve others from the National Movement, were going to form their own faction. On February 13, a member said that a group of lawmakers from the list were going to form an opposition movement in parliament. Finally on February 23, two-thirds of the National Movement gave a petition to President Jalal Talabani in favor of Qutaiba Jabouri to be the candidate for one of the three vice presidencies rather than Tariq Hashemi. This came after the list had kicked out Jabouri two days beforehand. Jabouri told the press that Allawi was against this move, and blamed Mutlaq and Hashemi for plotting against him and having him dismissed. Despite all this talk, the list has stuck together and continued its negotiations with Maliki. The number of stories has increased however, and become more and more specific with people going public rather than just relying upon anonymous sources and rumors.

As long as talks over finalizing the government drag on, these reports of Allawi’s list breaking apart are likely to continue. Many parliamentarians are getting frustrated at Prime Minister Maliki for his foot dragging, others are blaming Allawi, while others are thinking about themselves, and are willing to jump ship for their own personal gain. Allawi needs to keep his group together if he wants to maximize his leverage, but he has already lost much of that after he agreed to join the government with many of his members gaining offices, while he was left out in the cold waiting for the National Council for Strategic Policies to be created. This tension will continue as long as Allawi remains on the outside looking in on the new ruling coalition.


Alsumaria, “Two thirds of Iraqiya members name Jibouri as VP,” 2/23/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Opposition Front expected to form inside Iraqi Parliament, MP says,” 2/13/11

Dodge, Toby, “Iraq’s perilous political carve-up,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, 11/16/10

Leland, John and Healy, Jack, “After Months, Iraqi Lawmakers Approve a Government,” New York Times, 12/21/10

Mohsen, Majida, “Al-Iraqiya dismisses reports of split,” AK News, 12/15/10

Al-Mada, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Zaman, “Al-Maliki Reneges on Commitments to Allawi; Frustration Intensifies,” MEMRI Blog, 1/31/11

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 25, Iraq's "Day of Rage"


February 25, 2011 was dubbed the “Day of Rage” by organizers in Iraq. Social and youth groups like the Youth of February 25 wanted one million people to show up in Baghdad that day. Not that many attended, but protests did occur in 18 different cities in ten provinces.

Demonstrations were noted in Baghdad, Tikrit and Yathrib in Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Riyadh, and Hawija in Tamim, Fallujah, Ramadi, and Kubaisa in Anbar, Mosul in Ninewa, Chamchamal, Sulaymaniya, Kalar, and Sayid Sadiq in Sulaymaniya, Diwaniya in Qadisiyah, Karbala in Karbala, Samarra in Salahaddin, Basra in Basra, and Kut in Wasit. Figures are not definitive, but the press reported 250 turned out in Ramadi, 100s in Kirkuk, Sulaymaniya, and Kut, 500 in Chamchamal, 1,000 in Karbala, 3,000 in Baghdad, 4,000 to 10,000 in Basra, two protests in Diwaniya with 10,000 in the morning and 1,000 in the afternoon, and 1,000 to 20,000 in Fallujah. Representatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani were said to have joined the crowds in Baghdad. That happened despite the Ayatollah’s warning about participating the day before

Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki also tried to discourage the Day of Rage. Security forces in Baghdad banned all vehicles and bicycles, which limited press coverage of the event, shut off entrances to Tahrir Square where the protest was supposed to start, and blocked pathways from the square to the Green Zone. Maliki also might have been responsible for Sistani’s warning, as there were several stories that he tried to scare Shiite clerics with warnings that Al Qaeda and Baathists were going to manipulate the demonstration for their own ends. 

Organizers were hoping for a peaceful turn out, but in several cities things turned violent. In Chamchamal, Kalar and Sayid Sadiq in Sulaymaniya people attacked the offices of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). In Ninewa, protesters surrounded a convoy carrying the governor Atheel Nujafi and his brother Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, forcing them to flee. Government offices were also stormed in Basra, Tikrit, Kirkuk, and Hawija, with some of them being set afire in Mosul, and Kubaisa and Fallujah in Anbar. Police stations were set upon in Kirkuk, Hawija, and Yathrib, forcing the security forces to withdraw from the latter two.

The police responded with water canons, sound bombs, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. The Iraqi Society for Defense of Press Freedoms released a statement stating that dozens of members of the media were arrested during the protests. One journalist claimed that he was beaten twice in the street, then taken to the headquarters of the 11th Iraqi Army Division’s intelligence unit in Baghdad, and threatened with rape. When he was taken to his holding cell he said he saw 300 other prisoners who had been rounded up during and after the Day of Rage. Baghdad newspapers were also not able to publish because the vehicles and bicycle ban imposed on the capital stopped many of them from going to work that day. Firing into the crowd also resulted in 39 deaths and dozens and dozens of wounded. One person was killed in Kubaisa, Chamchamal, Kalar, and Basra,  two in Ramadi, three in Baghdad and Hawija, four in Tikrit, six in Mosul, seven in Fallujah and Basra. Human Rights Watch demanded an immediate investigation into the actions of the security forces as a result. 

On the positive side, the demonstrators were able to make their voices heard in the halls of government. Protesters called for the governors in Basra, Anbar, and Qadisiyah to resign, and the first two did, along with members of the Anbar provincial council. Premier Maliki was also said to be pressuring Ninewa’s governor to step down as well. Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a release the next day urging parliament to meet the demands of the people. He said that the Day of Rage was a warning to officials that they needed to actually run the state, improve electricity, the food ration system, create jobs, fight corruption, and end unnecessary posts and privileges for officials. Less ingenuous was Speaker Nujafi saying that he supported the demonstrators as well, and that he wanted an investigation into the day’s violence, and Maliki claiming that he would look into their demands as well

Protests in Iraq have slowly grown in size, breadth, and intensity since they began in mid-February. They are still an amorphous group with a wide variety of demands and participants, but the call for better services and government have been the main unifying factors. Increasingly, they are demanding officials elected in the 2009 provincial elections to step down for not fulfilling their campaign promises. In the last few days, some have also begun to focus their anger upon Prime Minister Maliki as well. The problem is that the government is stuck in between a rock and hard place. They have claimed that the 2010 budget has plenty of money for the people, although some ministries have claimed that they will not have enough for their plans. Maliki has also promised that the power shortages will be solved in 12-20 months, even though others have contradicted that claim. Basically, Baghdad does not have the means or money to meet the people’s demands at this time, and making grand promises of solutions that can’t be met will only make the situation worse. This may lead to a critical mass with more and more people coming out into the streets because of hollow promises, prompting a crackdown as happened in 2009 when there were protests over power as well. The on-going demonstrations then, could pose a critical challenge to Iraq’s fledging democratic system.


AK News, “Demo waves through Kurdistan Region,” 2/25/11

Alsumaria, “Iraq Fallujah local governor resigns,” 2/26/11
- “Al Maliki vows to end electricity crisis in Iraq within 12 or 20 months,” 2/14/11
- “Maliki pushes for resignation of Nineveh governor,” 2/26/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Feb. 25th – Bad Day for freedom of press and democracy in Iraq:,” 2/26/11
- “Hundreds call for better services in Kut,” 2/25/11
- “Iraq’s Parliament Speaker reiterates support for demonstrators:,” 2/26/11
- “Two wounded demonstrators die in Tikrit, hundreds demonstrate in Balad city:,” 2/26/11

DPA, “Tense calm after 18 people killed in Iraq protests,” 2/26/11

Al-Haffar, Hassoun, “Housing minister complains of financial shortfalls,” AK News, 2/24/11

Hameed, Leila, “Protesters control part of Kirkuk,” AK News, 2/26/11
- “Sulaimaniya embraced day of anger,” AK News, 2/26/11

Healy, Jack and Schmidt, Michael, “Demonstrations Turn Violent in Iraq,” New York Times, 2/25/11

Al-Jiwari, “Representative of religious authority al-Sistani joins demonstrations in Baghdad,” AK News, 2/25/11

Karim, Ammar, “Iraq moves to head off demos as protester killed,” Agence France Presse, 2/21/11

Al-Khozaee, Salah, “Sistani urges government to implement concrete reforms,” AK News, 2/26/11

McCrummen, Stephanie, “13 killed in Iraq’s ‘Day of Rage’ protests,” Washington Post, 2/25/11
- “23 killed in Iraq’s ‘Day of Rage,’” Washington Post, 2/25/11
- “Iraq protests followed by detentions, beatings,” Washington Post, 2/26/11

McDermid, Charles and Lami, Karim, “The Missing Ingredient in Iraq’s Day of Rage,” Time, 2/25/11

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “Iraq Enters a State of Turmoil; Mass Demonstration Planned for ‘Friday of Rage,’” Middle East Media Research Institute, 2/24/11

Rasheed, Ahmed, “Iraq subsidies power after protests over services,” Reuters, 2/12/11

Salaheddin, Sinan, “6 killed in as Iraqis protest in ‘Day of Rage,’” Associated Press, 2/25/11

Schmidt, Michael and Ghazi, Yasir, “Iraq’s Top Shiite Leaders Urge Delay or Protests,” New York Times, 2/23/11

Shatt News, “Al-Maliki Deliberately Tries To Frighten Religious, Political Forces Regarding Demonstration,” MEMRI Blog, 2/25/11

Al-Taie, Mutasir, “Demonstrators in Qadisiya demand meeting of governor,” AK News, 2/25/11
- “Maliki agrees to implement demands of Qadisiya protesters,” AK News, 2/26/11

Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “More deaths and clashes follow Iraq demonstrations,” CNN, 2/26/11
- “Ten killed in protests across Iraq,” CNN, 2/26/11

Xinhua, “Three protestors killed in Iraq’s northern Mosul,” 2/25/11

Friday, February 25, 2011

Iraqi Government Tries To Deter Participation In “Day Of Rage” Protest

February 25, 2011 will be the “Day of Rage” protest in Iraq. Organizers have been using the internet to try to organize one million people to march through the streets of Baghdad to show their disgust with government, which has not been able to address the lack of basic services, high unemployment and underemployment, fight corruption, or to generally manage the country. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has decided to come out against this demonstration, and has used various tactics to try to deter people from participating.

In just the last few days, government officials have issued warnings about the planned event, and tried to block coverage of it. On February 24, Maliki said that people should not attend the march. He claimed that Baathists and Al Qaeda were going to manipulate it for their own ends. That same day, the Minister of National Reconciliation repeated that message about Baathists to a meeting of tribal sheikhs, urging them to tell their tribesmen to not go to the capital. A few days before, the Baghdad Operations Command claimed that it had intelligence that terrorists were going to target the march. As a result, the military banned all vehicles from central Baghdad on February 25, including those used by the media. The Communications and Media Commission is appealing to the Operations Command to allow television trucks to cover the demonstration live. All of these statements are a dramatic turn around for the government. Last week, the premier told his ministers and the governors that they had to listen to the on-going demonstrations, that the right to assemble was protected under the constitution, and that since there were recent elections the government didn’t have to worry about any real repercussions. 

Prime Minister Maliki has definitely changed his opinion about the country’s protests. He has gone from a supporter, to trying to discourage what might be the largest march to date. Protesters have increasingly gone from complaining about how badly their city or province is run, to calling for their local politicians to resign for mismanagement. Those demands could quickly turn to the new parliament, ministers, and Maliki himself, which would explain the premier’s change of face. There have also been clashes with security forces, and deaths in Kut, Wasit and Sulaymaniya in Kurdistan. Then again, not as many people may participate in the “Day of Rage” after both Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr encouraged their followers to not participate. Whatever happens, Iraq is going through a sensitive time as a complete government has still not be named because of political rivalries amongst the largest parties, economic development, job creation, and delivery of services are still lagging far behind demand, and more and more people are taking to the streets as a result.


Ahmed, Hamid, “Iraqi PM to country: Stay away from Friday demo,” Associated Press, 2/24/11

Alsumaria, “Iraq government tenses up tone against pretests,” 2/24/11   

Arraf, Jane, “Iraq attempts to defuse huge protest planned for Friday,” Christian Science Monitor, 2/23/11

Brosk, Raman, “Iraqi Media Commission challenges ban on live coverage of Friday protest,” AK News, 2/24/11

Al-Haffar, Hasson, “Sadrist Current threaten to withdraw from parliament over Kut protest clashes,” AK News, 2/19/11

Al-Rafidayn, “Al-Maliki Calls on Ministers and Provincial Governors to be Attentive to Demonstrations,” MEMRI Blog, 2/16/11

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sadr Returns To Iraq And Tries To Appropriate The Protests

On February 23, 2011 Moqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq after leaving on January 20. His immediate concern upon arriving in Najaf appeared to be appropriating control of the on-going protests in Iraq.

On the day that Sadr came back to Iraq, his movement issued a statement saying that people should not join the planned “Day of Rage” protest on February 25. Instead, the Sadr Trend said that it would conduct a survey across the country on February 28 to see what services they wanted. If those were not met by the government it would hold its own protest in six months. That, along with a announcement by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s office that the demonstration could get out of hand and be exploited by others, will probably greatly reduce the Shiite participation in the march.

Sadrist parliamentarian Maha al-Dori talking with demonstrators in Baghdad, 2/23/11 (AP)
Earlier, the Sadrists had been trying to commandeer and organize some of the protests going on in Baghdad and southern Iraq. On February 10 and 16 there were marches in Sadr City, Baghdad over services, unemployment, and corruption, with clerics joining in the latter one. On February 19, Sadrist lawmakers said that they would withdraw from parliament if there wasn’t an investigation into the shooting of demonstrators in Kut, Wasit three days earlier that left one dead. The Sadrists said that the constitution guaranteed the right to peacefully assemble, and that shooting at crowds was unjustified. Finally, on February 15, Sadr himself made a call for Iraqis to hold demonstrations over the lack of services. 

The Sadr movement is obviously trying to take advantage of the situation going on within the country. It likes to portray itself as a popular social and religious group, in touch with the common Iraqi. It would be abrogating its claim to power if it did not try to stand with the people demonstrating. At the same time, the Sadrists have always had a hard time balancing their image of being in touch with the street with trying to be a legitimate political party. The Sadrists for example, want people to demonstrate against the lack of services, but now control six ministries such as Planning and Public Works that are in charge of providing them. It’s also an open question as to how much influence Sadr can garner with the masses currently protesting. This may turn out to be a short-term gamble that has long-term repercussions for the Trend.


Agence France Presse, “Demonstrators in Iraq demand jobs and electricity,” 2/16/11
- “Radical Shiite cleric Sadr ‘back in Iraq,’” 2/23/11

Alsumaria, “Iraqis anger spelled out in street protests,” 2/11/11
- “Najaf Residents reluctant about Sadr protests,” 2/15/11
- “Al Sadr to conduct referendum in Iraq,” 2/23/11

Al-Haffar, Hasson, “Sadrist Current threaten to withdraw from parliament over Kut protest clashes,” AK News, 2/19/11

Schmidt, Michael and Ghazi, Yasir, “Iraq’s Top Shiite Leaders Urge Delay or Protests,” New York Times, 2/23/11

AL-SABAH AL-JIDAD: The Winds Of Change

SOURCE: Al-Sabah Al-Jidad, 2/19/11 via MEMRI Blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Story Of CURVEBALL And Iraq’s Mobile Biological Weapons Labs

The English newspaper the Guardian interviewed the infamous Iraqi Defector CURVEBALL in mid-February 2011. The story was repeated across the globe as the source, whose real name is Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, said that he lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the mobile biological weapons (BW) labs that became a major part of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. In fact, officials in German and U.S. intelligence had major questions about the veracity of Janabi for years and the mobile labs story, but their doubts never made it to the White House.

CURVEBALL aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi (Guardian)
Janabi came from a Sunni family in Dora, Baghdad. He went to the Technical University of Baghdad where he finished with a D average, and received a degree. Afterward he worked at several jobs including as an engineer at a government run chemical plant, and at a farming warehouse in Djerf al Nadaf. Janabi’s work as a chemical engineer in Iraq was what originally attracted the interest of German intelligence, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and he would later say that Djerf al Nadaf was the location of a secret WMD facility. In 1998 he fled Iraq after trying to steal money from a film company he was employed at. He arrived in Germany in 1999, and asked for asylum in January 2000. Janabi claimed that he received that status in March 2000. The next month a German official came to talk to him about his work in Iraq’s chemical industry. By his own admission, that was when he decided to lie about Saddam Hussein’s WMD program in order to convince the West to overthrow the Baathist dictator.

According to Janabi, the Germans interviewed him nearly twice a week for 1½ years. In 2000 he told the BND that he supervised construction work on the mobile labs at the Djerf al Nadaf warehouse. Janabi claimed that there were seven such labs that were built beginning in 1997, and that they began producing biological weapons (BW) that year. In 1998 he told his interrogators that he witnessed a biological accident where several people were killed. In fact, he had been fired from the warehouse in 1995 for trying to steal money. There were several other holes in his story that the Germans discovered at that time. Another was that he claimed that his former boss, Dr. Basil Latif, had a son who was running a WMD smuggling network out of England. British intelligence investigated the story and found that Latif’s son was only 16 years old. Latif was also tracked down by the BND at the end of 2000 in Dubai, and he said that Janabi was lying. That led the Germans to change their opinion about CURVEBALL. The BND went back and re-interviewed Janabi in light of their talk with Latif, and Janabi told them that if his former boss said there were no mobile labs, than they must not exist. German intelligence didn’t talk to Janabi again until May 2002 where they asked him about locations and personalities involved with Iraq’s WMD programs. Janabi would later say that he lied again to his interviewers about his knowledge of Baghdad’s operations. The Germans would have one more session with Janabi in January 2003 about the mobile labs. The BND passed along their reservations about CURVBEALL to the country’s political leadership, but at the same time kept him on their payroll, provided him with a house, car, monthly stipend, gave his wife and children political asylum, and continued to use him as a source on Iraq.

In February 2001, U.S. and German intelligence met about CURVEBALL. At the time, the BND believed that Janabi had worked for a company that installed piping and other materials on Iraq’s mobile labs. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer would later write in his autobiography published in 2011, that Berlin sent a letter to the CIA telling them that there were problems with Janabi’s story, but that it would share his information about Iraq’s WMD programs anyway. The Americans would end up writing 112 intelligence reports based upon CURVEBALL alone.

The U.S. had three other sources about Iraq’s mobile labs. The second was a civil engineer, Ahmed Shemri, who worked for the Iraqi Free Officers Movement, an opposition group. He came forward in 2001, claiming that he worked at the Muthanna State Enterprise factory, which was a former WMD plant, and said that Iraq had mobile labs. A third source was Mohammad Harith Assaf, who claimed that he was a major in the Mukhabarat, Iraqi intelligence, and who left Iraq in 2001. Assaf was originally found by Mohammad al-Zubeidi, an Iraqi exile that collected stories from Iraqi refugees and exiles. Zuebidi passed Assaf along to the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC got Assaf interviewed by several media sources, as well as introduced to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) by former CIA Chief James Woolsey. Zubeidi would later say that when he first talked with Assaf he never mentioned mobile labs, but only did so after he met with the INC. In February 2002, Assaf was interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes television show, the next month he was anonymously quoted in the Times of London, and then in May of that year he was also used in an article in Vanity Fair. In his interviews Assaf claimed that he was in charge of hiding WMD. He told reporters, that in 1996 Dr. Rehab Taha, also known as “Dr. Germ,” came up with the idea for the labs. He said that Iraq then went out and bought eight trucks from France to convert into labs, which was done in Hillah, Babil. They were then disguised as commercial vehicles. When he went to the DIA, he talked about secret labs, but not mobile ones. His debriefer said that he seemed to have some accurate information, but that he also appeared to have been coached. He did pass a polygraph test, and was ranked as reliable, until early 2002. The fourth source was Adnan Saeed al-Haideri, another defector connected to the INC. He didn’t talk about labs when he first started talking to the press, and only added that to his story in mid-2002. Like CURVEBALL, none of these defectors’ stories proved to be true, and U.S. intelligence questioned some of them even before the 2003 invasion.

The first U.S. intelligence reports about Iraq’s mobile labs appeared in 2000. In December of that year, a National Intelligence Estimate said that the U.S. had come across new information that Iraq was working on its BW program, and secret production facilities such as mobile labs. That same month, the National Security Council asked for a report on Saddam’s WMD. It said that it couldn’t confirm that Iraq was working on its BW, but there was a single source, which was CURVEBALL, that claimed Iraq had set up secret capabilities, meaning mobile labs, and started large scale production. In the second half of 2001, the CIA issued a paper saying Iraq was working on its WMD and likely had mobile labs based upon CURVEBALL and Ahmed Shemri.

2002 was when the mobile labs story went public. On September 12, the State Department released “A Decade of Decision and Defiance, Fact Sheet” to the press, claiming that Iraq had mobile labs. (1) A few days later, the British put out its “Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government,” that also included the labs claim, even though analyst David Kelly, the head of the Defense Science and Technology Lab argued that the language should’ve been changed from Iraq had mobile labs, to Iraq thought about them. (2) The English dossier said that labs were the idea of Dr. Rehab Taha, that U.N. inspectors had found evidence that Iraq was working on them, and defectors had come forward with accounts that they had been built.

The labs claim was also included in the major U.S. intelligence report on Iraq before the invasion, the October 2002 “Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs” National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The NIE represented a dramatic shift in opinion amongst the American intelligence agencies. They went from suspicions that Iraq had an active WMD program to statements that one was up and running, and larger than before the 1991 Gulf War. One key piece of evidence to support that argument was CURVEBALL and the mobile labs. The NIE said that Janabi was a credible source, and almost the entire section on the facilities was based upon him. The paper said that Iraq had gotten the idea for the labs in 1996 based upon CURVEBALL and two notes on military stationary. It went on to include Assaf’s story that Iraq built labs to elude U.N. inspectors, but it noted that he said secret facilities, not mobile ones. The NIE also stated that Iraq had 7 mobile facilities that were built in 1997 and began producing BW that year. The U.S. had satellite images of the Djerf al Nadaf warehouse where Janabi worked, which it took as confirmation of CURVEBALL’s story, even though the photos revealed nothing about labs or WMD activity. The NIE finished with the rather incredible statement that the labs could produce the same amount of BW Iraq made before the Gulf War in a matter of months. That meant 7 trucks could make as much as several large industrial facilities could.

When U.N. weapons inspections restarted in Iraq at the end of 2002, Washington used the mobile labs to attack the process. On December 12, 2002 the State Department released “Fact Sheet, Office of the Spokesman” that said Baghdad’s declaration to the Security Council did not include the labs. That same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same statement to the press. On January 23, 2003 Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, saying that Iraq was hiding its WMD program through its mobile labs. On January 28 in President Bush’s State of the Union and on February 5 in Secretary Powell’s speech to the Security Council the labs story was repeated. Powell for example, anonymously quoted CURVEBALL as a major source when he said, “We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels. … The source was an eyewitness – an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died.” The Secretary also presented slides with mock-ups of mobile labs not only on trailers, but on railcars as well. Finally, in February CIA Chief George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the labs would be impossible for the inspectors to find, and there was another State Department paper stating that there were multiple sources on the labs.

Slides of the mobile labs presented at Powell's Feb. 03 U.N. presentation (Global Security)
The same time that the mobile labs story was becoming public, U.S. intelligence was running into problems with its sources. In April 2002, the CIA wrote a report on Mohammad Harith Assaf. It said they had stopped dealing with him after four meetings because they thought he was a fabricator. In May, the DIA officially flagged him as one. In July there was another intelligence report that questioned Assaf’s veracity. The DIA and CIA however, did not pass on their doubts to others. Other intelligence agencies continued to use his information as a result, and he was included in the October 2002 NIE, Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union, and Powell’s February U.N. speech.

CURVEBALL was also being questioned. In December 2002, the CIA’s central group chief said Janabi shouldn’t be used because there was no support for his claims. That same month, CIA Director Tenet asked the Germans if CURVEBALL could be interviewed by the Agency via TV link or have a CIA analyst talk to him in person. The head of the BND said no, and warned Janabi’s story was unconfirmed, but that the U.S. could use him anyway. A CIA analyst also brought up the fact that the translations of CURVEBALL’s interrogations led to misunderstandings about what he was saying, that the only American to meet him in person, a Pentagon officer in May 2000, thought Janabi was an alcoholic. The analyst sent an e-mail questioning CURVEBALL’s reliability when he read a copy of Powell’s February 2003 U.N. speech warning that he may not be reliable, that the Germans were having problems with him, questioned whether he was who he claimed to be, and suggested that he be investigated more before the government used him publicly. An evaluation of him by the DIA said there were inconsistencies in his story. The CIA case officer in charge of CURVEBALL’s file, rejected all of those doubts, and retorted that there was plenty of corroborative evidence to support his story.

Beginning in February 2003, the U.N. inspectors also provided first hand accounts of the mobile labs. On February 4, inspectors looked at two alleged labs and found nothing. On February 8, the U.N. went to Djerf al-Nadaf and found that it did not match CURVEBALL’s description of it. Twenty days later, they returned and took samples for BW and found nothing. On March 7, the inspectors released a report to the Security Council saying that they had not discovered any evidence of the labs.

Trailer found near Mosul that was initially believed to be a mobile weapons labs (Global Security)
After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Americans thought they had found incontrovertible evidence of the labs when several trailers were discovered in the country. In May, the New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence believed they had found the mobile labs in the form of three trailers discovered by the Kurdish peshmerga outside of Mosul in Ninewa province. The Iraqis said that they were used for weather balloons, but the U.S. rejected that. The article claimed that pictures of the trailers had been shown to CURVEBALL who confirmed that they were the labs. Three teams of weapons experts went through the trailers with the first believing they were labs, while the third disagreeing. The differences in opinion didn’t stop the CIA and DIA from publishing a paper on May 28 saying that the trailers were labs. President Bush added his official approval on May 29 when he told Polish TV that the U.S. had found Iraq’s WMD programs when it found the trailers. In June, the White House went on to release a White Paper on the trailers, and Secretary Powell said that the labs confirmed the eyewitness accounts he had used in his U.N. address. All the way into September, Vice President Dick Cheney was repeating the story.

While the administration was making their claims, the story was unraveling at the same time. In the beginning of June 2003 U.S. and British intelligence analysts said that the trailers were probably not labs. They warned that people were so intent on finding evidence against Iraq that they were rushing to conclusions. The experts said that the trailers lacked the necessary equipment, and that even if they were part of a BW program, they could only produce a small amount of agents that would need to be further processed somewhere else. The British went on to say that the Iraqis were probably correct, that the trailers were for weather balloons. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research wanted the trailers to be investigated more. There were also skeptics within the DIA, while the CIA was the most adamant supporters of the labs claim. By October, the Iraq Survey Group was on the ground in Iraq looking for WMD, and its first chief, David Kay, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that month that the trailers were not suited for labs, to coincide with the release of the group’s interim report that said the same thing. In December, the Senate Intelligence Committee asked for a report on CURVEBALL, and was eventually told that he was not a BW expert, that he designed production facilities, and never claimed that he worked on WMD.

Going into 2004, the White House was sticking to its story, but was finding that harder and harder to do. On January 22 for instance, Vice President Cheney said that the trailers were proof that Iraq was working on WMD. A few days later, David Kay again testified to the senate, stating that the majority opinion was that the trailers were not labs, but that there were still divisions over the matter. An internal CIA investigation of its pre-war intelligence revealed that the DIA had put a fabricator notice out on Mohammad Harith Assaf. In March, CIA Director Tenet testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had spoken to Vice President Cheney and let him know that the trailers were not “conclusive evidence” of Iraq’s WMD program as he had claimed to the press earlier. Tenet went on to say that there were continuing disputes about what the labs were for. That month, the CIA was also finally able to interview CURVEBALL in Germany. They showed him pictures of the Djerf al Nadaf warehouse and compared them to his earlier account, and pointed out the differences between the two. Janabi said that the pictures had been doctored, and then refused to talk to them anymore. March was also the month that 60 Minutes revealed that Harith Assaf, who they interviewed back in February 2002, had been flagged as an unreliable source by U.S. intelligence. By April, there were more cracks within the administration when Secretary Powell told the media that he had been given questionable intelligence about the labs

By the middle of 2004 and into 2005, the labs story was officially put to rest. In July, the Senate Intelligence Committee released “Report On the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq,” which said that the October 2002 NIE overstated intelligence on the labs, and didn’t cover the uncertainties over the sources. It went on to state that the CIA withheld important information about CURVEBALL’s reliability, and that he, and reports about him, were mishandled. It noted, that the intelligence community readily accepted the mobile labs, because that was what they wanted to believe about Iraq’s WMD program. The lead CIA analyst on the matter for example, was convinced that the labs existed. In September, the Iraq Survey Group’s final report came out that said it didn’t believe the trailers were labs. Finally, in March 2005 the Robb-Silberman commission findings were publicized. It said that U.S. intelligence was too reliant upon a single source, CURVEBALL, for its reports on mobile labs, that the DIA didn’t vet Janabi, that the intelligence agencies didn’t tell civilians about the problems with CURVEBALL, and repeated the Senate’s findings that the CIA accepted the labs claim because it fit their pre-existing assumptions about Iraq’s weapons program. With no weapons discovered in Iraq, these reports were left to explain what went wrong. They overwhelmingly found that the intelligence agencies were at fault for accepting questionable sources, because they thought the worse of Iraq after U.N. inspectors left in 1998.

CURVEBALL would return to the headlines off and on in the following years. In November 2007, he was interviewed on 60 Minutes. They revealed his name for the first time publicly as Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, and went through the problems with his story before the U.S. invasion. In June 2008, the Los Angeles Times also talked with Janabi. They found him working low paying services jobs, and complaining that the U.S. was blaming him for not finding WMD in Iraq. He told the paper that he should be “treated like a king” for what he did, that everything he said was true, while claiming that he never said Iraq had WMD.

In September 2009, Janabi returned to Iraq for the March 2010 parliamentary elections. He called a member of the Reconciliation Commission saying that he wanted to form a political party to support Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He got $20,000 from the government to do so, and created the Development and Reform Party, which ran candidates in Baghdad and Najaf. It received 1,311 votes in the election. Janabi then scammed $10,000 from the Reconciliation Commission official he had talked to, claiming that he could get his daughter into a German college without the red tape if he received some money, and then left Iraq.

In February 2011, Janabi would make a splash again in his interview with the Guardian. He claimed everything he said about the mobile labs and Iraq’s WMD program was a lie. He claimed that he was a patriot who wanted to get rid of Saddam. He blamed the BND for making him out as fall guy, and stated that his story had nothing to do with his asylum request to Berlin. Janabi got his whole family German citizenship in 2008 with the help of German intelligence, but had since then been cut off from their support, and a local official claimed he was forbidden from leaving the country. The day after the article was published CIA Director Tenet issued a statement saying that he found out that CURVEBALL was a liar too late to have an affect upon the invasion. He quoted a passage from his autobiography that said he didn’t know that the BND had problems with Janabi until 2005. His account was contradicted by the release of former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s autobiography. He claimed that Germany wrote a letter to the CIA about its doubts about CURVEBALL before 2003. The two stories may not have been contradictory as a letter from Germany may not have been passed up the chain of command to Tenet, jus as earlier questions about Janabi did not get past the various departments within the CIA.

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, and the discovery that Saddam had no large and active WMD program, Washington’s agencies and personalities have participated in a blame game that lasts until this very day about who was responsible for the intelligence failure. The White House quickly singled out the intelligence agencies, and mainly CIA Director Tenet. The Agency’s current and former officials fought back, claiming that the administration cherry picked intelligence to support their drive to war. The latter version of events has largely won over popular opinion, and has even been included in several movies. While the White House did want everything it could find about Iraq’s weapons program, and presented worse case scenarios in its statements, when it came to WMD, the CIA, and other agencies were all too willing to provide evidence such as the mobile labs story. After the U.N. inspectors left in 1998, the American agencies came to believe that Saddam had restarted all of his programs. By the time the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate came out, the majority opinion was that Baghdad’s programs were up and running, and larger than its previous one. Most analysts would believe almost anything they heard about Iraq as a result, and would discount contradictory evidence. They would present these findings to Washington officials without the caveats and problems because the administration was not interested in all the details. That was shown with CURVEBALL and the three other Iraqi defectors, as there were holes in their stories, but that was never transmitted to higher ups. When it came to the mobile labs and most other accounts of WMD then, the Bush administration didn’t have to lie because the intelligence was so bad about Iraq in the first place, that it had descended into assumptions rather than verifiable facts.


1. Mukhopandhyay, Dipali, “The Bush Administration on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004

2. Kemper, Bob, “Experts review, poke holes in case for war,” Chicago Tribune, 8/10/03


Beaumont, Peter, Barnet, Antony and Hinsliff, Gaby, “Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds,” Observer, 6/15/03

Cassidy, John, “The David Kelly Affair,” New Yorker, 12/8/03

CBS, “Faulty Intel Source ‘Curve Ball’ Revealed,” 11/4/07

Chulov, Martin, “CIA source who built case for war swindles $10,000 from Iraq,” Guardian, 12/1/10

Chulov, Martin and Pidd, Helen, “Curveball: How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam,” Guardian, 2/15/11

Cortright, David, Millar, Alistair, Gerber, Linda, “Unproven: The Controversy over Justifying War in Iraq,” Fourth Freedom Forum, June 2003

Dwyer, Jim, “Defectors’ Reports on Iraq Arms Were Embellished, Exile Asserts,” New York Times, 7/9/04

Goetz, John and Drogin, Bob, “’Curveball’ speaks, and a reputation as a disinformation agent remains intact,” Los Angeles Times, 6/18/08

Gordon, Michael and Miller, Judith, “Threats And Responses: The Iraqis; U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest For A-Bomb Parts,” New York Times, 9/8/02

Hosenball, Mark and Barry, John, “The Tale of The Lying Defector,” Newsweek, 2/16/04

Iraq Survey Group, “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCIA on Iraq’s WMD,” 9/30/04

Jehl, Douglas, “State Department Disputes CIA View of Trailers as Labs,” New York Times, 6/26/03

Kemper, Bob, “Experts review, poke holes in case for war,” Chicago Tribune, 8/10/03

Landay, Jonathan, “CIA director disputes Cheney assertions on Iraq,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 3/9/04
- “Intelligence officials warned that Iraq WMD information was iffy,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 2/6/04

Landay, Jonathan and Strobel, Warren, “Former CIA director used Pentagon ties to introduce Iraqi defector,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 7/15/04

Lockhead, Carolyn, “Ex-inspector: Intelligence to blame for claim on Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/29/04

Los Angeles Times, “Powell says bad data misled him on Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 4/3/04

Miller, Greg, “Cheney claims al Qaeda link to Hussein,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/23/04

Miller, Judith, “An Iraqi Defector Tells of Work on at Least 20 Hidden Weapons Sites,” New York Times, 12/20/01

Miller, Judith and Broad, William, “Some experts doubt trailers were germ lab,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/7/03
- “U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms,” New York Times, 5/21/03

Mukhopandhyay, Dipali, “The Bush Administration on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004

NBC News, “Sunday, September 14, 2003 GUEST: Dick Cheney, vice president Tim Russert, moderator,” 9/14/03

PBS Frontline, “In Their Own Words: Who Said What When,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03

Pidd, Helen, “Curveball doubts were shared with CIA, says ex-German foreign minister,” Guardian, 2/17/11

Priest, Dana and Pincus, Walter, “No illegal weapons found in Iraq, U.S. investigator says,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3/03

Rangwala, Glen, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons,” University of Cambridge, 2004

Robb, Charles Silberman, Laurence, “Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction,” 3/31/05

Rose, David, “Iraq’s Arsenal of Terror,” Vanity Fair, May 2002

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “Report On the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq,” U.S. Senate, 7/7/04

Strobel, Warren and Landay, Jonathan, “U.N. committee finds no connection between Iraq, al-Qaida,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 6/23/03

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Iraq’s Parliament Fails In Its First Test With Demonstrators

In response to the growing protests across the country, Iraq’s politicians promised to cut their salaries. This started on February 5, 2011 when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would cut his pay in half, and urged others to do the same. On February 20 however, parliament passed the 2011 budget, and only made a modest reduction in its salary along with those of ministers. Instead of the 40% cut that the cabinet proposed, parliament only voted for a 10% one that will save a modest $4.9 million, out of a total $82.6 billion spending bill. Parliamentarians make $11,000 a month, along with large benefits and expense accounts, which places them far above the average Iraqi. Demonstrators are demanding that they actually govern the country. This action shows that politicians are unwilling to take concrete steps to quell the growing anger in the streets.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq MPs pull back from drastic pay cuts,” 2/20/11

Karim, Ammar, "Iraq moves to head off demos as protesters killed," Agence France Presse, 2/21/11

McEvers, Kelly, “Iraqi Protestors Call For Better Jobs, Benefits,” NPR, 2/11/11

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iraqi lawmakers pass 2011 budget,” Reuters, 2/20/11

Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Amid Egypt-inspired unrest, Iraqi prime minister cuts salary in half,” CNN, 2/5/11

New Survey Finds Iraqis Generally Positive About Their Country and Future

Greenberg Quinland Rosner Research, working for the National Democratic Institute, conducted the latest survey in Iraq at the end of 2010. From September to November, the company surveyed 2,000 Iraqis face-to-face. The report was meant to cover all of Iraq’s 18 provinces, but because of security and time constraints it was unable to conduct interviews in Dohuk, Muthanna, and Maysan, which together represent roughly 6.6% of Iraq’s population. It was able to poll 489 people in Baghdad, 546 in western Iraq (Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Tamim), 696 in southern Iraq (Basra, Babil, Qadisiyah, Najaf, Dhi Qar, Wasit, Karbala), and 269 people in northern Iraq (Sulaymaniya, Irbil). Iraq’s minorities (Christians, Turkmen, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis) were over sampled in the study, making up 1,200 respondents, and were broken up into four groups, pro-Kurdish Christians in Irbil, pro-Arab Christians in Mosul, Yazidis in Irbil, and Sabean Mandeans in Baghdad. That could’ve skewed the final results on certain questions as minorities have faced severe persecution since the 2003 invasion. The final survey had a +/- 2.19% margin of error. Overall, the study found that Iraqis were relatively optimistic about their futures.

Participants were first asked what direction they thought Iraq was going in. People were split down the middle with 45% saying it was going in the right direction, and 44% saying the opposite. Shiites had the most positive views with 59% saying the country was going in the right direction, and 31% saying the wrong, while only 7% of Yazidis thought Iraq was heading the right way. Christians, 19%, western Iraq, 25%, Turkmen, 28%, and Sunnis, 37%, also had overwhelmingly negative views, compared to southern Iraq, 57%, Sabean Mandeans, 51%, and northern Iraq, 50%, who were more optimistic. The Sabeans, who are followers of John the Baptist, were the only minority group who thought Iraq was doing well. In June, the International Republican Institute did its own poll, which found 59% of respondents thought Iraq was going in the wrong direction, and in an earlier December 2009 poll 51% felt that way. Another survey funded by ABC, BBC, and NHK news in March 2009 found that 58% thought the country was doing good.

Do you think that things in Iraq are going in the right or wrong direction?
Total 45% Right, 44% Wrong
Shiites 59% Right, 31% Wrong
Southern Iraq 57% Right, 39% Wrong
Sabean Mandeans 51% Right, 45% Wrong
Northern Iraq 50% Right, 37% Wrong
Kurds 49% Right, 38% Wrong
Baghdad 48% Right, 38% Wrong
Sunnis 37% Right, 56% Wrong
Turkmen 28% Right, 67% Wrong
Western Iraq 25% Right, 60% Wrong
Christians 19% Right, 64% Wrong
Yazidis 7% Right, 92% Wrong

When asked about specific issues the survey found mixed responses as well. On the one hand, education, 66%, security, 58%, water supply, 56%, and health care, 51%, were all seen as improving over the last year, while the cost of living, 47%, electricity, 47%, and job opportunities, 42%, were more evenly split. Housing, 47% worse, and corruption 56% worse, were at the opposite end of the spectrum. Those results were in stark contrast to the Republican Institute’s findings, which had 60% thinking electricity had gotten worse, and 63% feeling the same way about unemployment.

Are these issues getting better or worse?
Education 66% Better, 26% Worse
Security 58% Better, 31% Worse
Water Supply 56% Better, 33% Worse
Health Care 51% Better, 36% Worse
Cost of Living 47% Better, 44% Worse
Electricity 47% Better, 44% Worse
Jobs Opportunities 42% Better, 48% Worse
Conditions for Women 41% Better, 26% Worse
Housing 26% Better, 47% Worse
Corruption 23% Better, 56% Worse

Improvements in services, the economy, and corruption were also seen dramatically different by region. In western Iraq, not a single issue was seen as improving. Security and water had the highest positive responses, but even then, only 32% thought they were getting better. In comparison, the Kurds felt everything was improving except for jobs and corruption.

Western Iraq on whether issues were getting better or worse
Security 32% Better, 55% Worse
Water 32% Better, 52% Worse
Electricity 28% Better, 62% Worse
Cost of Living 25% Better, 67% Worse
Country’s direction 25% Right, 60% Wrong
Economy 24% Better, 49% Worse
Jobs 23% Better, 70% Worse
Housing 15% Better, 62% Worse

Northern Iraq on whether issues were getting better or worse
Security 89% Better, 8% Worse
Water 77% Better, 21% Worse
Electricity 75% Better, 18% Worse
Health Care 67% Better, 28% Worse
Cost of Living 59% Better, 34% Worse
Education 59% Better, 34% Worse
Housing 51% Better, 33% Worse
Jobs 40% Better, 56% Worse
Corruption 22% Better, 53% Worse

In fact, this would be the first study that found people having a relatively even view about their power supply. When broken down by region, Baghdad, northern Iraq, and the south all felt that electricity was getting better, but only marginally in the south, while western Iraq thought it was overwhelmingly getting worse.

Is the electricity supply getting better or worse?
Total 47% Better, 44% Worse
Northern Iraq 67% Better, 18% Worse
Baghdad 54% Better, 36% Worse
Southern Iraq 48% Better, 45% Worse
Western Iraq 28% Better, 62% Worse

When asked about their electricity supply, around two-thirds said they received six hours or more a day. Overall, 53% claimed they got 6-10 hours of power per day, and 23% had 10 hours or more. By region, Kurdistan had the best response with 92% saying they had six hour or more of power. That’s largely because the Kurds have successfully built three privately owned power plants to boost their capacity. Baghdad was next with 80% saying they had six hours or more, and southern Iraq was at the bottom with 70% having six hours or more.

On Average how many hours of electricity does your household get each day from the national grid?
Total 21% Less than 5 hours, 53% 6-10 hours, 23% 10 hours or more
North 4% Less than 5 hours, 31% 6-10 hours, 61% 10 hours or more
Baghdad 19% Less than 5 hours, 51% 6-10 hours, 29% 10 hours or more
West 20% Less than 5 hours, 65% 6-10 hours, 9% 10 hours or more
South 31% Less than 5 hours, 54% 6-10 hours, 16% 10 hours or more

For water, the majority thought that the situation was getting better, but in terms of actual supply it was still spotty. Overall, 56% thought the water supply was getting better, with northern Iraq, 77%, and the south, 68%, at the top, and the west, 32%, at the bottom. When asked how often did they get clean water in their house however, 25% said mostly, 54% said sometimes, and 19% said rarely. In Kurdistan 35% said mostly, which tied them with Baghdad at the top, but at the same time, 37% said they received clean water rarely, the highest percentage in the nation.

Is water supply getting better or worse by region?
Total 56% Better, 33% Worse
North 77% Better, 21% Worse
South 68% Better, 21% Worse
Baghdad 55% Better, 32% Worse
West 32% Better, 52% Worse

How often does your household have access to clean water?
Total 25% Mostly, 54% Sometimes, 19% Rarely
Baghdad 35% Mostly, 61% Sometimes, 4% Rarely
North 35% Mostly, 27% Sometimes, 37% Rarely
South 26% Mostly, 59% Sometimes, 14% Rarely
West 10% Mostly 53% Sometimes, 31% Rarely

All parts of the country felt that education was getting better. 66% said schooling was improving. 50% or more in every region responded the same way. The number of students in school has greatly increased since 2003.  

Is education getter better or worse by region?
Total 66% Better, 26% Worse
South 79% Better, 16% Worse
North 75% Better, 16% Worse
Baghdad 58% Better, 33% Worse
West 50% Better, 41% Worse

A slight majority also felt that health care was improving, led by northern and southern Iraq. 51% said health care was better, with 36% saying it was worse. Northern Iraq, 67%, and southern Iraq, 66%, were the most positive, while western Iraq was the most pessimistic at 29%.

Health care getting better or worse by region?
Total 51% Better, 36% Worse
North 67% Better, 28% Worse
South 66% Better, 24% Worse
Baghdad 46% Better, 38% Worse
West 29% Better, 53% Worse

Respondents were rather cynical about corruption improving in Iraq. 23% said it would get better, while 56% felt it would get worse. The south was the most optimistic with 34% thinking that the situation could improve, while only 15% felt that way in western Iraq.

Is corruption getting better or worse by region
Total 23% Better, 56% Worse
South 34% Better, 52% Worse
North 22% Better, 53% Worse
Baghdad 18% Better, 50% Worse
West 15% Better, 70% Worse

Services like electricity, schooling, and health care, along with corruption have become leading issues in Iraq because security has improved so much. When asked whether security was getting better or worse, 58% said the former. That compared to 73% who said it was improving in the June Republican Institute poll. The difference between the two is the result of the large number of minorities used in the Greenberg Quinland Rosner survey, and the many attacks they have suffered over the years. 62%-68% of Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis for example, thought security was getting worse. Iraqis also felt confident that things would not get worse when the U.S. withdrew with 67% saying that security would actually get better.

Is security getting better or worse in Iraq?
Total 58% Better, 31% Worse
North 89% Better, 9% Worse
South 75% Better, 19% Worse
Baghdad 48% Better, 35% Worse
West 32% Better, 55% Worse

Is security getting better or worse for minorities?
National 58%, 31% Worse
Sabean Mandeans 30% Better, 40% Worse
Yazidis 28% Better, 68% Worse
Turkmen 28% Better, 64% Worse
Christians 18% Better, 62% Worse

Will security improve or deteriorate when U.S. military leaves?
67% Improve
17% Deteriorate

In terms of personal security, every region felt overwhelmingly safe. In total 86% of those asked said they were safe in their own neighborhood. Northern Iraq was the most positive at 99%, closely followed by the south at 97%. It’s no surprise that those are the areas with the least amount of attacks. Baghdad had the lowest results, and even then, 75% said they were safe in their own area.

Do you feel safe or unsafe in your neighborhood?
Total 86% Safe, 13% Unsafe
North 99% Safe, 1% Unsafe
South 97% Safe, 3% Unsafe
West 77% Safe, 22% Unsafe
Baghdad 75% Safe, 23% Unsafe

Unsurprisingly, the pollsters found that many minorities felt threatened and discriminated against within Iraq. Only one-fifth to a little over one-third said that their conditions were getting better in the country led by Sabean Mandeans at 38%, Turkmen at 31%, Christians at 28%, and Yazidis at 18%. At the same time, Yazidis, 71%, Sabeans, 58%, and Christians, 47%, believed that their situation would improve, with only Turkmen, 29%, largely disagreeing. Two-thirds or more of each group felt uncomfortable outside their own neighborhoods. Many Christians, 72%, and Sabeans, 44%, knew someone who had been physically attacked, while Yazidis, 69%, and Sabeans, 54%, felt the most discriminated against. Despite those difficulties, 48% or more of minorities said that they thought Iraq was a good place to raise a family, and a majority of Christians, 54%, Sabeans, 69%, and Yazidis, 77%, felt that they had a good chance at prosperity in the country compared with other Iraqis. Turkmen were the only exception with 36% saying they had a good chance in the nation. Integrating minorities into the security forces, making ethnosectarian and political hiring illegal, setting up quotas to hire minorities, and improving security were all seen as top priorities for the country to address.

Are conditions for minorities getting better or worse in Iraq?
Sabeans 38% Better, 33% Worse
Turkmen 31% Better, 35% Worse
Christians 28% Better, 55% Worse
Yazidis 18% Better, 74% Worse

Are minority rights likely to improve or never?
Yazidis 71% Likely, 20% Never
Sabeans 58% Likely, 32% Never
Christians 47% Likely, 36% Never
Turkmen 29% Likely, 25% Never

Do you or someone you know well feel uncomfortable outside your neighborhood?
Turkmen 83% Yes, 13% No
Christians 71% Yes, 25% No
Yazidis 68% Yes, 31% No
Sabean Mandeans 67% Yes, 27% No

Do you or someone you know well ever been attacked physically?
Christians 72% Yes, 23% No
Sabean Mandeans 44% Yes, 54% No
Turkmen 21% Yes, 72% No
Yazidis 12% Yes, 88% No

Have you or someone you know well ever been discriminated against?
Yazidis 69% Yes, 31% No
Sabeans 54% Yes, 45% No
Turkmen 26% Yes, 74% No
Christians 25% Yes, 75% No

Is Iraq a good or difficult place to raise a minority family?
Sabean 71% Good, 24% Difficult
Christians 61% Good, 28% Difficult
Yazidis 61% Good, 35% Difficult
Turkmen 48% Good, 9% Difficult

Generally speaking does a minority have a good or less chance at prosperity compared with other Iraqis
Yazidis 77% Good Chance, 15% Less of a Chance
Sabean 69% Good Chance, 27% Less of a Chance
Christians 54% Good Chance, 28% Less of a Chance
Turkmen 36% Good Chance, 9% Less of a Chance

List some issues that would increase support for the new government
Integrate more minorities into security forces Christians 73%, Turkmen 86%, Sabeans 88%, Yazidis 99%
Make it illegal to hire based upon ethnosectarianism or political affiliations Sabeans 72%, Christians 73%, Turkmen 75%, Yazidis 92%
Introduce mandatory quotas to hire minorities Christians 65%, Turkmen 84%, Sabeans 93%, Yazidis 98%
Allow local government administration by minorities in minority areas Turkmen 35%, Yazidis 45%, Christians 55%, Sabeans 72%
Create an autonomous minority region Turkmen 24%, Christians 26%, Yazidis 46%, Sabeans 54%
Listing issues, pick two that are most the important for the government to address?
Security: Christians 53%, Sabeans 54%, Turkmen 59%, Yazidis 73%
Jobs and Unemployment: Sabeabs 40%, Yazidis 40%, Christians 43%, Turkmen 55%
Sectarianism: Turkmen 13%, Christians 20%, Sabeans 45%, Yazidis 50%
Basic Services: Yazidis 8%, Turkmen 17%, Sabeans 18%, Christians 29%
Corruption: Christians 17%, Sabeans 18%, Yazidis 20%, Turkmen 22%
Iraqis were optimistic about the economy as well. 46% said the economy was strong, and 48% thought that their personal finances would improve within the year. 62% of those in northern Iraq and 61% of those in southern Iraq thought their situation would get better, while western Iraq was the only region where people thought their status would get worse. That corresponded with 48% saying jobs would get worse. When given a list of security, services, economy, etc. to pick from 56% said jobs and unemployment were the biggest issue to address. That was a stark difference from the Republican National Institute survey that found 66% were most concerned about services, and only 8% said unemployment. Southern Iraq at 65% was the only region in the current study that thought jobs were getting better, while only 23% in western Iraq felt that way. Finally, when asked what could be done to improve things, bringing in more foreign oil companies and diversifying the economy had the most responses.

Is Iraq’s economy strong or weak today?
46% Strong
38% Weak

In the next 12 months will your household finances get better or worse?
Total 48% Better, 26% Worse
North 62% Better, 22% Worse
South 61% Better, 21% Worse
Baghdad 47% Better, 31% Worse
West 24% Better, 30% Worse

Out of a list of issues, which two are the most important for the government to address?
Jobs and unemployment 56%
Security 36%
Services 29%
Corruption 22%
High prices 12%
Sectarianism 11%
Education 10%
Infrastructure 10%
Health care 8%

Will jobs getter better or worse?
Total 42% Better, 48% Worse
South 65% Better, 29% Worse
North 40% Better, 56% Worse
Baghdad 31% Better 48% Worse
Christians 27% Better, 61% Worse
Turkmen 25% Better, 71% Worse
Sabeans 25% Better, 47% Worse
West 23% Better, 70% Worse
Yazidis 17% Better, 78% Worse

Out of a list of things some say are needed to improve Iraq’s economy which two things are most important?
Bring more foreign oil companies to develop oil fields 33%
Develop non-oil industries 31%
Incentives for companies to hire more employees 28%
Infrastructure development 26%
Access to loans for small businesses 25%
Provide subsidies to help Iraqi farmers 24%
Provide incentives to attract foreign investors 12%
Reduce red tap required to start businesses 8%

Iraqis also had mixed views about their country’s government. 44% thought Iraq was a real democracy, while 35% thought otherwise. 58% said they would likely vote in the next parliamentary elections. Southern and northern Iraq were the most positive, likely due to the fact that elections have led to a Shiite led government, and the Kurds created their own legislature before the U.S. invasion. In fact, 84% thought Kurdistan was going in the right direction, and 85% approved of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Sunnis, Yazidis, and Christians felt the opposite about the national government. A clear majority, 61%, also saw democracy as improving their quality of life and services.

Is Iraq a real democracy or not?
Total 44% Real, 35% Not
North 65% Real, 22% Not
Kurds 62% Real, 26% Not
Shiite 59% Real, 30% Not
South 58% Real, 29% Not
Turkmen 43% Real, 38% Not
Sabean Mandeans 43% Real, 50% Not
Baghdad 38% Real, 43% Not
Sunni 35% Real, 38% Not
West 22% Real, 41% Not
Christians 14% Real, 56% Not
Yazidis 4% Real, 90% Not

Likely or not to vote in the next parliamentary elections?
Total 58% Likely, 42% Not Likely
Kurds 80% Likely, 20% Not Likely
Shiite 63% Likely, 37% Not Likely
Sunni 48% Likely, 52% Not Likely

Do you think that Kurdistan is going in the right or wrong direction?
84% Right
9% Wrong

Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Kurdistan Regional Government is doing?
85% Approve
13% Disapprove

Would making Iraq more democratic make services and quality of life better or worse
Total 61% Better, 20% Worse
Yazidis 94% Better, 4% Worse
South 75% Better, 14% Worse
Christians 74% Better, 4% Worse
North 70% Better, 14% Worse
Turkmen 66% Better, 12% Worse
Sabean Mandeans 66% Better, 28% Worse
Baghdad 50% Better, 23% Worse
West 48% Better, 27% Worse

Several surveys done of Iraqis since the end of the sectarian civil war in 2007 have shown that people are feeling more positive about their lives and futures. There are still wide differences between regions and groups. This report highlights that with its extensive polling of minorities, and the Sunni region of western Iraq generally feeling less optimistic than the other major groups in the nation. Still, the overall opinion seemed to be that security, the economy, services, and democracy were all going in the right direction. As the recent demonstrations that are breaking out attest to, the government has to deliver development and growth now that things are more stable. Otherwise, the public could turn on them or become more cynical and drop out of participating, either of which could undermine the fragile gains made recently.


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

Farbman, Rob, “IIACSS poll shows Iraqis mostly optimistic as 2010 begins,” Edison Research, 1/6/10

Greenberg Quinland Rosner Research, “Iraq’s Democracy at a Crossroad,” 12/15/10

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

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/11


Monday, February 21, 2011

BBC Video: Can Basra Bankroll Iraq's Reconstruction?

Iraq Reaches Post-2003 High In Oil Production And Exports

In January 2011 Iraq reached post-2003 highs in both oil production and exports. The Oil Ministry announced that the country’s output reached an average of 2.7 million barrels a day, while exports were at an average of 2.163 million. Previously, the highest production mark Iraq had achieved since the U.S. invasion was an average of 2.60 million barrels a day in May 2008, and 2.05 million barrels in exports in February 2010. Last month’s achievements were the result of foreign oil deals signed in 2009.

The Oil Ministry attributed January’s jump to the work of international firms. The Rumaila field, operated by British Petroleum and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) increased production by 20% to 1.275 million barrels a day, Italy’s Eni boosted output at the Zubayr field 45% to 265,000 barrels, while Exxon Mobile raised West Qurna 1’s productivity to 11,000 barrels a day. One energy analyst argued that this was the easiest part of the work that the corporations would do in Iraq. They had to drill a few wells, fix existing ones, and repair old infrastructure. To raise production anymore, they have to invest billions into storage tanks, export terminals, major pipelines, water injection plants, import all of the equipment necessary for these projects, and overcome the shortages in skilled workers. These are the challenges that Iraq’s oil industry now faces if it wants to reach its lavish goal of 12 million barrels a day in capacity by 2017

Even then, the work that has already been done was enough for the country to return to around pre-war levels. Numbers for Iraq’s oil industry just before the fall of Saddam Hussein vary. Some place production between 2.5 million barrels a day and 2.8 million. That means at the beginning of 2011, Iraq finally either met or surpassed those marks. It took eight years, and several billion dollars in reconstruction funds to achieve that goal.

The foreign petroleum deals signed in 2009 are finally coming into affect, and resulted in January’s sharp increases. Iraq’s oil output is expected to continue to rise in the following months and years. The question now is how much, how fast, and at what cost.

Last 12-Months Oil Production-Exports (Average Million Barrels Per Day)

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
Jan. 2.70 – 2.16


Associated Press, “Iraq’s oil expansion plans face major challenges,” 1/13/11

Elliott, Michael, “So, What Went Wrong?” Time, 10/6/03

Kami, Aseel, “Iraq Jan oil exports highest since 2003-UPDATE 1,” Reuters, 2/2/11

Hafidh, Hassan, “Iraqi Oil Output Increases,” Wall Street Journal, 1/8/11

Rasheed, Ahmed, “ANALYSIS-Tougher times ahead for oil firms in Iraq,” Reuters, 1/24/11

Sanders, Edmund and Kraul, Chris, “Iraqi oil flow halted for a week by attack,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8/17/03

Today Magazine, “Oil potential is huge in Iraq: Analysts,” 1/29/11

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Iraqi Casualties Up In January 2011, Largely Due To Attacks Upon Shiite Pilgrims And Security Forces

Aftermath of funeral bombing in Baghdad, Jan. 27, 2011 (Associated Press)
January 2011 saw a large increase in deaths compared to the previous months. Iraq Body Count had 388 dead, Iraq’s ministries had 259, while icasualties recorded 210. That averaged out to 285 casualties for the month, and 9.2 deaths per day. In comparison, an average of 165 were killed in December 2010, and 215 in November. January had the highest casualty count since August when an average of 435 were killed. The major reason for the increase was attacks upon Shiite pilgrims.

Last 12 Months Iraqi Death Counts And Averages

Iraq Body Count 
Iraqi Ministries
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths 
Jan. 11 

January is the month of Arbaeen, when Shiites travel to the holy city of Karbala to visit the shrine of the Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Every year since 2003, Sunni militants have taken advantage of this event to carry out sectarian attacks. 2011 was no exception. Starting on January 20, three bombs packed into two cars and a motorcycle went off in Karbala killing 50, and wounding at least 150 others, a bomb in southern Baghdad killed one and left ten wounded, and a roadside explosive in Baquba, Diyala left one dead and ten more injured. On January 24, a car bomb went off in the morning in a parking lot used to unload pilgrims taking buses killing 6, and wounding 34 in eastern Karbala, followed by another blast in the south that left 20 dead, and 42 wounded. In those five attacks alone, 78 were left dead, and 246 wounded.

January also saw two large assaults upon the security forces, and a Shiite funeral. On January 18 a suicide bomber struck police recruits in Tikrit, Salahaddin killing 54, and wounding 137. The following day, a militant drove an ambulance packed with explosives into the Facilities Protection Services headquarters in Baquba leaving 5-12 dead, and 7 wounded. Finally, January 27, a booby-trapped car went off outside a funeral in northwest Baghdad leaving 51 dead, and 123 injured. That added another 117 fatalities, and 267 wounded to last month’s count.

January represents the ebb and flow in Iraq’s casualties. Monthly death counts go up and down every month, but have largely stayed at the same level since 2009. The previous month provided more opportunities for militants since hundreds of thousands of people were heading for Karbala for the religious ceremonies. Even then, there were higher death figures in the last twelve months. Overall, the insurgents lack the support and means to change the current status quo. That still means hundreds of people are killed each month, and even more are wounded. Unfortunately, that is the pattern that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.


Abdul-Kadir, Saad, “Iraq: Car bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims kill 26,” Associated Press, 1/24/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Fresh attack on Shiite visitors in Baaquba, 11 casualties,” 1/20/11
- “IED kils, wounds 11 Shiite visitors in Baghdad,” 1/20/11


Iraq Body Count

Jakes, Lara, “Bombs targeting Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq kill 51,” Associated Press, 1/20/11

Juhl, Bushra, “Death toll reaches 51 day after Iraq funeral blast,” Associated Press, 1/28/11

Qeis, Ali and Sly, Liz, “Three bomb blasts kill 50 Shiite pilgrims in Iraq,” Washington Post, 1/20/11

Reuters, “Iraq war casualties rise in January,” 2/1/11

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