Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iraq’s Oil Profits Rebound In November 2011, But Complications With Infrastructure And Compensation Remain

Full numbers for Iraq’s November 2011 oil exports and profits were finally released, and showed a rebound on all counts after a two month dip. The price for Iraqi crude went up along with exports, leading to a rise in revenue for Iraq last montn. Despite this, Iraq's production has still hit a plateau due to infrastructure limitations, and the country is having problems paying foreign companies that are responsible for the increases.
An oil worker at the West Qurna 1 field in Basra (Reuters)
As reported before, Iraq’s oil exports rebounded in November after going down for the previous two months. In November, the country shipped an average of 2.13 million barrels a day, compared to 2.08 million in October, and 2.10 million in September. Last month’s average was not as high as August however, when Iraq exported 2.19 million barrels. The price of one barrel of Iraqi crude also increased from $104.43 in October to $106.59 in November. That was the highest price since July when Iraq was selling its petroleum for $108.80 per barrel. As a result of those two factors, revenues went up as well. The country earned $6.833 billion in November, up from $6.742 billion in October, and $6.619 billion in September. Iraq’s exports recovered, because the industry saw no significant attacks, service or weather problems as it did in previous months. Oil prices have also stayed over $100 per barrel for most of the year because of the Arab Spring, and the unrest in Syria and Libya. Even the recent bombings in Baghdad scared oil markets, keeping prices high.

All of November’s numbers were within range of the yearly averages. For the first eleven months of 2011, the country has averaged 2.16 million barrels a day, up from 1.89 million in 2010. Prices have also averaged $104.85, compared to only $75.62 last year. Finally, Iraq has far surpassed its profits from last year. In 2010, it averaged $4.352 billion in earnings a month, compared to $6.893 billion, and earned a total of $52.227 billion for the entire year. Iraq surpassed that amount by August of this year. So far, it has made $75.832 billion, and is on the way to earning approximately $82.5 billion total for 2011.

Avg. Exports
1.89 mil/bar/day
2.16 mil/bar/day
Avg. Price
$75.62 per bar
$104.85 per bar
Avg. Mo. Profits
$4.352 bil
$6.893 bil
Total Profits
$52.227 bil
$75.832 bil

The increases in the oil industry have been the result of foreign companies returning to Iraq, but are limited because of Iraq’s facilities. In 2009, the Oil Ministry held two rounds of auctions that opened up some of the largest petroleum fields in the country to outside investment. Deputy Premier Hussein Shahristani who is in charge of energy policy recently said that he was hoping that oil production would reach 3.4 million barrels a day by the end of 2012 as a result, and exports would hit 2.6 million. The International Energy Agency recently released a report, which estimated that Iraq had the potential to add 1.87 million barrels of production each year from 2010-2016. That would only be possible if the major infrastructure projects that the government has on line can be completed. Most importantly is the completion of three new mooring ports in Basra, along with new and refurbished pipelines. The first of those is scheduled to be finished by January, but Iraq has a bad record with meeting deadlines. Even one starting operation would boost capacity by 900,000 barrels a day from Basra, which carries the majority of the nation’s oil flow. It’s therefore critical that these plans be concluded.

Not everything is going well with the foreign companies however. The New York Times recently reported that Exxon Mobile and Shell have not been paid for their work on West Qurna 1 field. They are owed an estimated $50 million, for two years worth of work. A Shell official said that the cause was red tape, which was being worked out. Other companies are being paid, but are owed large sums as well. British Petroleum (BP) and the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) that jointly operate the Rumaila field in Basra have gotten three payments each in oil, starting in May 2011, but are still owed more than $1 billion. While no corporation is going to walk away from Iraq because of this issue, it could complicate their relationship, and make the firms demand better terms from the government since the current situation is having such difficulties. The companies signed technical service agreements with the Oil Ministry, which offers very limited profits, and favors the government. The firms agreed to these conditions, because of Iraq’s huge potential, which was largely untapped for decades because of wars and international sanctions.

While 2011 has seen an across the board growth in Iraq’s oil industry, the old infrastructure has hampered further expansion. It has hit a plateau this year, just as it did last year. Fortunately for Iraq, the unrest in the region has kept prices high. Still, it needs billions of dollars of investment in drilling, pipelines, ports, storage facilities, etc. to fully reach its dreams to become a major player in the world petroleum market. The problem is the government’s lack of capacity in dealing with such large projects, which has hampered every other development deal in the country. That same bureaucracy is also delaying payments to foreign companies. If those issues aren’t addressed, Iraq may never reach its promise.


Ajrash, Kadhim and Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq Oil Output Has Reached a 20-Year High, Shahristani Says,” Bloomberg, 12/22/11

Kramer, Andrew and Werdigier, Julia, “Exxon Spars With Iraq Over Lack of Payment,” New York Times, 12/22/11

Reuters, “BP, CNPC get 3rd Iraq Rumaila crude payments-source,” 12/13/11

Al Sabah, “Oil: $6.8 billion the value of exports in November,” 12/22/11

UPI, “IEA expects Iraq oil boom,” 12/21/11

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Arrest Warrant Adds To Iraq's Religioius Feud

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Push To Make Iraq’s Diyala Province An Autonomous Region Fades

Many of Iraq’s provinces have long standing issues with the central government. Those include the distribution of funds, security operations, and the lack of services. All of those came to the fore in the winter of 2011 when several provinces announced that they were interested in becoming autonomous regions, a right given in the 2005 constitution. Diyala in northeastern Iraq was one such governorate. In November, its’ provincial council formally voted for federalism, which was immediately contested by many groups within the council, province, and in Baghdad. Those protests grew so intense, that some local politicians backed away from their support for the idea, which now makes it very unlikely that Diyala will become its own region.

On November 12, 2011, a majority of Diyala’s provincial council decided to initiate a move towards making the governorate a region. 15 of 29 members voted for the measure, made up of politicians from the Iraqi National Movement (INM) and the Kurdish Alliance. There were no reports on how many councilmen were present during the occasion. The Iraqi constitution states that a province can become a region two ways, either 1/3 of the provincial council votes for holding a referendum on the issue or 1/10 of registered voters in the governorate ask for one. A general election than has to be held, and a majority has to approve. Members of the Iraqi National Movement (INM) first mentioned the idea in early November. They complained about random arrests, the lack of services, and the central government’s concentration of power, and were inspired by Salahaddin’s attempt to become a region. They were able to bring the Kurdish Alliance into the equation by agreeing to back its demand to implement Article 140 of the constitution, which sets out the steps for how disputed territories can be annexed by Kurdistan. Diyala has several such areas, like the Khanaqin district along the Iranian border. Despite later denials, the head of the National Movement in the province confirmed this arrangement. The complaints about the central government are common amongst almost all of Iraq’s governorates. That was why after Salahaddin announced that it wanted to become a region, both Sunni and Shiite politicians came out for the idea as well across Iraq. These problems with Baghdad were so strong, that the Sunnis on Diyala’s council were willing to compromise on the disputed territories with the Kurds, something that the former had never done before. This showed that the move towards regionalism was not a sectarian issue, but rather more about the disparities between the center and periphery of the country.

Diyala’s Provincial Council
Governor Abdul Nasir al-Muntasirbillah – Iraqi National Movement
Deputy Governor Furat Mohammed – Diyala Coalition/Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council
Head of provincial council Taleb Mohammed Hassan – Kurdish Alliance
Iraqi National Movement 18 seats
Kurdish Alliance 6 seats
State of Law 2 seats
Diyala Coalition/Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council 2 seats
National Reform Party 1 seat
Diyala's provincial council building saw days of protests, and was even stormed once by demonstrators opposed to the province becoming a region
The move to make Diyala a region was not a unanimous decision. Members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law on the council were against it, saying that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council’s Diyala Coalition was also in the opposition. Back in Baghdad, the Sadrists came out against the move as well, claiming that the attempt was illegal, and that Diyala could not become a region because it included disputed territories. Even Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Movement said that the province was moving too fast on the matter. Opponents of the decision also took to the streets. The day that the council voted for federalism, hundreds of people took to the streets in Baquba, Muqtadiya, Khalis, Baladrooz, and Khanaqin. In the provincial capital of Baquba, a sit in demonstration began outside the provincial council building that lasted for several days. The local councils in all of the other districts said that they rejected the idea of Diyala becoming a region. Officials in Khalis even threatened to break away from the province and join Baghdad. The Office of Tribes in Diyala held a meeting of 150 clan leaders from both Sunni and Shiite tribes, which came out against regionalism. On December 15, tempers boiled over as protesters stormed the council building, and took it over for a few hours. Roadblocks were also reportedly set up across the province, while the council head had his house set on fire, and one of his bodyguards was shot and killed. While some in the press have portrayed the decision to create a region a Sunni move, and the opponents Shiite, the truth of the matter was much more complicated. While Shiites appeared to be the majority of the protesters, Sunni and Shiite politicians and tribes were also against the idea. 

Anti-regionalism protests in Baquba, the provincial capital

 (Buratha News)
The demonstrations and sit-ins scared the Arab and Kurdish councilmen that voted for federalism. On December 17, 18 of them, along with the governor, fled Baquba for Kurdish controlled Khanaqin. This was when all kinds of wild rumors also began to be spread by politicians and the press. The Iraqi National Movement claimed that Shiite militias were operating throughout Diyala, supported by the security forces. The party went on to state that Premier Maliki was using the armed men to intimidate the council. Governor Muntasirbillah for instance, blamed militiamen for the storming of the provincial council building. Which militia these men allegedly came from was disputed as well. The most common group blamed was Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, but there were also reports claiming that it was Dawa gunmen and the Supreme Council’s Badr Brigade. Those stories were contradicted by a spokesman for the peshmerga in charge of the disputed areas of Diyala, as well as the head of the security committee on the provincial council. The province was previously a battleground between Shiite and Sunni militants, so the reports of militiamen could be believed. The fact that some prominent officials involved in security however, countered those claims, could point to politicians exaggerating their stories.

No matter who the protesters were they had immediate affects. The Kurds reconsidered their support for federalism, and withdrew their votes. The head of the Kurdish Alliance told the press that it was not time for Diyala to become a region. Besides the protests, the Kurds also claimed that the National Movement had not kept its promises. Some members of the party for example, said that they would not support implementation of Article 140, and that no deal had ever been made with the Alliance over it. Without the Kurds, the National Movement had lost its only supporter in its drive for federalism. It was probably inevitable for the two sides to split, even without the demonstrations, because the INM had always been against allowing the Kurds to annex any of the disputed areas, seeing it as a division and weakening of the country.

Today, Diyala’s attempt to become a region appears to be dead. The sit-ins outside of the council building have subsided, but the INM and Kurdish Alliance politicians are still in Khanaqin. The Kurds have also withdrawn their support. Even if the two parties had maintained their stance, Premier Maliki said that he was diametrically opposed to any province becoming a region, and would have stood in Diyala’s way. The Election Commission, which would be responsible for administering a referendum on the issue, is also in transition with new members waiting to be appointed by parliament. That was not going to happen anytime soon, because of the political divisions within the legislature. How far the council was going to push the issue is also in question. There were reports that it never officially turned in its request to the central government in the first place, and it must have been aware that the disarray in Baghdad would hinder it moving forward. Altogether that points to the council’s vote as being a mix of political symbolism to show its displeasure with the central government, as well as opportunism to advance the Kurdish claims to the disputed areas, rather than as a legitimate attempt at regionalism. Until Baghdad provides more money, services, and power to the governorates however, these types of complaints will continue, meaning that federalism is far from over in Iraq, despite its failure in Diyala.


Dar Addustour, “Council decided to postpone the emergency meeting to the day .. And maintain threaten to go to court – the failure of the establishment of Diyala province after the withdrawal of signatures of members of Kurdistan,” 12/18/11

Ahmed, Hevidar, “Diyala Sunnis Back Article 140,” Rudaw, 12/21/11

AK News, “Demo in Diyala to denounce federal region in in Iraq,” 11/17/11

Ali, Hussam, “Iraqiya calls on U.N. to stop the abuses in Diyala,” AK News, 12/20/11

Ali, Mandy Samira, “Between the tug of war .. Sustained movement for the formation of regions,” Radio Free Iraq, 12/7/11

Alsumaria News, “Diyala Governor calls for expulsion of “lurking and outlaws” of the security services,” 12/16/11

Alsumaria TV, “Hayali: Head of Diyala provincial council approves region establishment,” 12/13/11
- “Iraq Sadr movement: Diyala Region’s declaration is provocative and challenging,” 12/15/11
- “Iraqi National Dialogue considers Diyala region declaration as “rushed decision,” 12/14/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Diala demonstrations to reject declaration as ‘region’,” 12/13/11
- “More than 150 tribes and clan leader declaring their refusal to establish a province of Diyala,” 12/16/11
- “Source: about a thousand people continue their sit-in protest in Baquba, Diyala province, the,” 12/16/11
- “Tribal rejection of turning Diala province into a region,” 11/5/11

Azzaman, “Tribal militia force Maliki and the Badr party to withdraw from the streets of Baquba,” 12/16/11

Healy, Jack, “Clash Over Regional Power Spurs Iraq’s Sectarian Rift,” New York Times, 12/23/11

Al-Jabbouri, Mahmoud and Tayyeb, Mouhammed, “KBC supports Diyala’s demand, Ahrar Bloc cries foul,” AK News, 12/15/11

Al-Jobouri, Mahmoud, “Kurds change position over Diyala autonomy,” AK News, 12/20/11

Knights, Michael, “Iraq’s Political Crisis: Challenges for U.S. Policy,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 12/21/11

Al-Mada, “Demonstrations continued and pieces of the ways in Diyala refused to convert to the territory,” 12/18/11

Mardini, Ramzy, “Iraq’s First Post-Withdrawal Crisis,” Institute for the Study of War, 12/19/11

Mohammed, Bryar, “Baghdad bullies try to squash Diyala’s region hopes,” AK News, 12/14/11
- “Fears mount of Shiite-Sunni clash over Diyala autonomy,” AK News, 12/17/11
- “Iraqi Deputy threatened for supporting Diyala,” AK News, 12/17/11
- “Iraqiya did not promise disputed areas to Kurds,” AK News, 12/17/11
- “Protesters move Diyala council’s session to Khanaqin,” AK News, 12/18/11

Morse, Dan and Majeed, Asaad, “Iraq premier Nouri al-Maliki challenges restive provinces,” Washington Post, 12/24/11

Msarbat, Anwar, “Fallujah demo denounces calls for creating Sunni region,” AK News, 11/3/11

National Iraqi News Agency, “Debate in Diyala province, about announcing region or getting more powers,” 12/7/11
- “Dehlaky: Request to convert Diyala into region submitted to Cabinet to be passed to (IHEC),” 12/12/11
- “Diyala PC spokesman: gathering of tribal Sheikhs, members of local councils rejecting the announcement of Diyala as a region,” 12/13/11
- “Iraqiya bloc in Diyala give central government 3-days ultimatum to implement its demands or it will declare the province a region,” 11/1/11
- “Nahida al-Da’yini warn that things might get out of control in Diyala,” 12/16/11
- “Parliamentary delegation meets with Diyala’s security authorities,” 12/17/11
- “Thousands of people from villages in the outskirts of Baquba , demonstrating against the decision to convert Diyala province to a region,” 12/15/11

Rudaw, “Diyala Threatens To Declare Autonomy,” 11/3/11

Sly, Liz, “Iraq political crisis erupts as last U.S. troops leave,” Washington Post, 12/17/11

Sotaliraq, “News of the arrival of the Mahdi Army to Diyala .. And the Peshmerga denies,” 12/17/11

Talab, Mahmoud, “Region status proclamation unconstitutional,” AK News, 12/22/11

VIDEO: Iraq 2011 Ashura - Karbala

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is Iraq’s Finance Minister Next On Maliki’s Hit List?

Since the middle of December 2011, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has targeted leading members of the rival list, the Iraqi National Movement (INM). This has included an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, and a move to hold a no confidence vote against Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq. Now there are reports that Finance Minister Rafi Issawi may be Maliki’s next target.
Finance Minister Rafi Issawi may be the next leading member of the Iraqi National Movement threatened by Premier Maliki (Iraq Business News)
Finance Minister Rafi Issawi was signaled out right from the beginning of Prime Minister Maliki’s crackdown. On December 15, Issawi’s and Vice President’s Hashemi’s residences in Baghdad’s Green Zone were surrounded by the security forces, with the former placed under temporary house arrest. Three days later, the Finance Minister along with Deputy Premier Mutlaq attempted to board a plane heading for Irbil to meet with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Massoud Barzani, when they were temporarily detained. They were eventually authorized to leave. The next day, the confessions of three officers in the Fallujah police department were released as part of the arrest warrant against Hashemi. They claimed that the Iraqi Islamic Party created a militia in the city under the leadership of Khalid Alwani, the party boss for Anbar province, which was used to take out their opponents. Alwani allegedly regularly met with Hashemi and then Deputy Premier Rafi Issawi, who were two of the leading members of the Islamic Party. Finally, on December 22, government officials told the press that it would investigate Issawi based upon these allegations. There were reports that Issawi’s bodyguards had been arrested as well. A political adviser to Maliki said that a case could be brought against any politician who was involved in violence, while a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which is run by the premier, claimed that more confessions were forthcoming. This could bode ill for Issawi. The prime minister has already gone after two of his compatriots in the Iraqi National Movement (INM). Hashemi fled to Kurdistan as a result to escape an arrest warrant, while Maliki claimed he fired Mutlaq, and asked the National Movement to nominate a replacement for him. Issawi could face charges as well, and be driven off. This comes at a critical moment, because not only is his party already under fire, but the government is trying to put together the new 2012 budget, and as Finance Minister, Issawi obviously plays a major role in that matter.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has thrown the entire Iraqi government into disarray. Whether he felt that the Iraqi National Movement was posing a real threat to his power or he just wanted to take out his opponents is not known. Either way, he has united his friends and foes alike. Before, the premier was able to effectively divide and conquer the other parties, because they were either convinced to work with him or facing internal divisions. Now, the Iraqi National Movement has united, because of Maliki’s attacks, the Kurds are protecting one of the list’s leaders, Hashemi, and the Supreme Council, the Renewal List, and White Iraqiya have all offered to negotiate between the warring sides. Everyone but the prime minister’s State of Law list is calling for calm, but he seems intent on escalating the situation even more by threatening Finance Minister Issawi with a possible arrest warrant based upon confessions of three Fallujah policemen whose veracity is impossible to determine. It appears that Maliki is willing to push this matter as far as he can, even if it means his government coming apart in the process.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Arbil will not hand over Hashimi, Kurdish Diwan,” 12/21/11
- “White Bloc to mediate between Maliki and Alawi, MP,” 12/23/11

Institute for the Study of War, “Warrant for Iraq VP Hashemi’s Arrest and Coerced Confessions,” 12/19/11

Knights, Michael, “Iraq’s Political Crisis: Challenges for U.S. Policy,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 12/21/11

Mardini, Ramzy, “Iraq After the U.S. Withdrawal: Update #1,” Institute for the Study of War, 12/19/11
- “Iraq’s First Post-Withdrawal Crisis,” Institute for the Study of War, 12/19/11

National Iraqi News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS Jafari meets with Iraqiya to convey its demands to State of Law,” 12/24/11
- “BREAKING NEWS…Maliki asks the IS to nominate two MPs for the Deputy Pm, Vice President posts,” 12/21/11
- “Mulla: the IS studies submitting a request to Parliament to vote for a no-confidence in Maliki,” 12/21/11

Al-Tayyeb, Mouhammed, “Government to investigate Issawi’s alleged support for terrorism,” AK News, 12/22/11

Van Wilgenburg, Wladimir, “Iraqi Government Will Possible Arrest More Sunni Leaders,” Transnational Middle-East Observer, 12/22/11

Wanan, Jaafar, “Maliki sacked his deputy Mutlag,” AK News, 12/20/11


PBS NEWSHOUR VIDEO: How The Iraq War Changed A Generation Of Veterans

Monday, December 26, 2011

Charges Against Iraq’s Vice President, And Why They Matter

An Iraqi paper announcing arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi (AFP)
Part of Iraq’s current political crisis is due to an arrest warrant that was issued for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. The warrant was based upon the confessions of not only several of his bodyguards, but members of the security forces in the city of Fallujah in Anbar province. Baghdad claimed that these were legitimate testimonies that implicated Hashemi’s involvement in murders, bombings, and assassinations dating back several years. The Vice President on the other hand claimed that the men all talked due to torture, and therefore could not be believed. If either explanation proves true, it does not bode well for Iraq’s current government and political system.

Two groups of men were behind the warrant for Vice President Hashemi. First, were three policemen from Fallujah. They were Lieutenant Mohammed Ghanni Olaiwi al-Issawi, Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Ismail Hussein al-Zubaie, and Colonel Issa Sayer Mouthin al-Issawi. All three said they carried out kidnappings, murders, and attacks on behalf of the Iraqi Islamic Party. From 2005-2009 the party was in control of Anbar province, and Hashemi was one of its leaders. The three main claimed that the Islamic Party formed a militia in the city of Fallujah in late 2006 called Hamas of Iraq. Publicly, the group was said to be an Awakening movement that was to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, but in reality, it was the armed wing of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar. It was controlled by three men, Khalid Alwani, the party boss in the province, Saad Awad Rashid, the mayor of Fallujah from 2006-2009, and Abdul al-Sattar el-Waas Issawi, the director of Fallujah’s New Hospital. The officers went on to say that Alwani and Colonel Issawi had regular contact with Hashemi and Rafi Issawi who was the Deputy Prime Minister from 2006-2010, and is currently the Finance Minister; and the two senior members ordered attacks upon opponents of the Islamic Party. Two specific cases were cited that involved taking prisoners from police stations, and executing them. The other group behind the warrant was three of his bodyguards who were shown on state-run Iraqiya television on December 19, 2011 talking about their involvement in attacks ordered by the Vice President. They were picked up when the police got a tip that one of them was building a bomb in his home in Baghdad. The first one to talk was Abdul al-Karim Mohammed al-Jabouri. (1) He said he started working for Hashemi in 2005 as a driver and bodyguard. In 2009, he was called by Hashemi’s secretary, who was also his son-in-law Ahmad Qahtan, who gave him orders to meet with two police officers to plant a roadside bomb targeting the Director-General of the Rusafa Health Department in Baghdad. For this operation Jabouri received $3,000 from the Vice President to be split between him, and the two policemen. The next time, Jabouri was to assassinate a member of the Foreign Ministry with a gun and a silencer in the capital. Again, he carried out the mission, and received $3,000. His third job was assassinating a lieutenant colonel on a highway, which occurred on January 1, 2011. The second bodyguard to speak was Lieutenant Ghasan Umran Jasim Hamid, who said he worked for Hashemi since 2007. He started carrying out attacks beginning in 2009. The first time was planting a bomb next to a restaurant in the capital, which was used against an army patrol that was passing by. Afterward, he, along with two other policemen met with Hashemi who thanked them. Another time, a general contacted Hamid, and told him to set off a roadside bomb against the Health Minister’s motorcade. Finally, Hamid confessed to assassinating a lieutenant from the Baghdad Traffic Department with a silenced pistol. The third bodyguard was Marwan Ahmed Rashdan who said he carried out an attack upon the Iraqi army, and participated in one of the assassinations Abdul al-Karim Mohammed al-Jabouri mentioned. All together, these six men laid out a damning list of accusations against Hashemi dating back to 2006. The question was could they be believed?
Former Culture Minister Asad al-Hashemi was convicted in abstentia of trying to assassinate the head of the Iraqi Nation Party in 2007 (AFP)
Members of the Iraqi Islamic Party have been involved in violence in the past. In Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s first administration, Culture Minister Asad al-Hashemi, Tariq al-Hashemi’s nephewwas accused of using his office to torture and murder opponents. In June 2007, a warrant was issued for the minister’s arrest for attempting to assassinate the head of the Iraqi Nation Party Mithal al-Alusi. Alusi escaped the plot, but his two sons were killed. A court later said that the Culture Minister was hidden by the Iraqi Islamic Party, and then smuggled out of Iraq using a false passport that he used to travel to Saudi Arabia and then Egypt to escape prosecution. He was eventually convicted, and sentenced to death in absentia. In December 2011, the Iraqi Nation Party said that it was suing the Vice President for assisting in his nephew’s escape. Here was a case that also directly implicated the Islamic Party in violence, and involved Hashemi, and his family. That makes the stories of the six men at least plausible since Hashemi’s party was known to conduct similar operations.
Maliki (left) and Hashemi (right) (Getty Images)

On the other hand, the confessions could easily be questioned because of the tense political situation currently facing Iraq, and the history of abuse used against prisoners. Iraq’s legal system is based upon confessions. The main way the security forces obtain these is by torturing suspects. Various studies by human rights groups and the Iraqi parliament have found abuse rampant throughout Iraq’s jails and prisons. Hashemi’s office claimed that his bodyguards were beaten to make them talk. Also, the Iraqi National Movement (INM), which Hashemi belongs to, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have a long history of rivalry, which has intensified since the 2010 parliamentary election when the INM won the most seats, but Maliki was able to remain in office. The charges against Hashemi are obviously politicized, and therefore could be dismissed as just the latest example of Maliki trying to intimidate and remove his opponents. Add to this the fact that the prime minister said that the government knew about Hashemi’s guards’ activities dating back three years, but did nothing about it until know, only leads to more questions about the timing of the charges against the vice president. There is also evidence that the premier might have targeted Hashemi in the past. A November 2006 State Department cable released by Wikileaks revealed an Iraqi who was detained, and then tortured by the Army for several days in Diyala who was told by his interrogators that he had to link Hashemi and the deputy governor of the province with terrorism. The premier has consistently used carrots and sticks against his opponents, and this is just the latest example of the latter. That makes it easy to dismiss the confessions by the six men as being the result of torture ordered by Maliki to smear and intimidate the National Movement.

Whether the confessions were true or not, they point to Iraq’s dysfunctional government. Since Hashemi and the Iraqi Islamic Party have been implicated in using violence in the past, the arrest warrant could be based upon fact. That would just be the latest indictment against the country’s major parties almost all of which have relied upon militias at one time or another. At the same time, the prime minister could be manipulating the security forces and justice system to carry out his latest vendetta against his rivals. He has done similar things before, using the state apparatus to further his own political agenda. The truth of this story is likely never to be revealed, but it shows why Baghdad doesn’t work. The political environment is fraught with tension, and the use of arrests and murders only makes it worse. Given all that, it’s no wonder why leaders often get caught up in rhetorical war of words, and little ever gets done. It’s because no one trusts each other, as the current crisis reveals.


1. Al-Iraqiyah TV, “Iraqi ministry releases confessions by Al-Hashimi’s bodyguards,” BBC Monitoring Service, 12/20/11


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraq PM tells Kurds to hand over Sunni VP,” Associated Press, 12/21/11

Fordham, Alice, “In Iraq’s prisons, a culture of abuse,” Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/09

Gutman, Roy, “As US troops exit Iraq, Maliki moves against Sunni rivals,” Christian Science Monitor, 12/19/11
- "Iraqi VP denies terror charges as sectarian dispute continues," McClatchy Newspapers, 12/20/11

Institute for the Study of War, “Warrant for Iraq VP Hashemi’s Arrest and Coerced Confessions,” 12/19/11

Al-Iraqiyah TV, “Iraqi ministry releases confessions by Al-Hashimi’s bodyguards,” BBC Monitoring Service, 12/20/11

Kadhim, Abbas, “Iraq’s Quest for Democracy amid Massive Corruption,” Arab Reform Bulletin, 3/3/10

Khallat, Khudr, “Iraqi Nation Party sues Tareq al-Hashemi,” AK News, 12/22/11

Mardini, Ramzy, “Iraq After the U.S. Withdrawal: Update #1,” Institute for the Study of War, 12/19/11

Ramzi, Kholoud, “a family tie too tight: nepotism runs deep in iraqi politics,” Niqash, 7/21/11

PBS NEWSHOUR VIDEO: In Face Of Coordinated Attacks In Iraq, Should U.S. Have Stayed Put?

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: US Invasion Leaves Lasting Iraq Scars

AL ARABIYA VIDEO: Iraqis Protest Against Vice President Hashemi

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi Speaks To Al Jazeera

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Dozens Killed In Baghdad Blasts

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How The U.S. Struggled To Establish Law And Order In Post-Invasion Iraq, An Interview With Ret. Col. Ted Spain, Fmr. Cmdr. 18th Mil Police Brigade

Col. Ted Spain deployed in Iraq from 2003-2004 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Retired Colonel Ted Spain is the former commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade. In early 2003, he was deployed to Kuwait from Germany for the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, and spent a year in the country. I first became aware of him through Tom Ricks’ book Fiasco. I’m currently re-reading it for the first time since it came out in 2006, and that prompted me to get in contact with Colonel Spain. During his time in Iraq, he went through not only the invasion, but the post-war chaos as well. Spain was deployed in Baghdad, which became the center of the looting, insurgency, and general lawlessness that beset the country. While Spain attempted to create a sense of law and order for Iraqis, he ran into a civilian and military leadership that suffered from constant personnel changes, lacked a unified plan, and was caught up in thinking about Iraq in terms of a war, which led them to neglect his work to rebuild the Iraqi police. Below is an interview with Colonel Spain about his experiences in Iraq from 2003-2004, and his general impression of how the U.S. did during that crucial first year.

1. Could you briefly tell me your background, and how you became involved with Iraq?

I assumed command of the 18th Military Police (MP) Brigade in August 2002, headquartered in Mannheim, Germany, with military police units all across Germany. I deployed to Kuwait on February 21, 2003, and we entered Iraq as part of the initial invasion. My Brigade was part of V Corps, headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany. The V Corps Commander, Lieutenant General William Wallace was the senior Army commander during the ground war.

2. What years did you serve in the country, and where were you posted there?

We were there from the initial invasion, and handed over our responsibilities on February 1, 2004. We were mainly in Baghdad, but I had some forces south of Baghdad. My headquarters was at Camp Victory in Baghdad, but my subordinate battalions and their companies were all across Baghdad and south of Baghdad.

3. According to Tom Ricks' book Fiasco, you were originally going to have 20 companies of military police under your command before the invasion, but when March 2003 rolled around you had far fewer units. Do you know why they decided to make that cut in forces?

I was given a mission that if performed doctrinally would have required 50 MP companies, but was allotted 20 companies on my task organization as part of the war plan. That is not unusual, commanders never have enough assets, what you do is prioritize your assets to accomplish the most critical missions. The problem was that when we were told to invade, 19 March, I only had about 3 ½ companies that had all their equipment. I had probably close to another 1000 MPs in Kuwait that had not received their equipment yet, so I left them in Kuwait until their equipment arrived, and then they joined us in Iraq. Meanwhile, I had additional MPs that had not yet left the states, and others that were preparing to ship their equipment. I did not receive my final unit in Iraq until 30 June, about 14 weeks after entering Iraq. I believe the decisions to delay my units, along with some other units, was to get as much fire power in as possible, yet maintain an invasion time before the end of March, because of the upcoming heat, strategic surprise, politics back at home, etc.

4. What was the role of your units during the actual invasion?

During the ground war we were pretty much tied up handling enemy prisoners of war, since that was our top priority, given our limited resources. As we picked up more units, then we started performing more missions.

5. What problems did you run into during the invasion with a smaller force then you originally thought you were going to have?

Mainly, I wasn’t able to perform my other missions, such as route security, which I will always believe led to the capture of members of the 507 Maintenance Company, Jessica Lynch’s unit - I was only about twenty miles away from where they were holding her, escorting more critical convoys, performing area security missions, operating more checkpoints.

6. You arrived in Baghdad in April 2003. What did the city look like, and did you witness any of the looting that went on?

When I personally first entered Baghdad, the 3rd Infantry Division was controlling the airport. When I first saw the airport it was still called Saddam International Airport, but was soon changed to say Baghdad International Airport. There were several commercial airlines, like Iraqi Air on the tarmac, as well as some commercial and other planes, none military however, that had been destroyed by our air/ground campaign. I saw numerous checkpoints around the city being controlled by the 3rd Infantry Division with their Abrams Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Baghdad was a beautiful city, and one image that will always stay in my mind was seeing the amazing accuracy of our “smart bombs,” in that on many occasions I would see one large building standing like normal, while the building right beside it was totally destroyed by one of our various types of missiles.

I should note that my first visit was to see the city for myself, and to assist in planning our follow on mission when we moved there permanently. During my first visit it was just my Command Sergeant Major, our security details, and me. At that time my Headquarters was still at Talil Air Base in Dhi Qar, along with the HQ of one of my subordinate Battalions. This was on or about April 11, my first day in my HQ at Camp Victory, when I permanently stayed was on April 25, the same day I lost my first soldier. My other subordinate battalion, I only had two at the time, because I still had two waiting in Kuwait for their equipment and additional soldiers, was HQ’d just south of Baghdad. I put them there to posture our quick movement into Baghdad, when the situation warranted it. They were running an Enemy Prisoner of War Holding area, and conducting route security; the best they could with their extremely limited assets. My other battalion was doing the same thing in the Talil vicinity.

I did personally witness looting, but during my first visit I had nothing to stop it, and there probably wasn’t enough MPs in the Army to stop it, unless you were going to kill people. There were six million people in that city, and there are only about 17 states in the US that even have six million people in the entire state, it was huge.
The looting in Iraq went on for weeks after the fall of Saddam in April 2003 (AFP)
7. Were you given any orders to do anything about the looting?

Much has been written about Ambassador Bremer’s alleged order to shoot the looters.  He said in his book that he asked his staff if he should put out an order to shoot the looters, but it went out as an order. He says he never issued it. Tom Ricks said on one of the PBS specials that he was with me in Baghdad (one day he spent about 10 hours with me and went with me on patrols, my meetings with the Iraqis, etc.) when he heard that Bremer had issued an order to shoot the looters. He said he asked me what I knew about it, and he said that I said I had not heard anything about it, and it may have happened like that. I do remember my staff telling me one night, and it could have been the same day that Ricks was with me that we had been told to shoot the looters. I asked them where they got that from, and they said General Ricardo Sanchez’ staff. I said we are not going to shoot looters until I heard that from Sanchez personally. It was later clarified there never was an intent to shoot the looters.

As a military policeman, it was absurd to me to shoot looters, and I was not going to allow it, unless I was ordered by someone that had the authority to order me. On a similar note, to my knowledge, I was the only Brigade commander that did not allow warning shots. I know all the combat arms units were using them. Again, in the law enforcement business, warning shots are bad. When someone is shooting behind you, you have no way of knowing whether they are firing warning shots, or are shooting at you, so you are likely to return fire, thus creating dead bodies over a miss understanding. That was allegedly one of the issues when some Iraqis were shot in Fallujah in May 2003. Supposedly some members of the 82nd Airborne fired warning shots, and other members of the 82nd thought the Iraqis were firing on them, and returned fire, and I think about 17 Iraqis were killed. I was tasked by General Wallace to send in a task force, headed by one of my MP Battalion commanders to try to restore calm. This was way before anyone knew what would later happen in Fallujah

8. How long do you think the stealing and plundering went on?

Several weeks, until basically there wasn’t anything else to steal, they were stealing everything. I personally saw Iraqis dismantle guardrails by the roadway (the same type of guardrails we have by some of our roadways) to sell the steel I assume. I saw hundreds of hand carts being pushed around with stuff stacked as high as possible, stuff like plumbing materials, sinks, toilets, etc. They dismantled some buildings, brick by brick, all window air conditioners were stolen, etc. There was a lot of damage done to police stations. All the police stations that we had to rebuild were burned in the inside. Every police station I walked in was covered with the remains of burnt files. Iraqis had obviously gone in each police station, took all the files out of all the filing cabinets, threw them on the floor, and set them on fire. I would walk at least ankle deep, and sometimes more, in ashes as I assessed each police station; there were about 90 before the war. After we assessed them, and given our number of MPs I was only able to repair and re-open about 32 of them, across the city, that was about a 4-5 month process.
Col. Spain's main mission after the invasion was standing up the Iraqi police (Michael Totten)
9. What mission were you eventually given for the post-war period?

My main mission after the ground war was to help stand up the Iraqi Police. I believe the senior civilian leadership and military leadership failed to place enough emphasis on the police during the first year. I was unable to convince them how important the police would be to the security of the country, and how important they would be to the individual security of the average Iraqi, just like it is in our country. I suspect you count on the local police for your immediate security, more than you do our Army. As I watched the closing ceremonies in Baghdad this week, and listened to the pundits, some of what they talked about was the Iraqi police and how they are not ready to protect the country. I was saying on day one, and every other day I was in Iraq that the Iraqi police would be an important part of the future of Iraq, but the senior military leadership was so focused on standing up an Army, and going after the terrorists that they didn’t have much interest in the police. They learned a couple of years after I left that the police would be an important part of the future security of Iraq

10. Why do you think the leadership failed to appreciate the role the Iraqi police could play? Were they still thinking about the war/invasion, and not making the transition to the post-war/reconstruction phase?

I addressed some of this above, but you are right. In my opinion, they just didn’t see the police with a lot of firepower. We all operate in our comfort zone, obviously I was more comfortable with understanding the police, and they were comfortable trying to stand up an Army with all the tanks, artillery, aircraft, etc. My point then, and now, was that it didn’t have to be an either/or; we had to have both, simultaneously. I tried to explain to the Army generals that when I talked to the Iraqis on the streets, and the Iraqis in the businesses, which I did almost everyday, they talked to me about their “local security” and the Iraqi police, not the Iraqi Army. If someone tries to break in my house tonight I am going to call the local police, not the Army. I tried to use this analogy with the Army generals, and had more success with some, than others.

During this time, I was quoted in one paper as saying, “We have won the war, now we have to win the peace.” I used to always hear about the “hearts and minds” from the Vietnam era, and didn’t really understand it, but it is true. You don’t win the hearts and minds by busting into Iraqi houses, throwing them in the floor, damaging their very few personal belongings while you are searching for something. How long are you going to trust your local police if they do that at your house, especially when they may not have had probable cause to be in your house to start with, but the Army generals just didn’t get it because they said we were at war. In my personal opinion, I wasn’t sure what we were in, but I believed we were in something other than war, because we now were occupying the country, we were their government. Using General Colin Powell’s words “we broke it, now we own it.” We broke Iraq, and now we had to put it together again, and I felt then, and I feel now, that the Iraqi police have to have a key role in putting it back together again.

11. What was your initial impression of the Iraqi police? What did you think of their abilities? Did you think they were going to be a help or hindrance?

My initial impression was that they did whatever they were told to do by Saddam’s people. They were not part of his inner circle. They told me numerous times that they would receive a call, usually from Saddam’s intel folks, and told to pick someone up, and deliver them somewhere, and they did. They were very corrupt. They ran checkpoint operations across the city, and shook people down. They were making about $12.00 dollars a month, and felt they had to be corrupt to survive. They were not very well trained, and human rights were not in their vocabulary. As to the question as to help or hindrance, I didn’t have a choice. I had to play the hand I was dealt. I tried to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  I felt they had to help at some point in the future if Iraq was ever going to have a chance to secure itself.

12. Before the invasion, and immediately afterward there were several analysts and reports that said the U.S. should have moved in with a large force of advisors for the Iraqi police, but that never really materialized. Do you think those original plans would have helped the police, and the security situation in Baghdad?

Yes, it would have helped with the training of the police, which would have helped the security situation. There were supposed to be about 1,500 police advisors (many of which had been in Kosovo and Bosnia) coming in, but my personal opinion as to why it didn’t happen was because of a pissing contest between the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice. There were only around 10 that I worked with during my time, and they did the best they could, but they didn’t have the numbers or the clout to make much difference. Their biggest contribution during my time was helping us stand up the Police Academy, they had lots of experience there and were invaluable.

13. When did you feel that the U.S. was facing an insurgency in Iraq?

I never heard the word insurgent used during my entire time in Iraq. We had three types of detainees: 1. Enemy- former members of Saddam’s Army, 2. Terrorist – outsiders coming into Iraq to kill Americans, and try to prevent us establishing security, 3. Criminals – people robbing banks, kidnapping for ransoms, murdering people, raping women, etc. Since I’ve retired, I’ve read a lot about the insurgency starting about six months after I arrived in Baghdad, but I was never part of any conversation that called that an insurgency, at the time.

14. Did you have any run-ins with any of the Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army or Badr Brigade?

I didn’t personally, but we did have to deal with the attacks from Al Sadr’s folks. There was a shootout in early October between some of Al Sadr’s folks and Sistani’s folks, in Karbala. I wasn’t in the meeting, but I was told during one of the briefings to General Sanchez about this situation that he asked whom the senior American was in Karbala. When he was told it was one of my MP company commanders he said, “Get Spain on the phone.” I was in my office when I got a call, which I did from time to time that said, “Please hold for General Sanchez.” Sanchez got on the phone, and told me he wanted me to keep an MP field grade officer, either a Major or Lieutenant Colonel in Karbala until he told me otherwise. I only had two Majors and one Lieutenant Colonel in that entire area. I asked him if I could move a Battalion HQ to Karbala, because that’s where we wanted them anyway, but couldn’t, because of the Polish Division commander. Sanchez said he was going to fight the Polish commander over this. He just kept a field grade officer up there until he told me otherwise, over my objections. I did as he ordered, and on October 16 the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kim Orlando, a Staff Sergeant, and a Corporal were all killed in a shootout with some of Al Sadr’s gang.

15. I’ve heard there were a lot of criminal gangs taking advantage of the post-war chaos as well. Was that true, and did you have any experiences with them?

There absolutely were, and we had a tremendous amount of experiences with them, including:  conducting raids and freeing kidnapped people that were being held for ransom; killing and capturing bank robbers; killing and capturing murderers; raiding and capturing counterfeiters that were making counterfeit Iraqi dinars, because we were changing the currency, and even in one case they were making US $100 bills; running hundreds of checkpoint operations recovering stolen vehicles, weapons, etc.

16. Can you expand upon what was happening with these criminals, because I think this is an element of the Iraq story that very few people know about.  Were they mostly gangs that had been operating under Saddam, or were they opportunists that were taking advantage of the post-war chaos or a mixture of both? Did they eventually merge with the insurgents and militias? It seems like for an average citizen of Baghdad, the lawlessness that was released after the fall of the regime might have had the biggest effect upon their every day life.

I can only speculate and give an opinion on most of what you are asking, but let me set the stage a bit to a lot of what you have asked, which is similar to what a lot of what I’ve been asked since I’ve retired. You have probably heard the saying “when you are asshole deep in alligators, it is hard to remember that your original mission was to drain the swamp.” Well, we were asshole deep in alligators everyday during our time in Iraq. 

Since I’ve retired, a lot has been written about what was going on around me that first year, and much more will be written in the coming years (including my book that is being written by Terry Turchie in California). I’m not a very smart person, and certainly not a deep thinker. At the time I was an operator, a war fighter, a leader, someone that daily was trying to “drain the swamp.” I was trying to make Iraq a better place, one day at a time. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, perhaps I should have spent more time trying to understand those things you have been asking me, but I didn’t. 

Back to your original questions. I don’t know if they were gangs that had been operating under Saddam or not. I think many of them were the thugs he had released from his prisons just a few months before we invaded. Six months before we entered Iraq he emptied the now infamous Abu Ghraib Prison. I think we were fighting some of those bad guys.  I think we were fighting many from his former Army that Bremer disbanded. As you suggested, I think many were opportunists that were taking advantage of the chaos just like Americans do here in the U.S. during disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, major power outages, etc. Look what happened in New Orleans. I suspect some were, what were later called insurgents that were trying to fund their operations. I have no idea if some eventually merged with the insurgents and militias.

I think you hit a home run when you said, “It seems like for an average citizen of Baghdad, the lawlessness that was released after the fall of the regime might have had the biggest effect upon their every day life.” Ironically, I’ve never been asked that in the way you asked it, in the countless questions I’ve been asked since I’ve retired, and I couldn’t agree with your assessment more. That was exactly my point at the time. I tried to make that point every week with the senior military leadership and the senior civilian leadership at the time. My assessment then, and now, is that the average Iraqi citizen was concerned about their personal safety. Many of them were scared to go outside, many of them would not allow their children to go to school once they were re-opened, many of them were scared to shop in the businesses that were re-opened. I was on the streets of Baghdad daily, and I personally judged our success by talking to the Iraqi people and seeing how they moved about on the streets what they were saying about their personal safety.

Bottom line: we broke Iraq, so therefore we owned it. We had a great plan to take the country, just not a great plan on what we were going to do with it after we owned it. Had we placed more emphasis on the Iraqi police, perhaps the average citizen would have felt safer, thereby providing us more intel on the bad guys, thereby ending the chaos. We will have to let history tell us how this ended. I just watched the final soldiers roll into Camp Virginia in Kuwait, as the last vehicles left Iraq. In March 2003, I rolled out of Camp Virginia, to enter Iraq, and try to accomplish the mission I was given. There are a lot of things I would have done differently if I had known then, what I know now. Tomorrow morning we can talk about the results of the NFL football games, and I can probably give you an example of where if one of the quarterbacks had passed the ball instead of running it, they would have won the game. I just saw the winning numbers from last night’s drawing of Powerball, if I would have known those numbers yesterday at this time, I would be a multi-millionaire right now. 

17. After the fall of the Iraqi government in April 03 when was the first time one of your units came under attack?

They came under attack from when we first entered Iraq as part of the invasion until the day we left. I lost my first soldier on 25 April, but that was not a result of an enemy attack.  I lost soldiers to IEDs, ambushes, traffic accidents, and drownings.

18. In August 2003 insurgents began high-profile attacks in the capital such as the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy, and U.N. headquarters, and then in Sep. they tried to kill the Baghdad police chief, and hit the U.N. again. What were your impressions of those operations, and did they change your views about what the U.S. was facing in Iraq?

We were involved in everything you mentioned. They didn’t really change my views, because it was chaos the entire time I was there. I learned that the best a commander can do in combat is to manage the chaos, and that is what I tried to do everyday. Some days were better than others. We were more successful in some areas than others. The attacks you mentioned above, and many more you didn’t played well to the media back in the States, and in many cases were carried out to try to show the Iraqi people we couldn’t protect them. Secretary Rumsfeld asked me about the murder rate in Baghdad. I told him we were having about 45 a month, and he said that was less than Washington, DC. I sat on a board in DC about three years ago that was trying to deal with how to handle the next situation like Iraq, as it relates to standing up a host nation police. Some guy from the Department of Justice asked me why I couldn’t control the looting in Iraq. I didn’t like the way he asked me so I answered, “Why couldn’t you control the looting in New Orleans.” I then went on to explain to him that my point was we were doing the best we could given the situation we found ourselves in, just as I’m sure they were doing in New Orleans.

19. In Oct. 03 the insurgents launched their first Ramadan offensive with many attacks being focused in Baghdad. What was it like to be caught in the middle of that?

Similar to my comments above, an attack is an attack, whether the people trying to kill you are criminals, terrorists, enemy soldiers or whoever. We were attacked many times. I survived a plot to assassinate me, and a vehicle bomb attack (two of them simultaneously) because the second bomb malfunctioned, and I was running about 15 minutes late to where I was going to meet with an Iraqi Major Crime Unit and some of my MPs.  I’ve had people in front of me attacked, and people behind me attacked. There was a device placed on the front of my vehicle shortly after my arrival in Baghdad that was supposed to jam any device that would remotely set off an IED attack on me. I will never know if it worked, but I am here today.

20. In May 03 Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority took over control of Iraq. What were your impressions of their work?

As you know, Bremer took over from Retired General Jay Gardner. We had already coordinated our plan with Gardner’s folks, then Bremer, and Bernie Kerik (former New York City police chief) showed up, so we started over. I talked to Bremer several times, and think he was a well intended, and good person. He had a mess on his hands, plus he was a politician and a diplomat.  I was a soldier, and therefore had different opinions from time to time. One of Bremer’s biggest challenges, from what I was personally involved in, was his revolving staff. It would drive me nuts to coordinate something with his people, then they would leave, and someone else would take over. He couldn’t make them stay. Bernie Kerik was there just for the face time, and to build up his resume. He left at the 90 day mark. 

21. Bremer and General Ricardo Sanchez were the two highest ranking Americans in Iraq, but from all accounts they disliked each other bitterly. How did that affect operations in the country?

The main impact on me was trying to determine who was in charge. I was talking one on one, one day with then Major General Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I asked General Dempsey, “If Bremer tells me one thing and Sanchez tells me something different what do I do.” Dempsey told me that the military was kind of like in direct support (DS – something all military people understand) to Bremer and the CPA. I sarcastically said, “OK I will do what Bremer said, and blow off Sanchez.” Dempsey smiled, and told me not to forget the uniform I was wearing. I understood the overall situation. It was just frustrating as hell to get conflicting guidance through the civilian channels (CPA) and the military channels.

22. When you left Iraq in early 2004, what did you think you had accomplished, and what challenges did you see ahead for those Americans who were remaining in the country?

When we cased the colors on January 31, 2004, during my speech I told my soldiers and the Iraqi police that we had been part of something historic. I told them that history would sort out whether this was a good idea or not. I told my soldiers not to worry if the future said things didn’t work out, because they should spend the rest of their lives knowing they provided the Iraqi people an opportunity for a better life, but what they did with that opportunity was up to them. I told my soldiers I had just given up my ability to influence the future of Iraq, it was now someone else’s turn. I saw lots of challenges ahead. At the time I thought they could only progress so far until they stopped killing each other. I think they finally got tired around 2006 and started going after the outsiders that were coming in to kill them. Now that we are pulling out, it will be interesting to see what happens now. I told the units that were replacing us that they had to pick up where we left off and continue to move the ball down the field.

23. Overall, what kind of grade would you give the U.S. in those first few months after the invasion was over? 

I would give the individual soldier an A+.  I would give the senior military leadership and the CPA a C, and I would give the politicians in DC a D-.  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, from Texas, asked me in Baghdad if I agreed with the President’s decision to invade Iraq. I knew with the wrong answer I would be quoted by her on Meet the Press. I said to her, “Ma’am, what kind of question is that to ask a soldier?” I then pulled a cell phone out of my pocket and showed her. I told her that if any general in Iraq wanted to talk to me that they would call me on that phone, and that I was sure if President Bush wanted my opinion he would know how to get in touch with me. (I spent part of Thanksgiving with President Bush, and he personally thanked me for my service.)  I told her if the President asked me my opinion I would give it to him, but I would not give it to her. I said, “Ma’am I know I’ve been here almost a year, but unless you’ve changed the rules since I’ve been here, politicians tell soldiers when to go to war and politicians tell soldiers when to come home, you are a politician, I am just a soldier.”

24. What kind of lessons should the U.S. take away from its time in Iraq?

Some of the same lessons we’ve learned from previous wars, which meant we really didn’t learn them. The military sucks at nation building. It is difficult to take the same soldiers that are killing the enemy, and have trained their entire life to do that, one day, and then have them “win the hearts and minds” the next day. Hindsight is always 20/20 but here goes:

1.  If you break it you own it, and you better have a plan to put it back together again (like Humpty Dumpty.)

2.  We shouldn’t have disbanded the Iraqi Army – they took their weapons with them, took off their uniform, and came after us.

3.  We shouldn’t have stripped all of the top levels of the Ba’ath party out – all of the very senior Iraqi police leadership that I needed to work with were taken away.

4.  We should have placed a lot of emphasis on the police from the beginning, not nearly three years later.

5.  We should have gone in with more soldiers, but in all fairness, Rumsfeld had to balance the movement of equipment, with upcoming heat, with the threat of a chemical attack, with strategic surprise, with protecting the oil fields. As a side note, we were treated as liberators during the ground war. I think we wasted that opportunity because of the way we treated the Iraqi people – we didn’t understand their culture.

6. The military leaders at my level didn’t know what the post hostility operations plan was (assuming there was one.) I am to blame for that also. The original plan called for an encirclement of Baghdad, and a likely 3-4 four month battle. I made the mistake of thinking that would give me enough time to figure out the Iraqi police piece, based on how they reacted to the occupation. I was dead wrong.


Badkhen, Anna and Walt, Vivienne, “U.S.-trained Iraqi guards lack guns,” San Francisco Chronicle, 9/23/03

Bennett, Brian, “Who Are The Insurgents?” Time, 11/24/03

Collier, Robert, “Blast highlights U.S. failure to end chaos in Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20/03

Epstein, Edward, “U.S. says increased Iraqi resistance shows desperation,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/03

McGeary, Johanna, “Danger Around Every Corner,” Time, 10/27/03

Ricks, Thomas, Fiasco, New York: Penguin Press, 2006

Ricks, Thomas and Chandrasekaran, Rajiv, “Attacks raise fears of guerrilla war in Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/7/03

Schlesinger, Robert, “General in Iraq says U.S. faces a guerrilla war,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/17/03

Schlesinger, Robert and Walt, Vivienne, “As attacks escalate, US troops no longer sole target,” Boston Globe, 8/20/03

Walt, Vivienne, “Bombing at Baghdad police compound,” San Francisco Chronicle, 9/3/03
- “Hellish start to holy month in Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/03

This Day In Iraqi History - Jul 24 Treaty of Lusanne said League of Nations would decide whether Mosul vilayet went to Iraq or Turkey

  1920 France occupied Syria Defeated King Faisal’s forces leading him to flee Would set sites on Mesopotamia afterward ...