Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Baathist Purge In Post-Saddam Iraq, A Short History Of DeBaathification

DeBaathification is one of the lasting legacies of the American occupation of Iraq. Passed in May 2003 by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) the effort to rid the country of the Baath Party quickly took on a life of its own that continues with the current Iraqi government. DeBaathification was not a vetting process meant to weed out the good and the bad. Rather it set out to ban the top ranks of the party, but then quickly expanded to any Baathist in a politicized, open ended effort that lacked due process, and coherent guidelines. While it had many supporters in both the U.S. and Iraq, there were just as many detractors. It ended up dividing the country, and hindered the development of a new Iraqi government and democracy.

The Baath was one of the most successful authoritarian parties in modern history. By the end of 2002, it had just under 4 million members. From 1986 to 2002 it increased 140% as Saddam Hussein attempted to maintain control of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, and then the sanctions period following the Gulf War by reaching out to young people and women. Out of an estimated 25 million people in 2002, Baathists were 16.5% of the population. That was much higher than the Communist Party in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Party members who had actual power were only about 4% of Iraq, while the party elite was around 2.4% of the populace. Towards the top of the party were Secretary Generals, amin sir, who set policies and had power over the military. Branch members, udhu fir, led party sections, could order arrests, use weapons, and had some authority over the security forces. A section member, udhu shu’ba, led cells, and supervised and could work with local security forces. A division member, uhdu firqa, implemented orders, and could oversee the security forces and local administrators. Below that were the lower level party members consisting of active members, udhu amil, apprenticed members, udhu mutadarib, candidates, murashih, advanced supporters, nasir mutaqadin, supporters, nasir, and sympathizers, muayid, all of which belonged to party cells. By 2002 there were 69 party branches across the country, 612 sections, 3,787 divisions, 32,852 cells run by 76 Secretary Generals, 1,027 branch members, 6,128 section members, 45,537 division members, 223,662 active members, 254,081 apprenticed members, 27,242 candidates, 1,113,211 supporters, and 2,328,080 sympathizers. DeBaathification was originally supposed to only affect the top four party levels, approximately 52,700 people, that it was assumed had participated in crimes. It was later applied to far more than that with many exceptions. DeBaathification was not a vetting process to see which Baathists could remain in office, and which could not, but was rather more like a purge of anyone the authorities felt needed to be removed or retired.

The Bush administration liked to compare Saddam’s Iraq to Nazi Germany, but was divided on what to do with the Baath Party. The State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency wanted to get rid of Saddam and a couple of other leaders only, while the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney called for a broad purge of Baathists. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was in the middle. Early in 2003 the Defense Department and Cheney won the debate. Ahmad Chalabi had the ear of both of them, and pushed the idea that Saddam was like Hitler and needed a deNazification process. That comparison didn’t quite hold up. DeNazification did not hold all senior Nazis accountable or stop them from returning to office. It was more of a vetting process meant to keep the German government running after World War II. More importantly, it didn’t seem that the administration even studied how deNazification worked to help plan the deBaathification it would soon order.

How to deal with the Baath Party on the ground in Iraq also created divisions. After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, General Tommy Frank’s Freedom Message to Iraqis bared the Baath Party. Afterward, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) under Jay Garner followed a mild deBaathification approach. It only disqualified the 55 top party members on the deck of cards wanted list,  and anyone implicated in crimes. Otherwise, it allowed hundreds of Baathists to return to work. That quickly changed when Paul Bremer arrived in Iraq in May and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was announced. Bremer received a draft deBaathification law from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith who wanted it implemented immediately. Four days after Bremer landed in Baghdad he issued CPA Order 1 banning the Baath Party. The top four party ranks, Secretary General, branch member, section member, and division members were barred from working in the government. That was quickly expanded to the three highest levels of administration in each office, and criminals. That meant that any Baathist could be included no matter what the rank. That immediately created opposition from people like Garner, and the CIA station chief in Baghdad Charlie Sidell. They went to Bremer warning him that such a broad deBaathification effort would create tens of thousands of opponents to the CPA. They pushed for only the top two tiers of the party to be excluded. Bremer replied that he was under orders from Washington. He also believed in getting rid of the Baathists, and thought it would be a strong statement about the dramatic transformation the U.S. was hoping to bring to the country. The CPA head went on to promote deBaathification as being just like deNazification to help justify it. (1) After the order came out others came out against it as well. That included General David Petraeus who was then the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Mosul, and General Ricardo Sanchez, the commanding general of Coalition forces in Iraq. The former was afraid that getting rid of Baathists would cause people to turn against the Americans and deprive the government of needed officials, while the latter thought that the CPA never paid attention to how to implement the order or its effects. By the end of his time in Iraq, Bremer also understood that deBaathification had backfired, cutting into the bureaucracy much deeper than he thought, and banning far more than he had envisioned. The executive director of the deBaathification Commission Ali al-Lami later told the Washington Post that 150,000 people were banned from May to September 2003. The Pentagon and Bremer wanted to make their mark on Iraq. They considered the Baath a totalitarian party that needed to be rooted out of Iraqi society. The various officials who came out against it were not able to change the policy, but eventually Bremer saw the error of his ways. The problem was that by then, the process was out of his control.

Ahmad Chalabi quickly took over deBaathification, and ran with it. In July 2003, the CPA created the Iraqi Governing Council. The next month, when Chalabi was the rotating president of the Council it created the deBaathification Commission. Then in September, Chalabi became its chairman, and appointed Mithal al-Alusi as its director. Alusi was a former Baathists himself who went into exile in the 1970s. The staff that was hired mostly came from the Shiite religious parties, while Chalabi centralized control over the commission. He immediately expanded its scope by adding more party levels, including people who had been kicked out of the party before 2003, banned those belonging to “oppressive institutions” or involved in stealing or corruption, and created deBaathification offices in each ministry. He then cancelled all previous reinstatements, and took over the appeals process, even though there were no rules for how that would work. In early 2004 the Commission issued regulations about its powers. It said it would oversee all information about the Baath, all personnel in the ministries, control all exemptions, said that only certain party members had the right to appeal, and if they did, they would lose their pension if they were rejected. This new approach led to a dispute with the CPA, but by then the Americans had no real influence over the matter. In April 2004, Bremer attempted to add due process procedures, and later rescinded the order authorizing the Commission, but they had little actual effect. At the same time, the Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan supported deBaathification, which was more than enough to keep the process moving forward. At the same time, the Shiite religious parties saved some Shiite Baathists, and re-employed them making them dependent upon those same organizations. This was part of a larger process where a little over 100,000 former Baathists were brought back into the government to help with administration. Under Chalabi deBaathification became an open ended and politicized process. Any Baathist was open to investigation even if they had left the party before the 2003 invasion. The ruling parties could pick out people they wanted, and exempt from the process. This was when Bremer saw the errors of the policy, but it was too late. The Iraqis were now in control, and they were not going to let go.

In June 2005 when Iyad Allawi was made interim prime minister, he immediately came into conflict with Chalabi and the deBaathification Commission. The new premier wanted to limit deBaathification to only a small group of party leaders, as he was a former Baathist himself, and did not see the party in the same light. Chalabi refused to change his policy. This feud was not just about politics, but became a personal one between Allawi and Chalabi. The Commission went to the Shura Council, a part of the Justice Ministry, and got a favorable ruling to continue with its work. At the same time, the Council said that there could be new limits placed on deBaathification. Afterward, the cabinet said that all contacts with the Commission had to go through it. Shortly after that, Mithal al-Alusi faced criminal charges, and was removed from his position. The government then got rid of three more members of the Commission, cut its funding, and attempted to evict it from its offices in Baghdad. It also drafted a new law to replace the Commission. Unfortunately for Allawi he was not in office long enough to carry through with his plans. Allawi’s Iraqi National List was based upon former Baathists like himself and ex-military men. He therefore had the exact opposite opinion of Chalabi and the deBaathification Commission, which was to go after any former regime member they wanted to. He could not win this war however as he made way for a new government in 2005.

The parties that wanted to rid the country of the Baath Party were the ones that took power in the 2005 elections. After the January 2005 vote, the United Alliance led by the Shiite religious parties won the most seats in parliament, and eventually got Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Dawa Party elected prime minister. Chalabi was named his deputy. Shortly afterward, the new government was ordered to cooperate with the deBaathification Commission. Its work was later included in the 2005 constitution, it banned candidates in the 2005 elections, and influenced the trial of Saddam Hussein. Article 7 and 135 prohibited the Baath Party, and said that all government offices were subject to deBaathification. Before the December 2005 balloting, the Commission tried to bar 170 candidates even though both Chalabi and the new director Ali al-Lami were candidates. The Election Commission objected, claiming that it was given multiple lists of banned politicians with different names on them just before the voting with little evidence against them. The Election Commission only ended up banning 40 candidates. Finally, the deBaathification Commission tried to insert itself into the trial of Saddam. First, it objected to many of the judges and staff on the tribunal being former Baathists. Three times it stopped personnel from participating for their ties to the former regime, and eventually got 19 employees of the tribunal to quit including the administrative director. The U.S. stepped in and stopped any of the judges from being dismissed, but the Commission did succeed in getting the president Judge Said al-Hammashi being transferred. Giving into this pressure, the tribunal eventually created its own deBaathification committee in 2006, and agreed to get rid of more of its staff. After Saddam was sentenced to death, the Commission told four judges they could transfer or face deBaathification. Given the make-up of the new government, and the support it gave to deBaathification it was no surprise that the commission would expand its power and try to influence the new political system. Although not always successful it did play a role in the voting process and Saddam’s trial, and most importantly was given constitutional legitimacy. The Commission therefore could continue its work as long as it wanted. For the Shiite religious and Kurdish parties, they supported the process, because they still feared the return of the Baath Party, and believed that many party members deserved to be excluded and prosecuted for their crimes.

When the civil war took off into high gear in 2006, the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came under increasing pressure from Washington to reform the deBaathification process in an effort to appease Sunnis. In June 2006, Maliki said he would revise the process in an attempt at reconciliation, but nothing came of it. In March and August 2007 he tried again, but was shot down by the Shiite and Kurdish parties. Chalabi even offered to loosen the deBaathification rules, and claimed that 2,300 high-ranking Baathists would get their jobs back or pensions in 2007. Eventually these different ideas coalesced into the Accountability and Justice Law, which was passed in January 2008 despite much opposition. It basically continued the same process, but simplified it, and offered more opportunities for some Baathists to receive pensions. The new Accountability and Justice Commission immediately became a point of contention. First, Chalabi and Lami argued that the new law allowed the old deBaathification members to maintain their positions in the new commission. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi believed that an entirely new leadership should be appointed. Not only that, but Lami called for all former Baathists in the government to apply for reinstatement or retirement under the new law, and received 41,000 applications as a result. This started another argument over the approval process in the cabinet and parliament. That controversy finally ended when the Americans arrested Lami in September for alleged connections to Iranian backed Special Groups. He was not released until July 2009 as part of a political deal. Without Lami, the new commission stalled, and the cabinet was successful in stopping some of its work. When Lami returned to office, he went to the Supreme Court and Shura Council, and successful got the old deBaathification Commission to become the new Accountability and Justice Commission. Ironically, by the time the Accountability and Justice Law was passed, the civil war was coming to an end, and there was not as much pressure to appease the Sunnis so that they would give up fighting. Instead, the new Accountability Commission caused a battle over who would control it. Chalabi and Lami were eventually able to win that match, and stay in power.

The Accountability Commission would soon make its mark in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Like in 2005, Chalabi and Lami were once again running for office, which would make their decisions all the more controversial. In January 2010 the commission went after former Baathists, intelligence and security officials, and those they claimed promoted the Baath Party just before the vote. In total, it wanted to ban 511 candidates including some sitting parliamentarians, 15 parties, and 376 military and police officers. That included Salah al-Mutlaq the head of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the director of military intelligence, the commander of the Federal Police, and many members of secular and Sunni parties. After a long drawn out battle more than 170 candidates appealed their cases, and 26 won. The Election Commission also refused to disqualify 52 others. After the balloting, the Accountability Commission went after some of the winners. When negotiations started for putting together the new ruling coalition, the ban on the lawmakers was dropped. That eventually allowed Mutlaq to become a deputy premier. At the same time, Lami became the head of the commission as Chalabi was elected to the legislature. In May 2011, Lami was assassinated, and the commission lost much of its power without its dynamic leader. The next month, Maliki dismissed Chalabi from the commission, and replaced him with Human Rights Minister Mohammed Soudani from the Dawa Party. In September, the prime minister dismissed two Chalabi allies from the commission and replaced them with his own followers. This political struggle meant that the 7 commissioners were not appointed until July 2012. Falah Shanshal of the Sadr trend was elected its head with Omar al-Qadhi of the Kurdish Coalition his deputy. That didn’t stop Maliki from trying to replace Shanshal in February 2013. That same month, Maliki issued orders through the cabinet to cancel all the decisions of the Accountability and Justice Commission while it was under Shanshal’s leadership. It wasn’t until July that parliament confirmed Shanshal in his position in a deal between the Sadrists, Supreme Council, and Mutahidun. DeBaathification was always open to political manipulation by Chalabi and the ruling parties. Its bold attacks upon candidates in the 2010 elections showed that it could be used as a powerful tool in shaping new governments. That led Maliki to attempt to take over the Accountability Commission, which was eventually spoiled by his rivals that did not want the premier to extend his influence into the deBaathification process.

Today, there is renewed talk of reforming the anti-Baathist legislation. In the spring of 2013, the cabinet agreed to amend the Accountability and Justice Commission by allowing division members to no longer face disqualification as part of a reconciliation deal between Maliki and Mutlaq aimed at the protests, which started in Sunni provinces at the end of 2012. The Sadrists, Fadhila, and Badr parties all expressed reservations about changing the law. Even a member of Maliki’s own State of Law came out against any amendments saying that the Baathists should be given no concessions. The Iraqi National Movement (INM) initially supported the changes, because it backed the protest movement, but now may not be willing to back it, because Maliki could claim it as a victory. The Shiite parties have always been the strongest supporters of deBaathification, and see no reason to appease the demonstrations, especially because they have taken on a sectarian tone, and some have joined the insurgency. They along with the INM and others are also thinking about the 2014 parliamentary elections, and see Maliki as their main rival. They do not want to give him any successes, which could help him out with voters. That means this talk of amending the Accountability and Justice law will likely go nowhere.

DeBaathification has had a profound impact upon Iraq. Thousands of Baathists were banned from office, crippling much of the bureaucracy. The process was not evenly felt across the government however. Many former regime members were able to get jobs in the security forces for example. The Foreign Affairs Ministry gave lots of exemptions as well, because of its need for specialized skills in international relations. The Education Ministry on the other hand lost over 18,000 of its staff, four more times than any other ministry. In comparison, the Higher Education Ministry only lost 4,361, the Agriculture Ministry 999, the Health Ministry 236, and the Science Ministry only 120. The politicization of the process allowed many public servants to get their jobs back for ties to the ruling parties. Since 2006 deBaathification has mostly been concerned with retirements and reinstatements. The basic problem with banning the Baath Party was that it was based upon mass guilt for the crimes of Saddam. That didn’t take into account the role of Baathists in running the government, and how many were culpable of actual illegal activities. People were initially dismissed with no chance to question their case beforehand. The deBaathification Commission then took up appeals, but had no rules for how that would work. There was no due process until 2010 when the Accountability Commission set up a court that heard complaints. Even then, parties were able to cut deals to get their followers exempted. Most importantly, it caused grave mistrust amongst Sunnis who believed that they were being singled out for sectarian reasons even though plenty of others were party members as well. This was one factor leading to the growth of the insurgency. The acts of the deBaathification and later Accountability Commissions in the country’s elections have also discredited the process in the eyes of many.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq could have benefited from a reconciliation process. That could have attempted to bring the population together by airing the crimes of the former regime, while at the same time moving forward. The new ruling elite however did not want anything to do with the Baath Party as a whole, and the White House wanted deep institutional changes. That led to deBaathification, which was a politicized purge. Its failure is seen in the fact that the Shiite religious parties still fear the return of the Baathists to power, while the Accountability Commission has become a prize to be controlled by the Iraq parties. It also did not help with building the new government and democracy. Instead it led to resentment amongst many Sunnis, and the insurgency. Since it is an open ended process, getting rid of Baathists will continue for years, banning candidates in elections and forcing members of the bureaucracy to retire.


1. PBS Frontline, “Interview L. Paul Bremer,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03


Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “New Law Allows Baathists to Reclaim Jobs,” Associated Press, 2/3/08

Agence France Presse, “Iraq cabinet unveils sweeping reform of Saddam law,” 4/7/13

AIN, “Sadrist MP elected as head of Justice & Accountability Committee,” 10/8/12
- “SLC MP criticizes amendment of Accountability & Justice Law,” 4/11/13

Anderson, Jon Lee, “Out On The Street,” New Yorker, 11/15/04

Associated Press, “Former Baathists don’t trust job plan,” 1/14/08

Brosk, Raman, “Shalabi denies his dismissal from Accountability and Justice by Maliki,” AK News, 6/8/11

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq’s Insurgency and Civil Violence,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/22/07

Eisenstadt, Michael and Ali, Ahmed, “’How This Ends’: Iraq’s Uncertain Path toward National Reconciliation,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 7/17/09

Gordon, Michael, “’Catastrophic Success’ Debate Lingering on Decision to Dissolve the Iraqi Military,” New York Times, 10/21/04

Greenwall, Megan, “Iraqi Leaders Reach Accord On Prisoners, Ex-Baathists,” Washington Post, 8/27/07

International Center for Transitional Justice, “Briefing Paper: Iraq’s New ‘Accountability and Justice’ Law,” 1/22/08

Karouny, Mariam, “Row mars Iraq parliament hearing on Baathists bill,” Reuters, 11/25/07

Lannen, Steve and Fadel, Leila, “Iraqi de-Baathification law may force some key officials out,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/3/08

Moore, Solomon, “Ex-Baathists Get a Break. Or Do They?” New York Times, 1/14/08

National Iraqi News Agency, “Iraqiya: we will stand strongly in parliament to pass the amendment of the law of accountability and justice,” 4/13/13
- “Maliki assigns Bakhtiar Omar instead of Shanshal,” 2/18/13
- “Maliki cancels all decisions taken by the Accountability Commission during Shanshal’s presidency,” 2/18/13
- “Parliament vote in favor of MP Falah Shanshal as head of the Justice and Accountability,” 7/22/13

New York Times, “Bush appoints new overseer to run Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 5/7/03

Oppel, Richard and Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraq Eases Curb for Former Officials of Hussein’s Party,” New York Times, 1/13/08

Otterman, Sharon, “IRAQ: Debaathification,” Council on Foreign Relations, 4/7/05

Packer, George, The Assassins’ Gate, America In Iraq, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005

Paley, Amit, and Partlow, Joshua, “Iraq’s New Law on Ex-Baathists Could Bring Another Purge,” Washington Post, 1/23/08

Parker, Ned, “Iraq votes to lift ban on ex-Baathists,” Los Angeles Times, 1/13/08

Partlow, Joshua and Abramowitz, Michael, “Iraq Passes Bill on Baathists,” Washington Post, 1/13/08

PBS Frontline, “Interview L. Paul Bremer,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03

Sabah, Mohammad, “Hakim and al-Sadr and united agree to keep the ablation of the file pre-election politicking,” Al-Mada, 7/22/13

Sassoon, Joseph, Saddam Hussein Ba’th Party, Inside an Authoritarian Regime, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Senanayake, Sumedha, “Iraq: Will Passage Of New Law Appease Sunnis?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1/15/08

Shafaq News, “Sadrist movement calls to apply on De-Baathification law,” 5/8/13
- “Shanshal’s nomination withdrawn from Justice and Accountability Commission,” 2/19/13

Al-Shemmari, Yazn, “MP: Sacking of Shalibi is move to take control of JAC,” AK News, 6/9/11

Sissons, Miranda and Al-Saiedi, Abdul Razzaq, “A Bitter Legacy: Lessons of De-Baathification in Iraq,” International Center for Transitional Justice, March 2013

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

Terrill, W. Andrew, “Lessons Of The Iraqi De-Ba’athification Program For Iraq’s Future And the Arab Revolutions,” Strategic Studies Institute, May 2012

Visser, Reidar, “10 Years after the Fall of the Baath, De-Baathification Remains Centre-Stage in Iraqi Politics,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 4/9/13
- “IHEC Publishes the Candidate List for Iraq’s Local Elections,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 3/6/13
- “Iraq Gets A New De-Baathification Board but the Supreme Court Becomes a Parody,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 5/7/12

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Iraq Proposes Changing Its Provincial Borders

In July 2013, Iraq’s parliament passed along a draft law to redraw the country’s provincial boundaries. The bill was proposed by President Jalal Talabani back at the beginning of 2012 to reverse all the internal changes made by Saddam Hussein. If passed it would dramatically change the internal contours of the country. Unfortunately, Iraq’s legislature is not known for its expertise. Many lawmakers are probably unaware of what the law would do to Iraq. It would mean many elected politicians would lose their jobs or get lower positions within existing governments. One thing the Iraqi elite is most protective of is their privileges. That means that while the bill is going through the motions there’s little likelihood that it will ever be passed.

In early 2012, Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani submitted a bill to modify Iraq’s internal borders. (1) The draft was based upon re-doing all of the boundaries changed by Saddam. It took until July 2013 for it to move out of committee. At the beginning of that month, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani visited Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. The two made a number of promises to each other including cooperating on the border law. Like any major piece of legislation this one has its supporters and detractors. The Kurdish parties obviously support the bill claiming that it is part of Article 140 of the constitution, which is meant to reverse the Arabization policies of the former regime. A State of Law member said he was for the draft as well. Two parliamentarians from the Iraqi National Movement however came out against it saying that it would be wrong to go back in time several decades, while the other believed that the law would simply increase Iraq’s difficulties. Finally, a legal expert stated that the bill was not covered by the constitution, and that it would only cause conflicts between the parties and provinces. It sounded like the legislators were only talking about the idea of changing the boundaries of the country’s governorates. If they knew exactly how much would be altered the majority would probably reject it outright.

Iraq’s provincial boundaries in 1970 when the Baath were already in power, but Saddam was not the head of state (Dr. Michael Izady)

Iraq’s provincial boundaries in 1990 during the Gulf War (Dr. Michael Izady)

Iraq’s provincial boundaries today. Note that Baghdad is much smaller than it actually is on the majority of modern Iraq maps. (Wikipedia)

Iraq’s provinces pre-Saddam look little like the current ones. In 1970 before Saddam became the head of state there were 19 provinces not the current 18. Not only that, but Dohuk did not exist, it was part of Mosul, present day Ninewa. Anbar was Dulaim and cut in half by the Northern Desert. Muthanna was Samawa and only consisted of the area around that city. The southern part of Basra, the Zubayr district that borders Kuwait was part of the Southern Desert. Dhi Qar was known as Mutafiq and the southern portion belonged to Basra. The northern section of Muthanna, the Samawa, Rumaitha and Khidhir districts were part of what was then known as Samawa governorate. Najaf was much smaller, only consisting of the area around the city of Najaf. Babil was Hillah, and it and Karbala were larger extending into present day Anbar. Diyala on the other hand, was smaller with Kirkuk province cutting into its northern region. Salahaddin was Samarra, but smaller. Mosul governorate consisted of present day Ninewa and Dohuk, and part of northern Salahaddin. The two southern districts of Sulaymaniya, Chamchamal and Kala belonged to Kirkuk. That province was much larger extending into Salahaddin, Diyala, and Sulaymaniya. The only governorates that were roughly the same as today were Irbil, Qadisiyah, which was Diwaniya then, Maysan that went by Amarah, Wasit, which was known as Kut, and Baghdad. By 1990, Iraq had 18 provinces, and their current names, but the borders were still a little different. It is not known which map the bill is based upon, but if it really intends to reverse all the changes made by Saddam it would mean the elimination of several governorates, and the redrawing of many of the others. Not only that, but the provincial council of Dohuk would disappear, while those in Anbar, Basra, Muthanna, Salahaddin, Diyala, and Karbala would face possible cuts, and Najaf’s, Tamim’s, and Ninewa’s could be expanded. Elections would also have to be held in the new provinces of Northern and Southern Desert. The Kurdish Coalition claimed that it supported the draft, but it would mean that the Kurdistan Regional Government would lose a third of its territory, while Sunni and Shiite areas would add one province each. That would cause political and administrative chaos.

The idea of reversing Saddam’s border changes may seem like a good idea in theory, but in practice it would only add more problems to a troubled country. It’s doubtful that many parliamentarians have even looked at a map to see the transformation that would happen if the draft bill were passed. None of the ruling parties would want to give up seats in the existing provincial councils, and the Kurds would never agree to losing Dohuk although they would probably rule the expanded Ninewa. Iraq’s parties are not about to see any diminution of their powers. Once the details of the law become known there will be few who will support it. Like many major pieces of legislation, this one will simply sit in parliament to die a slow death.


1. Ibrahim, Haider, “Debate about Talabani’s proposal to demarcate provincial borders,” AK News, 2/21/12


Habib, Mustafa, “iraq’s new borders: cause for conflict or righting past wrongs?” Niqash, 7/11/13

Ibrahim, Haider, “Debate about Talabani’s proposal to demarcate provincial borders,” AK News, 2/21/12

Independent Press Agency, “Legal Expert: no cover for the enactment of the constitutional demarcation of provincial boundaries,” 7/22/13

Al-Tayyeb, Mouhammed, “Demarcation of province borders postponed,” AK News, 2/29/12

LOS ANGELES TIMES VIDEO: More Than 50 Killed In Wave Of Rush-Hour Car Bombings In Iraq

AL JAZEERA VIDEO: Deadly Warve of Car Bombs Strikes Iraq

REUTERS VIDEO: Wave of Car Bombings Kills Dozens In Iraq

Monday, July 29, 2013

Electricity Protests Spread To 5 Of Iraq’s Provinces

The summer months have brought about Iraq’s seasonal hot weather. That has also led to a new wave of protests over power shortages for the third time in four years. The demonstrations started in Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar in early June 2013, and have since spread to Basra, Muthanna, Maysan, and Wasit governorates. They have charged the government with incompetence and corruption, and asked for Deputy Premier Shahristani who is in charge of energy policy and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. The growing protests have applied enough pressure on Baghdad that Maliki, Shahristani, the Electricity Ministry, and parliament are all exchanging accusations over who is responsible for this fiasco. The problem is that the Electricity Ministry is incapable of meeting demand, likely leading to growing anger and demonstrations throughout the south.

Demonstration in Basra July 2013 over the lack of electricity (Dananer)

Protests over the lack of electricity are taking place in five of Iraq’s eighteen governorates. The first were in Nasiriyah at the beginning of June. By July, they had spread to Basra, Maysan, Muthanna, and Wasit. People in Basra have called for the prime minister to step down, holding him responsible for the failure to provide services and security. These demonstrations have gained the support of the governors of Basra and Dhi Qar showing that the anger over this issue is not just in the street, but in the halls of the local governments as well. All of these provinces saw similar activities in 2010 and 2011. Many Iraqis have simply lost faith in Baghdad providing for their needs. Every year since 2003, the Americans and then the Iraqi authorities have claimed that the country would overcome its chronic power outages in just a few months to a year. While production has steadily increased, so has demand as Iraqis, freed from sanctions, have bought more and more consumer goods like refrigerators, televisions, and air conditioners. That’s what has led to these constant protests over the last several years, as the Electricity Ministry has never produced enough power to catch up with the escalating levels of usage.

Parliament has tried, but failed to hold the government accountable for the repeated failure to solve the electricity problems. The legislature recently called on Deputy Premier Hussein Shahristani and Electricity Minister Abdul Karim Aftan to appear before it, but the former refused. Aftan testified to the oil and energy committee, and tried to deflect blame to the Finance Ministry for not allocating funds for projects, and the Oil Ministry for not providing enough fuel. At the same time, the minister admitted that he lacked experienced and trained staff to man all the new power plants being build. Parliament has brought up other issues as well such as why Iraq bought gas driven turbines when it doesn’t have enough natural gas to fuel them, and continues to purchase them, as well as why 18% of the country is not connected to the national grid. These problems and others have been known for years, and brought up again and again by lawmakers, but to no affect. The parliament is given wide ranging oversight powers under the 2005 constitution, but either chooses not to exercise them or is ignored by the government. Electricity is a perfect example, as lawmakers’ constant criticism has brought no changes.

Government officials have responded to the renewed protests by blaming each other for the country’s predicament. Prime Minister Maliki recently said that the Electricity Ministry was responsible for the power failures, claiming that it had failed by signing fraudulent contracts with companies. He went on to claim that Deputy Premier Shahristani gave him erroneous information about the power sector. That set off rumors that Shahristani was going to resign, but that was quickly denied. The deputy’s office responded that he was only responsible for formulating strategy and coordination when it came to the energy file, and went on to point to the Electricity Ministry as the main culprit. This was a rare break within Maliki’s coalition, and showed what pressure he must be under. Shahristani is the head of the Independents bloc one of the most important elements within the prime minister’s State of Law list. Maliki has been willing to fire officials in the past to make them scapegoats for government failures, but going after the head of a party, especially one so crucial to the premier’s own list is quite different. If the demonstrations were the only thing going on in the country, the prime minister would not be publicly breaking with Shahristani. Instead, Sunni protests continue in western, northern and eastern parts of the country, the insurgency is taking off, and most importantly, the premier is facing re-election next year. That’s leading to some desperation with the recriminations.

The Electricity Ministry has tried to act like everything is proceeding according to plan, but its own figures don’t add up. Minister Aftan announces almost every week that the power shortages will be over by the end of the year. The Ministry claims that it is producing 10,600 megawatts, and constantly talks about new power stations coming on line soon. That figure is actually probably the capacity that the country has reached, not its actual output. For example, it always notes there is a lack of fuel that is cutting into production. More importantly, the Ministry wants to achieve 11,000 megawatts by the end of 2013, while stating that demand is at 14,000 megawatts. It is therefore impossible for the energy problem to be solved, as Minister Aftan likes to claim. An adviser to Maliki recently pointed this factor out, which is another reason why the premier and his deputy are pointing fingers at the Electricity Ministry.

The increasing temperatures in the country are symbolic of the growing anger felt amongst many common people over the lack of power supplies in Iraq. The fact that this issue has dragged on for so long despite the constant promises of officials has boiled over into the streets in the last several years, and 2013 is no different. The infighting amongst officials is not likely to solve anything other than some symbolic firings that try to appease the public. That has not worked in the past, and won’t this year as the Electricity Ministry knows that it can’t meet demand for power anytime soon. The growing protests also come at a dire time for the prime minister who is facing a number of other crises at the same time. The pressure upon him will only increase in the coming months, as the protests are likely to spread to other provinces. It is the lack of results that is bringing out the frustration of Iraqis, and could cost Maliki in next year’s election.


Abdullah, Ali, “Minister of Electricity renewed pledges that the end of the year ending the energy crisis,” Buratha News, 7/15/13

Abedzair, Kareem, “Anti-government protests reported in southern provinces,” Azzaman, 7/27/13

AIN, “SLC MP holds government responsibly for not settling electricity crisis in Basra,” 7/22/13
- “Urgent…Parliament to re-summon Shahristani, Aftan security leaders,” 7/27/13

Alsumaria, “Al Maliki points out to failure of Iraq Electricity,” 7/25/13

Buratha News, “And tribal elders Basra threatened large demonstrations in protest against the deteriorating of electricity and purses confirms: I own files of corruption in the Ministry’s projects,” 7/14/13
- “Dhi Qar pretend for the eighth day in a row and the demonstrators contend: the sacking of police chief victory for us and corrupt,” 7/26/13

Dananer, “Minister of Electricity and renewed his pledge to end the crisis despite Maliki’s recognition of his failure Baghdad,” 7/24/13

Ghazi, Ali, “State law: demonstrations against electricity a conspiracy!!” Ur News, 7/24/13

Independent Press Agency, “The governor of Dhi Qar announce his support for the demonstrators’ demands for basic services such as electricity,” 7/17/13

Iraq Times, “Albzona: Basra demonstrators demanding the dismissal of al-Shahristani,” 7/17/13
- “Basra residents are demanding in the biggest demonstration so far al-Maliki to step down immediately,” 7/25/13
- “Demonstrations in Basra against the miserable reality of Services,” 7/12/13
- “Samawah after Basra, Dhi Qar demanding services in a night demonstrations,” 7/25/13

Al-Mada, “Confirmed that 18% of the country’s areas not reached by electricity: Parliamentary Integrity calls for replacing al-Shahristani, Aftan,” 7/28/13
- “Dhi Qar is deprived of two thousand MW due to the delay monument new power stations .. And a lack of transformers 50%,” 7/22/13
- “Electricity and fuel will not arrive before the end of 2014 .. Shahristani responding to Maliki accused him of failing,” 7/27/13
- “Electricity: Our production reached more than ten thousand megawatts and processing of Baghdad arrived to “12 hours,”” Al-Mada, 7/15/13
- “Iraqi electricity is again “population coverage requirement in Baghdad and other provinces in full” before the end of the year,” 7/26/13
- “Minister of Electricity: lack of experience deprives us of running the new stations do not comment on the loss of 61% of the current,” 7/28/13

New Sabah, “Dhi Qar respond to the demonstrators and raise 80% of the iron gates,” 7/26/13
- “Minister of Electricity: $ to trickle for the purchase of fuel,” 7/28/13

Radio Nawa, “Governor of Maysan province threatens to sit in front of the Ministry of Electricity in the absence of taking his proposals for improving the situation of electricity,” 7/14/13

Sabah, Mohammad, “Parliamentary Integrity: Maliki prevented questioning of the Minister of electricity a month ago and huge stations are left out in the cold,” Al-Mada, 7/17/13

Shafaq News, “Breaking News… Shahristani’s office talks about the latter’s resignation,” 7/24/13
- “Large demonstrations in three cities in Basra,” 7/13/13

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iraq Sees Continued Problems With Its Oil Export Facilities In June 2013

Iraq’s oil exports and profits were down for the third straight month in June 2013. Bad weather led to a small drop in the south. More importantly, the northern pipeline to Turkey was down due to repairs for almost the entire month. That points to a larger problem that the country’s oil facilities have reached their limit as seen over the last 16 months, and there can be no more growth in exports until new infrastructure is added.

The petroleum industry faced several problems last month. Total exports dropped from 78.7 million barrels in April to 76.9 million in May to 69.8 million in June. That averaged out to 2.33 million barrels a day. That placed exports right back to where they were in December 2012 and January 2013 when they were at 2.34 million barrels and 2.35 million barrels respectively. The southern pipeline to Basra had a slight drop from 2.19 million barrels in May to 2.13 million in June. It is still averaging more this year, 2.169 million barrels a day, than last, 2.042 million barrels. The real problem was with the northern Kirkuk line to Turkey. For June it only averaged 193,300 barrels a day down from 283,800 barrels the previous month. That was the lowest amount in years. It exported a total of 5.8 million barrels in June when it was supposed to ship 9.6 million, and an average of 309,600 barrels. Bad weather and attacks upon the northern pipeline were the reasons given by the Oil Ministry for the lower than expected exports. Rough waters in Basra did temporarily halt docking in the ports there in early June. There were no reported bombings of the Kirkuk line however. Instead, it was down for almost the entire month because of leaks and maintenance work that continues into July. Overall, Iraq’s exports have been at a plateau for the last 16 months. They are almost the same this year, 2.45 million barrels per month as last, 2.41 million. Bad weather is seasonal. The problems with the northern line however point to a larger issue. The country’s export infrastructure has reached their limit, and there can be no further growth until new facilities are opened, and old ones rehabilitated. There are plans to add two more docking points in Basra, to build a connecting line from the northern fields to the southern ones, to expand the capacity of the Kirkuk line, to re-open a pipeline to Syria, and build a new one to Jordan. That’s an ambitious and aggressive strategy. Some of it, like the line to Syria will probably never materialize however, and due to Baghdad’s inefficient government, the rest may take far longer than planned to come to fruition. The Oil Ministry has recently revised down its export target to 9 million barrels a day by 2018. That’s probably unrealistic given the bureaucracy’s lack of capacity, which has made Iraq miss all of its previous goals. 

Iraq Oil Exports And Profits 2011-2013
Avg. Price Per Barrel
Revenue (Bill)
Jan. 11
2011 Avg.
Jan. 12
Jan. 13
2013 Avg.

Oil Exports Through Basra 2012-2013
January 2012 1.711 mil/bar/day
February 1.639 mil/bar/day
March 1.917 mil/bar/day
April 2.115 mil/bar/day
May 2.086 mil/bar/day
June 2.085 mil/bar/day
July 2.216 mil/bar/day
August 2.252 mil/bar/day
September 2.178 mil/bar/day
October 2.172 mil/bar/day
November 2.122 mil/bar/day
December 2.022 mil/bar/day
2012 Avg. 2.042 mil/bar/day
January 2013 2.093 mil/bar/day
February 2.196 mil/bar/day
March 2.1 mil/bar/day
April 2.31 mil/bar/day
May 2.19 mil/bar/day
June 2.13 mil/bar/day
2013 Avg. 2.169 mil/bar/day

Oil Exports Through Kirkuk 2012-2013
January 2012 393,500 bar/day
February 375,800 bar/day
March 400,000 bar/day
April 393,300 bar/day
May 364,500 bar/day
June 316,600 bar/day
July 300,000 bar/day
August 312,900 bar/day
September 420,000 bar/day
October 451,600 bar/day
November 426,600 bar/day
December 325,800 bar/day
2012 Avg. 373,300 bar/day
January 2013 264,500 bar/day
February 339,200 bar/day
March 316,100 bar/day
April 306,600 bar/day
May 283,800 bar/day
June 193,300 bar/day
2013 Avg. 283,900 bar/day

Prices for Iraqi crude have also fallen recently. A barrel of Iraqi petroleum sold for $97.41 in June, earing the country $6.8 billion down from $7.48 billion in May and $7.76 billion in April. This was the third month in a row that prices were below $100 per barrel after being there 23 months out of 30 since the start of 2011. That has brought down the average price from $106.20 per barrel in 2012 to $101.61 this year. Average monthly earnings have gone down as well from $7.835 billion last year to $7.521 billion this year. The 2013 budget is based upon 2.9 million barrels a day in exports at $90 per barrel. The former is improbable, but the latter is still a reality. Iraq relies upon oil for 90% of its revenue. Fortunately for it, the government has never been able to spend all of its budget, especially as it has grown in size the last few years, so not reaching the export mark is not so important as keeping up prices.

Iraq was hoping for large growth this year in its oil industry, but that has not materialized. There was a large spurt in exports towards the beginning of 2012 when two new mooring points were opened in Basra. Exports continued to climb throughout 2012 as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad reached a new oil deal. That fell apart, bad weather has hit, and the northern pipeline has been plagued by problems all contributing to the current stagnation. It doesn’t matter whether production goes up if it can’t be pumped out to foreign markets. This is the dilemma facing Iraq right now. Until new facilities are opened exports will remain at the current plateau.


Al-Ansary, Khalid, Ajrash, Kadhim & Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq Crude Exports Fall for Second Month on Attacks, Bad Weather,” Bloomberg, 7/22/13

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraqi oil re-pumped to Turkish terminal,” 6/6/13
- “Kirkuk oil exports to Turkey resumed,” 6/21/13
- “Stoppage in Iraqi oil exports to Turkey,” 6/19/13

Chazan, Guy, “Storm clouds threaten Iraq’s striking oil revival,” Financial Times, 7/8/13

Hafidh, Hassan, “Iraq northern oil exports on hold for 7th day – shipping agent,” Dow Jones, 6/27/13

Middle East Economic Survey, “Document – Iraq’s Integrated National Energy Strategy,” 6/17/13

Platts, “Iraq’s Kirkuk crude shut again following second failed restart,” 7/12/13

Reuters, “Crude oil flows through Iraq-Turkey pipeline down,” 7/22/13
- “Iraq’s oil exports fall 200,000 bpd so far in June,” 6/21/13
- “Rough weather halts Iraq Basra oil exports – shipper,” 6/10/13

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