Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Coalition Provisional Authority’s Inauspicious End

In June 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had an inauspicious end. CPA head Paul Bremer told his staff two hours beforehand that the U.S. was going to hand back sovereignty to Iraq. There was a short handover ceremony held in secret, then Bremer went to the Baghdad International Airport for a meeting, and then he flew out of the country. That ended his fourteen-month administration of Iraq. In the preceding period, the CPA had been hard at work planning the transition, by creating a provisional constitution, setting a timetable for national elections for a new Iraqi government, and trying to finish its reconstruction projects. At the end, Bremer compared his work to what the U.S. accomplished in post-World War II Germany with the Marshall Plan. In doing so, Bremer actually highlighted many of the shortcomings of his time running Iraq.
CPA head Paul Bremer departing Iraq June 2004 (AP)
At the beginning of 2004, the CPA began planning for the return of sovereignty to Iraq. Bremer’s main priority was setting the framework for a new democratic Iraq. The first step was working out how the Iraqis were going to come up with a new constitution. Bremer originally called for the Iraqi Governing Council to pick delegates for a constitutional convention. Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately rejected that idea calling for an elected body to draft the document. In early 2004, the CPA and Governing Council asked the United Nations for help on the matter. It appointed Lakhdar Brahimi as its special envoy. He convinced Sistani that elections could not be held until sovereignty was handed over, which he said would happen on June 30. That ended Sistani’s objections, which was the main impediment to the Provisional Authority’s plans. Without his consent, the U.S. would be facing the opposition of his millions of followers. With Brahimi’s help, the Americans had now overcome this major roadblock.

The next step the CPA took was drafting a provisional constitution, which would be the law of the land until the Iraqis came up with their own. This document was called the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). It was pushed through in secret negotiations between CPA officials and the Iraqi Governing Council, and passed on March 8, 2004. Since Iraqis were never told about these talks, many protested and complained about the TAL when it was made public. It followed Bremer’s ideas for a new Iraq by including individual rights, delegating the powers of the interim government, and created a timeline for three elections in just 18 months. The first would be for provisional councils and a new parliament to draft a constitution by August 15, 2005. There would then be a referendum on the constitution by October 15. Finally, by December 15 there would be balloting for a permanent parliament. With the creation of the TAL, the CPA was hoping to instill some basic democratic ideas on the new Iraq. More importantly, it set the steps for voting, and Iraqis to come up with their own constitution and government. Many people considered the elections as the hallmark of a burgeoning democracy. The fact that Iraq was going to hold three in the midst of an on-going insurgency with only a few political parties, some of which were returning from years in exile seemed to be overlooked.
U.N. Special Envoy Brahimi helped smooth over the differences between Bremer and Ayatollah Sistani on how to draft Iraq's new constitution (Getty Images)
Lakhdar Brahimi then set about coming up with an interim government. By the end of May 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council chose Iyad Allawi as the interim prime minister. On June 1, the new body was announced. It included a president, two vice presidents, 26 ministers, and five ministers of state. That was the final stage in America’s plans to hand back power to Iraqis. Allawi was to govern until a full time parliament was elected, and a ruling coalition was formed.

The last thing on Bremer’s plate was to initiate as many reconstruction projects as possible before the CPA ceased operating. In April, Bremer ordered the Authority to spend as much money as possible before the hand over of sovereignty. On May 15, the CPA approved $2 billion for the Iraqi security forces, electrical network, oil, and the Iraqi Property Claims Commission, which was to deal with the reversing of Saddam’s Arabization policy. In the last six months of the Provisional Authority, $5 billion was given to Iraq’s ministries or appropriated for rebuilding projects. That was one-third of the total money spent by the CPA. Later, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that all this spending was badly managed. That was in part due to the fact that Bremer resisted auditing and setting rules for the spending, because he thought it would hold up the reconstruction effort. The CPA also lacked the capacity and trained staff to handle such a large endeavor.

June 28, 2004, was the last day of the CPA. Bremer issued a report comparing his work with what the United States did with the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Germany. He wrote that the Coalition Provisional Authority was able to do in fourteen months what the Marshall Plan took years to accomplish. For instance, he said that it took nearly three years to design the Marshall Plan, and ten for a new German military to be created and sovereignty returned, things that the CPA did in months. Bremer’s paper actually highlighted some of the major shortcomings of the U.S. effort in Iraq. Germany after the Marshall Plan was nothing like Iraq after the CPA. The latter was facing a growing insurgency and the beginning of a civil war. The country was becoming more divided along ethnosectarian lines as a result. The Americans also took the time to come up with a comprehensive plan for putting together Germany after World War II, while the CPA was put together in an ad hoc manner, never came up with an integrated program, didn’t get the support from Washington that it needed, lacked the necessary resources, and often made decisions that undermined its own stated goals.

Paul Bremer originally came to Iraq thinking he would have years to put the country back together, but ended up only being there for fourteen months. The last months of the CPA were a flurry of activity including setting up the details of how Iraqis were to come up with a new constitution and government, creating an interim constitution that would be in effect in the meantime, and trying to spend the rest of its reconstruction funds. Rather than having the time Bremer wished, he ended up being rushed in his plans to create a new Iraq. At first, the CPA head wanted to create a democratic society with a free press, a new justice system, civil groups, etc. Much of that had to be dropped, because there simply wasn’t the time, commitment, or money to implement much of it. Instead, Bremer had to be satisfied with the Transitional Administrative Law, three elections, and reforms to the judiciary. Iraq was left with the trappings of democracy such as voting and a legislature, but the creation of norms and institutions still remains incomplete and may never emerge due to the exigencies of the Iraqi elite.


Chandrasekaran, Rajiv, “The Final Word on Iraq’s Future,” Washington Post, 6/18/03
- “Iraq’s top Shiite assails U.S. plan to cede power,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11/27/03

Collier, Robert, “Shiite support for U.S. occupation of Iraq appears tenuous,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/16/03

Gettleman, Jeffrey, “Hours Later, Bremer Leaves Iraq; New Premier Outlines Agenda,” New York Times, 6/28/04

Krane, Jim, “On Bremer’s last day, he springs a surprise,” Associated Press, 6/29/04

Packer, George, “Caught In The Crossfire,” New Yorker, 5/17/04

Powell, Bill and Ghosh, Aparism, “Paul Bremer’s Rough Ride,” Time, 6/28/04

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How The World Found Out That Iraq Still Tortured People

In November 2005, an American military unit found a secret prison in an Iraqi Interior Ministry building in Baghdad. It contained over 170 prisoners, many of which showed signs of torture. U.S. and Iraqi officials knew that abuses were taking place within the country for quite some time, but had said little about it beforehand. Human rights groups had also noted mistreatment, but gotten little coverage. The detention center however, received worldwide attention, and let the world know that Iraq had not progressed much when it came to human rights despite the fall of Saddam Hussein.

On November 13, 2005, 173 prisoners were found in a basement in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad. The facility was located in the Jadriya neighborhood across from the Green Zone. A unit from the 3rd Infantry Division went to the site after several people had come to them looking for missing family members. Many of those in the prison had been tortured, with one prisoner claiming that 18 people had died as a result. The controversy caused by the discovery, forced Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to admit that abuse did occur at the building, which was a first. (1) He also ordered an investigation into the matter. At the same time, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr told the press that only seven of the detainees had been abused. The Deputy Interior Minister for Intelligence Ali Hussein Kamal said that the Special Investigative Unit was responsible for the bunker. He went on to say that a general and a colonel were in charge, and that the latter reported directly to Minister Jabr. Both of them were members of the Badr Brigade, the militia of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. When Jabr became the Interior Minister under Jaafari’s government he immediately set about recruiting members of his militia into the security forces, especially the commando units. They started going after Sunnis in what was the beginning of the sectarian civil war. The Jadriya prison was one sign of the emergence of this conflict as almost all of the detainees there were Sunnis.
Interior Minister Jabr (right) was a commander in the Badr Brigdae and brought in hundreds of his militiamen into the security forces while in office (AP)
The Jadriya story opened the door to Iraqi officials talking about abuses going on within the security forces. An Interior Ministry official told the New York Times that there were 8-10 unofficial prisons in Baghdad, which were used to hold people picked up without warrants. The former head of special forces at the Ministry General Muntadhar Muhi Samarraie and the Deputy Human Rights Minister Aida Usayran said that members of the Badr Brigade within the police were torturing prisoners. The Inspector General at Interior added that there were extrajudicial killings going on. He too pointed to militia elements within the security forces as being the culprits. Even before men from Badr were being recruited into the police there were stories of abuses going on under Interior Minister Allawi Falah Hassan al-Naqib who served under the interim Premier Iyad Allawi. The rapidly deteriorating security situation led to thousands of men being brought into the security forces with no real checks on their backgrounds. Some were former police, some were insurgents, and some were militiamen. All of them had grown up under dictatorships either in Iraq or abroad in places like Iran where the Badr Brigade was based before the 2003 invasion. The U.S. were in charge of training all these new recruits, but never committed the necessary resources. There was also a rush to get as many police into the field as quickly as possible to deal with all the chaos and violence. The Americans were therefore never able to change the culture of the Iraqis who were used to beatings and torture, and repeated those techniques as new policemen mostly to gain confessions, which is the basis of the Iraqi justice system.

The U.S. knew about the mistreatment by the Iraqi security forces as well. The State Department detailed cases that occurred during Allawi’s time in office including torture, rape, and illegal detention in its annual human rights report of 2005. In April, General John Vines, the senior tactical commander in Iraq, issued an order that soldiers had to prevent any abuses by Iraqis, and report it. The next month, General George Casey, commander of Coalition forces, sent a letter to his troops saying that they needed to make sure Iraqi forces treated detainees correctly. That same month, the 1st Cavalry and 3rd Infantry Divisions collected over 120 allegations of abuse by the Iraqi security forces including beatings, electric shock, and choking. In June, General Casey issued a memo that Iraqi forces had to respect the rule of law and human rights after he received reports of mistreatment. By 2005, Iraq was a sovereign country meaning that the only thing the U.S. could do about this issue was inspect any joint facilities they had with the Iraqis to see whether any torture was going on, protest when they found any, and demand the Iraqi government follow up on cases like the Jadriya prison. The Americans also pushed for Interior Minister Jabr to be removed, but to no results until a new government was named in 2006 since his Supreme Council was an important element in the ruling coalition. Almost all of this occurred behind closed doors however, as the U.S. did not want to expose the wrong doings of its ally.

Human rights groups and the United Nations also tried drawing attention to the situation in Iraq. In January 2005, Human Rights Watch’s “The New Iraq? Torture and Ill Treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody” documented abuses under Allawi’s interim government committed by the Iraqi intelligence and police forces, and accused Iraqi officials of either supporting torture or not caring about it. (2) The paper said that abuse was routine, and there was no effort to stop it. The United Nations found that the Iraqi government was carrying out illegal arrests, extrajudicial killings, and torture, some of which was due to militias within the security forces. An official from the Human Rights Ministry told the Times of London that Jaafari’s government was no better. While these groups’ reports were all noted in the press, they were only blips amongst all the other stories about the growing violence in Iraq. They therefore had little to no impact, and were mostly missed by the general public.

The Jadriya story put the spotlight on Iraq’s poor human rights situation. Iraq was supposed to be transitioning to a democracy, but its treatment of prisoners showed that some things had remained the same. The incident only brought to light what U.S. and Iraqi officials already knew, and what outside groups had warned about before. The large number of stories exposed the dark side to the new Iraq. Little has changed since then with the security forces still routinely torturing prisoners in order to gain confessions. The government also continues to run secret prisons showing a basic lack of due process and a respect for rule of law. Baghdad is as uninterested in solving these problems today as it was back in 2005 meaning that they will only continue. The difference now is that everyone knows.


1. San Francisco Chronicle, “Iraq concedes detainees likely were tortured,” 11/16/05

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


Allbritton, Christopher, “Why Iraq’s Police Are a Menace,” Time, 5/20/06

Burns, Robert, “Documents show top brass knew of abuse,” Associated Press, 12/7/05

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

Fadel, Leila, “Abuse of prisoners in Iraq widespread, officials say,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 11/28/05

Graham, Bradley, “Iraqi police accused of abuses,” San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20/05

Hider, James, “West Turns Blind Eye As Police Put Saddam’s Torturers Back To Work,” Times of London, 7/7/05

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

Moore, Solomon, “Killings Linked to Shiite Squads in Iraqi Police Force,” Los Angeles Times, 11/29/05

Said, Yahia, “Misunderstanding Iraq: Recommendations for US Policy,” Revenue Watch, November 2005

San Francisco Chronicle, “Iraq concedes detainees likely were tortured,” 11/16/05

Wong, Edward and Burns, John, “Iraqi Rift Grows After Discovery of Prison,” New York Times, 11/17/05

ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ VIDEO: Raid On Checkpoints In Haditha, Iraq

Warning: Video shows graphic violence/executions by Al Qaeda in Iraq umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq. The assailants are dressed in police uniforms in police vehicles and weapons.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Operation Desert Fox Finished Off Iraq’s WMD Programs

In December 1998, the United States and England launched the largest attack upon Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Dubbed Operation Desert Fox, the campaign turned out to be a short one of just four days of bombing and missile strikes. The cause was Saddam Hussein’s continued refusal to cooperate with the United Nations’ weapons inspectors, who withdrew from the country shortly before the operation started, and would not return again until the end of 2002. At the time, Desert Fox was highly controversial within the United States, because it came on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Many politicians and analysts derided the attack as being a diversion from American domestic politics, and ineffective due to its short duration, and because Iraq was left to operate with no inspectors in the country. Supporters said it almost caused a coup. After the fall of the regime, investigators found that the program ended Iraq’s hopes of rebuilding its chemical and biological weapons operations. In the end, Operation Desert Fox proved to have far more effects upon Iraq than initially thought.

In December 1998, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced an air campaign against Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said that the two countries would focus upon degrading Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, and its ability to project military power. Cohen went on to say that the strikes were meant to make Saddam Hussein comply with United Nations’ resolutions and weapons inspections. President Clinton went on television saying that Saddam had lost his last chance to cooperate with the U.N., and that he should be removed. Thus started the largest military operation against Iraq since the Gulf War
Some of the government targets struck in Baghdad during Desert Fox
The operation lasted just four days, starting on December 16. That night 250 Tomahawk missiles and 40 sorties by planes from the U.S.S. Enterprise struck Iraq. A total of 415 cruise missiles and 600 bombs were used against 100 targets, 97 of which were hit. 49 of the strikes were against elements of the government. That included three palaces in Baghdad, the offices of Abed Hamid Mahmoud, Saddam’s chief of staff, the Baath Party headquarters in the capital, the Mukhabarat intelligence agency offices, along with the Defense and Industry Ministries. Several military and domestic security agencies were hit as well including two corps and four division headquarters of the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard, the Secret Security Organization’s computer center and intelligence archives, a helicopter base in Samarra, and airfields in Baiji, Taji, and Kut. Eavesdropping and jamming facilities, telephone exchanges, radio and television transmitters in Baghdad and Basra were knocked out too. Iraq’s WMD and missiles sites were also targeted. That included the Biological Research Center at Baghdad University, which had been in the lead of the country’s biological weapons program, the Fallujah III and Habaniya Castor Oil plants both of which were believed to be behind the production of ricin, the missile research and development centers in Anbar and Ninewa, and liquid engine and missile fabrication sites. Two of the airbases struck were also believed to house drones that could be used to deliver WMD. The targets could be divided up into four distinct categories. First hit was the country’s air defense network, so that planes could operate safely over Iraq. Second, were the WMD facilities. Those were a combination of factories that produced components for biological and chemicals weapons and research labs. Third, was the missile industry. The West believed that missiles were the main way Saddam planned on delivering his WMD against other countries, so it went after the plants that produced parts for them. General Anthony Zinni, who was in charge of the operation, limited the number of WMD and missile sites to those that could be hit with certainty. Finally, were the government offices. These appeared to be aimed at denying Saddam the ability to maintain his totalitarian control over society, and put down any revolt that might follow Desert Fox. Helicopters for example, were used to suppress the 1991 uprisings by Shiites and Kurds following the Gulf War. The secret services, Republican Guard, and communication targets denied Baghdad the ability to collect information, give orders, spread propaganda, monitor the public, destroyed files on the population, and damaged the units that were supposed to protect the regime. All together they were meant to bring down Saddam.

The cause of Operation Desert Fox was Saddam’s continued skirting of United Nations’ resolutions about his weapons programs. From 1997-1998 Baghdad had tried to stifle inspections by clearing sites, hiding and destroying documents, and not allowing U.N. personnel into certain facilities. In February 1998, Iraq signed an agreement with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that was supposed to ease the process and allow inspectors into presidential sites, which were suspected repositories of secret papers. Then in July, a huge stash of documents was found at the Iraqi Air Force headquarters that covered chemical weapons used during the Iran-Iraq War. The Iraqis ended up seizing the files. The next month, Baghdad refused to cooperate with the inspectors, and they shut down their operations by October as a result. Saddam had come to believe that no matter what his government did, the inspections and U.N. sanctions would not end. By 1998 there was no real work on WMD anymore, and only missile development was still going on. The search by that point was mostly about finding documentation on the extent of Iraq’s programs. Saddam had tired of the entire process, and therefore found no reason to work with the inspectors anymore. The result, was that on December 15, they withdrew, opening the way for Operation Desert Fox in retaliation by the U.S. and England.

Many within the U.S. were critical of the attack. Republicans were in the forefront of criticizing the operation. For most of 1998, President Clinton had been entangled in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Some Republicans claimed that Desert Fox was a means to district the public from the scandal. Many also felt that the short duration of the attack accomplished little. Daniella Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute for instance, said Desert Fox did nothing. Richard Perle who had served in the Reagan administration said that Clinton was afraid to take firmer action against Saddam. Kenneth Pollack who was a former analyst from the CIA, and a member of the National Security Council at the time, later stated that Saddam came out on top, because the attack was severely limited, and inspectors had withdrawn. Charles Duelfer who was the head inspector later wrote that Desert Fox was “feckless,” and Iraq was free to continue with its WMD programs with no U.N. presence. Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote that the attack had no impact upon Saddam’s behavior, and made him look down upon the West’s military capabilities since he survived what the U.S. and England touted as the largest attack since the Gulf War. These statements were a mix of partisanship and analysis. By 1998, Republicans were attacking Clinton about everything, so it was no surprise they did the same about Desert Fox. Pollack, Duelfer, and Cordesman on the other hand, believed that four days of bombing could do little, and more importantly Saddam was given a free hand with no more weapons inspectors in his country. He could therefore hide his programs, and start new work if he wanted to with no outside interference. That was the popular opinion until after the 2003 invasion.
Gen. Zinni commander of Desert Fox believed that it almost led to a revolt against Saddam (Wikipedia)
General Zinni was much more positive about the campaign he had just commanded. The General knew that any military strike could only have limited impact upon the WMD program. Since some precursors, agents, and weapons could be made in small rooms, there was no way to eliminate those elements. What Zinni would later point out, was that the strike caused fear of a coup. In January 1999, the general said that Saddam was executing officers, and rounding up dissenters out of fear of an uprising. His ability to dominate society had been weakened by striking communication, intelligence, and internal security offices. To Zinni, the operation therefore almost brought down the regime.

Investigations after the 2003 invasion of Iraq found that Operation Desert Fox had mixed impacts upon Saddam’s weapons programs. In terms of missiles, Iraq was able to work on them more after the inspectors left. The Iraq Survey Group that was tasked with finding Iraq’s WMD, discovered that Baghdad sped up its missile program after Desert Fox, and attempted to use loopholes in sanctions to acquire more technology and parts. In terms of WMD however, the opposite was found. The Iraqi Survey Group discovered that Desert Fox ended the last vestiges of the country’s operations. Afterward, the various networks were allowed to atrophy and die. Iraq realized that it would never be able to restart its programs like before on a large scale with sanctions still in place, and fazed them out. David Kay, who was the first director of the Survey Group was surprised by the interviews he did with Iraqis when they talked about the impact of Desert Fox, because he had long been critical of the operation. Kay passed on his findings to Congress in October 2003. Overall, Desert Fox proved to be far more effective then initially thought. One of the stated goals of the operation was to degrade Iraq’s weapons programs. It turned out that the strike was the last straw, and WMD work largely ceased afterward, even though missile development continued.

Operation Desert Fox was widely derided for years, but turned out to have a far larger impact upon Iraq than most critics believed. Only lasting four days, many analysts doubted that it could have much affect upon Saddam Hussein. After all, he was still in power, and many thought that with inspectors no longer in the country, Iraq would restart its weapons programs. As it turned out, Iraq had destroyed most of its WMD stockpiles, and was largely trying to hide the extent of its programs from the outside world by 1998. Desert Fox convinced the regime that the U.S. was intent on maintaining sanctions to contain the government, and there was no way for it to rebuild its WMD effort as a result. Those operations ended, with only some small-scale work on toxins for assassinations left. This was not known until after 2003 however when Saddam was overthrown, and outside experts were able to go through all of Iraq’s documents, and interview its personnel. Even though Desert Fox was very limited in scope, it came at just the right time in the history of the Saddam regime to put an end to its weapons of mass destruction.


Arkin, William, “The Difference Was in the Details,” Washington Post, 1/17/99

Cirincione, Joseph, “The Kay Contradiction,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10/3/03

Cirincione, Joseph, Mathews, Jessica, Perkovich, George with Orton, Alexis, “WMD in Iraq Evidence and Implications,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004

CNN, “Pentagon unveils details of Operation Desert Fox,” 12/16/98

Conversino, Dr. Mark, “Operation DESERT FOX: Effectiveness With Unintended Effects,” Air & Space Power Journal, 7/13/05

Duelfer, Charles, “Canaries in the Cooling Tower,” The National Interest, July/August 2009

Haulman, Daniel, “What Happened to the Iraqi Air Force?” Air Force Historical Research Agency, 11/5/09

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

Leopold, Jason, “Seven Months Before 9/11 Said Iraq Posed No Threat,” Scoop, 6/27/03

PBS Frontline, “Chronology: The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine,” War Behind Closed Doors, 2/20/03
- “In Their Own Words: Who Said What When,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03
- “Interview: Kenneth Pollack,” The War Behind Closed Doors, 2/20/03
- “The War Behind Closed Doors – Transcript,” War Behind Closed Doors, 2/20/03

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

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

Risen, James, “Ex-arms hunter wants answers on Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26/04

Ritter, Scott, “The Case for Iraq’s Qualitative Disarmament,” Arms Control Today, June 2000

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

Whitelaw, Kevin and Mazzetti, Mark, “Why War?” U.S. News & World Report, 10/14/02

Monday, August 27, 2012

How The State Department’s Iraq Police Training Program Turned Out To Be A Flop

As the U.S. military was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, the State Department took over responsibility for a police training program there. The operation has proven to be a huge embarrassment for the American government. Baghdad has consistently said that it does not want the training, and State has scaled back the scope of its effort, because it can’t secure its personnel. While these problems have been attributed to bad planning, it actually was more a case of hubris. The State Department never asked the Iraqis what they wanted, never thought about how they could protect their personnel, or how to manage things. Instead, they just moved ahead with no real plan, expecting the Iraqis to accept whatever they offered.

In October 2011, the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs took over the Iraq police training program from the Defense Department. This was due to the impending military withdrawal from Iraq, which occurred in December. State thought their mission would last until 2016 at which point the Iraqis would take over. State wanted 350 advisers to be spread out between three bases in Baghdad, Basra, and Irbil. Out of those main sites, they would go to 50 smaller ones in outlaying areas and provinces. This was all part of the American government’s plans to maintain a robust civilian presence in the country after its forces had withdrawn. Washington believed that it could keep up most of its operations in Iraq almost like nothing had changed after the troops were pulled out. That seemed an odd calculation given the fact that there were organizations like the Iranian-backed Special Groups whose main focus was attacking Americans. The State Department thought it could move around the country to conduct these training sessions just like what the military had done, but with just private security contractors. That proved to be sadly mistaken.

As soon as the State Department took over its new responsibilities, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) audited its program. It found a lack of planning, no assessment mechanism, high security costs, and most importantly, Baghdad was not interested. On October 8, Deputy Interior Minister Adnan Asadi told SIGIR that he didn’t think the program was necessary. He didn’t believe his forces would get much from it, because it was focused upon topics such as administration and financing. He continued that the money appropriated for the operation might have been better spent in the United States rather than in Iraq. As a further sign of disinterest, the Iraqi government never signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the mission, even though the U.S. military had been saying one was necessary since March 2010. That was likely the reason why Baghdad was not paying its 50% share of the program. The exception was in Irbil, where the Kurds welcomed the opportunity for training, and there was no real security issue either. On the other hand, because of questions over the U.S. budget, the State Department was consistently cutting back the scope of its training. For instance, the number of trainers went from 350 to 190 and then to 115. State also failed to come up with a curriculum, leaving that to its advisors, and had no way to determine whether they were being successful or not. The audit revealed the deep structural flaws in State’s plans. It looked as if the U.S. was starting a program simply because it felt obligated to. The military had been conducting training, so now State had to do the same. State then created a structure of trainers, bases, etc., but with no strategy behind it.

When the training program became operational more problems were revealed. The main one was that the operational costs of the mission became so extravagant that there was little money leftover for actually working with the Iraqis. In October 2012, 88% of the program’s budget went to support and security, and only 12% for advisers. By March 2012, that went up to 94% for operations, and 6% for the trainers. This seemed to be caused by two main factors. First, State could not provide adequate protection for its staff. The idea that security contractors could move and protect the advisers around Iraq the same way soldiers could proved false. That completely distorted the program, and led to the closing of the Basra base, and the curtailing of operations in Baghdad. Second, the lack of serious planning meant State’s priorities were all wrong, and didn’t budget its money correctly. In the original outline of the program for instance, State wanted a small private air force to ferry its people throughout Iraq. This was a hugely expensive idea that obviously took away funds for actual trainers. The results of the security shortcomings and budgetary problems were that the number of advisers was down to just 50 by March 2012, and then 35 in July.

Today, the future of the police training mission is in doubt. The Interior Ministry is still uninterested in the services offered, there are very few trainers left in the country, and the costs of security are still dominating the budget. The result is a very ineffective program. This is the fault of the State Department that believed that it could operate in Iraq just as the military could. Not only that, it never took the time to come up with a comprehensive plan for how the training was to work and be assessed. It simply created a program, because the U.S. military had one. These have all led to major setbacks, and quite an embarrassment for the U.S. government. Too often, the Americans have operated in Iraq like this. They didn’t consult with Iraqis, spent millions of dollars, and then were left wondering why nothing worked out. It’s like Washington never learned from its past mistakes, and failed to build any institutional memory based upon its last nine years in the country.


Arango, Tim, “U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Police,” New York Times, 5/13/12
- “U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Half,” New York Times, 2/7/12

Cornwell, Susan, “US senators cut funds for Iraq police training program,” Reuters, 5/22/12

House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, “Oversight in Iraq and Afghanistan: Challenges and Solutions,” U.S. House of Representatives, 12/7/11

Salmoni, Barak, “Responsible Partnership, The Iraqi National Security Apparatus after 2011,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 2011

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Iraq Police Development Program: Lack of Iraqi Support and Security Problems Raise Questions about the Continued Viability of the Program,” 7/30/12
- “Iraqi Security Forces: Police Training Program Developed Sizeable Force, but Capabilities Are Unknown,” 10/25/11
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/12
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/11

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” Chapter 14 “Rebuilding the Electricity Sector”

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the lack of services like electricity became one of the pressing demands of Iraqis. The country’s infrastructure was already in poor repair after the Gulf War and sanctions. The looting that followed the end of the regime, made the situation worse as the power grid was systematically stripped. When the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was created, Paul Bremer made the situation worse by making grandiose promises about power production that undermined the system, and could not be met. That set an important precedent, which the Iraqi government continues to follow to this day. Namely, that there would always be progress in electrical output. The continued failures in this field have been the cause of growing discontent within the public, which was an unintended consequence of the U.S. reconstruction effort.

Baghdad was thrown into darkness as soon as Saddam Hussein was deposed. The power grid went out, taking down water and sewage with it. The electricity network was antiquated, having never fully recovered from the Gulf War. In 1991, the Coalition targeted it, knocking it out. (1) Afterward, it was put back together under the most difficult of conditions due to international sanctions. Iraqis had to turn to all kinds of mixed parts from different countries and companies. That degraded the entire system, which was falling apart by 2003. It was so bad, that if one part went down like a power substation, the entire network would go too. Iraq also suffered from a lack of trained personnel to maintain the system, fuel shortages, and pipelines to deliver it. Overall, Iraq had a capacity of 9,000 megawatts, but that was only achievable if all the country’s plants were running at full output. That wasn’t possible however, due to the problems mentioned above. That set the stage for the difficulties the Americans and Iraqis would face trying to repair a system that was barely operating.

The first task the U.S. faced was to turn on the electricity in Baghdad, and the entire country. The Coalition created Task Force Fajr under General Steven Hawkins. He met with Iraqi engineers, and found that there was a generator at the Karkh water plant just outside of the city, that could be used to return power to Baghdad. Then the Americans set about turning on the electricity for the rest of Iraq, which reached 1,275 megawatts by the end of April. That was nearly a quarter of the pre-war level of 4,400 megawatts. Getting the lights on turned out to be relatively easy. It was sustaining and increasing that output along with repairing and expanding the system that proved truly difficult.

The U.S. then began putting the Iraqi administration back together. That started with the reconstitution of the Electricity Commission, which became the new Electricity Ministry. In May 2003, Dr. Karim Waheed al-Aboudi, an engineer who was a director general in the old commission was named the new minister. American advisers were placed within the ministry as well, as with all the others. Together they started planning for the future.

The first plan was to boost output in the short-term. That was to be done by importing gas turbine generators. The U.S. thought they would be quick and easy to install. It also believed that Iraq’s natural gas industry would be quickly rebuilt to provide fuel for the new turbines. That never happened, and even worse, the CPA scrapped plans to build a fuel delivery system. To add to those troubles, Iraq lacked the personnel to operate the gas plants, which required constant maintenance. Iraq continues to face these problems as it has a large number of gas generators, and still no reliable source of fuel for them nor the staff to operate them at full capacity.
A power plant that Bechtel worked on in 2004 (San Francisco Chronicle)
In the long-term, the U.S. was facing a much bigger issue. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had contracted Bechtel to do most of its reconstruction work in Iraq. As part of that job, it assessed the nation’s power system, estimating that it would cost around $6 billion to repair and restore it. Power plants needed to be rehabilitated, substations had to be replaced, and new generators installed. Iraqis would also have to be trained to operate the new equipment, the Oil and Electricity Ministry would have to learn to cooperate so that there was a steady supply of fuel for the power plants, and the public would have to be informed that this was a long-term task that they would have to struggle through. The U.S. did appropriate billions for the electricity sector, but its ideas did not come out quite as planned. Sometimes a power plant was built, but the necessary power lines, towers, etc. were not constructed showing a lack of strategic thinking. The CPA and later Iraqi governments also focused upon short-term success, never letting people know what a long process rehabilitating the entire national grid would take. The U.S. leadership was setting itself up for failure, because it didn’t heed all of the suggestions made by the experts working in the power field.

Some Iraqis were also undermining the CPA’s rebuilding effort. The U.S. estimated that fewer than 50 electrical towers were knocked out or damaged during the war. By mid-June 2003, over 700 had been looted. People were going after the copper in them, to be sold in Iran and Kuwait. Local communities and cities were also knocking them down so that they could keep the power for themselves. (2) Under Saddam, the power system was operated to benefit Baghdad, which received 24 hours of power, while the rest of the country was starved. Now, cities like Karbala, Hillah, and Nasiriyah were able to keep the locally generated electricity for themselves after they cut down the power lines to the capital. That was eventually solved. Of greater danger was the insurgency. Militants launched a concerted campaign to destroy the power system to undermine the new Iraq. Infrastructure was attacked, workers were killed, and companies were targeted. The U.S. tried to counter the insurgents by retaining the Electrical Power Security Service from the Saddam era, but it proved incapable of doing the job, because it lacked the equipment and training to deter the attacks. The result was that many projects fell behind schedule, costs increased leading to budget overruns, and businesses working on the network were intimidated from completing their work. By the end of June, there were almost daily attacks, and they were taking their toll, far worse than what the looters and criminals were doing. It took years for the security forces to turn the tide on the insurgents and gangs to resolve these issues.  

Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA seemed oblivious to what was happening out in the field, and began making grand announcements. First, in the summer of 2003, he said that the Coalition would return Iraq to prewar power levels by October. This statement was made unilaterally without consulting with anyone working in the energy field, so there was no plan on how to achieve that goal. In August, a conference of Iraqi plant managers was held to see how the country could reach 4,400 megawatts, which was what Iraq was producing before the invasion. The decision was made to make quick repairs instead of installing new plants, which was already underway with the gas turbines. By September, this work was done, and by the next month, the grid was producing 4,518 megawatts. Bremer seemed pleased, and the CPA was able to fulfill one of its lofty promises. He didn’t stop there however. In October, he said that Iraq would have 24 hours of power within a year. That would require around 6,000 megawatts. Money was appropriated, and new contracts were signed, but the U.S. ran into the insurgency. The growing violence derailed Bremer’s plans. By the time the CPA ended in June 2004, Iraq was only producing 4,200 megawatts, less than what it achieved in October. Bremer had three negative affects. First, the power grid was not able to maintain the 4,400 megawatts, because of the fuel problems, insurgency, looting, and decrepit equipment. In fact, raising output to 4,518 megawatts, actually led to more breakdowns in the system. Second, Bremer set the precedent that progress with Iraq’s electrical sector would henceforth be measured by the daily average production, ignoring the more important elements like rebuilding and expanding the network itself. Third, Bremer’s promises of constant improvement in the megawatt figures were taken up by his Iraqi successors. Every year, Baghdad states that it is going to solve the country’s chronic power shortages. Most recently, the government has promised and failed to achieve 9,000 megawatts this summer. It also claimed that all the power problems would be solved by 2015. Since neither the U.S. nor the Iraqi authorities have been able to achieve this in the last nine years it’s unlikely that this goal will be met.

The Coalition Provisional Authority set expectations too high for the Iraqi public after the 2003 invasion. Paul Bremer set goals for the electricity network without ever consulting with people working in the field. He told Iraqis that in only a few months the country could reach a level of power supply not seen since before the Gulf War. The U.S. was not able to reach that goal. That led to a deterioration of the standing of the Coalition, since most Iraqis believed that such a rich and power country like the United States should have been able to solve the nation’s service problems. Baghdad has followed that legacy, and it too has made grand promises, while consistently failing to meet the people’s needs. Today, nothing the authorities say about progress in the electrical field is believed, and is a major source of discontent against the government. The poor planning has carried over from the CPA to the Iraqis meaning that the country is as unlikely to solve this pressing problem today as the U.S. was back in 2003.


1. Tyler, Patrick, “Iraq Devastation Worse Than Allies Intended,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/91

2. Hanley, Charles, “500 felled towards keep Iraqi power at home,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/2/03


Hanley, Charles, “500 felled towards keep Iraqi power at home,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/2/03

Hassoun, Nasir, “$28 Billion Allegedly Squandered on Electricity Projects in Iraq,” Al-Hayat, 8/2/12

Rupert, James, “Unlikely Iraq can top oil to pay its way,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11/5/03

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Tyler, Patrick, “Iraq Devastation Worse Than Allies Intended,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/91

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Iraq Remains A Deadlier Place Than Afghanistan

The State Department recently released its annual report on terrorism. It included a comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan. It showed that the security situation in the two countries have been going in opposite directions. The number of attacks in Afghanistan has slowly been increasing, while in Iraq they have hit a plateau. At the same time, Iraq has remained a far more deadly place.

Violence in Iraq has leveled off since the end of the sectarian civil war. In Iraq, attacks declined from 2007 to 2009, and then flat lined. According to the State Department, there were 6,210 attacks in 2007, 3,255 in 2008, 2,458 in 2009, 2,687 in 2010, and 2,265 in 2011. The number of casualties, which included killed, wounded, and kidnapped, followed a straight downward trend going from 44,014 in 2007 to 19,077 in 2008 to 16,869 in 2009 to 15,108 in 2010 until finally hitting 12,912 in 2011. That drop concealed the fact that security incidents had almost the same amount of victims during that five-year stretch. In 2007, there were 7.08 casualties per attack, 5.86 per attack in 2008, 6.86 in 2009, 5.62 in 2010, and 5.38 in 2011. The insurgency has lost most of its popular support, and cannot carry out anything like the number of operations as it once did. Likewise, the militias are no longer fighting against Sunni militants, and largely concentrated upon the Americans afterwards that didn’t cause half as many dead and wounded. At the same time, despite the drop in attacks, militants have been able to cause almost as many casualties in 2011 as 2008 showing that they have adapted to the new security situation within the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq for instance, specializes in targeting Shiites at every pilgrimage and celebration each year. In just a few bombings they can cause mass casualties highlighting their economy of force.

The state of security in Afghanistan is much different. There attacks have steadily increased. In 2007 there were 1,122, 1,219 in 2008, 2,124 in 2009, 3,346 in 2010, and 2,872 in 2011. That coincided with the number of casualties increasing as well. There were 4,647 in 2007, 5,488 in 2008, 7,588 in 2009, 9,035 in 2010, and 9,171 in 2011. Looking at those figures it would seem that Afghanistan was a more dangerous place than Iraq since there were more security incidents and people killed, wounded, and kidnapped. When analyzing how many casualties were caused per incident however, a different picture emerges. The statistics showed a slight decline from 2007 to 2011. In 2007, there were 4.14 casualties per attack. That went slightly up to 4.50 per attack in 2008, before going down to 3.57 in 2009, 2.70 in 2010, and 3.19 in 2011. That means that while the Afghan insurgents are carrying out more and more operations each year, they are leading to fewer casualties. They are actually becoming less efficient even though the aggregate numbers would point to the opposite conclusion.

Comparison Of Violence In Iraq To Afghanistan 2007-2011

Attacks in Iraq
People killed, wounded, kidnapped by terrorism
People killed, wounded, kidnapped per attack
Attacks in Afghanistan
People killed, wounded, kidnapped by terrorism
People killed, wounded, and kidnapped per attack

Events in Afghanistan receive far more press coverage than Iraq these days. That’s largely because there are American and European forces in the former, while none in the latter. The fighting in Afghanistan also seems more intractable and open ended than in Iraq. What the statistics reveal is a far more determined and adaptable group of insurgents in Iraq than in Afghanistan. Despite the increase in operations, the bases in neighboring Pakistan, and the support of parts of the government there, the Afghan insurgents have proven to be less deadly over the last five years. The exact opposite has been happening in Iraq. There, the militants have become more and more efficient. They have adapted to the loss of much of their popular support and the end of the sectarian war, and honed their skills. That all shows their resiliency when many believed they would be in decline by now. It also highlights the deadlock in security that Iraq is currently facing where the insurgents cannot challenge the government, but it cannot eliminate the militants. The result is that both Iraq and Afghanistan have a future of violence before them.


United States Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011,” July 2012

FOX NEWS VIDEO: General Dempsey In Iraq

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How The No Confidence Move Against Iraq’s Premier Split The Kurdish Parties

In March 2012, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani came out against the continued rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He gave repeated interviews where he called Maliki an authoritarian who had to agree to real power sharing or be removed. At one point, he threatened Kurdish independence if this did not happen. The President then helped spearhead a no confidence drive against the premier, which failed. Barzani always talked as if he was representing all of the Kurdish parties and the regional government. In fact, differences between the various Kurdish factions had been building up beforehand. Barzani’s actions ended up making this split public, and was one reason why the no confidence move failed.

In the spring of 2012, President Massoud Barzani began to publicly express his discontent with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. On March 20, Barzani gave a speech saying that the national unity government put together after the March 2010 parliamentary elections was dead. He went on to state that Maliki was trying to take over the armed forces through his control of the security ministries, and because of this, the Kurdish parties would no longer cooperate with him. Ten days later, on Al Sharqiya TV, the president claimed Maliki was moving towards authoritarianism. That led Barzani to call the prime minister a new dictator the next month. Towards the end of April, he gave an interview to the Associated Press where he upped the ante again by threatening Kurdish independence if a new political deal with Maliki was not forged. Barzani’s chief of staff added that the president was tired of the prime minister failing to fulfill his promises to other politicians, and wanted him out. Through these statements President Barzani was staking out his position as one of the main opponents to the prime minister. This was two years in the making. After the 2010 elections, the Kurdish Coalition solidified Maliki’s second term in office when it sponsored a meeting in Irbil in October of all of the winning parties who came to a rough power sharing agreement. Politicians then scrambled to divide up the top positions in government to ensure their own personal influence, and forgot about placing any checks on the premier, which had been the main reason why creating a new government had taken so long. Barzani was caught up in that process as well, and ended up signing off on the new ruling coalition in December despite the fact that Maliki was made acting Defense, Interior, and National Security Ministers. Unsurprisingly, the prime minister did not follow through with the Irbil Agreement as it became to be known, because he was safely back in office, and would face no penalties since his rivals had abandoned any restrictions upon him in their own pursuit of power. As Maliki continued to solidify his hold, Barzani became increasingly upset, which led to his verbal attacks in 2012.
In April 2012 (left to right) Speaker Nujafi, KRG Pres. Barzani, Iraqi Pres. Talabani, Moqtada al-Sadr, and Iyad Allawi met in Kurdistan to discuss how to deal with Premier Maliki (Rudaw)
That all culminated in President Barzani leading the charge for a no confidence vote against Prime Minister Maliki. On April 28, 2012, Barzani brought together President of Iraq Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi from the Iraqi National Movement (INM), Iyad Allawi the head of the INM, and Moqtada al-Sadr. Together they warned Maliki about the need to share power, and issued a 15-day ultimatum for him to comply with the Irbil Agreement. Maliki never responded. Barzani and the INM then tried to put together as many parliamentarians as possible to sign a letter that was sent to President Talabani expressing their desire for a no confidence vote. That was delivered in June. Talabani ended up rejecting it, because it did not have the required 163 signatures necessary for a majority in the legislature to take action against Maliki. One major reason why that number was not achieved was because of Barzani’s actions. All along, Barzani claimed he was representing the Kurds, and all their different parties. It was he who escalated the charges against Maliki, and pushed for the no confidence vote. That didn’t go over well with Talabani and his PUK, and the Change List. While Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group all signed the letter, some of the PUK parliamentarians, and the entire Change List delegation did not. A lawmaker from Change said that the no confidence vote had nothing to do with furthering the goals of Kurdistan, while another charged Barzani of acting unilaterally. Before that, Talabani stated that he was neutral in the no confidence measure, that he considered the prime minister a partner, that he didn’t believe Maliki was responsible for the political crisis, and later told Hurra TV that he would resign if parties kept on pushing the matter after he had found the letter lacking the required number of signatures. The PUK leadership had also not agreed with Barzani’s attacks on Maliki, and had been snipping with KDP officials over it. The PUK and Change List saw Barzani’s insistence on taking on the prime minister, hosting conferences with other political leaders, and threatening Kurdish independence as an assumption of power. More importantly for Talabani, he did not want to see Barzani become a kingmaker in national politics if he was able to remove Maliki. This was a result of the shift in stature between the two parties. In the past, the KDP and PUK were roughly equal and had a power sharing agreement that in part gave Barzani responsibility for Kurdistan, while Talabani would handle affairs in Baghdad. Now Barzani was trying to control both. Not only that, but the balance between the parties has decidedly shifted in favor of the KDP, making the PUK feel like it was being left out in the cold politically. Overall, these splits showed that the KRG president did not speak for all the Kurdish parties, and that his aggressive policy towards the premier caused the Kurdish Coalition to fracture, and helped sink his proposal for a no confidence vote.
During most of the political crisis Iraqi Pres. Talabani (left) seemed far more open to working with Premier Maliki (right) then KRG Pres. Barzani
Beforehand, there were signs of these divisions between the Kurdish lists. One example was the handling of fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. In December 2011, Hashemi flew from Baghdad to Kurdistan to escape an arrest warrant, and ended up staying there for several months. By March, Talabani said that Hashemi’s presence was an embarrassment to the KRG, and that he should leave since he was wanted on terrorism charges. The next month, a Change List parliamentarian commented that Hashemi should not return to Kurdistan after he was done with a tour of neighboring states. He went on to say that Hashemi’s stay was only increasing attacks upon Kurds by other parties, and asked why the KRG should pay the price for Hashemi’s actions. Similarly, PUK deputy secretary general Barham Saleh stated that the Kurds should not be involved in Hashemi’s case, because it could blow back on them. Unsurprisingly, the PUK and Change List who were critical of Barzani hosting Hashemi, while he was trying to get out of his court case, were the same two parties that did not join Barzani on the no confidence vote. Some of their complaints about the Hashemi issue were similar to those over Barzani’s handling of Maliki. Namely, that Barzani did not consult with the other Kurdish parties, and acted by himself when he decided to take Hashemi in.

There was a more recent sign of this Kurdish split as well when Barham Saleh travelled to Baghdad in August. Saleh was supposed to represent a new Kurdish council meant to repair relations between the regional and central government after the no confidence vote. The two leaders of the Kurdish Coalition in parliament welcomed his arrival, and Saleh went on to meet Maliki and other officials. At the same time, a source told AK News that Saleh did not represent the Kurdish Coalition. Instead, the source claimed that Saleh was only there for the PUK, and that he would have no role in mediating between Maliki and Kurdistan. A telling sign was that Saleh’s delegation was only made up of PUK members, with no one from Barzani’s KDP. Here, Saleh’s group was supposed to represent the Kurdistan Regional Government, but he was attacked in the KRG press. It was also an obvious partisan move, because the source claimed that any delegation made up only of the PUK could not represent the region. The fact that no one from the KDP was present in Saleh’s party might have been payback for the PUK failing to come through on the no confidence letter.

When Barzani was leading the charge against Prime Minister Maliki, the president was making his presence known in Iraqi national politics, while overlooking those in Kurdistan. Barzani had grown angry about Maliki’s policies, and decided that the time was ripe to move against him, and try to remove him from office. He consulted with likeminded politicians from around the country, he made a series of sharp verbal attacks upon the premier, and then helped organize the no confidence letter. All of this caused resentment and fears within some factions of the Kurdish Coalition. The Change List never seemed to buy into Barzani’s insistence on confronting Maliki, while the PUK thought that the president was attempting to usurp too much power. Both felt left out of any of the decision making as well. Today these divisions still exist, despite some public statements that all the Kurdish parties are working together. The PUK used to have a more equal footing with the KDP, but has been losing stature in Kurdistan in the last several years. The Change List on the other hand, is one of the newest parties in the region, and has tried to challenge both Talabani and Barzani. Neither was therefore happy with the political situation within the region, and that ultimately was why they dissented from Barzani over Maliki and the no confidence vote. These larger issues are as of yet unresolved, so the next time there is a political crisis in Iraq, they will come to the fore publicly again.


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi president rebuffs move to unseat premier,” Associated Press, 5/30/12

Abdulla, Mufid, “Cracks appear in the PUK-KDP strategic relationship,” Kurdistan Tribune, 4/28/12

Ahmad, Zanko, “Baghdad vs erbil, round two: locals don’t care, iran and turkey care too much,” Niqash, 4/26/12

Ahmed, Hevidar, “Kurdish Leaders Struggle to Remain United in Dealing with Baghdad,” Rudaw, 5/18/12
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AIN, “Kurdish MP rules out withdrawing confidence from Maliki,” 6/7/12
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Associated Press, “AP Interview: Crisis worries Iraqi Kurdish leader,” 4/25/12
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- “We didn’t participate in PM withdrawal of confidence paper, says Gorran,” AK News, 6/2/12
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- “PUK says that number of signatures has not reached number required to withdraw confidence, when reaching no need for another message from Talabani,” 6/11/12
- “Talabani: we are embarrassed by Hashemi issue,” 3/7/12

Rao, Prashant, “Iraq PM ‘monopolising power:’ Kurdish leader,” Agence France Presse, 3/20/12

Rudaw, “President’s Chief of Staff: Kurds Cannot Decide to Replace Maliki Alone,” 5/15/12

Sabri, Abdullah, “TV: Talabani threatens with resignation against efforts to change his mind,” AK News, 6/15/12

Sattar, Omar, “Iraqi-Kurdish Negotiations Getting Started on a Positive Note,” Al Hayat 8/14/12

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 38,” 5/16/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 40,” 6/20/12

Tiron, Roxana, “Iraq Risks Return to Dictatorship, Kurdish Leader Says,” Bloomberg, 4/5/12

Zada, Sakar Abdulla, “Kurdish MP Asks VP Hashemi to Not Return to Kurdistan,” Rudaw, 4/12/12

Zalla, Mihemed Eli, “Kurdish and Sunni Leaders Accuse Maliki of Authoritarian Rule,” Rudaw, 3/30/12

Al-Zubaidi, Ahmed, “Barham Saleh: My visit to Baghdad were not commissioned by the provincial government,” Radio Free Iraq, 8/14/12

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