Sunday, August 31, 2008

Iraqi Power Expert Questions Government’s Figures

On August 25, Iraq’s Electricity Ministry reported that power production had reached roughly the same levels as before the war. In 2002, Iraq produced 5,305 megawatts, and in 2008 5,302 megawatts. Despite the increase, Baghdad was still only able to meet around 50% of demand, which has skyrocketed since the invasion. In 2002 demand peaked at 6,049 megawatts, with only 12.3% of that not met. In 2008 demand had ballooned to 9,708 megawatts with 45.4% not met. The average household only gets six hours of electricity per day from public power. Baghdad said it hopes to meet demand by 2012, although even the Electricity official interviewed for the piece questioned whether that could happen.

Three days later on August 28, the Iraqi paper Azzaman reported that an Iraqi power expert questioned the Electricity Ministry’s claims. Although the article lacked any specific numbers, the expert claimed that the Ministry was including power delivered from Iran and Turkey in its numbers for Iraqi production.

From other reports Iraqi production has seemed to increase. The Financial Times said that Iraqi production was at 4,110 megawatts in May 2008. By the end of July, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) claimed that Iraq produced 5,615 megawatts that month. That was the highest electrical production for a quarter since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Most of this was attributed to American efforts that added 2,500 megawatts of production after $4.62 billion has been invested in the industry.

Power is still unevenly distributed throughout the country and even within cities. Baghdad has the worst electricity problem, and despite an average of six hours of power a day, the Financial Times found a neighborhood in south Baghdad that only had power for one hour a day, and had a power outage for five days in June 2008. The SIGIR found that Baghdad, Irbil, Wassit, and Karbala provinces all provided less than 50% of demand, with the last only reaching 46.5%. In comparison, Tamim, Dhi Qar, and Basra did the best job, with Basra meeting 80.7% of demand.

The Electricity Ministry itself also suffers from major problems. Black outs are still all to common. There have been two national power outages in the first half of 2008, the same amount as all of 2007. Of the two regional power grids, there were 18 in the northern region in the first half of the year, compared to 26 in 2007, and seven in the southern-central region versus fifteen for all of last year. Government facilities are also given priority over residential ones, creating more shortages, and skewing the averages of daily electricity available. Baghdad also lacks a national power plan, which means the Oil Ministry doesn’t always provide the fuel to run power plants, while the Electricity Ministry doesn’t always have the electricity necessary to power oil facilities.

It is estimated that $25 billion is still needed to completely rebuild the electrical system. The Electricity Ministry has come nowhere near what is needed as its capital budget that is used to invest in infrastructure has actually declined. In 2005, the Ministry spent a total of $147 million, $142 million of which was the capital budget. By 2007, spending had gone down to $78 million with only $1 million being spent on facilities, power lines, etc. That was a 93% decline in capital spending.

Providing services is one of the basic duties of government. Now that violence is finally down, it is time that Iraq begin investing in its infrastructure and rebuild its power system. This should be easy because with the high price of oil, the country is overflowing with profits. The government however is beset by problems that hinder its ability to do much more than pay salaries and its bills. Its been said that Iraq has gone from a failed state to a fragile state, but for it to reach a stable one it must do a better job meeting the basic needs of the public.

SOURCES

Allam, Hannah, “5 years after Iraq’s ‘liberation,’ there are worms in the water,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/16/08

Azzaman, “Electricity Ministry accused of doctoring power output figures,” 8/28/08

Ketz, Sammy, “Iraq power generation finally hits pre-invasion levels,” Agence France Presse, 8/25/08

Negus, Steve, “Black-outs sap public’s faith in Baghdad,” Financial Times, 6/16/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008
- “Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed,” June 2008

Voices of Iraq, “New electricity plan in Baghdad – ‘something better than nothing,’” 2/1/08

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maliki Ups the Ante in Khanaqin District of Diyala

As report earlier, the northern region of Diyala province known as Khanaqin has been a source of increasing tension between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. Kurdish Peshmerga militiamen have occupied the area since 2003, but in August 2008, Iraqi forces reached the city and demanded that the Kurds withdraw. A deal was struck, but after the Kurds pulled out of two towns, Qara Taba and Jalwalaa, protests organized by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, made the Iraqi troops pull out as well. This series of events apparently infuriated Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who, according to Voices of Iraq warned the Peshmerga on August 29 that if they operate outside of Kurdistan they would be breaking the law. The day before, the Kurdish Peshmerga minister was quoted as saying his forces were better than the Iraqi army who could not challenge them.

The 2005 Iraqi constitution said that autonomous regions could have their own security forces, which legalized the Peshmerga. The Kurdish militia however, occupy a wide variety of areas outside of Kurdistan including Salahaddin, Diyala, Tamim, and Ninewa provinces. They are operating in areas where Kurds reside, and which the regional government wishes to annex as part of a Greater Kurdistan.

The recent confrontation brings to the fore the divisions between two different theories on the future of Iraq’s government. Prime Minister Maliki is attempting to centralize power under his control. He began with his offensives in southern Iraq and Baghdad in March 2008. He is now trying to expand that authority into northern regions, beginning with the city of Mosul, and currently in Diyala province. The Kurds on the other hand, wish to expand their power by annexing Kurdish areas throughout the north into their autonomous region. They have pushed for a quasi-federal system where Kurdistan has wide authority to pass laws and carry out development policies on its own.

SOURCES

Katzman, Kenneth, “Iraq: Reconciliation and Benchmarks,” Congressional Research Service, 5/12/08

Khidhir, Qassim, “Iraqi army withdraws after Khanaqin demonstration,” Kurdish Globe, 8/28/08

Voices of Iraq, “Iraqi forces take control of Diala’s disputed town-military,” 8/29/08
- “PM al-Maliki will punish Peshmerga deployed outside Kurdistan enclave-PM,” 8/29/08

Friday, August 29, 2008

Continued Reports of Iranian and Hezbollah Training of Shiite Militants

This month, August 2008, there were reports of continued Iranian support for Shiite militants. The first came from the Associated Press on August 15 that was based upon a U.S. intelligence officer. It said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Qods Force and Lebanon’s Hezbollah were training Iraqis in four camps in Iran. Those were located in Tehran, Qom, Ahaz, and Mashhad. They were allegedly working with two breakaway Mahdi Army factions, the League of the Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades. Abu Dhabi’s The National, also interviewed two Sadrists who claimed they and around 100 others had recently returned from Hezbollah training in Lebanon. They claimed they went through a two-month long weapons, tactics and religious program. These articles join a litany of others documenting Iran’s ties to Shiite fighters in Iraq.

Iran has had extensive connections with Shiite militias since before the U.S. invasion. They established the Badr Brigade during the Iran-Iraq war, and sent in thousands of their operatives immediately after the invasion. Later they shifted support to Moqtada al-Sadr, and created Special Groups that were more heavily armed and focused upon attacking U.S. and British forces. During that time they were reported to have set up camps in Qadisiyah, Dhi Qar, Maysan, and Basra, and carried out training in Najaf and Baghdad as well. Hezbollah has been employed as advisors and organizers of the Shiite militants. Iran also has a network of Qods Force bases inside Iran along the Iraqi border to support militias, and Americans have captured Hezbollah and Iranian operatives within Iraq. Now they are working with smaller Shiite groups as well.

Since the U.S. invasion, Iran has had a multi-faceted, and often contradictory approach towards Iraq. As reported before, they have become one of Iraq’s largest trading partners, they send thousands of religious pilgrims to Iraq each year, they provide energy to several different Iraqi provinces, and have close ties to many Iraqi exile politicians. Iran has supported the formation of a Shiite-Kurdish led government as well. At the same time, they have backed various Shiite groups to carry out attacks on Coalition forces. This apparent inconsistency in policy was due to divided opinions within Iran. Some support violence to tie down and punish U.S. forces in Iraq, while others have pushed for supporting the government. It seemed like Iran could do both, until Prime Minister Maliki decided to take on his political rival Sadr in March 2008. Since then, many of the fighters Tehran worked with have been killed, jailed, forced to go into hiding, or have fled to Iran. Still, the Qods Force was able to play both sides by brokering cease-fires in Basra and Sadr City. This division has continued since then, as Iran has negotiated new trade deals with Iraq, is supposedly supporting Maliki’s demand for a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, while at the same time continuing to train and support Shiites willing to carry out attacks inside Iraq. It appears that Tehran still believes that it can have its cake and it eat too in Iraq.

SOURCES

Abedin, Mahan, “The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI),” Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, October 2003

Agence France Presse, “US nabs death squad chief in Baghadad,” 6/8/08

Cochrane, Marisa, “The Battle for Basra,” Institute for the Study of War, 5/31/08

Cordesman, Anthony, “Sadr and the Mahdi Army: Evoluation, Capabilities, and a New Direction,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/4/08

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Hezbollah said to train Shiite militiamen in Iraq,” Associated Press, 7/1/08

Hess, Pamela, “Hit squads training in Iraq,” Associated Press, 8/15/08

Nasr, Vali, “Iran on Its Heels,” Washington Post, 6/19/08

The National, “Hizbollah training us: Mahdi Army,” 8/23/08

Nourizadeh, Ali, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to Train Iraqi Shiite Youths,” Asharq Alawsat, 8/19/08

Phillips, James, “Deter Iranian and Syrian Meddling In Postwar Iraq,” Heritage Foundation, 4/4/03

Porter, Gareth, “U.S. Officials Admit Worry over a ‘Difficult’ al-Maliki,” IPS, 8/15/08

Rahimi, Babk, “Moqtada al-Sadr’s New Alliance with Tehrn,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 3/1/07

Roggio, Bill, “Iran continues to train Shia terror groups for attacks in Iraq,” Long War Journal.org, 8/15/08
- “Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq,” Long War Journal.org, 12/5/07
- “New Special Groups splinter emerges on Iraqi scene,” Long War Journal.org, 8/20/08
- “Report: Iraqi security forces preparing operation against Mahdi Army in Maysan,” Long War Journal.org, 6/12/08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brookings Institution Iraq Refugee Report

In August 2008, the Brooking Institution released a study of Iraq’s refugees. It said that fundamentally, refugees are a security problem. They initially fled because of violence, and could destabilize host countries and Iraq in the future if the problem is not resolved. Currently, Iraq has the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Palestinians. The problem is unlikely to be solved soon because too many displaced Iraqis are insecure about their future and what will happen if they return. Ultimately, the study argues that Iraq will never be a stable country until the refugee problem is solved.

Iraq’s refugees are one of the biggest problems the country now faces. The United Nations estimates that there are approximately 2 million Iraqi refugees and 2.7 million internally displaced. That’s roughly 1 in 6 Iraqis. Many left their homes because of the violence, but others left for medical care or their businesses failing. The sectarian war of 2006-2007 was by the far the greatest cause however. Many militants used sectarian displacement as a tactic to solidify control of areas. From 2003-2005 for example, 190,000 Iraqis were displaced. In contrast, during the height of the sectarian fighting, 60,000 were fleeing a month. Since September 2007, displacement has slowed down. 80% of them are women, and 80% come from Baghdad. Many have moved from one area of the capitol to another. Most are also living in alternative housing, which means only 1-2% are in refugee camps. Refugees also add to the poverty level in the country, which stands at around 40% according to the Planning Ministry. Half of the country’s provinces restrict the entry of the displaced because of the strain they place upon resources.

Iraq’s refugees pose a regional problem as well. Many live in Syria and Jordan, but there are tens of thousands in countries like Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf states as well. Afraid that Iraqis will become the next Palestinians, who have become permanent residents, many governments have limited the entry of Iraqis. There is also growing public resentment against their presence. International aid is increasing to help Iraqis and their host countries, but it is still not enough. The study warns that if the refugees are not adequately taken care of they could become a security issue in the region, open to radicalization and political manipulation.

Beginning in the winter of 2007 there were reports that Iraqi refugees were returning, but it was politicized by Baghdad. The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration said that 30,000 had come back by November 2007. The Iraqi Red Crescent reported 46,000 had returned to Baghdad from September to December 2007. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki paid for buses from Syria to bring back Iraqis and offered $800 to each family that did. 365 families took up the offer. Afterwards however, the government admitted that it could not find housing for those that took the buses, and the program was stopped. The United Nations warned that it was not time for any returns. A survey they conducted of 110 families that came back from Syria found 46% said they returned because they were running out of money, 26% said it was because of new visa restrictions, and 14% said it was because security was better. The International Organization for Migration and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration did a poll of 300 displaced families that said 45% were trying to go back to their homes because security was better, but 84% were going from one Baghdad neighborhood to another. That was because 70% found their homes occupied or destroyed, or they moved to other areas where their sect was predominant and they felt secure. By January 2008, the U.N. found that 1,200 Iraqis were fleeing to Syria, while only 700 were coming back. The New York Times reported that many that returned in 2007, ended up leaving once again.

Claims that Iraqis were returning and the government was prepared to accept them proved premature. The failed return program of 2007 turned out to be one of many problems the government faced. The Public Distribution System doesn’t work well, and in January 2008 they cut food rations. This was a crucial government service to the displaced, many of who found it hard to work and thus had to rely upon public assistance. There are now plans to do away with the system completely. The competency of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration has also been questioned. It faces all the problems of the rest of the government such as lack of a trained staff, corruption, and sectarianism. The study also wasn’t sure the ministry knew what it should be doing. Maliki also doesn’t want to recognize how big the refugee problem is because it would make his government look bad. Together this makes the government’s ability to respond to the problem very questionable.

The international community has also run into problems with their approach. Many countries believe that Iraq needs to provide most of the aid to the displaced. Those that have given aid were slow to react, but are now increasing their assistance, which still does not meet demand. The United States has given the most, but it’s immigration policy has been hampered by bureaucratic and political concerns allowing in a pitifully small amount of Iraqis. The report believes that the Bush administration does not want to let in large numbers because it would contradict their narrative that the war is being won. Europe has been reluctant to help because some countries were against the invasion. In 2007 they began giving more because it became apparent that the war not going to end anytime soon. Europe however is afraid of an influx of Iraqi refugees so many have placed restrictions on their entry, and some have even started deportations. Already, Iraqis are the largest group asking for asylum to Europe.

In the end, the Brookings study believes that Iraq’s refugee crisis will have to be resolved through property cases. Thousands of homes have been abandoned, destroyed or occupied. There needs to be a legal process to settle ownership and a compensation system for those that can’t or won’t go back. That will last for years. So far, the governments attempts to deal with this issue have failed. For example, in early 2007, Baghdad said all houses and property needed to be returned to the displaced, but it turned out the government didn’t have any means to implement the policy. Iraq is also hindered by the fact that its legal system rarely operates and is overflowing with security cases. Asking it to deal with lawsuits might be too much for it to handle right now.

Security today is improving in Iraq, but refugees and the displaced are not going back in large numbers. When they do return, it will be a sign that the country really is getting better. Today, the number of displaced is decreasing, but that’s because so much of the country has been divided and there are restrictions to stop their internal and external movement. Studies have found that many more would leave if they could. A positive aspect of the improved security environment is that it could mean that more aid is possible, especially from the international community. To solve the problem, the report said that the safety of the Iraqi’s return has to be ensured, there needs to be more aid, monitoring of the entire process, property disputes need to be resolved, a resettlement program established for those that can’t go home, and education and job programs set up. Many of the Brookings’ findings are similar to the study by the International Crisis Group discussed before. The major drawback of the report is that many of the statistics are dated. The Crisis Group was able to not only get more timely numbers, but get interviews with many people in Iraq as well. On the positive side, the Brookings’ report highlights the political nature of the refugee crisis that often impairs efforts to help them. It also points out that the displaced will probably be the longest, and perhaps last issue to be solved in Iraq.

SOURCES

Ferris, Elizabeth, “The Looming Crisis: Displacement and Security in Iraq,” Brookings Institution, August 2008

International Crisis Group, “Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees In Syria, Jordan and Lebanon,” 7/10/08

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kurdish-Baghdad Tensions Over Diyala

Kurdish aspirations to annex the city of Kirkuk in Tamim province are well known. Less so is the Kurds’ goal of adding areas of Salahaddin, Diyala and Ninewa, which they believe are part of a Greater Kurdistan. Currently, Kurdish Peshmerga militias occupy sections of all three provinces where Kurds live. This summer, these plans came to a head when Baghdad launched a security operation in Diyala.

Operation Promise Of Good and the Khanaqin District of Diyala

In mid-July 2008 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched Operation Promise of Good in Diyala. By August 10, Iraqi forces reached the northern district of the province along the Iranian border known as Khanaqin where the 4,000-man 34th Peshmerga Brigade was based. When the Iraqi army moved near the town of Jalawlaa in Khanaqin, the mayor warned that their presence could lead to conflict with the Peshmerga there. The central government in turn called for the Kurdish militia to withdraw within 24 hours. The Kurds refused saying they were protecting their people in the district, and that they only answered to Kurdish authorities, not Baghdad. The showdown was a stark example of the tensions between Prime Minister Maliki who wants more centralized control of the country, and the Kurds that have pushed for regional autonomy.

The situation remained tense while a deal was brokered and then fell apart. At first, Kurds and Baghdad issued conflicting statements claiming one side was going to withdraw and the other would stay. An agreement was eventually worked out on August 16 that the Kurds would leave, Khanaqin would be turned over to Baghdad’s control, and the 34th Peshmerga Brigade would become part of the 15th Iraqi Mountain Division in Kurdistan. The Kurds started pulling out, but when the Iraqi Army moved into the town of Qurat Tabba another controversy erupted. The Iraqi forces evicted Kurdish parties and Peshmerga from government owned buildings to the protest of Kurdish officials. One even threatened a confrontation between the two militaries. On August 26, protests were staged in Khanaqin against the Iraqi forces, which led them to withdraw, leaving the future of the area up in the air.

The confrontation in Diyala also played out in Kurdistan and Baghdad. The Security and Defense Committee of parliament said that all security forces should be under Baghdad’s control, even the Peshmerga in Kurdistan. Another group of politicians called for the Kurds to withdraw from Mosul as well. The Kurds on the other hand, were suspicious that the government would ask their forces to be removed from all areas outside of Kurdistan like Kirkuk, and not let them return. That would threaten their idea of Greater Kurdistan, which envisions the region expanding from 15,400 square miles currently to 30,000, almost doubling in size. Some were even afraid that Baghdad would seek to exert control of Kurdistan itself.

Background

The Kurds have occupied sections of Diyala province since 2003. Currently, Peshmerga forces are in Khanaqin, Kafri, Klara and Jamajaml. In February 2008, the Kurds made all four an administrative district of Kurdistan. Khanaqin is of strategic importance because it is the second largest oil district in northern Iraq after Kirkuk. The Kurds are planning on exploring for more oil there as well.

Beforehand, the United Nations had been trying to mediate the disputed districts. The U.N. suggested that the Kurdish areas of Diyala and one other region in Iraq should be turned over to provincial control in June 2008, while two others would become part of Kurdistan. Many did not seem to like the U.N.’s proposal, with 95 parliamentarians saying they were against it, along with 120 tribal figures. The suggested compromise would be a break with the Iraqi constitution that placed Khanaqin under Article 140. It and other disputed areas like Kirkuk were to have a census, then a vote on whether they would join Kurdistan or not by the end of 2007. That date was extended to the end of July 2008, but neither deadline was met. The deadlocked talks allowed the Kurds to maintain control of the areas, creating a de facto Greater Kurdistan on the ground.

Conclusion

While the Kurds have been one of the pillars of the governing alliance, they have often disagreed with Maliki. The Kurds have signed a series of independent oil deals that the Oil Ministry has declared illegal. The Kurds were the ones that torpedoed the recent provincial election law. The Kurds have also been pushing a federal system for Iraq, while Maliki has been trying to centralize military and political power in his hands. Since his security crackdowns in early 2008, the Prime Minister has been emboldened to claim government control of all areas of Iraq. That has meant the move against the Sons of Iraq, and now a dispute with the Kurds over Kurdish occupied areas in Diyala. It appeared that Baghdad had won when the Peshmerga agreed to withdraw, but the protests, and apparent pull out of Iraqi forces now puts the situation in limbo once again. Whatever happens to the area in the end could be a harbinger of what vision of Iraqi governance prevails.

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “Crackdown in Diyala worries Kurdish leaders,” Gulf News, 8/27/08

Alsumaria, “Peshmerga Forces start withdrawing from Diyala Province,” 8/20/08

Azzaman, “Kurds warn of ‘violent reaction’ if Iraqi army enters their areas,” 8/25/08

Dagher, Sam, “Can the U.N. avert a Kirkuk border war?” Christian Science Monitor, 4/25/08

Davidson, Christina, “KRG Governing ‘Liberated’ Iraqi Kurdistan,” IraqSlogger.com, 11/27/07

Kurdish Globe, “Peshmarga not withdrawing from Diala,” 8/15/08

Mohammed, Shwan, “Kurdish forces refuse to quit Iraq battlefield province,” Agence France Presse, 8/13/08

Parker, Sam, “Guest Post: Behind the Curtain in Diyala,” Abu Muqawama Blog, 8/20/08

Reuters, “Kurd officials split on pullout from Iraq province,” 8/16/08
- “Kurdish troops to withdraw from restive Iraq province,” 8/16/08

Al-Sabaah, “Arab tribes in Diyala reject Jalawla’ joining to Kurdistan,” 6/5/08

Said, Yahia Khairi, “Political Dynamics in Iraq within the Context of the ‘Surge,’” Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08

Taha, Yasseen, and Fadel, Leila, “Iraq bombing kills at least 25 police recruits in Diyala,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/26/08

Voices of Iraq, “95 lawmakers criticize the U.N. recommendations over disputed districts,” 6/7/08
- “Demo in Diala against Iraqi army forces,” 8/27/08
- “Iraqi forces withdrew from Khanaqin – mayor,” 8/26/08
- “Kurdish official condemns Iraqi army raid on Peshmerga HQ,” 8/24/08
- “Military units should be under central govt. control,” 8/19/08
- “Suicide blast in Jalawlaa leaves 70 casualties,” 8/26/08
- “Tensions between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Khanaqeen,” 8/12/08
- “Withdrawal of Kurdish forces from Khanqeen asserts security in Diala – MP,” 8/13/08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baghdad Doesn’t Provide Services To Sunnis? No, It Doesn’t Serve Anyone

There have been many reports that Sunnis in areas such as Anbar province have been denied aid and services from Baghdad. In July 2008 for example, the Azzaman paper reported that Sunni tribes in Ramadi complained that the city lacked water, electricity, and other basic needs. The usual explanation was that the government was sectarian, and was denying Sunni areas for political reasons. The sad truth is the central and provincial authorities do not provide basic services to most of the country whether they are Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd.

It is a fact that Anbar does lack basic necessities. 99% of the province is Sunni. On an average day, only 53% of the province’s electricity needs are being met. There is also a lack of usable water. The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party runs the provincial government. They have not done a good job since they took over after the January 2005 elections. In 2007 for example, they were appropriated $107 million for investment in infrastructure, but only spent $4 million of it, 3.7% according to the Iraqi Finance Ministry. That was the lowest percentage spent in Iraq by any of the country’s eighteen provinces. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) went farther saying that Anbar hadn’t spent any of its capital budget for 2007 or 2008. It also noted that the province suffered from a lack of coordination with Baghdad over development, and also had problems with corruption. Blaming sectarianism by the central government would seem like a plausible explanation for Anbar’s woes. However, it was allocated the 9th largest capital budget in 2007, and its inability to spend it was due to a Sunni party, not Baghdad. Muthanna, Maysan, and Qadisiyah provinces in the south that are 100% Shiite, but were given the smallest capital budgets by the central government in 2007. In fact, Anbar is no better nor worse than most of the country’s governorates, pointing to a general breakdown in Baghdad’s ability to serve its public no matter what their sect.

Babil, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna Najaf, and Qadisiyah, which are all 95-100% Shiite, are suffering because of this. Babil does not have enough water. Maysan is the poorest province in Iraq with 64% of the population living below the poverty level. The schools, electricity, and medical care are so bad that the SIGIR said they were “population repelling” forcing many people to leave because the situation was so bad there. Muthanna was another poor province where the populace is living off of subsistence farming. There, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) led government only spent 19% of its $52 million capital budget to invest in infrastructure according to the Finance Ministry. It was also given the smallest such budget out of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. On August 24, 2008 there was a demonstration in the provincial capital of Samawa against the SIIC led council, accusing them of corruption, and failed reconstruction projects that denied the people of services. Qadisiyah has high unemployment, and lacks trash collection, and adequate hospitals. Karbala and Najaf hold two of the most holiest sites for Shiites, yet the former has power and water shortages, and only 46% of its electricity needs are met on an average day, while the latter has a provincial government that has shown little desire to improve much of its infrastructure. During the Saddam years, the south was the poorest part of the country. They thought they were neglected because they were Shiites. Today, the poorest parts of Iraq are still in the south. Despite the Shiites finally being able to take power after the U.S. invasion, their parties have not been able to provide the fruits of that political victory to many of their followers.

The three provinces of Dahuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah that constitute Kurdistan did not do much better. The Iraqi Finance Ministry claims that they spent 95% of their capital budgets in 2007, but they still lack many basics. This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that Finance counts all money given to Kurdistan as spent whether it is or not. Irbil and Sulamaniyah, for example, were the worst at meeting average daily electricity needs in the country, with only 32% being met in the former. Some Kurds are not happy with this situation, and on August 18, 2008 residents of the city of Khlifan in northeastern Irbil protested against their lack of services. That led to a clash with local security forces in which one person was killed and four were wounded. Irony of Irony, in Tamim and Salahaddin provinces that are 73% and 88% Sunni respectively, but are run by Kurds because the Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections, they meet 70% of their electricity needs on average, tied for second best in the country. Kurdistan is by far the safest part of Iraq. Many believe that they must be doing the best because of that. They are in fact lacking in some basics like electricity, just as the rest of the country is.

The central government has a much larger budget, and plays a bigger role in providing services, but has not done much better than the provinces. As reported here earlier, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the SIGIR, and the New York Times have all found Baghdad woefully inadequate when it comes to investing in Iraq’s future and providing services. The Times found that Iraq has only spent 18% of its 2008 budget so far. The GAO and SIGIR have consistently pointed out that of the money that Baghdad does spend, it is overwhelmingly for operational costs such as salaries, with only a small percent of the capital budget ever being touched. In 2007 for example, only 11% of the capital budgets of the ministries was spent according to SIGIR. This has a huge affect upon specific services. Despite a 12% increase in electrical production in the quarter ending on June 30, 2008, the government was still only able to meet 55% of the public’s needs, and service in different provinces and cities varies widely. Despite increasing budgets, many average Iraqis have not felt much of an improvement. Electricity production and water delivery have increased, but they are still below U.S. benchmarks and do not meet demand.

One of the basic jobs of government is to provide for the health, sanitation, and power needs of the public. Baghdad has not been able to accomplish that. Sectarianism is an issue with the government, but when it comes to services, it has served Shiite and Kurdish areas just as badly as Sunni ones.

SOURCES

al-Mansouri, Omar, “Violence returns to Anbar following months of relative quiet,” Azzaman, 7/15/08

Robertson, Campbell and Glanz, James, “Iraqi Figures Back U.S. View on Low Spending for Reconstruction,” New York Times, 8/21/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008

Voices of Iraq, “1 killed, 4 wounded in protest march in Arbil,” 8/18/08
- “Dozens rally demonstrations to protest corruption in Muthana,” 8/24/08

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani Backgrounder

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani remains the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq

The U.S. invasion empowered the Shiite majority in Iraq. That allowed religious figures such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to gain in influence. While most Iraqi Shiites do not believe in clerical rule like in Iran, many still look to ayatollahs such as Sistani for advice. Sistani has had a role in a number of events including the 2005 elections, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army uprising, and the current negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq over the future of their bilateral relationship. At one point, many observers believed that Sistani was fading from the scene, yet in 2008 he appears to be in as strong a position as ever.

Background

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani got his start in Iran before he came to Iraq. He was born in Mashhad, Iran in 1929 to a family of clerics. He went to religious school in Qom, one of the centers of Shiism. At age 21 he moved to Najaf, Iraq to finish his teachings under Grand Ayatollah Abdul Qasim Khoei. When he died in 1992, Sistani took his place, which set him on the path to become Iraq’s top ayatollah.

Today, Sistani holds the highest rank among Shiite religious scholars and clerics in Iraq, and has an international following in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Paksitan. He follows his mentor Khoei’s stance known as quietism that believes religious men should not run the government because it would divert them from their duties to their faith. When Iran had its revolution led by Ruhollah Khoemini, Sistani came to oppose it. He does believe that clerics should be consulted and give advice however.

During Saddam’s rule Sistani was seen as a problem that could not be eliminated. Sistani supported the Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. That put him on Saddam’s hit list. However with sanctions and an unruly public, Saddam never felt that he could assassinate Sistani as he had done with other leading clerics in the country because it might cause more trouble with the Shiites than the government could handle at the time. Saddam resorted to muzzling Sistani by putting him under house arrest, closing his mosque, and not allowing him to give sermons. He remained under arrest until the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Sistani’s Views

Sistani does not make many appearances or announcements, so his opinions need to be gleamed from statements by his aides and his websites where he takes questions from the people. Sistani himself hasn’t been seen in public since August 2004 when he went to England for medical treatment. There have been consistent rumors of his bad health, which led him to invite a small group of reporters to interview him on August 24, 2008.

On the U.S., Sistani opposes the occupation, and blames America for many of the country’s problems since the invasion. He has never met with any U.S. official. There was a controversy over how far his opposition went in May 2008 when the Associated Press reported that he had privately said it was okay to carry out armed resistance to occupation. That story was later proven false. A pro-Sistani cleric from Karbala told the Voices of Iraq, “Sistani’s stance is clear since toppling the former regime (of Saddam Hussein) by calling for sticking to civil resistance to drive foreign troops out of Iraq.” On the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraq, Sistani’s position is that the negotiations have to be transparent, the SOFA needs to protect Iraqi sovereignty, all parties need to agree, and it has to be ratified by parliament. Iraqi officials have consulted with Sistani over the agreement. It was after one such meeting in early July that Iraq’s national security advisor Mouwaffak al-Rubaie declared that any agreement needed to include a U.S. withdrawal. This is believed to be Sistani’s own position.

With the Sunnis, Sistani was opposed to reforming the deBaathification system when the Accountability and Justice Law was up for debate in 2007. Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress was the head of the deBaathification committee, and convinced the Grand Ayatollah that the law was bad. The law was eventually passed over his objections, showing that the Shiite parties were not beholden to follow his every wish.

Sistani has been displeased with the parliament before. In January 2008 he refused to bless the body during the pilgrimage season, because he said they needed to work on the country’s problems rather than travel to religious shrines. At the time, there were so many absentee politicians since the summer recess of 2007 that they didn’t have enough members to carry out any business.

The Shiite community has been Sistani’s main concern. One of the major issues has been what to do about Moqtada al-Sadr. Sistani has been asked to disband Sadr’s Mahdi Army before, but hasn’t done so. In 2004, Sistani helped broker a cease-fire between Sadr and the U.S. when his followers rose up against the occupation. During the sectarian war period that started in 2006, Sistani believed that the Sadrists were needed to protect the Shiites from the Sunnis. In early 2007, the Grand Ayatollah convinced Sadr to end his boycott and rejoin the Shiite coalition in parliament, the United Iraqi Alliance. Later, Sadr allegedly asked Sistani for advice about what he should do about his movement. Sistani is said to have told him that he could either face the Shiite masses or remove himself from the public. Afterwards Sadr left Iraq to go to religious school in Iran. Whether that was to increase his religious standing and leadership, or a way for Sadr to drop out of the Iraqi scene is not known. In 2008 as the government confronted the Mahdi Army in Basra and Sadr City, Sistani was asked to issue a pronouncement ordering the Sadrists to disarm. Sistani said that only the government has the right to bare arms, but he didn’t ban the militia. Instead he said that only the founder of a militia could end it. It is believed that Sistani is still worried about the resurgence of sectarian fighting between the Shiites and the U.S. organized Sunni Sons of Iraq, so he may want to keep an armed Shiite force. Since the crackdowns, the Sadrists have been weakened and many are discontent. Sistani and other religious leaders in Najaf are trying to take advantage of this situation by breaking away some of Sadr’s followers, to build up their own support. Sadr has after all, been the biggest challenge to Sistani since the invasion.

Just because Sistani is an ayatollah hasn’t meant that he has escaped the country’s violence either. In 2007, at least six of his aides were assassinated and others went into hiding. In March 2008 one of his deputies was wounded in an attack. More recently, on August 23, 2008 one of his followers, the cleric Haider al-Saymari was gunned down in Basra while visiting there from Iraq. Many people believe Sistani’s political rivals, such as the Sadrists, were responsible for these attacks.

It was not that long ago that many Iraq watchers believed that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was fading from the scene. The country was descending into civil war, and younger clerics like Moqtada al-Sadr were asserting themselves over older leaders like Sistani. The murders of several of Sistani’s aides only added to the belief that Sistani was under siege and staying out of the public eye. Those ideas proved to be short sighted. In 2008, Sistani is once again playing a prominent role in Iraqi politics. He was called upon during the fighting against Sadr earlier in the year. His opinion is believed to be the deal breaker or maker on any status of forces agreement signed between Iraq and the U.S. Perhaps with the new status quo in Iraq that is beginning to move away from violence as the main way to resolve problems, politicians and the people are more willing to listen to Sistani’s advice. He has been one of the bedrocks of the Shiite community for several decades now, and is again proving his staying power.

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “Al Sistani’s role divides parties,” Gulf News, 7/11/08

Alsumaria, “Al Sistani deputy wounded in armed attack,” 3/20/08

Biddle, Stephen, Nasr, Vali, Nash, William, “Political and Security Developments in Iraq and the Region,” Council on Foreign Relations, 6/12/08

Buzbee, Sally, “Iraq insists on withdrawal timetable US troops,” Associated Press, 7/8/08

Charlie Rose Show, “A Conversation with Vali Nasr of The Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Gordon of the New York Times, and Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations,” 6/18/08

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq’s Insurgency and Civil Violence,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/22/07
-, “Quietism and the U.S. position In Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6/19/08

Dagher, Sam, “Trouble grows in Iraq’s Shiite south,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/13/07

Fakhrildeen, Saad, “IRAQ: My meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani,” Babylon & Beyond Blog, Los Angeles Times, 8/24/08

Garrels, Anne, “Despite Security Gains, Iraqi Government Paralyzed,” Morning Edition – NPR, 1/9/08

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

Haugh, Maj. Timothy, “The Sadr II Movement: An Organizational Fight for Legitimacy within the Iraqi Shi’a Community,” Strategic Insights, May 2005

Hendawi, Hamza, “Two More Al-Sistani Aides Killed,” Associated Press, 9/21/07

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi cleric flirting with Shiite militiant message,” Associated Press, 5/23/08

IraqSlogger.com, “Shi’a Clerics Dispute Sistani ‘Fatwas’ Report,” 5/23/08

Moubayed, Sami, “Coming to terms with Sistani,” Asia Times, 2/10/05

Al-Obeidi, Abdul-Hussein, “Iraq’s top cleric denies rumors about his health,” Associated Press, 8/24/08

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Disafected Iraqis Spurn Dominant Shiite Clerics,” Washington Post, 12/21/07

Roggio, Bill, “Ayatollah Sistani on the Mahdi Army: ‘the law is the only authority in the country,’” Long War Journal.org, 4/9/08

Rose, Charlie Show, “A Conversation with Vali Nasr of The Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Gordon of the New York Times, and Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations,” 6/18/08

Saleheddin, Sinan, “Iraq: Shiite cleric killed in shooting ambush,” Associated Press, 8/24/08

UPI, “Iraqis voice opposition to security deal,” 8/22/08

Voices of Iraq, “Sistani aide slams long-term Iraq – U.S. deal,” 5/30/08
- “Sistani does not issue fatwa allowing armed resistance against foreign troops in Iraq – source,” 5/25/08

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Iraq’s Displacement and Migration Committee Criticizes Maliki’s Refugee Plan



France 24 TV reports on Iraqi refugees from Egypt returning to Baghdad

On August 20, the deputy head of Iraq’s Migration and Displacement Committee in parliament criticized the government’s refugee program. During most of the summer in fact, the committee has been one of the harshest critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s attempt to return Iraq’s displaced.

The Deputy head of the Migration and Displacement Committee Basim al-Husseini of the Shiite Fadhila Party, said that Iraq’s recent returnees were not coming back voluntarily. Instead he claimed that they were returning because they had no choice with their savings disappearing. He also criticized the Maliki government for not providing security for returnees, especially in areas of Baghdad that are now dominated by a single sect. Husseini said the government needed to provide more aid, and to pay compensation to families that have had their property damaged during the war. Finally, he said the recent return of Iraqis from Egypt was a public relations event by Baghdad.

Husseini’s comments echo those of the head of the committee, Abdel Kahliq Zanganah of the Kurdish alliance. Beginning this summer, Zanganah began complaining that Maliki was not committing enough resources to the displaced. On June 1, the committee head said that what the government had offered to the displaced so far had been inadequate, and that they had to especially help those that couldn’t return to their original homes. He followed that by saying that the government hadn’t listened to his calls for more assistance. In July, he continued his critique by saying that refugees should not return until Baghdad offered more help. He also noted that while parliament had voted to suspend evictions of squatters, they continued across the country. By August, as the government ordered all squatters to leave public owned buildings, Zanganah said they couldn’t be forced out without being provided alternate housing.

The head of the Displacement Committee and his deputy have consistently pointed out the many shortcomings of the government’s displaced program. Each month this summer, Baghdad has announced a new element of its plan to return refugees and remove squatters. The initiative mostly revolves around cash payments, but the Migration and Displacement Committee has consistently pointed out that the amounts are not enough. When the government began ordering squatters out, the Committee noted that they could not just be put out on the streets. They needed housing as well. Last, as the government shuttled two plane loads of Iraqis to Baghdad from Egypt, Husseini rightly pointed out that it was a government photo opportunity as they flew in on Maliki’s private airplane, and walked down the ramp carrying Iraqi flags to photos and TV cameras. The Prime Minister is looking towards his refugee plan as another attempt to exert control and improve his image as the leader of the country. The fact that almost one in five Iraqis has left their homes points to how little the government could protect its citizenry. Maliki is hoping that most if not all of Iraq’s refugees will take up his offers of cash and return. So far, only a small trickle have come back, because as Zanganah and Husseini have stated over and over, the government is lacking in depth planning for what to do after people come back or squatters are forced out other than offering money, which is probably too small to meet their needs.

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “More than 11,000 displaced families return to Baghdad,” Gulf News, 8/4/08

Alsumaria, “Tens of Iraqi displaced families return home,” 8/12/08

Fadel, Leila, “Squatters in Iraqi buildings fear they’ll soon be on the street,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/4/08

IRIN, “Internally displaced Iraqis demand government return them home,” 6/16/08

Voices of Iraq, “The government ignores displaced people – lawmaker,” 8/20/08
- “Lack of services, financial support make life difficult for returnees,” 7/31/08
- “MP criticizes govt. on displaced measures,” 6/1/08

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Is This The End? Government Threatening To Finish Off The Sons of Iraq

Recent media reports put into question the future of the U.S.-organized Sons of Iraq (SOI) program. Currently there are approximately 103,000 SOI operating in nine of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. They have been one of the major reasons why violence has dropped so dramatically in Iraq. The United States military was originally hoping that some of the SOI would be integrated into the security forces, while the majority would be given vocational training and public works jobs with the government. Baghdad was always reluctant to go along with this plan, and recent stories point towards Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ending the whole program and arresting those that are considered threats by the end of the year.

The Crackdown Begins?

As reported here earlier, in the spring of 2008 the first stories appeared that the government was targeting SOI leaders. In April, Abu Abed, the head of the Amiriya Knights in western Baghdad, was forced to flee to Jordan when he found out the government was investigating him for sectarian murders. That same month, a commander in the Lions of Adhamiya in northern Baghdad was arrested for killings and cooperation with the insurgency. The next month, the leader of the Lions was detained for kidnapping, and an Iraqi Army brigade began breaking up the SOI in Abu Ghraib south of Baghdad. At the same time, al-Hayat newspaper reported that the SOI were being told they needed to disband. More worrisome, the United Arab Emirates’ al-Khaleej paper said in July that Maliki was coming under increasing pressure to end the SOI, and had established a committee to look into how to do it. July was also the month that Baghdad launched its latest military operation in troubled Diyala province. The SOI became a target there as well. By August, five senior commanders had been arrested there. The New York Times also said that there was a government wanted list of 650 SOI from Abu Ghraib south of Baghdad and Anbar province. The orders came from the Baghdad Operations Center that answers to Maliki. Finally, there were reports that the government was contemplating a deadline of either October or November for the SOI to either find government jobs or be arrested. At first, these stories appeared anecdotal and not enough to establish a set pattern. However, by the end of summer there were too many to not see that the government was targeting the SOI, a program that they never wanted in the first place.

Origins and Disputes Over The SOI Program

The SOI program originally started in the summer of 2007. That was when General David Petraeus met with his advisors, and decided to try to replicate the Sunni policy that had emerged in Anbar across the country. There, tribal leaders had turned against Al Qaeda in 2005 for their brutal methods and attempts to take over businesses sheikhs ran. Baghdad was not pleased with the program from the get go. In August 2007, General Petraeus said the government supported the program, but he was quickly contradicted by Maliki’s Deputy National Security Advisor Safa al-Sheikh, who said that while the Prime Minister agreed to the program in principle, he would not support it.

That set the pattern for the interaction between the U.S. military and Baghdad over the SOI, the U.S. would announce advances and government support, while Maliki officials and the Prime Minister himself would constantly deride and reject the program. In September 2007, for example, the government set up a committee to integrate the SOI. It was led by Deputy National Security Advisor al-Sheikh, but also included Bassima al-Hairi who was notorious for being sectarian. By June 2008, Maliki had shut it down and a Western official told the Los Angeles Times that the Prime Minister never wanted the committee in the first place, and only did it under U.S. pressure. (The commission has since been restarted.) In November, the U.S. said Baghdad was willing to pay the salaries of the SOI, only to have a government spokesman say that wasn’t true. The next month, Petraeus’ deputy General Ray Ordierno met with Maliki, and got him to agree to integrate about 20% of the SOI into the security forces, while the rest would get public works jobs. A few days later the Defense and Interior Ministries held a joint news conference where they said they would not integrate the SOI. The Deputy National Security Advisor and head of the reconciliation committee al-Sheikh claimed that half of the SOI were insurgents and had ties with Baathists that same month.

By 2008, the U.S. had come up with a new transition plan for the 103,000 SOI they had recruited. The Americans hoped that 17,000 SOI would be integrated into the security forces, while 26,000 would get public works jobs. The remaining 60,000 would be taken over by the government by June 2009. The U.S. also set up two vocational training programs to help the SOI find civilian jobs. The problem was the government never signed off on the program. In July, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported that 19,700 SOI had been integrated. 14,000 had joined the security forces, while the rest had been given other government jobs. Reports by the Institute for the Study of War and Colin Kahl of the Center for New American Security pointed out that only a few hundred of those okayed for the security forces, had actually finished training.

Prime Minister Maliki and other members of his ruling coalition have opposed the SOI for a number of reasons. For the Shiite and Kurdish parties the SOI represent an existential threat. The Shiites and Kurds never want the ancien regime to return to power, and the SOI represent just that. As mentioned earlier, the Deputy National Security Advisor accused the SOI of having ties with Baathists. Many SOI are former insurgents that also carried out sectarian attacks and have blood on their hands, something the Shiites aren’t willing to forget. The Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, also consider the SOI an immediate political threat. Many of them are forming political parties to run in the provincial elections. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s Iraqi Islamic Party controls Anbar, but only because they were the sole Sunni party not to boycott the January 2005 elections. They are expected to lose control of the province to the Anbar Awakening. In the south, several tribal SOI are forming parties as well to run against the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. In December 2007, when General Odierno met with Maliki to try to convince him to integrate the SOI, he told the Americans to stop organizing Shiites because they would challenge the ruling parties. The Kurds as well, have told the U.S. not to create SOIs in disputed areas such as Kirkuk and Mosul where the Kurds have annexationist hopes. Finally, after the recent crackdowns in Basra, Sadr City, etc, Maliki believes that the security forces can secure the country without the SOI. This combination of factors seems insurmountable for Iraqi politicians to overcome any time soon. In turn, that will probably doom the SOI if events continue to unfold as they are.

Conclusion

Even some U.S. commanders seem to think this is the end of the road. The U.S. general in charge of northern Iraq has been telling the SOI that the program is coming to an end and they need to find work. Very few fighters have taken up the U.S.’s offer of vocational training however, as it doesn’t hold the same prestige of carrying a gun and securing their neighborhoods. With provincial elections postponed until 2009, and Baghdad wanting to end the SOI by the end of 2008, the door for the SOI to find a political out is closing as well. That seems to only leave three paths for the SOI. One, they can go back to being insurgents and fight the government that is trying to wipe them out. This is problematic because the U.S. has been able to collect a large amount of intelligence on each SOI, which would be used against them if they chose violence. Two, they can give in and be arrested, not something anyone would accept. Finally, they can give up their guns and join the lines of men looking for jobs. With unemployment running as high as 50% or more in some areas, this path offers few opportunities.

This is a bleak and ironic picture for the SOI. Now that the government is finally stepping up to its security responsibilities it has given Prime Minister Maliki an inflated sense of his political and military standing. He is using some of that clout to go after the very program that has helped secure his country. The Americans are stuck in the middle between the two sides. The U.S. can only hope that it will be able to moderate the situation, but the sense of danger the SOI pose to the government appears to be overwhelming. If push comes to shove, the U.S. will have to stand by the government, and help eliminate any SOI that chooses to stand and fight.

SOURCES

Abu Aardvark Blog, “Dissolving the Sons of Iraq… ?” 7/3/08

Ahmed, Farook, “Sons of Iraq and Awakening Forces,” Institute for the Study of War, 2/21/08

Alsumaria, “Awakening councils in Kurdistan at issue,” 1/14/08

Bakier, Abdul Hameed, “Iraq’s Awakening Councils Turn Focus To Iran,” Terrorism Focus, Jamestown Foundation, 2/13/08

Boot, Max, “We Are Winning. We Haven’t Won,” Weekly Standard, 1/28/08

Burns, John and Rubin, Alissa, “U.S. Arming Sunnis in Iraq to Battle Old Qaeda Allies,” New York Times, 6/11/07

Fadel, Leila, “Key U.S. Iraq strategy in danger of collapse,” McClatchy Newspaper, 8/20/08
- “Petraeus: Iraq slows hiring of former insurgents,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/21/08
- “U.S. sponsorship of Sunni groups worries Iraq’s government,” McClatchy Newspapers, 11/28/07

Freeman, Sholnn, “The Challenge Of Creating A Lasting Peace,” Washington Post, 5/7/08

Glanz, James, and Farrell, Stephen, “A U.S.-Backed Plan for Sunni Neighborhood Guards Is Tested,” New York Times, 8/19/07

Gordon, Michael, “The Former-Insurgent-Counterinsurgency,” New York Times, 9/2/07
- “Iraq Hampers U.S. Bid to Widen Sunni Police Role,” New York Times, 10/28/07
- “The Last Battle,” New York Times, 8/3/08

Hendawi, Hamza, “Iraq moves against some US-backed Sunni fighters,” Associated Press, 8/18/08
- “Program in Iraq against al-Qaida faces uncertainty,” Associated Press, 6/29/08

Kahl, Colin, Nagl, John, Brimley, Shawn, “Canceling Iraq’s Blank Check,” Foreign Policy, August 2008

Katulis, Brian, Juul, Peter, and Moss, Ian, “Awakening to New Dangers in Iraq,” Center for American Progress, February 2008

Lynch, Marc, “Iraqi Sunnis after the Awakening,” Abu Aaradvark Blog, 6/20/08

Missing Links Blog, “Babil police worried about calls for national resistance,” 6/23/08
- “Reconciliation,” 6/27/08

Multi-National Force-Iraq, “Charts to accompany the testimony of GEN David H. Petraeus,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/8-9/08

Murray, Bill, “Bungled raid in Diyala threatens political developments, military operations,” Long War Journal.org, 8/20/08

Oppel, Richard, “Iraq Takes Aim at Leaders of U.S.-Tied Sunni Groups,” New York Times, 8/22/08

Parker, Ned, “Iraq clings to a rickety calm between war and peace,” Los Angeles Times, 7/28/08
- “Iraq seeks breakup of U.S.-funded Sunni fighters,” Los Angeles Times, 8/23/08
- “The rise and fall of a Sons of Iraq warrior,” Los Angeles Times, 6/29/08

Partlow, Joshua, “Shiites tell U.S. to quit recruiting Sunni tribesmen,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3/07

Peter, Tom, “Sons of Iraq made Iraq safer. What’s their mission now?” Christian Science Monitor, 7/30/08

Porter, Gareth, “U.S. Officials Admit Worry over a ‘Difficult’ al-Maliki,” IPS, 8/15/08

Reuters, “Members of the U.S.-backed Neighbourhood Patrol take to the streets in Baghdad,” 6/28/08

Roads To Iraq Blog, “Raid in Diyala, the southern awakening councils,” 8/19/08

Rubin, Alissa and Cave, Damien, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict,” New York Times, 12/23/07

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq: Volunteer Militias to Expand,” Associated Press, 12/5/07

Samuels, Lennox, “The Protection Business,” Newsweek, 1/11/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

Spiegel, Peter, “U.S. shifts Sunni strategy in Iraq,” Los Angeles Times, 1/14/08

Voices of Iraq, “Iraqi PM offers jobs for Adhamiya anti-Qaeda fighters,” 3/20/08

White House, “Benchmark Assessment Report,” 9/14/07

Wood, David, “Iraq violence calms, but is the war over?” Baltimore Sun, 8/21/08

Wright, Robin and Tyson, Ann Scott, “Iraqi official: Iran supplying arms to insurgents attacking U.S. forces,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/6/07

Yacoub, Sameer, “Key provincial elections split Sunni Arabs in Iraq,” Associated Press, 5/31/08

Yates, Dean, “Iraq government wants to pay neighborhood police units: U.S.,” Reuters, 11/26/07

Zavis, Alexandra, “Sons of Iraq? Or Baghdad’s Sopranos?” Los Angeles Times, 5/20/08

Friday, August 22, 2008

NY Times Finds Iraq Spends Even Less Of Its Budget

On August 21, the New York Times printed a story about Baghdad’s inability to spend much of its budget. The report follows a study done by the Government Accountability Office in August 2008, discussed earlier, that also documented Iraq’s budgetary difficulties. The New York Times was able to get a hold of some new Finance Ministry numbers that showed problems with Iraqi accounting methods. The Times found that while the government claims that it has spent 57% of its 2008 budget, an analysis of the Finance numbers shows that they’ve only spent 18%, or perhaps even less.

First, the New York Times found a major problem with Iraq’s accounting methods that inflated their budget numbers. The Finance Ministry counted any money that had been appropriated as spent. The problem was in many cases there was no proof that this happened. For example, the Electricity Ministry had $231 million appropriated to it, which Finance counted as spent, when in fact, none of it had been. The Ministry also counted all money sent to the three Kurdish provinces in the north as spent, but there was no accounting for whether this happened or not.

The discrepancies led to three different percentages for Iraq’s spending. The Finance Ministry claimed that Iraq had spent 57% of its 2008 budget so far. The New York Times, after discounting appropriated monies, found that Baghdad had only spent 18%. Even worse, when the Times deducted the unaccounted for Kurdistan money, the number went down to only 8.7%.

The New York Times’ findings match earlier criticisms made by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The SIGIR found that while Iraq has increased the percentage of the budget they have spent from 22% in 2006 to 63% in 2007, most of that has been on operational costs that go towards salaries, compensations, etc., and less on capital spending that goes towards infrastructure. The provinces have also done a worse job spending their money than the central government’s ministries. Ninewa, Basra, Muthanna, Diyala, and Anbar for example, did not spend any of their 2007 or 2008 capital budgets. The GAO was even more damning. It found that from 2005-2007 Iraq was only able to spend 10% of its capital budget, and only 1% went towards maintenance of its aging and war-ravaged infrastructure. For 2007 it said that Iraq spent 80% of its operational budget, but only 28% of its capital one. From 2005-2007 Iraq did increase its spending by 13%, but most of that was because of a large increase in the security and Kurdistan budgets. The GAO actually found that the total percentage spent declined, going from 73% in 2005, to 67% in 2006, to 65% in 2007. Capital spending also went up and down from 23% in 2005, to 19% in 2006, to 28% in 2007. In the key ministries of oil, water and electricity, the percentage of capital expenditures actually decreased from 14% in 2005, to 13% in 2006, to 11% in 2007.

Iraq is currently benefiting from a boom in oil prices that has swelled its coffers to the point that it added a $22 billion supplemental budget this summer. Still, the ministries and provinces have proven incapable of spending most of their money outside of their operational costs to keep the government running. Each year Iraq has spent more money, but that is more a result of increasing budgets than an improvement in capabilities. Most importantly, all of their spending is having very little effect upon basic services for Iraq’s population that is suffering from displacement, unemployment, a drought this summer, and the ravages of the war.

SOURCES

Robertson, Campbell and Glanz, James, “Iraqi Figures Back U.S. View on Low Spending for Reconstruction,” New York Times, 8/21/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008

Voices of Iraq, “Iraqi gov’t approves 2008 supplementary budget-statement,” 7/8/08

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GAO August 2008 Report On Iraq’s Budget And Spending

In early August 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its latest report on Iraq’s budget. Its major conclusion was that while total spending by Iraq has increased from its first budget in 2005 to the present, the vast majority of this money has gone to operational costs such as salaries and pensions, rather than investment in infrastructure. The main causes are the lack of qualified staff, the war, and sectarianism that still hinder the government’s operation.

The GAO begins with a breakdown of Iraq’s revenues. From 2005-2007 Iraq has earned $96 billion. 94% or $90.2 billion of that has come from oil. The remaining $5.7 billion came from taxes, interest, and other revenues. The GAO estimates that in 2008 Iraq could earn between $73.5-$86.2 billion depending upon the price of oil. Oil could account for between $66.5-$79.2 billion of that total, twice the average amount from 2005-2007 thanks to the skyrocketing price of crude.

From 2005-2007 the Iraqi government spent $67 billion of its budget. The Iraqi Finance Ministry said that 90% of that went into operational costs such as salaries, pensions, goods, services, social benefits, and interest payments. The remaining 10% went into capital spending on investment in infrastructure. Only 1% went into maintaining that infrastructure. While the total amount of money Baghdad was able to spend has increased each year, it is still not able to spend all of its’ budget, especially its capital budgets. In 2007 for example, Iraq spent 80% of its operational budget, compared to only 28% of its capital one. There has been a 42% increase in capital spending from 2005-2007, but most of that was due to Kurdistan increasing its capital budget in 2007. Capital spending by Iraq’s ministries, actually decline last year. Most of the recent increase in total expenditures has also been on the security forces that jumped from $2,992 million in 2006 to $4,617 million in 2007

Defense and Interior Ministries’ Spending

  • 2005 total spent $2,109 million, $1,971 million operational, $138 million capital
  • 2006 total spent $2,992 million, $2,697 million operational, $296 million capital
  • 2007 total spent $4,617 million, $4,441 million operational, $176 million capital
  • January-April 2008 total spent $1,910 million, $1,898 million operational, $12 million capital
  • Annual Average Growth Rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: 36% increase in total spending
  • - 38% increase in operational spending
  • - 3% increase in capital spending

Note: While spending is given in U.S. dollars, the averages are in Iraqi dinars because the GAO considers that more accurate due to a large appreciation of the dinar against the dollar in 2007.

In 2008, the GAO predicts that Iraq will spend between $35.3-$35.9 billion of its $49.9 billion budget. That would be a 21% increase in dinars compared to the 2005-2007 annual average of 13%. Iraq’s parliament is also trying to add a $22 billion supplemental budget that would add $8 billion more to the capital budget.

Iraq’s Budgetary Spending

  • 2005 total spent $17,583 million, $16,151 million operational, $1,432 million capital
  • 2006 total spent $22,788 million, $21,173 million operational, $1,615 million capital
  • 2007 total spent $26,599 million, $23,164 million operational, $3,434 million capital
  • January-April 2008 total spent $10,796 million, $9,537 million operational, $1,25 million capital
  • Annual Average Growth Rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: 13% increase in total spending
  • - 10% increase in operational spending
  • - 42% increase in capital spending
While the government’s budget has increased from 2005-2007, the percentage spent has actually declined during that time. In 2005 Iraq spent 73% of its budget. That went down to 67% in 2006, and down again to 65% in 2007. The cause was a decrease in operational spending that went from 91% in 2005 to 80% in 2007. Capital spending has gone up and down from 23% in 2005, 19% in 2006, and 28% in 2007.

Spending by Iraq’s main ministries that are responsible for bringing in revenues and providing services has also gone down from 2005-2007. In 2005 Iraq’s oil, water, and electricity ministries spent 14% of their budgets. That went down to 13% in 2006, and 11% in 2007. All three witnessed a decrease in their capital budget spending, especially oil and electricity that went down 92% and 93% from 2005-2007. In 2005 and 2006 the ministries spent far more on their capital, rather than operational budgets, but that trend was reversed in 2007.

Oil, Water and Electricity Ministries’ Spending

  • 2005 ministries appropriated $5.7 billion, spent $825 million
  • 2007 ministries appropriated $8.1 billion, spent $896 million

Capital Budget Spending:

  • 2005 appropriated $3,482 million, $373 million spent
  • 2006 appropriated $4,473 million, $502 million spent
  • 2007 appropriated $4,034 million, $110 million spent
  • Total: appropriated $11,990 million, $985 million spent, 8% increase

Oil Ministry Spending:
  • 2005 total spent $160 million, $49 million operational, $111 million capital
  • 2006 total spent $191 million, $48 million operational, $143 million capital
  • 2007 total spent $36 million, $35 million operational, $1 million capital
  • January-April 2008 total spent $52 million, $13 million operational, $39 million capital
  • Annual Average Growth Rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: -56% decrease in total spending, -22% decrease in operational spending, -92% decline in capital spending

Water Ministry Spending:
  • 2005 total spent $163 million, $42 million operational, $120 million capital
  • 2006 total spent $145 million, $54 million operational, $91 million capital
  • 2007 total spent $236 million, $128 million operational, $109 million capital
  • January-April 2008 total spent $69 million, $35 million operational, $34 million capital
  • Annual Average Growth Rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: 11% increase in total spending, 59% increase in operational spending, 13% decline in capital spending

Electricity Ministry Spending:
  • 2005 total spent $147 million, $5 million operational, $142 million capital
  • 2006 total spent $281 million, $13 million operational, $268 million capital
  • 2007 total spent $78 million, $77 million operational, $1 million capital
  • January-April 2008 total spent $15 million, $15 million operational, $200,000 capital
  • Annual Average Growth Rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: 33% decline in total spending, 277% increase in operational spending, 93% decline in capital spending

From 2005-2007 Iraq has been able to accrue a surplus of $29.4 billion, which is held in the Iraq Development Fund in New York City, Iraq’s Central Bank, and other financial institutions. The 2008 budget surplus could grow to between $38.2-$50.3 billion depending upon the price of oil. If the $22 billion supplementary budget is passed, that will obviously reduce the surplus. Iraq also owes $50-$80 billion in outstanding debt, as well as $29 billion it owes to Kuwait for war reparations. The possible $79 billion surplus caused a controversy with American politicians and the press when this report was released.

Finally, the GAO compares U.S. and Iraqi reconstruction funding. Since the 2003 invasion, America has appropriated $48 billion for reconstruction and Iraq’s security forces. $42 billion or 88% of that has been appropriated, with $32 billion or 68% actually spent. $23.2 billion went into the oil, electricity, water, defense and interior ministries. In comparison, Iraq has appropriated $28 billion for reconstruction and security, with only $3.9 billion spent. That’s 14% of the total. The U.S. Treasury Department believes that Iraq has enough money to maintain all of its reconstruction projects, provide services, and help the economy grow. That’s what editorials and some American politicians called for when the GAO report was released at the beginning of August. The major impediments to this happening are a lack of trained staff, weak procurement and budgeting procedures, violence, and sectarianism, which have hindered Iraq from being able to effectively spend its budgets. The U.S. has various programs to improve Iraq’s bureaucracy, but it will be a long and arduous process to get them to effectively work.

SOURCES

DeYoung, Karen, “Iraq Banks Billions in Surpluses, GAO Says,” Washington Post, 8/6/08

Glanz, James and Robertson, Campbell, “As Iraq Surplus Rises, Little Goes Into Rebuilding,” New York Times, 8/5/08

Jelinek, Pauline, “GOA: Iraq could have $79 billion budget surplus,” Associated Press, 8/5/08

Juhi, Bushra, “Iraqi official defends spending, surplus,” Associated Press, 8/7/08

Kukis, Mark, “Who Gets Billed for a New Baghdad?” Time, 8/7/08

New York Times, “Time for Iraq to Pay the Bill,” 8/7/08

Reid, Robert, “US officials defend Iraq’s oil-fed budget surplus,” Associated Press, 8/6/07

Ryan, Missy, “U.S. diplomat rejects criticism of Iraqi spending,” Reuters, 8/6/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008

USA Today, “Awash in oil money, it’s time for Iraq to pay its own way,” 8/13/08

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Iraq’s Oil Ministry’s Plans Seem To Be Falling Apart

At the end of 2007, Iraq’s Oil Ministry announced its plans to open up the country’s oil fields to foreign investment. First, the government offered six, two-year Technical Support Agreements (TSAs). Each deal was worth around $500 million. Under the agreements, companies would only be paid for consulting. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said he wanted all the deals signed by June 2008. Long-term contracts that would involve actual oil production were to be offered later, with Shahristani saying he wanted those finished by June 2009. Together, the Oil Ministry was hoping that these deals would boost production from around 2.4 million barrels a day in the summer of 2008, to 4.5 million barrels a day. Shahristani opened up these negotiations despite the fact that parliament had not passed a new oil law.

Iraq began negotiating with Shell, BHP, Billiton, BP, Exxon, Chevron, Total, Anadarko, Vitol, and Dome for the TSAs in December 2007. Many of these were the same companies that made up the Iraq Petroleum Company that controlled the country’s oil from 1927 to 1972. By August 2008 however, there were reports that the talks were breaking down. The major problem was that the oil companies did not want to sign service agreements. A study sponsored by the Kurdish Regional Government, who disagreed with the Oil Ministry’s approach, found that TSAs are not very effective because they pay the same fee no matter what happens, thus giving no incentives to the companies. The government also shortened the TSAs from two-years to one, angering some of the companies. The oil corporations were also hoping their negotiations for the TSAs would give them preferential treatment for the long-term deals, but the Oil Ministry refused to promise that. Things were going so badly that the U.S. Economic Affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad told the Wall Street Journal that he didn’t think any deals would be signed. The Andarko company has already dropped out.

Seeing these talks fall apart, Minister Shahristani changed course and opened up an eleven-year old deal with China for a TSA. The original deal, signed in the 70s under Saddam Hussein, was for production sharing, but the Oil Ministry is refashioning it for just consulting. The move appeared to be a face-saving one as it involves only one field, not the original five Shahristani wanted.

The inability of the Oil Ministry to sign the original TSAs they wanted places its oil investment plan in jeopardy. With the talks over the short-term contracts falling apart, there’s no telling what will happen with the more important long-term ones. The point of the oil strategy was to get foreign investors to help modernize the country’s aging infrastructure, open up new refineries, and boost output. Now there’s no telling when this might happen. Iraq has increased production slowly but surely to 2.43 million barrels a day during the first quarter of 2008, but that’s still below the pre-war level of 2.58 million barrels a day, and the U.S. benchmark of 3 million barrels a day. The whole process could move forward in an ad hoc fashion as appears to be happening with the China deal. Lucky for Iraq, the price of oil is so high that they are expected to earn between $73.5-$86.2 billion by the end of the year, twice the average earned from 2005-2007, without any real new foreign investment.

SOURCES

Chon, Gina, “Iraq, Foreign Companies Stalled in Oil Negotiations,” Wall Street Journal, 8/13/08

Kurdistan Regional Government, “International expert finds KRG oil contracts ‘in the national interests’, ‘far superiod’ for Iraq than model contract proposed by Baghad federal oil ministry,” 7/1/08

Reuters, “Iraq MPs say no-bid oil deals could be in doubt,” 7/3/08
- “Iraq opens oilfields to long-term contracts,” 6/30/08
- “US says Iraq may drop short-term oil deals,” 8/17/08

Robertson, Campbell, “Iraq Poised to Revive Oil Contract With China,” New York Times, 8/19/08

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraqi cabinet OKs deals with oil giants,” Associated Press, 3/5/08

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/08

United States Government Accountability Office, “Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed,” June 2008

Walt, Vivienne, “What Oil Companies Will Get in Iraq,” Time, 6/20/08

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Déjà Vu? Government Returns Refugees

Iraqi refugees returning home on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private airplane in August 2008

On August 11 and 18 several hundred Iraqi refugees disembarked from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private jet that had been sent to Egypt to take them back to Iraq. These were the first such flights under the government’s new refugee policy that was announced this summer that offers free plane rides to any refugees that wish to return home. Iraqi officials said another flight is planned for later this week, and that they would continue for the next nine weeks. A spokesman said that eventually there could be up to two flights a week shuttling refugees back from throughout the Middle East. The August 11 group consisted of 236 people, comprising 52 families. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Displacement and Migration, the Baghdad Operations Commander, as well as the head of the Baghdad provincial council were there to greet them, and the whole event was televised. The officials said they would help the returnees get their homes back and find them jobs, and that the government hoped to return all of Iraq’s refugees.

Iraqi refugees on a government sponsored bus ride from Syria to Baghdad in November 2007

The events seemed like an exact replay of when Baghdad offered free bus rides and money for Iraqi refugees to return from Syria in November 2007. Then, the government claimed that security had improved to the point that tens of thousands of Iraq’s refugees were returning. They set up a special bus ride from Syria to Baghdad, and offered each returnee $800 if they came back. TV ads were run in Syria to encourage their return as well. At the end of the month, the first buses arrived in Baghdad to much fanfare and media coverage. The government claimed that 800 Iraqis took up the offer. After only two runs the program was ended however. By December, the government admitted that it couldn’t take care of any returning refugees and told them to stay put. The United Nations reported that only 1/3 of the families that took the buses were able to go back to their homes. The rest joined the ranks of Iraq’s internally displaced. That was because the government had no programs to help them once they returned, and the burden of caring for them fell to the U.S. military. The New York Times also found that the government’s numbers for Iraqis coming back were exaggerated. Officials were counting every Iraqi that crossed the border whether they were a refugee or not.

In the November 2007 and August 2008 cases, Maliki was attempting to exploit the refugees for his own gain. Then and now, the Prime Minister claimed that it was safe for Iraqis to come back home to improve Baghdad’s image. In both situations international organizations warned the government that it wasn’t time for refugees to return. This month for example, a group of over one hundred non-government organizations inside and out of Iraq called on the government not to encourage refugees to come back. Refugee groups have also found that most Iraqis, like those that took the buses from Syria and the flights from Egypt, are coming back because they have run out of money, and are facing growing restrictions and resentment against them in their host countries, rather than improved security. In 2007 and 2008 Baghdad also offered money to those that took the journey back, but little else. There are no plans to solve property disputes with squatters, there is no housing for those that can’t go back to their original residences, etc. There are too many uncertainties for many to come back, which is probably why only a small fraction of Iraq’s four million plus refugees have taken up the government’s offer so far.

SOURCES

Afrique en ligne, “Iraqi refugees begin return from Egypt,” 8/18/08

Allam, Hannah, “Baghdad may be safer, but few Iraqis in Syria risk returning,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/5/07
- “Survey: Many Iraqis in Syria fled during U.S. troop buildup,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/14/07

Alsumaria, “Iraqi refugees return home from Egypt,” 8/18/08
- “Tens of Iraqi displaced families return home,” 8/12/08

Barnes-Dacey, Julien and Dagher, Sam, “Returning from Syria, Iraqis question safety,” Christian Science Monitor, 11/28/07

Buckley, Cara, “Refugees Risk Coming Home to an Unready Iraq,” New York Times, 12/20/07

Cave, Damien, “Pressure for Results: The Politics of Tallying the Number of Iraqis Who Return Home,” New York Times, 11/26/07

DeYoung, Karen, “Balkanized Homecoming,” Washington Post, 12/16/07

Gordon, Michael and Farrell, Stephen, “Iraq Lacks Plan on the Return of Refugees, Military Says,” New York Times, 11/30/07

International Crisis Group, “Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees In Syria, Jordan and Lebanon,” 7/10/08

IRIN, “Group of NGOs warn against ‘premature’ refugee return,” 8/12/08
- “NGOs urge action on displacement crisis,” 8/13/08

Jordans, Frank, “UNHCR: Many Iraq Areas Unsafe for Return,” Associated Press, 12/7/07

Kaplow, Larry, Nordland, Rod, and Spring, Silvia, “There’s No Place Like … Iraq?” Newsweek, 11/24/07

Paley, Amit, “Iraq Urges Refugees To Stay Put,” Washington Post, 12/5/07

Sinan, Omar and Yacoub, Sameer, “Iraqi leader gives refugees free flight home,” Associated Press, 8/11/08

Youssef, Nancy, “Baghdad refugees happy to be home again,” McClatchy Newspapers, 11/20/07