Friday, March 18, 2011

American Teams Predicted Causes Of Protests In Iraq

Some of the major reasons why Iraqis have taken to the streets in the last couple weeks and protested against their government are the lack of services, unemployment, and corruption. Right before the demonstrations started, the fifteen U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) issued a report on Iraq’s Kurdistan and fifteen other provinces. They found that almost every one of the country’s governorates cold not provide stable services, and were failing at developing their local economies.

The PRTs have been evaluating Iraq’s provinces since 2006. In January 2011, they used a new method called the Stability Development Roadmap (SDR) that was based upon public opinion of whether there would be civil unrest. That foreshadowed what would actually break out across the country the next month.

The SDR looked at five specific areas: basic services, government effectiveness, political effectiveness, economic development, and rule of law. Each could receive one of five rankings: very unstable, unstable, moderately stable, stable, and very stable. Most governorates received very unstable or unstable ratings in each category.

Click in image for larger view (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction)
For basic services, 15 out of 16 provinces had the lowest rating. The one exception was Muthanna, which received an unstable. Services include things like water, sewage, electricity, etc. Nine of those 15 governorates received very unstable in every service asked about by the PRTs. For those surveyed the biggest issue didn’t appear to be the actual state of services, but the lack of any improvement in them.

Government and political effectiveness were one to two steps better than services. In governance, 15 of the 16 areas received an unstable ranking, with one, Najaf, getting a moderately stable. In politics, Baghdad, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Tamim, and Wasit were rated unstable, while Anbar, Babil, Basra, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Karbala, Kurdistan, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, and Qadisiyah were moderately stable. Many provincial governments were perceived as being divided, which hindered their ability to make decisions, but that was not seen as a possible cause of civil unrest by the PRTs.

Economic development was seen as lacking. Maysan received a very unstable, Kurdistan was moderately stable, and the fourteen others were unstable. Some of the outstanding problems were unemployment, the collapse of Warka Bank, the largest private bank in Iraq, and lack of irrigation for farming. The jobless rate was perceived as the greatest threat to stability.

Rule of law showed the greatest variety. Anbar had the highest ranking in any category with stable, while Ninewa was at the bottom with very unstable. Babil, Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, Salahddin, and Wasit had unstable, while Dhi Qar, Diyala, Kurdistan, Qadisiyah, and Tamim were rated moderately stable. The biggest issue raised by those polled was corruption. The PRTs were not sure whether that issue would lead to public discontent however. The biggest concern for Iraqis was the treatment of prisoners. Torture, abuse, and poor conditions are widespread throughout the country. 

The SDR proved prophetic in some cases, and off in others. Services received the worst ratings, and unemployment and prisoner mistreatment were also singled out, and marchers mentioned all those in February. On the other hand, the political situation was not seen as destabilizing and given the best rankings, but many demonstrators have demanded that their local politicians resign because of their failure to govern. The PRTs were concerned about social unrest, and just the month after the rankings were released the nation exploded in protests in several different cities and provinces. Overall, the American teams did a pretty good job at noting the seeds of discontent in Iraq.


McCrummen, Stephanie, “In Iraq protests, a younger generation finds its voice,” Washington Post, 3/17/11

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

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