Monday, March 31, 2014

Supreme Council Tries To Position Itself As Centrist-Nationalist Party Before Iraq’s 2014 Elections

The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and its Citizen’s Alliance is attempting to move into another stage of its political career as it prepares for this year’s parliamentary elections. The party was originally formed in Iran to organize pro-Khomeini Iraqi forces on its side during the Iran-Iraq War. Before the 2003 invasion it aligned itself with the United States so that it would gain a seat in the post-Saddam government that the Americans would put together. Afterward it argued for a Shiite region and gained control of most of the south and Baghdad in the 2005 elections. It was then punished in the polls in 2009 and 2010 for its poor governorship. It had even more problems as in between those two elections its leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away, and his son Ammar Hakim lost the support of the old guard, which eventually led to the Badr Organization splitting away and joining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. To the surprise of many ISCI made a comeback in 2013 in the governorate level voting. Now it is trying to build on that for this year’s balloting. The party has tried to portray itself as a centrist and nationalist organization that is willing to work with others to solve the country’s deep divisions.

ISCI Leader Ammar Hakim has attempted to lead his party in a new direction in 2014 (LA Times)

This year the Supreme Council has tried to position itself as a party committed to solving Iraq’s problems rather than creating more of them by arguing with other lists. When the fighting in Anbar started in December 2013 the Citizen’s Alliance first called on the local tribes to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and then offered a political plan to rebuild the province and empower local leaders. Many in Anbar have complained that Baghdad is constantly interfering in their affairs and ignoring their demands, so ISCI tried to address both those issues. It said only through political compromises could the conflict be resolved in the governorate. On the legislative front it called on lawmakers to attend sessions, which is always a problem, so that laws can be passed to serve the public. Parliamentarians are constantly absent, and because of the political divisions it is very difficult to pass any meaningful laws. Ammar Hakim has met with some governors like Basra’s Majid Nasrawi calling for better services in the provinces. This was one thing that made the Citizen’s Alliance successful in 2013, appealing to local concerns. It has tried to position itself as a mediator in the conflict between the central and Kurdistan regional governments. In March for instance, it offered an initiative to resolve the dispute between the two over the budget and oil industry based upon greater transparency over production and exports, while maintaining Baghdad’s control over the latter. On this issue ISCI was taking more of a nationalist position as it argued for the Oil Ministry to maintain the lead over the energy field. Hakim also met with Moqtada al-Sadr and offered to be a middleman between Maliki and Kurdistan, and said that he was committed to working out the differences between two so that the 2014 budget could be passed. The budget has become a political football between the premier and his opponents. Once again, the Supreme Council was attempting to portray itself as a list more interested in getting things done then arguing with others. When a presidential guard killed a Radio Free Iraq reporter in Baghdad in March it criticized other parties for attempting to use it for their own political gain. ISCI was referring to the prime minister here as he personally oversaw the arrest of the perpetrator in an obvious political move just before the elections. What differentiated the Supreme Council was that it did not directly attack Maliki. Finally, it announced a “Citizens’ Wants” campaign to try to connect to the public claiming that it wanted to appeal to all sects and groups in the country, while reaching out the tribes and asking their sheikhs to turn out their followers. All these themes make up the Supreme Council’s current election campaign. Rather than getting caught up in partisan disputes it has offered itself up as an honest broker with plenty of ideas to address the country’s many problems. It has used both populist and nationalist rhetoric aligning itself with local concerns, while also stressing the necessity for an effective central government. This is a long ways away from the group’s original image of a pro-Iranian Shiite party that wanted decentralization, and shows the current transformation Hakim is attempting to orchestrate.

The Supreme Council has shown the ability to learn and adapt to its past mistakes. After its devastating losses in the 2009 and 2010 elections it completely reformed its message. It is stressing its Iraqiness and commitment to Baghdad as the center that can resolve the country’s many problems with the periphery. Unlike the vast majority of other political parties, ISCI has largely refrained from attacking others directly. Since it is largely competing for the Shiite vote this sets it apart from the Prime Minister’s State of Law (SOL) and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar bloc. Sadr has tried to appropriate some of these same themes, but has increasingly moved towards attacking the Prime Minister leading to a war of words between the two. SOL has also consistently attacked its rivals, blaming both its domestic and foreign opponents for all the country’s ills. With its success in the 2013 provincial vote the Supreme Council is hoping to do just as well or better this year. How many seats it gains is actually not as important as what direction it takes after all the ballots are counted. Whatever the breakdown the Shiite parties will still have the majority. It is now clear that Sadr is going to challenge a third term for Maliki. That means which side the Supreme Council takes will have the greatest chance to lead the country. Right now ISCI is trying to benefit from the disputes between those two, but it will eventually have to decide to align with one or another, and that might be the turning point in the government formation process that will be a long and difficult one.


AIN, “Hakim urges for heavily participation in next elections,” 3/27/14

Barzinji, Shwan, “Al-Hakim and al-Sadr try to resolve rift between KRG and Baghdad,” Bas News, 3/18/14

Buratha News, “Chairman of the parliamentary Citizens’ bloc Bayan Jabr: blocks investing in killing of Bedaiwi for electoral purposes in spite of the incident of Karbala coach,” 3/24/14

Al Forat, “Citizen bloc calls Anbar tribes to cooperate with IA to eliminate ISIL elements from Anbar,” 1/7/14
- “Citizen bloc releases five-point initiative to settle KR, CG oil crisis,” 3/18/14
- “Hakim: Aim behind “Citizen wants” initiative to conduct contract between citizens, their candidates,” 3/26/14

Iraqi News, “Hakim stresses necessity of providing services in Basra,” 3/17/14

Al-Kadhimi, Mustafa, “Hakim launches political initiative to resolve Anbar crisis,” Al Monitor, 1/14/14

Sotaliraq, “Zubaidi calls for united to attend parliamentary sessions in order to pass important laws that serve the citizen,” 1/12/14

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Musings On Iraq In The News

The Iraqi paper Sotaliraq reprinted my story on the new United Nations figures on poverty in Iraq. I was also cited in this article on the National Review's Nick Lowry by FAIR. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq Fails To Break Into Badush Prison In Ninewa Twice

One of the ways that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has been able to rebuild itself has been through attacks on prisons to release their commanders and hardened fighters. For the last few years these operations have repeatedly occurred throughout central and northern Iraq with great success leading to the escape of hundreds of insurgents. ISIS actually failed twice to break out its members from Badush prison in Ninewa, but that was not for a lack of trying.

For almost a year ISIS targeted prison guards at Badush in order to facilitate an escape. That started in 2013, and resulted in 200 guards quitting in December after facing threats and assassinations. Those attacks continued for those remaining on duty into 2014. On January 7 for example, one guard was shot down in Mosul. The point of these operations was to soften up the prison for an attack, which was launched on February 6. ISIS fired mortars at the facility while prisoners inside started a riot. The assault was repelled, but not before 1 guard and three prisoners were killed, and 14 others wounded. The Islamic State didn’t give up however. On February 9 it bombed a house of a guard. February 20 it kidnapped and killed a worker at the prison. February 23 it set off an improvised explosive device (IED) that killed another guard. March 2 it shot a guard, and another the next day. Again these were preparatory operations before another attempt to break into Badush. That finally happened on March 22, but again the militants were beaten off. In the aftermath the director of the prison was replaced and put under investigation for possible links to the insurgents. This was one of the few times that the Islamic State failed to break into a prison and free its compatriots. It did reveal some of the organizations tradecraft. It collected intelligence on where the guards lived and travelled to and from work and hit them over and over for months. It also either bribed or threatened the head of the prison to gain inside information about the prison population and security practices. While this careful planning didn’t work in the case of Badush it has at other prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Kadhimiya that were hit last year.

While ISIS has been able to draw upon new recruits from Syria and other countries, it has relied upon prison breaks in part to rebuild its leadership. It has launched a number of attacks upon detention facilities with varying degrees of success. While it failed to get its people out of Badush it did severely weaken the facility’s staff through attacks, intimidation, and likely bribery. Its months of preparation didn’t work in its two attacks upon Badush, but it won’t stop from trying again either there or upon another prison in another part of Iraq in the future.


AIN, “12 guards, prisoners killed, injured in attack on Badush prison,” 2/6/14
- "IED explosion targets employee in Mosul," 2/23/14
- "Prison guard killed in Mosul," 1/7/14
- "Under-construction house detonated in western Mosul," 2/9/14

Aswat al-Iraq, “200 Badush prison guards resignation confirmed,” 12/3/13

Al Forat, "Security elements killed in Mosul," 3/2/14

Karim, Ammar, “7 bombs hit Baghdad as US lawmakers slam Maliki,” 2/6/14

Al Mada, “Paralysis in Nineveh and university circles after militant assassinations of staff,” 12/5/13
- “Referred Badush prison director to investigation and appointed a new director to replace him,” 3/22/14

NINA, "A body of a worker in Badush prison found in Mosul," 2/20/14
- "Gunmen assassinate a lawyer in Mosul," 3/3/14

Al Rayy, "The death of a policeman and killed a number of militants outcome of an attempt to storm the Badush prison," 3/22/14
- "Foiled attempt to break into Badush prison northwest of Mosul," 3/22/14

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Musings On Iraq Security Report Mar 15-21, 2014

After a slight dip in operations the Iraqi insurgency came back with a vengeance in the third week of March 2014. While the total number of attacks was within the range of previous weeks of 2014, the casualties were the highest of the year so far. This was largely the result of a large number of car bombings by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which are used in mass casualty attacks.

The number of reported attacks in the third week of March was only a few more than the previous week but the resulting deaths and wounded were the highest of the year. The press recorded 217 security incidents from March 15 to 21. That was up from 206 from March 8 to 14, and down from 253 seen in March 1 to 7. The insurgency has been averaging over 200 attacks per week in 2014, so this was well within the annual range. However for the week there was 423 fatalities and 738 wounded, both the highest marks so far, surpassing 412 deaths seen in the first week of March, and 736 injured in the first week of January.

Jan 1-7
Jan 8-14
Jan 15-21
Jan 22-28
Jan 29-31
Feb 1-7
Feb 8-14
Feb 15-21
Feb 22-28
Mar 1-7
Mar 8-14
Mar 15-21

The main reason why casualties were up was due to 29 car bombings in the third week of March. March 15 saw six of them used in Baghdad’s Amin, Hurriya, Shula, Sadr City, Qahira, and Amil costing 33 lives and wounding another 95. There were three more on March 18 in Dora, Mahmudiya and Ghaziliya leaving 7 dead and 23 injured. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) launches these types of attacks in waves across the capital. This was just the tale end of the latest one that started on March 13. There were also 4 car bombings in Anbar, 3 in Babil, 2 in Diyala, 4 in Ninewa, 5 in Salahaddin, and 2 in Kirkuk that cost the lives of 57 people and wounded another 148. Just as important, on March 18 there were coordinated vehicle delivered explosives in Karbala and two locations in Wasit. On February 3 there was a car bombing in Wasit, and another on March 6, but before that there had not been any since November 2013. That marked the end of an eleven month campaign by ISIS to attack the south each month. After that the group appeared to be focusing upon other areas such as Anbar and Salahaddin, but now it has marked its return to the south once again showing that it is the only insurgent group with the network and personnel that can carry out attacks in every part of the country.


Salahaddin again led the nation in casualties during the week. There were 33 reported security incidents leading to 115 killed and 134 wounded. That was the second most fatalities in one week for the year and tied for the most injured. Attacks were spread out across the province with 7 in Shirqat, 6 in Tikrit, 5 in Samarra, 4 in Tuz Kharmato, and 3 each in Baiji and Ishaqi, along with several other towns. The worst day was March 21, which was topped off by a car bombing and then an IED in Tuz Kharmato that killed 8 and wounded 21, an attack upon a police station outside of Samarra that resulted in the deaths of 8 police and wounding another 13, and an attempt to storm the town of Sarha with a suicide truck bomb that left 27 fatalities. Usually Baghdad receives the most casualties but Salahaddin has become more violent in recent weeks since the fighting in Anbar started. The province is the home to several insurgent groups including Ansar al-Sunna, Jaish Rijal al-Tariqat al-Naqshibandi, and the Islamic State.

Baghdad had the most attacks for the week. There were 52 total with 106 killed and 269 wounded. Along with the 9 car bombs that struck the governorate there were also 21 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 9 sticky bombs and one suicide bombing. Abu Ghraib has become a base for ISIS and saw 7 attacks followed by 4 in Sadr City, 3 in Dora, 3 in Madain, and 3 in Tarmiya along with various other neighborhoods.

Fighting in Anbar continued as well. There were 42 incidents there with 88 killed and 168 wounded. Ramadi again saw the most violence with 18 violent acts. Clashes with insurgents continued in the same neighborhoods such as Malab and 60th Street, which have been contested since the city was taken over at the end of December 2013. Indiscriminate government shelling resulted in the deaths of 36 and 108 injured in Fallujah.

In Ninewa attacks by insurgents have remained relatively stable. There were 43 reported attacks with 34 of them being in Mosul. That led to 42 killed and 34 wounded. Most violence was targeted consisting of IEDs and shootings.

Babil, Diyala, and Kirkuk were at the same levels as previous weeks. The security forces recently attempted to storm Jurf al-Sakhr in northern Babil, but were repulsed by ISIS. It has been carrying out retaliatory attacks since then. There were a total of 13 incidents there with 24 killed and 43 wounded. In Diyala there were 18 attacks, 29 killed, and 24 wounded. Most of those were shootings aimed at the security forces. The governorate was far more violent in 2013, but it appears that militants have shifted resources to other areas this year. In Kirkuk there were only 10 incidents leading to just 5 deaths and 38 wounded. That province is another area that has seen a large reduction in insurgent activity since this year started.


Agence France Presse, "27 killed across Iraq as militants seize village," 3/21/14
- "Iraq officials say bombings kill 12 people," 3/18/14

AIN, "Car bomb goes off in Haditha," 3/15/14
- "Urgent…8 IP Elements killed, wounded southern Mosul," 3/16/14
- "Urgent…20 Persons Killed, wounded in Tikrit," 3/15/14

Buratha News, "Martyrdom and wounding 29 people in a car bombing in Tuz," 3/21/14

Al Forat, "4 policemen killed, 3 others injured in Baiji car bombing," 3/18/14
- "Diyala: Death toll of attack targeted IFP Commander hits 11 deaths, 18 injuries," 3/21/14

Iraq Times, "martyrs and wounded by a car bomb north of Kut," 3/18/14
- "martyrs and wounded in two car bombs targeting 30 families celebrating Nowruz festival in Kirkuk," 3/21/14

Al Jazeera, "Baghdad rocked by deadly car bombings," 3/15/14

Al-Khafaji, Osama, "Armed attacks in Samarra, ending the killing and wounding of 21 police officers," Alsumaria, 3/21/14

Al Mada, "Army announces the restoration of Sarha of insurgents," 3/22/14
- "Killed five people and wounded by a car bomb north east of Mosul," 3/20/14
- "Killing and wounding 12 people in a car bomb targeting a checkpoint south of the capital," 3/18/14
- "Person injured by a roadside bomb near a primary school north of Kut," 3/6/14

Al Masalah, "Killing 7 and injuring 10 roadside bombs north of Wasit," 3/18/14
- "Killing 20 civilians and wounding 67 with a series of explosions that rocked Baghdad," 3/15/14
- "Killing three soldiers and wounding 5 in suicide bombing that targeted a checkpoint in Ramadi," 3/16/14

NINA, "/3/ Civilians Injured by a Car Bomb North of Wasit," 2/3/14
- "/3/ civilians killed and 11 others wounded in Fallujah," 3/21/14
- "13 Civilians Killed and Wounded in a Car Bomb in al-Ameen Area South of Baghdad," 3/15/14
- "16/civilians wounded south of Kirkuk, and clashes near Hamrin Mountains," 3/21/14
- "BREAKING NEWS. 17 people killed and wounded in a roadside car bomb explosion north of Karbala," 3/18/14
- "Breaking news..A car bomb, an explosive device exploded alternately in central Tikrit," 3/21/14
- "Breaking News..Victims of the bombing of Fallujah rose to 56 killed and wounded, mostly women and children," 3/19/14
- "A Child, a Woman Killed, Five Members of one Family Wounded by Artillery Shell on Fallujah," 3/17/14
- "A Civilian Killed, Four Others Wounded, Including Two Children by Artillery Shelling on Fallujah," 3/18/14
- "Four civilians wounded in a bombing to Amir Dulaim host," 3/17/14
- "Two people injured, north east of Baquba," 3/21/14
- "Two soldiers wounded west of Anbar province," 3/18/14

Radio Nawa, "Killing and wounding 58 people, armed clashes in Fallujah," 3/20/14
- "Wounding at least 12 civilians in a car bombing in downtown Tuz," 3/21/14

Al Rayy ,"The death of one soldier and wounding five others in a suicide bombing that targeted a gathering of the army in central Ramadi," 3/17/14
- "The death of two members of the Peshmerga north of Mosul," 3/20/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding 20 people in the proceeds of a bomb explosion in Sadr City," 3/15/14

Yacoub, Sameer, "Iraq Officials Say Bombings Kill 15 People," Associated Press, 3/18/14
- "Wave of Attacks Across iraq Kills 28 People," Associated Press, 3/21/14

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Insurgent Financing In Iraq’s Ninewa Province

Two Iraqi newspapers, New Sabah and Iraq Times recently disclosed new details on how insurgent groups are funding themselves in Ninewa province. They mentioned traditional means such as charging businesses protection money and kidnappings, but added information on stealing salaries from the security forces and charging money for imports. The governorate capital Mosul is an infamous urban base for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), but also includes other militant groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, and the Baathist Jaish Rijal al-Tariqat al-Naqshibandi. Their financial networks in Ninewa show the close convergence between the insurgency and criminal organizations.

In March 2014 the Iraq Times reported on the theft of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dinars from the security forces (ISF) in Ninewa. It reported that Interior Ministry forces in the province were supposed to receive 500,000 dinars a month starting in October 2013, but only got 250,000. It went on to say that some traffic police did not receive their full pay until March 2014, and that they sent a letter to the Finance Ministry demanding an investigation into their missing pay. Three days later New Sabah ran an article saying that insurgent groups were receiving these missing funds by threatening members of the ISF. Militants in the province were involved in a wide variety of other criminal activity to earn money to carry out their operations. These included charging royalties on the importation of electrical goods and food, demanding protection money from businesses that win contracts to work on projects in dangerous areas of the governorate, extorting money from electrical generator operators and small firms, and kidnapping people and holding them for ransom. New Sabah claimed that militants were making up to $8 million a month from these protection rackets. These later activities are all well known, and have been talked about for years. Niqash for example, ran a piece in November 2013 about the mafia like tactics ISIS was employing in Ninewa. This included demanding money not only from businesses, but schools, mosques, real estate agencies, and universities. Many times when people refused to pay up they were bombed. New Sabah added that it wasn’t just the Islamic State that was involved in these activities, but other insurgent groups as well. These are likely Ansar al-Sunna and the Naqshibandi that operate in the province.

As the insurgency was beaten back during the Surge and afterward, many militants moved into criminal activity since they lacked other skills and were not ready to join regular society. Now that the militants have made a come back, it’s obvious that these same operatives have expanded their mafia style techniques into more and more fields in Ninewa to fund their increased attacks not only there, but in surrounding areas as well. The government is fully aware of these acts, but has done nothing to stop them. That’s likely because the insurgents are so embedded in Mosul and the surrounding areas, and can operate with such impunity that no one dares stand up to them or face being killed. That’s why the main focus of attacks in the province is upon the security forces, local officials and businesses to keep them intimidated so that these extortion rings can continue uninterrupted. It’s likely that these operations will continue long after the insurgency, because they are so lucrative.


Iraq Times, “Corruption of hundreds of millions of dinars in salaries of employees of the local police and traffic in the province of Nineveh,” 3/12/14

New Sabah, “Armed groups earn money from imported food..and “royalties” on hot spots up to 8 million dollars a month,” 3/15/14

Niqash, “making themselves at home: al qaeda ups mafia-style extortion in mosul,” 11/7/13

Monday, March 24, 2014

United Nations Releases New Official Unemployment Numbers For Iraq

The United Nations recently released a new set of official unemployment statistics for Iraq. The national rate was at 11.3%. Just over half the country’s eighteen provinces had a lower jobless rate than that. A bigger problem was that less than half the population was involved in the work force. This was especially true for women who are still handicapped by cultural and religious mores that have kept the vast majority of them at home. Another issue is that services are the largest job type meaning that Iraq is not producing much. With such a large and young population Iraq needs to develop its economy more, so that it can find meaningful employment for all.

According to the U.N. most of Iraq’s 18 provinces were doing quite well when it came to joblessness. The official rate for the country was 11.3%. Ten provinces had a lower figure starting with Kirkuk, which was at the bottom with 2.5%, followed by Irbil 7.3%, Ninewa 7.3%, Dohuk 8.8%, Babil 9.5%, Karbala 9.6%, Baghdad 9.7%, Wasit 9.7%, Basra 10.3%, and Najaf 10.4%. The ones that were not doing so well were Salahaddin with 13.5%, Qadisiayh 13.7%, Muthanna 14.5%, Diyala 15.0%, Sulaymaniya 15.0%, Maysan 15.4%, Anbar 18.1%, and Dhi Qar 19.4%. What was interesting about these numbers was that there were no regional trends. Kurdistan for example had two of the best governorates in Irbil and Dohuk with single figure unemployment numbers, but then Sulaymaniya was the fourth worst. Likewise the south had Karbala and Wasit at 9% each, but then Maysan and Dhi Qar with two of the highest numbers.

Unemployment By Province
Iraq 11.3%
Kirkuk 2.5%
Irbil 7.3%
Ninewa 7.3%
Dohuk 8.8%
Babil 9.5%
Karbala 9.6%
Baghdad 9.7%
Wasit 9.7%
Basra 10.3%
Najaf 10.4%
Salahaddin 13.5%
Qadisiyah 13.7%
Muthanna 14.5%
Diyala 15.0%
Sulaymaniya 15.0%
Maysan 15.4%
Anbar 18.1%
Dhi Qar 19.4%

One major cause for provinces to do so badly was the high unemployment rate for women. Only three provinces had jobless numbers for females below the national level. Those were Kirkuk, 3.4%, Salahaddin, 7.4%, and Wasit 9.9%. The other 13 were in double digits starting with Babil, 13.2%, Basra 13.2%, Anbar 15.1%, Ninewa 15.7%, Maysan 16.1%, Muthanna 16.1%, Dohuk 16.4%, Irbil 19.6%, Qadisiyah 21.2%, Najaf 23.4%, Baghdad 24.9%, Dhi Qar 24.4%, Diyala 33.3%, Karbala 34.1%, Sulaymaniya 37.5%. Here there was some correlation with Dhi Qar, Sulaymaniya, and Diyala being in the bottom for both overall and female unemployment.

Female Unemployment
Kirkuk 3.4%
Salahaddin 7.4%
Wasit 9.9%
Babil 13.2%
Basra 13.2%
Anbar 15.1%
Ninewa 15.7%
Maysan 16.1%
Muthanna 16.1%
Dohuk 16.4%
Irbil 19.6%
Qadisiyah 21.2%
Najaf 23.4%
Baghdad 24.9%
Dhi Qar 24.4%
Diyala 33.3%
Karbala 34.1%
Sulaymaniya 37.5%

As could be expected Iraqi men found it much easier to find work. 11 governorates had male unemployment below the national rate. Kirkuk was at 2.3%, Irbil at 4.1%, Karbala had 6.1%, Ninewa 6.2%, Baghdad 6.3%, Najaf 7.2%, Dohuk 7.6%, Babil 8.6%, Sulaymaniya 8.8%, Wasit 9.6%, and Basra 9.9%. Those at the other end were Diyala 11.9%, Qadisiyah 12.3%, Salahaddin 13.5%, Muthanna 14.3%, Maysan 15.3%, Dhi Qar 18.7%, Anbar 18.8%. Diyala, Salahaddin and Anbar not only saw major fighting, but displacement and disruption of their local economies, which could account for their high joblessness. The south is underdeveloped, especially for provinces with little to no oil or religious sites like Qadisiyah and Muthanna. Petroleum is not labor intensive however meaning if a governorate doesn’t have other industries there is little work, which accounts for Maysan being towards the bottom.

Male Unemployment
Kirkuk 2.3%
Irbil 4.1%
Karbala 6.1%
Ninewa 6.2%
Baghdad 6.3%
Najaf 7.2%
Dohuk 7.6%
Babil 8.6%
Sulaymaniya 8.8%
Wasit 9.6%
Basra 9.9%
Diyala 11.9%
Qadisiyah 12.3%
Salahaddin 13.5%
Muthanna 14.3%
Maysan 15.3%
Dhi Qar 18.7%
Anbar 18.8%

Iraq has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the Middle East and North Africa. That offers both opportunities and problems for the country. Finding jobs for the young in an oil dependent country is very difficult, and Iraq is failing in this effort. Kirkuk was the only province that was doing well at 6.0%. All the others were in double digits. Ninewa was at 12.0%, Irbil 12.4%, Wasit 13.6%, Dohuk 13.9%, Karbala 14.0%, Najaf 14.6%, Babil 15.2%, Baghdad 17.1%, Salahaddin 18.8%, Sulaymaniya 19.5%, Muthanna 20.8%, Basra 21.9%, Diyala 22.3%, Qadisiyah 22.6%, Maysan 25.2%, Anbar 29.9%, and Dhi Qar 32.8%. These figures are another reason why some governorates are struggling. Again, Maysan, Anbar, and Dhi Qar were in the bottom three for both overall and youth unemployment. Iraq lacks a diversified economy. The vast majority of its money comes from the energy field that only employs 1% of the population. That means that country can’t produce enough jobs annually to keep up with the population growth. As a result these statistics will likely get worse with time unless a real move is made at economic reform. Unfortunately there is little political will to do so though since the ruling elite benefit from the current system since it makes them independent of the public.

Youth Unemployment (15-29)
Kirkuk 6.0%
Ninewa 12.0%
Irbil 12.4%
Wasit 13.6%
Dohuk 13.9%
Karbala 14.0%
Najaf 14.6%
Babil 15.2%
Baghdad 17.1%
Salahaddin 18.8%
Sulaymaniya 19.5%
Muthanna 20.8%
Basra 21.9%
Diyala 22.3%
Qadisiyah 22.6%
Maysan 25.2%
Anbar 29.9%
Dhi Qar 32.8%

Another sign of the lack of a healthy economy is the fact that less than half the population participates in the labor force, meaning people that are either working or looking for a job. Anbar does the best at 48.0%, but the fact that it has the second highest jobless level means that many of those people are searching for work. At the bottom is Dohuk at 37.6%. That is the least developed of the three provinces in Kurdistan. After that are the southern provinces of Muthanna 40.6%, Qadisiyah 41.8%, and Maysan 42.0%. The remainders are Ninewa 42.1%, Diyala 42.3%, Kirkuk 42.8%, Irbil 42.9%, Salahaddin 43.1%, Karbala 43.2%, Basra 43.6%, Baghdad 44.7%, Sulaymaniya 45.4%, Babil 45.8%, Wasit 46.8%, and Najaf 47.8%. Again there are huge gender disparities. For male labor force participation Dohuk again starts the list at 65.6%, then Irbil 69.4%, Sulaymaniya 70.5%, Diyala 71.1%, Dhi Qar 71.1%, Salahaddin 71.8%, Qadisiyah 71.9%, Kirkuk, 73.4%, Babil 73.6%, Baghdad 73.8%, Ninewa 74.2%, Basra 74.6%, Wasit 74.6%, Anbar 75.1%, Karbala 75.5%, Muthanna 75.8%, Maysan 76.1%, and Najaf 76.1%. Those compared to women at only 7.2% in Muthanna, 9.7% in Ninewa, 10.0% in Dhi Qar, 10.1% in Basra, 10.8% in Karbala, 11.6% in Dohuk, 11.9% in Maysan, 12.6% in Diyala, 12.6% in Kirkuk, 12.6% in Qadisiyah, 15.3% in Salahaddin, 16.3% in Baghdad, 17.4% in Irbil, 18.4% in Babil, 19.2% in Najaf, 19.3% in Wasit, 19.8% in Sulaymaniya, and 20.4% in Anbar. Even the best province only had one fifth of their women at work or searching for employment, and again that was in an area with horrible job prospects. The turn towards conservatism following the 2003 invasion, and widespread violence were two major reasons why women have such low numbers. This decline has been going on for decades however beginning with the demobilization following the Iran-Iraq War. Before that the Baath Party had actively sought to bring women into the work force first as part of its modernization program, and then to fill the openings left by men joining the army. Afterward however as men left the armed forces the government started talking about women returning to the home.

Labor Force Participation
Dohuk 37.6%
Dhi Qar 40.5%
Muthanna 40.6%
Qadisiyah 41.8%
Maysan 42.0%
Ninewa 42.1%
Diyala 42.3%
Kirkuk 42.8%
Irbil 42.9%
Salahaddin 43.1%
Karbala 43.2%
Basra 43.6%
Baghdad 44.7%
Sulaymaniya 45.4%
Babil 45.8%
Wasit 46.8%
Najaf 47.8%
Anbar 48.0%

Male Labor Force Participation
Dohuk 65.6%
Irbil 69.4%
Sulaymaniya 70.5%
Diyala 71.0%
Dhi Qar 71.1%
Salahaddin 71.8%
Qadisiyah 71.9%
Kirkuk 73.4%
Babil 73.6%
Baghdad 73.8%
Ninewa 74.2%
Basra 74.6%
Wasit 74.6%
Anbar 75.1%
Karbala 75.5%
Muthanna 75.8%
Maysan 76.1%
Najaf 76.1%

Female Labor Force Participation
Muthanna 7.2%
Ninewa 9.7%
Dhi Qar 10.0%
Basra 10.1%
Karbala 10.8%
Dohuk 11.6%
Maysan 11.9%
Diyala 12.6%
Kirkuk 12.6%
Qadisiyah 12.6%
Salahaddin 15.3%
Baghdad 16.3%
Irbil 17.4%
Babil 18.4%
Najaf 19.2%
Wasit 19.3%
Sulaymaniya 19.8%
Anbar 20.4%

The final mark of Iraq’s problems was shown by the domination of services as the main form of work. The country has become more oil dependent with the passage of time. That was partly due to the closing of many industries and state owned enterprises by the United States and the opening of the borders to trade following the 2003 invasion, which allowed cheap imports in and put a lot of Iraqi businesses out of work. Now economic policy is focused upon increasing the role of energy even more. Those are all major reasons why service jobs are so prominent. Najaf had the lowest rate at 28% in services, followed by 30% in Ninewa, 30.5% in Babil, 34% in Karbala, 34.5% in Kirkuk, 38% in Baghdad, 38.6% in Basra, 39% in Qadisiyah, 39.1% in Muthanna, 40% in Maysan, 40.5% in Diyala, 41% in Dhi Qar, 42.9% in Sulaymaniya, 50.4% in Dohuk, and a whopping 79.2% in Irbil. Wasit and Salahaddin were the only exceptions where farming, 31.4%, and mining/manufacturing 32.6%, were in the lead. Even then 31% of workers were in services in Wasit. Agriculture could be an industry that would offer growth, unemployment, and needed products for domestic consumption, but it has been in decline since 2003. While 13 provinces still had sizeable farming sectors, for most of them they were a very small fraction of the work available. Those were Irbil, 5.9%, Dohuk, 7%, Sulaymaniya, 7%, Diyala, 10%, Ninewa, 13.8%, Dhi Qar, 14%, Kirkuk, 15.1%, Najaf, 18%, Qadisiyah, 18%, Maysan, 20%, Babil, 24.5%, Salahaddin, 30.9%, and Wasit, 31.4%. The United States, Baghdad, and Irbil have all talked about developing farming, and some policies have been implemented, but they have not been that effective.

Employment By Sector In Each Province
Najaf: Services 28%, farming 18%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 16.8%
Ninewa: Services 30%, construction 23%, farming 13.8%
Babil: Services 30.5%, farming 24.5%, construction 13.9%
Karbala: Services 34%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 20%, construction 19%
Kirkuk: Services 34.5%, farming 15.1%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 15%
Baghdad: Services 38%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 18.2%, construction 14.3%, transportation, communication 12.4%
Basra: Services 38.6%, construction 20%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 14.1%
Qadisiyah: Services 39%, farming 18%, construction 16%
Muthanna: Services 39.1%, construction 25.2%, whole, retail, restaurants, hotels 11.3%, transportation, communication 11.2%
Maysan: Services 40%, farming 20%
Diyala: Services 40.5%, construction 18.7%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 12.9%, farming 10%
Dhi Qar: Services 41%, construction 17%, farming 14%
Sulaymaniya: Services 42.9%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 16.3%, construction 11.6%, farming 7%
Dohuk: Services 50.4%, construction 17.5%, wholesale, retail, restaurants, hotels 10.8%, farming 7%
Irbil: Services 79.2%, manufacturing 14.9%, farming 5.9%
Wasit: Farming 31.4%, Services 31%
Salahaddin: Mining, manufacturing 32.6%, farming 30.9%, construction 12.8%

The major problem with the official unemployment rate is that there are plenty of others that claim the actual figures are much higher. Not only that there is massive underemployment. The government for example is the largest employer yet many workers are hired as family and political supporters in patronage networks and are never meant to really work. They show up for their jobs and do very little and often serve only a few hours a day. That is even more reason why economic reform is desperately needed in Iraq to find futures for the ever growing populace. The industrial and agricultural sectors of most provinces are squandering away, while ineffective and lackadaisical planning is not helping. Instead both Baghdad and Irbil are set not only on building rentier states, but increasing their dependence upon oil. That’s the reason why both the central and regional governments main solution to the unemployment dilemma is to simply hire more government workers rather than diversify and deal with the root problems of the country’s economy.


Joint Analysis Unit, “Anbar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Babil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Baghdad Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Basrah Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Diyala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Dohuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Erbil Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kerbala Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Kirkuk Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Missan Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Muthanna Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Najaf Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Ninewa Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Qadissiya Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Salah al-Din Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Sulaymaniya Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Thi-Qar Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014
- “Wassit Governorate Profile 2013,” February 2014

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