Thursday, March 28, 2013

How The Civilian Surge In Iraq Didn’t Quite Meet Its Mark

In January 2007, President George Bush announced the Surge. He called for two marine battalions and five army brigades to head towards Iraq along with an increased number of reconstruction workers to conduct a unified counterinsurgency campaign. The argument was that the increased troops would help bring down violence, and allow for reconciliation. On the civilian side, more Americans were to be sent out into the provinces to work with Iraqis to find out their needs, and help empower them to run their own country.  While the extra forces helped bring down violence in Iraq the civilian surge was far less successful due to a slow start, internal disputes, and bureaucratic delays.

The Surge started with new American leadership in Iraq. General David Petraeus was named the new commander of the multi-national forces, and officially took over from General George Casey at the beginning of February 2007. By the end of the month, 2,700 new troops had arrived in Baghdad, with 16,700 by June. New U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker tried to work closely with General Petraeus to make sure that the reconstruction effort helped with the military strategy. Crocker found that there were too many rebuilding programs all running independently of each other. He created the Joint Strategic Assessment Team to try to coordinate them all. He also wanted to emphasize Iraqi control and capacity. This was the first time that an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency plan was being implemented in Iraq. Back in 2005, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called for such a strategy, but in fighting back in Washington undermined it. Now there was a concerted effort to get everyone on the same page to combat violence, and get the Iraqi government running properly.

Two problems that quickly emerged were that the civilian Surge took much longer to come together than the military one, and that Iraqis were still reluctant to govern. Ambassador Crocker did not take office until the end of March. His team didn’t arrive until early summer. That caused problems coordinating with the military. Getting funds acquisitioned and contracts processed also caused delays in new projects. Finally, the Iraqi government was still refusing to take responsibility for much of the infrastructure it was being left with, something it had been doing since 2003. Crocker tried to streamline the contracting process, and cut down on the red tape. At the same time, the U.S. started working with Deputy Premier Barham Saleh, Planning Minister Ali Baban, Finance Minister Bayan Jabr, and National Security Adviser Mowfaq Rubaie to include Iraqis in the strategy. In turn, Baghdad promised to spend more of its capital and provincial budgets to shoulder more of the burden of rebuilding the country. This was especially important to the U.S., because one of the goals of the Surge was to make the Iraqis self-reliant, so that they would not always look towards the Americans to solve everything. The Iraqis eventually did start to outspend the Americans, and did take more responsibility. Some of the bureaucratic delays were also solved, but not all of them. By September 2008, only 50% of the money set aside for the PRTs was disbursed.

Members of an Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team talking with tribal leaders about improving agriculture in Baghdad province, 2007 (American Forces Press Service)

The Surge emphasized Americans getting out of the Green Zone and their camps, and out into the local communities to work with Iraqis. Part of this involved creating more Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), and the new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs). PRTs were originally proposed by Ambassador Khalilzad in 2005, but disputes between the Defense and State Departments over who would run and fund them, held up their creation. The PRTs eventually worked on capacity building and planning with Iraqis, so what was built came from them, and would be sustained and funded by them as well. They also tried to get Iraqi businesses involved in the reconstruction contracts to get money flowing into the Iraqi economy and giving jobs to locals. One simple innovation was to get Iraqi firms to service the huge American military presence in Iraq. This actually started in the middle of 2006 with the Iraqi First program. From October 2006 to September 2007, it gave out $2.7 billion in contracts to Iraqi companies that employed 75,000 Iraqis. By early 2008, there were roughly 4,100 Iraqi businesses that had worked with the Americans. This helped create a new entrepreneurial class of Iraqis, which are now at the forefront of the emerging private sector. The Surge was also important in empowering the Iraqis, and including their views. For much of the time beforehand, the Americans had largely talked to themselves about what the country needed. Iraqis were now getting their voices heard.

A map of PRTs and ePRTs in Oct. 2007 (IraqSlogger)

There were some problems with implementing the PRTs however. Some Iraqi officials wanted to manipulate the reconstruction contracts the Americans offered to enrich themselves, family, and supporters. That along with the insecurity led to huge cost overruns. A market being rebuilt in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad for example cost $900,000 even though the work mostly consisted of laying down a concrete floor and putting a roof over it. That was a constant struggle, but probably unavoidable given the amount of money that was being pumped into the middle of a warzone at that time. Another issue was the lack of adequate staff. By the middle of 2007, there were only 29 Arabic speakers out of a total of 610. The ePRT in Baghdad’s East Rasheed served 800,000 people with a staff of only six. Finally, some members of both Petraeus and Crocker’s staff questioned whether reconstruction would affect the fighting and bring about changes in Iraqi governance. A few of Crocker’s advisers pointed out with the civil war in such high gear, building new infrastructure was not going to stop it. Likewise, some PRT members and economic aids told Petraeus that they weren’t sure that improving services would give legitimacy to the government when so many Iraqis were concerned about survival. Overall, the PRTs did important work out in the provinces, but it took them a long time to overcome these deficiencies. They would continue to lack adequate staff, but when security finally improved, they would do a much better job, because the emphasis became more about governance, which was what the PRTs were focused upon.

Despite the attempt to have a unified plan there were disagreements over what the U.S. reconstruction effort should focus upon. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Paul Brinkley wanted to get Iraq’s factories up and running, after the Coalition Provisional Authority had closed some of them down. Brinkley believed that the state owned enterprises (SOEs) that ran much of Iraq’s industries could provide employment. He thought that $200 million could get 150,000 Iraqis working. State Department officials at the U.S. Embassy were skeptical, arguing that spending lots of money on factories that had been closed down for several years, because they were inefficient was not the best strategy. The arguments over Brinkley’s plan became so intense that he moved his staff out of the U.S. Embassy. In March, he picked 140 factories that he thought could be made operable, and by September 17 of them had re-opened. The attempt to reform the SOE’s continues to the present day, but with few positive results. The Brinkley affair highlighted the fact that different agencies had different ideas about what should be done to get Iraq up and running again. This divided energies and money, and led to many arguments like the one between Brinkley and State. The Surge was never able to resolve this issue.

Another disagreement was over the use of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). CERP funds were distributed by U.S. commanders to try to help build up support for their efforts, and get communities working. A common program was to employ young men to pick up trash. USAID and PRT officials voiced several concerns about CERP. Some believed that local Iraqi councils should be doing this work instead of the U.S. military. It also distorted local labor markets by drawing away workers to the American funded jobs. The USAID’s Inspector General for example, found that the U.S. was paying more for trash pick up than the average wage for skilled workers. That would mean that local Iraqi officials would be under pressure to continue these types of jobs after the Americans left instead of spending their budgets on more important development projects. Some PRT members said that the military was only thinking short-term. Army units for instance, tended to emphasize how much money they spent, and not on the effects. This again highlighted the fact that different groups saw reconstruction in different terms.

Ambassador Crocker’s plans had some negative affects as well. He tried to centralize control over reconstruction in the U.S. Embassy to overcome the overlapping and inconsistent programs. The Embassy ended up taking over responsibility for the Oil, Agriculture, Trade, Transportation, Communication, Justice, Interior, Health, Finance, Education, and Culture Ministries. This caused a rough transition as not everyone at the Embassy was sure what their new jobs were, and in turn, Iraqis and Americans out in the field were confused about who they should report to. Many started complaining that they were dealing with the bureaucracy more than with projects. Crocker and Petraeus tried to work closer together to resolve this issue, but it did not always work. The idea was a good one, but the way it was implemented caused more trouble than it should have. This only added to the delay in spending and contracts that PRTs and others were running into.

The positives of the civilian Surge finally began to become apparent in 2008. That was when Iraqis really began moving into a leadership role. The Planning and Finance Ministries created a uniformed contracting and regulation regime that allowed director generals to better execute their budgets. The U.S. started helping Iraqis implement their plans, and placed more emphasis upon building capacity and sustainment programs so that Baghdad could run its infrastructure and govern better. Finally, Iraq got a huge boost from rising oil prices in 2008 that pumped in lots of extra money. One of the main goals of the Surge was to get Iraqis in the lead, and they were finally doing that by 2008. They were spending more of their own money on their own projects rather than always following the Americans.

Despite the improvement in security that the Surge brought about, it was not able to overcome all of the difficulties of rebuilding Iraq. The civilian side was slow in starting, which added to the red tape that already existed, led to delays in spending. There were also continued differences over what the U.S. should be working on, and between the civilian and military sides despite concerted efforts to overcome those divisions. Finally, the Americans wanted to put the Iraqis in the lead. That did eventually happen, but the problem was the public ended up not being happy with what they saw. Baghdad’s ability to govern proved inconsistent, and people began to complain about the lack of services after violence subsided, something that continues to this day. There were still huge hurdles facing Iraq showing that the civilian side of the Surge did not have the same kind of results as the military achieved.


Khalaf, Roula, “Fortune favours the brave in Iraq,” Financial Times, 3/14/13

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Government,” 7/30/07

GUARDIAN VIDEO: Iraq War 10 Years On: The Museum's Story

GUARDIAN VIDEO: Iraq War 10 Years On: A Football Trainers Story

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Iraq’s Human Rights Committee, An Example of Parliament’s Inability To Oversee The Government

Iraq’s constitution gives wide-ranging powers to the parliament to oversee the government. It can investigate public offices, question ministers, and remove them through no confidence votes. The problem is the executive branch has largely refused to cooperate. A perfect example of that is the relationship between the human rights committee and the Justice Ministry. The committee wants to question the Justice Minister, but he refuses. The committee wants to inspect prisons, but has recently been barred by the ministry. This shows the difference between what Iraqi law says and how it is actually practiced. The executive branch usually acts with impunity with little interference from the legislature, and when lawmakers do ask questions like the human rights committee has, they can easily be ignored.

Iraq’s Justice Minister Shammari has refused to be questioned by the human rights committee

In March 2013, the parliamentary human rights committee complained about the Justice Ministry. The committee said that two of its members were stopped from making an unannounced visit to a prison in Baghdad in December 2012. It blamed the Justice Minister Hassan Shammari, who in turn threatened to prosecute them for trying to enter a security facility without permission. The committee claimed that Shammari held a grudge against it for discovering a secret prison at Camp Honor in the Green Zone back in March 2011. One committee member stated that it could not do its work, because the government would not cooperate with it. Another said that no minister had ever agreed to be questioned about human rights issues, and that Minister Shammari even refused to be questioned at his offices within the ministry. Finally, a third told the press that government officials were harassing committee members for trying to do their work. The Iraqi constitution gives parliament the right to oversee the government, including questioning ministers. The problem has been the legislature has often neglected its duties, members have attempted to block its work, and the executive has refused to cooperate. The human rights committee has actually attempted to do its job by inspecting various prisons across the country, and requesting that Minister Shammari appear before it. He has simply refused, and there is nothing the committee can do to make him comply. That highlights a major flaw with the workings of the government, namely that the checks and balances included in the constitution are not complied with allowing the executive to do what it wants.

In this case, what the government is getting away with is torture, abuse, and ignoring due process at its detention facilities. In February, the Justice Ministry hosted a delegation from Britain’s parliament, and told them that there was no torture or human rights violations in Iraqi prisons. The human rights committee is one of many that have proven that false. In March 2011, after it found the secret prison at Camp Honor, the Human Rights Ministry claimed that it was closed down. The committee claimed that people were still being held there however. That same month, lawmakers went to Diyala where they discovered a prison where three-quarters of the prisoners had been held for up to two years with no trials. In August, the Justice Ministry turned it away from a prison in Hillah, Babil. A few days afterward a riot broke out there over mistreatment. In June 2012, it noted cases of torture at Taji prison in Salahaddin, blaming the judicial system. It claimed detainees were held there for up to eight years with no court date, that the prison had lost files on its wards, people who were supposed to have been released were still being held, and a lack of medical care. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have made similar findings. The government usually disregards their reports saying that they are exaggerating or making unsubstantiated claims. The work of the human rights committee is important, because it is an official Iraqi source reporting on abuses. It has proven its worth through its inspections of Iraqi facilities. While the Justice Ministry has had no problem with some of its visits, others are obviously considered problematic, and hence they are denied access from time to time. Unfortunately, the committee has not been able to stop human rights violations in Iraq, which are deeply imbedded in the culture of the security forces, but it has helped to expose some of them, which is an important job for the legislature.

Parliament’s human rights committee is an exception to the rule in Iraq’s government. It is a legislative group who has tried to oversee the government through going out into the field, and requesting ministers appear before it. It has done important work finding cases of abuse in Iraq’s detention facilities. Unfortunately, it has often been stopped from completing its duties by the government. The Justice Ministry has blocked its visits several times, and Minister Shammari has refused to answer its questions. Usually, Iraq’s parliament is more compliant with the executive, because the same parties that run it control the ministries. There is no reason to inquire about the government’s actions, because that would open up all the ruling coalition members to investigation. The human rights committee shows that those lawmakers that are concerned about carrying out their duties can only go so far, because those in power do not want to be scrutinized, and have the ability to ignore the constitution when it suits them.


AIN, “Justice Ministry denies existence of torture, violations in Iraqi prisons,” 2/25/13
- “PHRC reveals “torture cases” against Taji Jail prisoners,” 6/27/12

Amnesty International, “Iraq: A Decade of Abuses,” 3/11/13

Brosk, Raman, “Torture against prisoners cannot be proven through claims, says Human Rights Ministry,” AK News, 6/27/12

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Mass Arrests, Incommunicado Detentions,” 5/15/12

International Crisis Group, “Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government,” 9/26/11

Al-Mada, “Parliamentary Human Rights: uncovered secret detainees in green zone visit prisons,” 3/23/13

Parker, Ned, “Elite units under an office of Maliki’s linked to secret jail where detainees face torture, Iraq officials say,” Los Angeles Times, 7/14/11

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/11

UNAMI Human Rights Office and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011,” May 2012

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Poll Shows Convergence Of American Opinion Upon Iraq War, But For Different Partisan Reasons

Iraq was a very divisive war in the United States. The decision to invade in 2003 split the public, and the Democrats and Republicans. A new poll by the Pew Research Center however, shows that many Americans now share a similar view of the conflict. This is the result of several factors. First, many Republicans who were always the most supportive of the war, now want to blame President Obama for Iraq, and therefore do not see things as positive as they once did. Democrats, many of which were against the war, now have a slightly better opinion, because of the withdrawal of American troops. Independents on the other hand, are right in the middle. Overall, members of the U.S.’s two major parties are now more likely to share the same ideas on Iraq, but for completely different reasons.
(Pew Research)

The Pew poll showed that there was a narrowing of opinions amongst Americans on the Iraq war. The organization questioned 924 people in March 2013, with a margin of error of +/-3.9%. The survey showed that those that were for or against the war have now come closer together. On the question of whether the United States had achieved its goals in Iraq, respondents were almost evenly split. 46% said that the U.S. had succeeded, while 43% said that it had failed. That was a dramatic change from the previous three polls that showed a much wider divide on that issue. In 2006 for example, 54% stated that America had succeeded, compared to 40% who believed it had failed. The gap widened in 2010 when 58% responded that the U.S. had succeeded versus 35% who said it had failed, and 56% who thought America had succeeded in 2011, compared to 33% who said it had failed. The same change was seen when people were asked was the U.S. right or wrong to use force against Iraq. 44% said it was wrong, against 41% who said it was right. In 2003, 72% said it was the right decision, compared to only 22% who were opposed. From 2005-2007, when Iraq was in the middle of its civil war, those polled were almost evenly split between the two positions. Then from 2007-2010 when security improved, oddly more thought the Bush administration had made the wrong choice. By 2011 however, 46% believed it was wrong to use force, and 48% said it was right, which was very similar to the 2013 results. The decline in those that felt it was right to invade Iraq was due to changes amongst Republicans. In 2006, 82% of Republicans believed that the U.S. had succeeded in Iraq, but that took a sharp drop afterwards. In 2010 it was down to 68%, followed by 48% in 2012, and 56% in 2013. A decline in positive opinion was also seen amongst Independents who went from 54% saying yes in 2006 to only 41% by 2013. Democrats on the other hand have increasingly seen things turn for the better going from only 34% who thought American had succeeded to 56% in 2010 and 2012, and then down slightly to 45% by 2013. Finally, the partisan divide continued when respondents were asked whether the Iraq war was the right decision. In 2003, 90% of Republicans said yes, steadily dropping to 58% in 2013, the lowest percentage since the question was first asked. For Independents, they started at 66% saying yes in 2003, then saw a large drop to 43% by 2005, before leveling off to 33% in 2013. Democrats followed a similar pattern going from 50% saying yes in 2003 to just 17% by 2008, but then recovering a bit to 33% replying yes by 2013. Many of these changes can be explained through partisan politics. Because George Bush started the Iraq war, Republicans have been more supportive of it, even to this day. Their opinion did drop off slightly as the war did not go as planned, but now has reached its lowest level. That’s because Republican politicians and conservative pundits have largely condemned President Obama’s decision to have a full military withdrawal, which was actually negotiated by the Bush White House. Many Republicans wanted to maintain a residual force in Iraq, and have claimed rightly that Obama has put Iraq on the backburner. In comparison, Democrats were mostly opponents of the war, but their opinions have actually become more positive in the last few years. That’s likely, because Obama was elected president, and pulled out American troops. That’s the reason why the majority still disagrees with the invasion, but now think the U.S. has succeeded.
(Pew Research)

(Pew Research)

The Iraq war continues to divide the American politic, but opinions have changed from the early years. Most Americans now are evenly split over whether the U.S. succeeded in Iraq, and whether invading was the right choice. This has occurred for different reasons, largely partisan politics, but it does show a general consensus now forming about the conflict 10 years after its start. The real lasting affects will be seen in how it affects policy, rather than the public. President Obama for example, has shown a strong aversion to getting involved in another Middle Eastern war as shown in his stance towards Libya and Syria. The military also seems to still be debating the merits and faults of counterinsurgency. These effects were actually predicted back in the winter of 2005 by Professor John Mueller of Ohio State University in an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Iraq Syndrome.” Professor Mueller wrote that Iraq could have a similar affect upon American politics that Vietnam did. He noted that the Republicans would be hurt by the war, because they started it, that it would create intense partisan divisions more than previous wars, and that Bush’s foreign policy strategies such as unilateralism, preventive wars, and preemption would all be casualties. Those points have all come true showing that while Iraq is hardly talked about in the West today it is still having a lasting impact upon how Washington thinks.


Mueller, John, “The Iraq Syndrome,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005

Pew Research, “A Decade Later, Iraq War Divides the Public,” 3/18/13

Monday, March 25, 2013

Iraq’s Economy At A Crossroads, Interview With USAID’s Vladimir Halama and Thomas Doherty

The Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program is run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its goal is to help Iraq develop a market economy. At the end of 2012, it released a report, “Assessment of Current and Anticipated Economic Priority In Iraq.” The paper went over Iraq’s National Development Plan, and the difficulties it is facing in diversifying its economy. The report claimed that Iraq was at a crossroads over whether it would be able to escape the oil curse and its state-led economy. Below is an interview with Thomas Doherty and Vladimir Halama who helped put the document together.

Vladimir Halama, an Australian economist with experience in working in transitional economies, has worked in Iraq from 2005 until February 2013 in a number of advisory assignments, most of which involved working with Iraqi government bodies. From September 2011 until November 2012 he led a team of specialists in putting together “An Assessment of Current and Anticipated Economic Priorities in Iraq” for the USAID-Tijara project.  

Thomas Doherty is a U.S. lawyer who has worked on a number of assignments in Iraq at various times since October 2003, including with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the State Department, and USAID. Until December 2012, he was the regulatory advisor of the Business and Investment Enabling Environment Component of USAID-Tijara project.        

USAID said that Iraq is at a “crossroads” over whether it will be able to escape the resource curse and its state-run economy (AP)

1. The Tijara report said that Iraq was at a crossroads between its past of being a state-run system and its future of developing a market economy. Can you explain what role the government plays in employment?

Vladimir Halama: The government is the main employer as well as the employer of choice for most Iraqis. Of those employed for 40 hours per week or more, an estimated 60% are on the payroll of the government, the security forces or state owned enterprises. They enjoy security of tenure, generous pension provisions, and other advantages such as grants of land or loans on favorable terms. This distorts motivation on the supply side of the labor market. Much effort and bribery is expended in trying to get onto the government payroll, and resignations are unheard of. Employment in the private sector is less sought after. In, for example, construction and services, some employers resort to employing workers from Turkey or South East Asia.

Thomas Doherty: I agree, and add that often times the main purpose of government in Iraq seems to be to provide perquisites for government workers. For example, recently the Ministry of Housing and Construction announced a new housing development in Wasit province only for employees of the Ministry of Housing and Construction. The reservation of state-owned land for largesse to workers in government and state-owned enterprises also makes it more difficult for private investors to obtain land for housing, industrial, and retail developments.

2. How about the state-run banks?

Vladimir Halama: Lending by state banks is under the direction of the government, and is mostly at concessional interest rates. Even the repayments of the principal are often waived, for example in the case of loans to the agricultural sector. As can be expected under such circumstances, the loans usually go to those with lobbying power. State banks have been directed to make loans covering the payroll costs of many state-run enterprises where revenues fail to cover operating costs. The backlog of unrecoverable loans in state banks is large, and the banks are de facto bankrupt. However, Iraqis still place their savings with them, as they are confident that the government will keep these banks operational.  

Thomas Doherty: The concessionary terms given out by the state banks crowd out private sector banking. In this regard, the recent enactment by the Council of Representatives to establish a state-run Islamic bank is troubling, as it will probably make it more difficult for the private Islamic banks now operating in Iraq to grow. There have been orders from the Council of Ministers directing Iraqi government agencies to only do their banking at the state banks, so this is another drag on the private sector.

3. Can you talk more about what’s happening with the state-run enterprises (SOEs)?

Vladimir Halama: Many of them are barely making ends meet, despite receiving hidden subsidies through low energy costs and through being the supplier-of-choice to the government. The traded goods sector is particularly badly off as Iraq is uncompetitive in every product market with the exception of minerals. In other sectors, the state enterprises are doing better. However, overstaffing is rife everywhere. Workers have the same security of tenure as public servants, and everyone is kept on the payroll, even in factories that were totally destroyed during the military campaigns against Iraq in 2003 and before. Since 2003, several attempts to reform the SOE sector have been announced, but they have not yielded any results as yet. Despite occasionally claiming efforts to the contrary, the politicians are very reluctant to initiate any reform, which would lead to redundancies for fear of political backlash and losing the benefits of patronage, which control over SOEs brings to the various political parties controlling different ministries. Instead, the creation of another 130,000 jobs in the state sector had been heralded in February 2013.

Thomas Doherty: There was an announcement some time back that the Ministry of Trade was going to privatize the State Company for Automobiles and Machinery and the State Company for Markets, two SOEs that sell cars and operate retail stores.  These would seem to be able to be easily privatized or just dissolved in favor of the private sector.  Well, it turned out that the reforms were rolled back, and now they are just talking about granting some contracts to foreign investors to operate shopping malls. This is another problem, the SOEs becoming required “partners” to any private sector enterprise.

In other sectors, the SOEs don’t have any picture of what their bottom lines really are, because of the complicated subsidies they receive. Some operate like spendthrifts who believe that as long as there are blank checks left in the checkbook or there is enough political capital they can hire and spend more. On the other hand, the managers of commercially viable SOEs, who really do want to operate better, have no discretion to hire, fire or purchase without tortuous bureaucracy through their own ministries and the Ministry of Finance. The United Nations Development Programme has provided a roadmap for eventual commercialization of the SOEs, but it’s going to be a gradual process.

Of course, the SOEs do provide needed employment, even if it’s often not productive employment. Paul Brinkley’s Task Force on Business Stability Operations, and other donors spent a lot of money on the SOEs in the hope that increasing employment would decrease the insurgency, which is recognition that employment is important to social peace. This is something the U.S. also recognized with the auto industry bailouts.

We talked to the Iraqi Railways people, and I was glad that they have an ambitious program to build an expanded cargo and passenger network, including a Baghdad commuter rail network, and cargo rail lines from the new Al Fao port. Railways are a worthy SOE for investment right now, in my opinion. Why not build a Baghdad Metro, too? The plans are supposedly on file from the 1970s. Unfortunately, the announcement of a Baghdad monorail to be built by Alstrom does not appear to have advanced much in the almost two years since that project was announced to great fanfare. 
4. Another issue is the role of the oil industry in the development of the country, and the oil curse. What problems could Iraq be heading for with the growth of the petroleum business?

Vladimir Halama: The symptoms of the oil curse already permeate the Iraqi economy, and are more acute than in other resource-based economies. Currently, all development depends on crude oil export revenues, as it is almost the sole source of income for the government. Large sums are spent on investing in the oil industry to increase the output levels as fast as possible, based on the view that much larger oil revenues will then adequately fund the development in areas that are currently underinvested, for example health, education, and labor-intensive productive sectors. This approach ignores the possibility that, in the meantime, social unrest could reach explosive levels as a result of, for example, the large numbers of young people reaching working age each year. Alternative approaches, suggested in the USAID-Tijara Assessment, would see an increase of investments in other areas at the expense of oil sector investments, a distribution of a portion of oil revenues through direct payments to Iraqis, and the setting up of a wealth fund for future generations that would invest in assets abroad.

Thomas Doherty: The report notes how little employment the oil industry actually provides relative to Iraq’s need for jobs. The oil money has to be cycled back into the economy in a way that provides jobs, and the education that provides future capacity for the health, education, and other sectors of the economy.

5. What kind of affect does the large oil-funded public sector have upon investment?

Vladimir Halama: As regards private sector investment, competition from subsidized SOEs has crowded out many areas of potential private sector economic activity. An exception to this is Kurdistan, which is experiencing a construction boom financed by Turkish capital, the telecommunication sector (mobile phones), and the recent crude oil service contracts awarded to oil multinationals, which are expected to finance the expansion of production and recoup their investment afterwards. While data is hard to come by, the volume of private sector investment so far appears to have been considerably lower than the forecasts that were made in the NDP.

Thomas Doherty: In Baghdad, the Ministry of Communications is seeking more and more of a role in the market. They are seeking to control 100% of the bandwidth in and out of Iraq, and the mobile phone operators are required to eventually use these government-controlled gateways as a condition of their licenses. Whether this will eventually lead to the banning of private-sector satellite gateways for internet services and other data, with the political and cultural implications this could mean, time will tell.

There are also various exclusive agencies written into Iraqi law for SOEs. For example, the Ministry of Transportation’s State Company for Land Transportation has the exclusive concession to move cargo overland out of Iraqi ports. Another of these exclusive agencies, one which the Ministry of Transportation through Iraqi Airways granted a Sharjah company, RUS Aviation, actually stopped other air cargo services from flying into Iraq, at least for a while. This is just another burden on business and job growth for the sake of a little rent collecting.

6. Can you explain how the oil industry affects the social contract between the citizens and the government?

Vladimir Halama: Personal and corporate taxes yield very little, and that blunts government’s sense of accountability towards citizens. The oil industry, massive in comparison with the rest of the economy, is government owned and controlled, and gives politicians ample scope for self-dealing and favoritism.

To avoid a misconception on part of the readers, it is necessary to digress here and stress that while terms like 'state-run' and 'government-controlled' suggest a unitary system of the Soviet kind, this is far from being the case. An uneasy truce among a number of gangs running protection rackets would be a closer analogy. Iraq has been listed for a number of years now among the ten most dysfunctional countries in the world, according to the Fund for Peace index, and it is not difficult to see why. Neither the parliament nor the cabinet are worthy of their name. Iraq's inclusive government contains political groupings, which are mutually hostile. Any proposed activity requiring cooperation among Ministers from different political, religious and ethnic affiliations engenders suspicion, and results in inaction. In turn, officials within the ministries, belonging as they often do to differing groups, do not cooperate with each other. Thus the Ministers do not carry out the decisions of the Council of Ministers, Directors General do not carry out the wishes of their Ministers, and officials, particularly at the provincial level, disregard the instructions of their Directors General, with killings not being an unknown form of resistance, particularly in areas which give rise to substantial kick-backs and bribes. True, many investment projects are embarked upon behind the facade of established institutions, but their effectiveness is highly dissipated by the cuts taken at all levels by prime contractors, and the numerous bureaucrats whose approvals are needed. Additionally, those in the vicinity of the projects want to be paid for not destroying them. For example, tribes living in the vicinity of oil pipelines want their members to be paid as members of oil pipeline protection forces, and carry out attacks on the pipeline to make their point. Such universal brigandry does spread the wealth around, but in a very unsystematic way. In fact, even the tribesmen employed in the oil protection force are not particularly well off when, as is so often the case, they have to give a share of their income to the local powerbrokers. In other words, there is no social contract between citizens and the government because people are primarily beholden to those immediately above them in the food chain.

Efforts by international institutions and aid agencies and diplomats and politicians of foreign powers to bring a measure of order and sanity to the situation have amounted to a little more than a spit in the ocean. However, you would hardly get that impression from reading pronouncements and 'success stories' published by these organizations.

Thomas Doherty: As Vlad and the report say, the oil fosters conflict over revenues, and also a sense of entitlement among elites and government employees. 

7. Baghdad came up with a National Development Plan for 2010-2014. The Tijara report found some major flaws with its strategic goals. Can you explain some of those?

Vladimir Halama: Actually, the goals of the National Development Plan cannot be faulted. They include all manner of desirable outcomes: balanced development of regions, overcoming gender imbalances, reducing maternal mortality, improving private sector enabling environment, and so on. Rather, the problem is that the NDP is not an actionable plan. Actions needed to achieve the goals are not listed or costed, so there are no benchmarks against which the outcomes could be monitored and evaluated. The few quantitative guidelines in the NDP, which relate to the allocation of the investment budget, have not been reflected in the budget. In practice, little heed is paid to the Development Plan.

Thomas Doherty: Agree with Vladimir, the NDP’s worthy, but broad goals have to be supplemented with specific actions needed to achieve those goals. It’s long past the time where the Iraqi government should just be saying it wants to “develop the private sector.”  It’s time to do some of the things, which numerous USAID, World Bank, and other donor programs have recommended to allow diversification of the economy. An Iraqi businessperson should be able to operate without checking with the government every day, which would be the case with a growing enterprise seeking to diversify its activities – the company would need approval from the Companies Registrar for increasing its capital and operating new lines of business.

8. Has the Development Plan helped Iraq move away from relying upon the state for managing the economy and delivering services?

Vladimir Halama: Iraq is still a state-run economy. The operations of the private sector are hemmed in by onerous regulations. The population receives subsidies, like the food distribution scheme, low utility charges, and has a strong sense of entitlement. The existing system enables those in charge of administration to appropriate for themselves considerable amounts of public money, and they have been successful in blocking any reform efforts. The inventiveness of the bureaucracy and political leaders in coming up with reasons and mechanisms for delay is breathtaking.

Thomas Doherty:  I don’t think the goals of the NDP were internalized by many Iraqi government officers. Some of the recent enactments of the Council of Representatives, like the establishment of a state-owned Islamic bank I mentioned above, seem to be moving towards more state involvement in the economy. There is also a lot of railing against “low quality imported goods,” which is partly true and partly a stalking horse for a return to autarky.

9. Iraqi law is also a barrier to developing a private sector. With regards to jobs for example, what kinds of difficulties are there to control the rapid expansion of the number of public workers?

Thomas Doherty: With the oil revenue available, public employment isn't so bad unless the workers are put to work thwarting private sector growth in bureaucracies or establishing monopolies. Iraqi law enables government bureaucracies to do that. For example, the Law of Transportation of 1983 says that “the socialist sector leads the transportation sector.”  This allows the Ministry of Transportation’s SOEs like Iraqi Airways and the State Company for Land Transportation to claim exclusive agencies, which crowd out private sector transportation enterprises. In other words, it’s not that bad that Iraqi Airways employs a lot more people than it would need if it were efficiently run: it’s bad if Iraqi Airways is preventing private sector competition in air cargo and passenger services. Same thing with the Ministry of Communications and its claim of a monopoly on international bandwidth.

The Coalition and subsequent donor activities did very little to change Iraqi law, which still contains numerous clauses subjecting private sector activity to state economic planning. A generation of Iraqis grew up with a statist political and legal philosophy, and it will take a generation to change. Although many Iraqi government officials now understand that the bureaucracy is overly burdensome, others believe that security or the need to prevent anyone from doing anything wrong justifies the control they exert over businesses.

This burden of bureaucracy falls most heavily on Iraqi businesses. Iraq has a tradition of contracting out for large government projects with foreign companies. Foreign companies with government contracts have glided into Iraq easily, exempted from the import and export, and other controls which Iraqis are subject to, because the Law of Major Development Projects of 1985, and other regulations exempted them from these rules.  This is one reason why there aren’t large Iraqi construction and engineering companies to build the infrastructure Iraq needs. It would be a good thing if the Iraqi government encouraged, and allowed the formation and growth of Iraqi companies, but that’s not going to happen under the current company law, where an Iraqi company has to run to the Companies Registrar every time it wants to raise its capital. 

10. Iraq needs good schools to train and prepare future workers, and help with development. How is the country’s education system doing?

Vladimir Halama: The intention to match the syllabus of technical schools with the demands of the labor market is still at the planning stage. School attendance and literacy levels have been falling in recent years. To improve the very low computer literacy in Iraq, schools need to be equipped better. Corruption infects the education system as well, and employers cannot be confident that graduates are competent in the field in they have received their diplomas.  

Thomas Doherty: Until Iraqi educational capacity is fully developed, it would be a good investment of both the Iraqi and American governments to fund Iraqis to study overseas, preferably in partnership with Iraqi universities. A generation of isolation and deprivation takes a generation to overcome. The Ministry of Higher Education also needs to liberalize its bureaucracy. For example, an Iraqi who has a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science field needs to jump through hoops to have a foreign MBA or MPA recognized in Iraq.


Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program, “Assessment of Current and Anticipated Economic Priority In Iraq,” United States Agency for International Development, 10/4/12

VICE NEWS VIDEO: In Saddam's Shadow: Baghdad 10 Years After The Invasion

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Elections In Iraq’s Anbar and Ninewa Provinces Postponed

Iraq’s cabinet recently announced that it was postponing the April 2013 provincial elections in Anbar and Ninewa for security reasons. This was instantly criticized as a move to undermine the voting process in those two governorates. Both provinces have seen major anti-government demonstrations since December 2012, which have concerned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. At the same time, the councils in Anbar and Ninewa have gone through major divisions. In fact, the former called for a delay in polling before the cabinet’s decision. This maneuver could be the result of these local and national figures trying to keep their opponents at bay for a short period of time.

On March 19, 2013, Iraq’s cabinet said that it was delaying voting in Anbar and Ninewa for up to six months. Security was the reason given for the postponement. Since candidates were announced in January, there have been several assassinations and withdrawals. A candidate in Anbar, and two in Ninewa have been killed since February, and there have been attacks upon others. As a result of this violence, 14 people dropped out in Mosul the capital of Ninewa. Finally, Anbar’s provincial council also placed a formal request with the Iraqi Election Commission to hold off voting there, citing insecurity. Interestingly though the Commission did not make the decision to delay voting, but instead the cabinet did, which is under the control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Violence was much worse during the elections in 2005 and 2009, which brings up the questions of whether that was the real motivation behind the decision. The anti-government protests in the two governorates could be a much bigger concern for the prime minister. They could lead to anti-Maliki politicians being elected there, which would further complicate the matter.

The protests in Anbar and Ninewa could be a major reason why elections have been postponed there (Ammon News)

Another major issue was the political divisions within the Anbar and Ninewa councils. In Anbar, seven parties rule, which can be broken up into several different blocks. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha’s Awakening of Iraq and Independents holds the most seats. He has been at the forefront of the demonstrations in the province. He, along with Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s Alliance of Intellectuals and Tribes, the local offshoot of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), are anti-Maliki. The IIP has condemned the postponement, blaming local elements that are aligned with Baghdad. On the other hand, Jamal al-Karbouli’s National Movement for Development and Reform, Sheikh Hamid Farhan al-Hayes’ Iraq Tribes List, and Governor Qasim Abdi Mohammed Hammadi al-Fahadawi have been supportive of the prime minister. The governor for example said he was for delaying the vote, claiming that the security forces could not protect both the protesters and the polling stations. He thought voting could take place in one to two months. Sheikh Hayes on the other hand, has criticized the protest movement, and said that he was forming a tribal group that would support the central government. Ninewa has seen similar splits. There Governor Atheel al-Nujafi came out against holding up the balloting, while a member of the council supported it. After the 2009 elections, Nujafi’s al-Hadbaa won a majority of seats, and took over the entire provincial government after the Kurdish party boycotted. Since then, al-Hadbaa has split into several different factions, which are going to run against each other. The politicians aligned with Baghdad seem happy with the postponement. With the on-going protests their election chances could be limited. They may hope that in a few months the demonstrations will end. At the minimum, they can hold onto power for a little while longer.

It appears that Maliki and the parties aligned with him in Anbar and Ninewa are the main beneficiaries of the postponement. They are both concerned about the repercussions of the protest movements. At the same time, there’s no telling whether this delay will change the election results once they finally occur. The votes in the two provinces look to be divided amongst a variety of groups, which will simply re-align the current ruling coalitions. The real question is how long will the vote be put off. The cabinet mentioned up to six months, but if that were to be delayed anymore there could be more serious repercussions. High numbers of voters came out in the last governorate elections in 2009 in Anbar and Ninewa after they boycotted in 2005. This included a large number of insurgents, which helped drastically reduce violence in the country overall. Now many Sunnis may be feeling that the election process does not offer them the hope of change. If the voting is delayed for an extended period of time that could be a concrete sign that Baghdad wants to disenfranchise them. That could lead to political apathy or worse an increase in attacks whether through active participation or passive acceptance of militants as an expression of their anger. That means voting needs to occur as quickly as possible in these two governorates, or it could have widespread negative repercussions.


Agence France Presse, “Iraq delays polls in two provinces for security reasons,” 3/19/13

AIN, “IIP describes postponing local elections in Anbar, Nineveh as disappointing,” 3/20/13
- “Urgent….Hakim describes postponing local elections in Anbar, Nineveh as “very serious step,”” 3/20/13

Ali, Ahmed, and Wicken, Stephen, “2013 Iraq Weekly Update #11: Violence Threatens Electoral Campaign,” Institute for the Study of War, 3/15/13

Al-Ali, Daoud, “campaigning begins, uncharismatic candidates break all the rules,” Niqash, 3/7/13

Ali, Ghassan, “Decision to postpone local elections in Anbar and Nineveh,” Radio Free Iraq, 3/19/13

Alsumaria, “Anbar governor attributed the postponement of the elections for the preoccupation with security forces to protect protesters,” 3/20/13
- “Iraq Anbar unanimously decides to postpone provincial council elections,” 3/13/13

Arango, Tim and Gordon, Michael, “Sectarian Strains Pit Some Iraqis Against Their Own Leaders,” New York Times, 3/19/13

Haider, Roa, “Mixed reactions to the decision to postpone the elections in Anbar, Nineveh,” Radio Free Iraq, 3/20/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “BREAKING NEWS Sadrist ministers suspend attending cabinet’s sessions,” 3/19/13
- “Emir of Dulaim Tribes: Maliki postponed elections in Anbar in fear of a new strong Council demands the province’s rights,” 3/19/13
- “Islamic Party: Postponing election a coup against the political process,” 3/19/13
- “Nijaifi denounces postponing elections in Anbar, Niniveh,” 3/19/13

Al Rafidayn, “Electoral Commission: the withdrawal of the 14 candidates for the provincial elections in Mosul after receiving threats,” 3/18/13

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 16,” 6/12/11
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 40,” 6/20/12

Visser, Reidar, “The Postponement of Provincial Elections in Anbar and Nineveh: Initial Reactions,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 3/20/13

Wicken, Stephen, “2013 Iraq Update #10a: Maliki Pursues Issawi – Again,” Institute for the Study of War, 3/13/13

GUARDIAN VIDEO: Iraq's Data Challenge

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Prime Minister Maliki Completes His Clear Out Of Central Bank of Iraq

At the end of 2012, the governor of the Central Bank of Iraq Sinan Shabibi was charged with corruption, and forced out of office. At first, his deputy Matheher Mohammed Mudher Salah tried to put a positive spin on events, and was even mentioned as a possible replacement to his boss. Instead, he ended up being placed under house arrest for several weeks. Now it’s been reported that Salah has been retired upon orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The entire affair was seen as a power grab by the premier who disagreed with the Central Bank’s policies.

Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq Salah was forced into retirement by Premier Maliki to complete his clearing out of the old administration (Al Masalah)

On March 13, 2013, it was reported that deputy governor of the Central Bank of Iraq Matheher Mohammed Mudher Salah was being retired. This came at the orders of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This was the final act in the removal of the leadership of the bank by the premier. Back on October 15, 2012, the anti-corruption Integrity Commission issued a warrant for Central Bank Governor Sinan Shabibi, and several members of his staff. At that time, Salah claimed that he was not wanted, but that he was under investigation. He tried to put a positive spin on things by saying that the bank needed change, and that people were mentioning him as a candidate to be the new bank head. Things didn’t go his way as Maliki named the chief of the Board of Supreme Audit Dr. Abdul Basit Turki as the temporary head of the Central Bank, while Salah was placed under house arrest on embezzlement charges for several weeks. The official reason for the take down of the bank officials was manipulation of the weekly dollar auctions the bank held. Few believed that however, and instead pointed towards Maliki’s disputes with the Shabibi over his policies. The main one was the governor’s desire to revalue the dinar, which the prime minister objected to. It was also said that the premier wanted access to the bank’s reserves to fund development projects outside of the budget. The governor refused to go along with Maliki’s demands on all those issues. The prime minister has established a trend of using the security forces and corruption charges to get rid of those that oppose him. The charges against Shabibi, Salah, and the others fit that pattern, and accomplished its goal. Shabibi was out of the country when he was told about his arrest warrant, and has not returned to Iraq since then. Salah was then placed under arrest, and now forced into retirement, eliminating him from the administration. Maliki now has an acting governor that he can eventually replace with whoever he wants to solidify his hold over the institution.

The handling of the Central Bank of Iraq was another disturbing example of how the prime minister has attempted to assert his control over Iraq’s independent institutions. In 2011, Maliki charged the head of the Trade Bank of Iraq will corruption, forcing him to flee the country. That same year, the head of the Integrity Commission Judge Rahim al-Ogaili resigned, and later revealed that he was going to be charged with illegal activities. Then in 2012, the head of the Election Commission was arrested, but then found not guilty of bribery. That was followed by the warrant for the Central Bank officials. Finally, at the beginning of 2013, Maliki dismissed the head of the Accountability and Justice Commission after it tried to remove Chief Justice Medhat Mahmoud for ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime. All these actions were based upon a ruling that Mahmoud made that placed all of the country’s independent commissions under the cabinet, even though the constitution explicitly says they are part of parliament’s jurisdiction. Since then the prime minister has taken on the banks and agencies one by one, trying it replace their directors, and put allies in charge of each one. It’s that background that explains what happened to Salah and the rest of the leadership at the Central Bank.


Abedzair, Kareem, “Commission orders arrest of Iraqi Central Bank Governor on corruption charges,” Azzaman, 10/15/12

Al Masalah, “Refer the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the appearance of Mohammed Salah to retire after the cancellation of the extension service,” 3/13/13

Peel, Michael, “Iraq leaders’ fairness queried in scandal,” Financial Times, 10/22/12

Shafaq News, “Shabibi deputy: there is no official notice against me,” 10/17/12

Al-Shaher, Omar, “Iraqi Government Seeks Control Over Central Bank,” Al-Monitor, 1/21/13

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 49,” 10/31/12

PBS NEWSHOUR VIDEO: Lessons Learned From U.S. Invasion of Iraq, 10 Years Later

CNN VIDEO: Open Mic: Iraq 10 Years On

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Once Again Iraq’s Premier Maliki Goes After Former Finance Minister Issawi

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has increasingly used arrest warrants to intimidate and get rid of his political enemies. The latest example occurred in March 2013 when a court ordered former Finance Minister Rafi Issawi to be detained on terrorism charges. Issawi is from the Iraqi National Movement, which is one of the main rivals to the prime minister’s State of Law, and he has often criticized the prime minister’s rule. In December 2012, some of his bodyguards were arrested, and allegedly confessed to carrying out attacks. That led to the current protests in western, eastern, and northern Iraq along with Issawi eventually resigning. Now the ante has been upped as Maliki is going after the former minister himself. Rather than actually trying to arrest Issawi it appears the warrant was a scare tactic.

On March 12, 2013, security forces stopped the former Finance Minister. Issawi was going to a funeral of a local council head in the Rutba district of Anbar province when he ran into group of vehicles backed by helicopters. The ex-Minister was not arrested however. Afterward, there were some reports that Issawi was attempting to flee to Jordan, and that he was turned away because there was an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges. That story was later proven false. The entire incident appeared to be for show. If the government wanted to detain Issawi this was a perfect opportunity as he was isolated, while driving through the countryside. The fake claim that he was trying to get out of Iraq appeared to be a justification for the raid. Overall, it was obviously meant to intimidate Issawi, to let him know that the government knew about his movements, and could pick him up when they wanted to. This was just the latest episode in a drawn out drama between Issawi and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Former Finance Minister Issawi at the podium before protesters in Anbar (Al-Mada)

The current dispute between the two has its origins in the arrest of several of Issawi’s bodyguards. In December 2012, some of the Finance Minister’s security detail was picked up in Baghdad on terrorism charges. A spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council told the media that the head of Issawi’s bodyguards had confessed to involvement in attacks, while a member of the premier’s State of Law list said that twenty families in Anbar had filed lawsuits against members of the minister’s security unit. Later, state-run Iraqiya TV aired a confession of one of Issawi’s guards claiming that he received orders from the minister’s son-in-law to carry out assassinations. Immediately afterward, protests sprang up in Anbar, Baghdad, and other provinces in support of Issawi, which continue to this day. Issawi then started boycotting session of the cabinet, which led to Maliki replacing him temporarily with Planning Minister Ali Yousef Abdul-Nabi of the Sadr Trend in February. The next month, Issawi announced his resignation in front of a huge crowd of demonstrators in Ramadi, Anbar. Iraqiya TV reported that the prime minister did not accept his resignation, because he was being investigated for corruption. This mirrored the arrest of Vice President Tariq Hashemi’s guards in December 2011, which led to a warrant for him, and his eventual self-imposed exile in Turkey. Perhaps Maliki was hoping for that series of events to be repeated with Issawi.

In fact, during the Hashemi affair, Issawi was temporarily targeted as well. On December 15, 2011, security forces surrounded both Hashemi and Issawi’s residences in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Then the pair was forced off a plane at Baghdad airport for a planned meeting with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani. This all resulted from the arrest of several of the vice president’s guards who confessed on television to carrying out attacks and murders in Anbar. One connected their operations through a number of officials to Issawi. The government then said that it would investigate the Finance Minister, which led to some of his bodyguards to be arrested as well. Hashemi eventually left the country, but nothing came of the charges against Issawi. Perhaps going after the vice president was enough for Maliki at that time. Either way, it set the stage for the current situation where Issawi has again been charged with involvement in terrorism, and members of his security unit being detained.

Even previous to the Hashemi incident, Maliki had brought up accusations against Issawi. In the middle of 2010 for example, the prime minister told the U.S. military he was worried about Issawi’s connections to militants. Then commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno sent a letter to the premier telling him that American intelligence had looked into the matter and found nothing. Then in September, there was a report that while Maliki was attempting to put together a new ruling coalition after parliamentary elections, he threatened to charge Issawi with terrorism if he didn’t join the new government. All of the stories revolving around Issawi stem from the fact that he is from Fallujah, and worked there while it was a base for Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups. Almost every party in Iraq has been involved with violence, so it is no surprise that there are accusations against Issawi. The problem is that in the current political environment nothing ever happens about these reports, because all of the country’s leaders could be implicated, especially if any were ever to go to court. What Maliki has done is to selectively use these accusations against his opponents. Hashemi was a perfect and public example. The current crisis with Issawi is another.

It seems unlikely that Prime Minister Maliki really wants to arrest Issawi and put him on trial. That could lead to a series of unexpected consequences. Rather it appears that the arrest of his guards, and the warrant out for him are just a way to keep him off the national scene, and perhaps force him into exile like Vice President Hashemi. The problem for the premier is that Issawi has not completely followed this script. While he has resigned, Issawi has remained in the public eye through involvement with the protest movement in Anbar that sprung up to support him. He is also trying to campaign for his party in that province before this year’s provincial elections. That could lead to further acts of intimidation. Then again, Maliki might be happy with just gaining influence over the Finance Ministry. This is a very important post, because all government spending has to go through it and the Planning Ministry, which are now controlled by the same person, Sadrist Ali Yousef Abdul-Nabi who is allied with the premier. This is the prime minister’s ultimate goal to trim down the government to just those that support him instead of the unwieldy national unity coalitions. Rather than taking democratic means to achieve that however, Maliki has too often used the security forces, which has all kinds of negative consequences for the future of Iraqi politics.


Dar Addustour, “Maliki calls for parliament to withdraw confidence from the al-Mutlaq – Government waited and proclamation of the results revealed the involvement of senior political terrorist operations,” 12/18/11

Adnan, Duraid and Arango, Tim, “Arrest of a Sunni Minister’s Bodyguards Prompts Protests in Iraq,” New York Times, 12/21/12

AIN, “Breaking News … Maliki orders to arrest security force responsible for arresting Esawi’s guards,” 12/21/12
- “Defense Committee: number of Esawi’s guards, released,” 12/21/12
- “Esawi not involved in criminal actions according to primary investigations, says MP,” 12/22/12
- “IS suspends its ministers from CoM’s meetings,” 12/22/12
- “MP: Foreign guarantees behind return of Iraqiya Slate to parliament,” 1/31/12
- “Mutleg calls IS to suspend from current government,” 12/21/12
- “SLC MP demands Esawi to resign,” 12/26/12

Aliraqnews, “Sadr’s office: Planning Minister receives the functions of the Ministry of Finance Acting,” 2/5/13

Alsumaria, “An informed source disclosed agreement to resolve the issue individuals protect Issawi conveyed investigation committee headed by Atta,” 12/22/12
- “Maliki appoints acting ministers replacing Iraqiya ministers,” 1/5/12

Associated Press, “Iraq finance minister says staff members kidnapped,” 12/20/12

Aswat al-Iraq, “Kurdish Alliance denounces intruding Issawi’s offices,” 12/22/12

Dodge, Toby, “Iraq: Maliki power grab risks fresh civil war,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, 4/20/12
- “The resistible rise of Nuri al-Maliki,” Open Democracy, 3/22/12

Fordham, Alice, “Iraq’s finance minister quits amid huge protest,” The National, 3/2/13

Gordon, Michael, “Tensions Rise in Baghdad With Raid on Official,” New York Times, 12/20/12

Gutman, Roy, “As US troops exit Iraq, Maliki moves against Sunni rivals,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/19/11

Healy, Jack and Gordon, Michael, “A Moderate Official at Risk in a Fracturing Iraq,” New York Times, 12/30/11

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

Al-Jawari, Fulaih, “Cracks in Iraqiya begin to open,” AK News, 1/8/12

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

Al-Mada, “Power of the Prime Minister’s Office arrested facilities Rafie al-Issawi,” 12/20/12

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

National Iraqi News Agency, “Anbar Cleric Council demanding to declare civil disobedience,” 12/22/12
- “Anbar Provincial Council: Hashemi scenario repeated with Issawi,” 12/21/12
- “BREAKING NEWS Obama makes a call to Essawi in response to the arrest of Essawi’s head of his guards,” 12/20/12
- “Iraqiya coalition suspends its attending in the Parliament,” 12/23/12

Radio Nawa, “Bayraktar: an arrest warrant for official protection Issawi was issued some time ago but he was on the run,” 12/22/12

Al Rafidayn, “Alfalh: 20 families of Anbar filed lawsuits against al-Issawi and protection elements Hashemi,” 12/22/12

Salaheddin, Sinan and Schreck, Adam, “Iraq confirms arrest of minister’s bodyguards,” Associated Press, 12/21/12

Schreck, Adam and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraq: New Protests Break out in Sunni Stronghold,” Associated Press, 12/26/12

Shafaq News, “Salahuddin calls its masses to demonstrate peacefully to express their demands,” 12/31/12

Sotaliraq, “Government circulated judicial arrest warrant Rafie al-Issawi on all security institutions and internal checkpoints and border,” 3/14/13

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 30,” 1/3/12
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 40,” 6/20/12

Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Iraq’s Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 2,” Institute for the Study of War, 12/23/11

Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Report: Bodyguards for Iraqi finance minister arrested,” CNN, 12/21/12

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

Wicken, Stephen, “2013 Iraq Update #9: Issawi resignation presents opportunities to Maliki,” Institute for the Study of War, 3/1/13
- “2013 Iraq Update #10a: Maliki Pursues Issawi – Again,” Institute for the Study of War, 3/13/13

This Day In Iraqi History - Apr 21 Coalition Provisional Authority created to run post-war Iraq

  1802 Wahabi army from Arabia sacked Karbala 2,000-5,000 killed