Friday, October 31, 2008

Will Baghdad Pay For The Sons Of Iraq?

Tomorrow, November 1, is an important litmus test for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It is the day that the government is suppose to start paying the 54,000 Sons of Iraq (SOI) in the Baghdad area. On September 8, Maliki officially declared that the government would take responsibility for the Baghdad SOI and integrate them. The government promised that those that were literate, had an education, passed a medical test, and had no criminal record could join the security forces. The rest are suppose to get government jobs. At the same time, the government said that the U.S.’s numbers on the SOI were too high, and they demanded an audit to confirm their identities before they would pay them. An Iraqi Army general also said that the process was meant to ferret out any insurgents from infiltrating the security forces. Charges that the SOI are full of unrepentant militants has been a common one from the government. Comments such as these, plus the government’s crackdown on the SOI in Diyala and other areas, has caused widespread fear and apprehensions amongst the SOI. Many are afraid that Baghdad will arrest them, and disband the rest.

To try to protect against these possibilities, the U.S. has made a number of contingency plans. First, the U.S. has set aside 90 days worth of pay in case the government can’t or won’t provide salaries on November 1. Second, they have gotten promises form the government that they cannot arrest any Baghdad SOI for warrants that were issued in the last six months. Third, the U.S. has also set up a mini-grant program to try to get some of the SOI to retire or take up a new profession. Last, Americans will act as mediators in case of any confrontations. Still, there are many American officers that share the same suspicions as the SOI that they have worked with that the government is not committed to this program.

Even if Maliki follows through with his promises, there is not much of a future for the SOI. The government said that they would integrate 20% of the SOI. Some SOI leaders have asked for a larger percentage, but Baghdad has refused. Those that do get jobs in the security forces will get the lowest ranks. The remaining 80% are suppose to get government jobs that may not exist. This could lead some to turn back to violence. That would be a hard fight as all of them have had their biometric information recorded by the U.S., and are well known by U.S. troops. To be effective they would have to move to rural areas away from the security forces, or leave their provinces to places they are not known. Otherwise most of them will end up dead. If the government doesn’t follow through with the policy, a much more likely outcome is that many of these men will end up unemployed.

For more on the Sons of Iraq see:

Another Chapter In The Government’s Opposition To The Sons of Iraq

Carrot and the Stick With Diyala’s Sons of Iraq, Or Just The Sticks?


The Demise, But Not Death of Al Qaeda In Iraq

End Of The Diyala Sons Of Iraq?

Finding A Historical Precedent For The Sons Of Iraq, But Not A Solution

Government Continues Its Crackdown On Diyala Sons Of Iraq

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

Recent Government And Sons of Iraq Relations

Rough Numbers on The Sons of Iraq Program

Sons of Iraq Update

Sons of Iraq Update II

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s Numbers for Sons of Iraq

What’s In The Future For the Sons of Iraq?

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “New procedures to enroll Awakening members,” 9/12/08

Farrell, Stephen, Rubin, Alissa, Dagher, Sam and Goode, Erica, “As Fears Ease, Baghdad Sees Walls Tumble,” New York Times, 10/10/08

Londono, Ernesto, “For U.S. and Sunni Allies, a Turning Point,” Washington Post, 9/30/08

Rasheed, Saif and Susman, Tina, “Iraq, U.S.-funded militia at loggerheads,” Los Angeles Times, 9/12/08

Sands, Phil, “Payday vital for stability in ‘triangle of death,’” The National, 10/30/08

Maliki Still Pushing The Kurds On Khanaqin District

The tension between Kurds and the central government in the Khanaqin district of Diyala province have calmed down, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is still pushing. In early August 2008, Iraqi forces reached the Khanaqin district as part of a security operation in Diyala. The move was intentionally meant to assert the government’s control over a disputed area, which the Kurds wish to annex. After a series of escalating and then de-escalating moves by the two sides, things reached a climax on September 27 when Iraqi police got into a shoot out with Kurdish forces in the town of Jalawlaa. Iraqi troops later forced out a Kurdish political party from government owned buildings in that town in early October. The United States then moved in to mediate the conflict. U.S. officers brought together the Shiite governor of Diyala and the Kurdish mayor of Khanaqin village for example, to reduce tensions. Since then nothing much has been heard from the area.

The New York Times however, reported on October 28 that Maliki is still intent on gaining control of the area. The Times reported that Baghdad tried to set up a Tribal Support Council in the Khanaqin district, and another in Kirkuk. As reported earlier, the Prime Minister has been setting up these groups across southern Iraq to gain support in light of the upcoming provincial elections. These are the first attempts to create such councils north of Baghdad.

Since March when the government launched an offensive in Basra, Maliki has been trying to become the sole power in the country. First, he took on his former allies, the Sadrists in Basra, Sadr City, and Maysan. These were aimed at breaking up the largest Shiite militia in the country, and Maliki’s biggest opponent in provincial elections. Troops were then sent to Mosul and Diyala to deal with the Sunni insurgency. Since this summer, the Prime Minister has taken on his coalition member the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) by forming Tribal Support Councils in provinces they rule. These are meant to sway tribes to Maliki’s Dawa party. At the same time, he also confronted the Kurds in Khanaqin. What was most important about these moves was that the Prime Minister fashioned a new image for himself. Whether they worked out as happened in Basra, or didn’t like in Mosul, Maliki was still taking action. Out of complete self-interest no doubt, but action nonetheless. That has given him a new standing in the country like he’s never had before. As the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies’ survey reported on earlier pointed out, Maliki is now the most popular politician in Iraq. On the other hand, as military analyst Anthony Cordesman wrote about in September, these operations have been almost completely military in nature, as Baghdad has not proven that it can actually govern. That will be the major question Maliki needs to answer. Is he just interested in amassing as much power as he can, or is he committed to actually improving the living conditions in his country, rebuilding its infrastructure, and delivering services.

For more on the Kurdish-Maliki dispute see:

Cold War Between Baghdad and Kurds Turns Hot

Deal Struck To Defuse Khanaqin Issue

Khanaqin Deal Off?

Kurdish-Baghdad Tensions Over Diyala

The Kurds Come Out Swinging

Maliki Ups the Ante in Khanaqin District of Diyala

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 killed in clashes between policemen, Kurdish party supporters in Jalawlaa,” 9/27/08
- “Iraqi army takes over Kurdish party headquarters,” 10/4/08

Peterson, Scott, “US referees Iraq’s troubled Kurdish-Arab fault line,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/21/08

Rubin, Alissa, “Rejection of Oil Law and Move to Create Tribal Councils Add to Tensions With Kurds,” New York Times, 10/28/08

Russo, Claire, “The Maliki Government Confronts Diyala,” Institute for the Study of War,” 9/23/08

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wasit Province Turned Over To Iraqi Control


On Wednesday October 29, Wasit province in southern Iraq was turned over to Iraqi control. It was the 13th of 18 provinces to be handed over to Baghdad. This follows closely after Babil went through a similar process on October 23.

Wasit has a population of 941,800 people, 100% of which are Shiite. The province’s economy is based upon farming, oil, and natural gas. Many of these natural resources are not being exploited however because the government has shown no leadership in developing them. The pace of reconstruction in the province is also slow, and there is little investment. On the positive side, in September 2008, Iraq and Iran signed a free trade agreement, which would includes a border crossing in Wasit. As reported earlier, Iran is Iraq’s largest trade partner, and supplies most of the country’s consumer goods.

The Gathering of Iraqi Elites runs the provincial council, which is part of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). The U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province ranked their governance as “Developing,” the second lowest of five rankings. In terms of running Wasit, the council spent $33.7 million of its $83 million budget, 41% in 2007. That made it the eighth best among Iraq’s 18 provinces in budget execution. As with Baghdad, most of this money has been spent on salaries and expenses, rather than on infrastructure to rebuild the area. The major issue politically today, is the attempt by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to sway voters away from the SIIC to his Dawa party. In September the Prime Minister tried to set up a Tribal Support Council to this end, but the provincial council objected. The next month, Maliki went ahead and formed a council there anyway.

The province is also home to several thousand internally displaced Iraqis. The Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR) reconstruction counted 75,325 in its July 2008 report. The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) counted 118 families, 708 people, had recently returned to Wasit. In a separate report, the IOM reported that 100 displaced families had left for their home provinces.

Security in Wasit is considered good. SIGIR ranked it the 9th most violent province. The major source of conflict in the area recently was not between insurgents and the government and U.S., but with Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and Iranian-backed Special Groups. Wasit and its capital Kut was part of one of the major routes Iranian operatives used to funnel weapons into Baghdad. In the fall of 2007, the U.S. began expanding its Sons of Iraq program to Wasit, aimed largely at stopping the flow of Iranian supplies and Shiite militias. During the security crackdown in Basra in March 2008, Iraqi forces were also involved in fighting Sadrists in Kut. These operations continued through the summer with senior Sadrists arrested, along with Special Group fighters. The conflict with the Mahdi Army also led to hundreds of local police being fired as suspected followers of Sadr. Iran continues to try to infiltrate the area as three members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were just arrested in Kut on October 20, and another one was killed and one detained in separate incident south of Kut on October 24.

Overall, Wasit is relatively secure, but lacks an effective government and economy. There are few attacks, although Special Groups and Iranian agents are still operating there. At the same time, Iran is playing a positive role in the province, with a major trade route running through Kut, that provides essential goods to Iraqis. The ruling SIIC provincial council hasn’t done that good of a job running the area, and they are facing a strong challenge by the Prime Minister’s Dawa party, who is attempting to organize tribes behind him. The province is an example of post-Surge Iraq, where security is still an issue, but economic and political ones are becoming more important.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Farook and Cochrane, Marisa, “Recent Operations against Special Groups and JAM in Central and Southern Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 4/7/08

Aswat al-Iraq, “3 Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested in Wassit,” 10/20/08
- “QRF kills Iranian gunman, detains another in Wassit,” 10/24/08
- “Wassit province refuses to establish support councils,” 9/24/08

Gamel, Kim, “U.S. Expands Anbar Model to Iraq Shiites,” Associated Press, 9/16/07

International Organization for Migration, “IOM Emergency Needs Assessments,” 10/1/08

IraqSlogger.com, “New Tribal Groups Buck Wishes of Wasit Council,” 10/23/08

Jab, Abdul-Razaq, “US military hands southern province over to Iraqis,” Associated Press, 10/29/08

Juhi, Bushra, “Iraq fires 1,300 soldiers and policemen for refusing to fight,” Associated Press, 4/13/08

Kagan, Kimberly, “Iran’s Proxy War against the United States and the Iraqi Government,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/20/07

Middle East Reference, “Governorate elections held in Iraq on 31 January 2005”

Ministry of Displacement and Migration & International Organization for Migration, “Returnee Monitoring and Needs Assessments Tabulation Report,” September 2008

Roggio, Bill, “Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq,” Long War Journal.org, 12/5/07
- “Report: Iraqi security forces preparing operation against Mahdi Army in Maysan,” Long War Journal.org, 6/12/08
- “Report: Sadr to extend cease-fire,” Long War Journal.org, 2/21/08

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

Tehran Times, “Iran, Iraq to create 3 free zones,” 9/13/08

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Iraq Needs Real Governance Center for Strategic and International Studies Report Says

Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies is one of the leading military analysts on Iraq and the Middle East. In September 2008 he wrote a report on transferring Iraq’s provinces to Baghdad’s control, and its consequences. He notes that while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been able to wield the hammer recently in security operations, the Iraqi government still has not proven that it can carry out the more difficult build and hold aspects of a successful counterinsurgency program. That includes reconciliation, and real governance at all levels; something hindered by the deep divisions between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

Iraq’s political system is still developing. The three main groups in Iraq, the Sunnis, the Shiites, and Kurds still have deep disagreements over the future of the country, which hinders the development of the government. Reconciliation is an important and necessary step to overcome these problems. Iraq has passed several reconciliation laws as part of this process, but it is always the implementation that matters.

The Accountability and Justice Law for example, was passed to replace the old Debaathification act from the American Coalition Provisional Authority. As reported earlier, no officials have been appointed to the Supreme National Commission on Accountability and Justice that is suppose to administer it. The government has been using this as an excuse not to follow it, except for the Interior Ministry, which has accepted former officers into the security forces. This is happening despite the fact that the new law says that no ex-Baathists can work for the ministry. It says a lot about Iraqis inability to follow through on legislation it passes when most of the government is ignoring the Accountability and Justice act, but the one ministry that is forbidden from doing so, is. It is no wonder then that this law and others like it have not ameliorated the distrust of the Sunnis.

In early 2009, Iraq is scheduled to have provincial elections, which could also change the country’s political make-up. Cordesman points out, that simply having a vote, doesn’t add authority or legitimacy. What is important is the type of governance that happens afterwards. In Iraq’s case, three elections since the invasion have done little to solve the nation’s divisions.

Voting has not fixed other problems such as the government’s inability to spend its budget and provide basic services. Cordesman doesn’t mention it, but Prime Minister Maliki’s announcements to rebuild Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, Maysan, and Diyala provinces provide perfect examples of the government’s inability to build after security operations have cleared. After each military offensive in those five areas, the Prime Minister said that Baghdad would spend $100 million to help with reconstruction. So far those have been empty promises. In Basra, the governor argued over spending the money. Similarly, in Sadr City, the local council couldn’t agree on contracts. In Mosul, Maysan, and Diyala, nothing has happened. In fact, the U.S. and England are doing whatever reconstruction is happening in Basra and Sadr City because Baghdad has not proven to be up to the task.

On October 3, 2008 Iraq received control of the 12th province, Babil in the south, from the United States. All of Iraq’s provinces are suppose to be turned over to Baghdad by early 2009. These are important steps towards Iraq receiving full sovereignty. However, the provinces are turned over when the number of attacks in each province decreases, not whether the provincial governments are working or whether there is any reconciliation. Cordesman argues that this happens many times whether the Iraqis are ready or not. In the March 2008 quarterly report to Congress, the Pentagon said that the turnover of Basra had been successful, there was less violence, and that the Army and police were in control. That month Maliki launched an offensive against Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army that led to bloody fighting in the city of Basra and across the south.

Cordesman’s conclusion is that while there has been military progress in Iraq, the more important political and economic development has lagged behind. Baghdad has not been able to carry out meaningful reconciliation. The central government and provinces are barely able to provide basic service and spend their budgets. Iraqi elections in 2009 have the opportunity to shuffle the seats of power in the governorates, but they will still be sitting at the same broken table. The U.S. has put too much emphasis on security as a benchmark. Now that that is improving, it is time for Washington and Baghdad to step up their efforts to build Iraq’s infrastructure and government so that it can hold the country together.

For more on Anthony Cordesman’s writings on Iraq see:

Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Report on Iraqi Forces

Cordesman Interview: U.S. Needs To Stay For The Long Haul In Iraq

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “Maliki allocates $100 million for Mosul projects,” 5/18/08
- “Over 7,500 police members sacked this year – official,” 5/29/08
- “Parl’t forms accountability & justice panel next term – MP,” 9/8/08
- “SIIC head, Babel governor take up security,” 10/22/08

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

Cordesman, Anthony, “Transferring Provinces To Iraqi Control: The Reality And The Risks,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9/2/08

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” September 2008

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

Rubin, Alissa and Goode, Erica, “Iraq Struggle Unfolds in Peaceful Protest and Violent Attacks in Sadr City,” New York Times, 4/28/08

Al-Sabaah, “Cabinet allocates $ 100 mln to Diyala province,” 8/7/08

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

Tavernise, Sabrina, “Shiite Militia in Baghdad Sees Its Power Ebb,” New York Times, 7/27/08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Maliki’s Tribal Support Councils Appear To Be Paying Off

As reported earlier, since the security operation in Basra in March 2008 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been organizing local tribes to back the security forces and his government. So far these Tribal Support Councils have been established in Basra, Maysan, Babil, Wasit, Karbala, Dhi Qar, and Baghdad provinces. They are paid $21,000 by Baghdad when they first form, then receive $10,000 a month afterwards. They answer directly to Maliki’s office.

This has caused increasing tensions with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) who rules most of the south. The SIIC is afraid that Maliki will use these sheikhs to help his Dawa party gain seats in the upcoming provincial elections. The Prime Minister has publicly declared that the councils are non-partisan in nature, and that he would disband any that are allied with a party, but their political nature is apparent to everyone.

Recently, a tribal leader in southern Iraq publicly said what has been an open secret for months now that the Tribal Support Councils are meant to sway voters to Maliki’s Dawa party. Sheikh Nabil Sagban, the head of the Fatla tribe and a Tribal Support Council in Qadisiyah, said that the provincial elections are causing increasing tensions between Dawa and the SIIC. Each one is looking to gain followers before the balloting in early 2009. The tribes are in the middle as they can influence large numbers of Iraqis, especially in rural areas. The coming of a Support Council to the Fatla area of Qadisiyah seemed to work for Maliki as the sheikh declared he would vote for Dawa, and that he would tell his tribesmen to do the same. For his trouble, he had a dinner celebrating the end of Ramadan raided by an SIIC controlled police unit.

Maliki seems far from done as the government announced a new council was being formed in Wasit, and another in Najaf. The SIIC controlled provincial council in Wasit objected, as the party has done in other southern governorates. The SIIC has said that these tribal groups are unconstitutional, and even some local Dawa members have complained that they are not integrated with the provincial governments. This will not stop the Prime Minister, as he is intent on flexing his newfound power in the country, even if that means splitting with his allies like the SIIC.

For more on the Tribal Support Councils see:

Maliki Responds To His Critics On Tribal Support Councils

Disputes Over Tribal Support Councils

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Al Maliki defends tribal awakening councils,” 10/9/08
- “Rows growing between two major Iraqi parties,” 9/18/08

Aswat al-Iraq, “Karbala governor says no-confidence vote proposal is political pressure tool,” 10/1/08
- “PM announces formation of 17 tribal councils in Missan,” 6/23/08
- “Premier to cancel partisan support councils,” 10/9/08
- “Thi-Qar governor slams govt’s plan of installing support councils,” 10/3/08
- “Tribal chieftain announces opening 20 Supports Councils offices in Thi-Qar,” 10/1/08
- “Wassit clans agree to back security agencies,” 4/6/08
- “Wassit province refuses to establish support councils,” 9/24/08

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

Garcia-Navarro, Lourdes, “Competition Between Iraqi Shiites Gains Strength,” All Things Considered, NPR, 10/22/08

Hendawi, Hamza, “Program in Iraq against al-Qaida faces uncertainty,” Associated Press, 6/29/08

IraqSlogger.com, “Najaf Forms Tribal ‘Support Council,’” 10/27/08
- “New Tribal Groups Buck Wishes of Wasit Council,” 10/23/08

Levinson, Charles and Nabhan, Ali, “Iraqi tribes caught between rival Shiite parties,” USA Today, 10/20/08

Monday, October 27, 2008

Government Continues Its Crackdown On Diyala Sons Of Iraq

On October 21, Iraqi soldiers raided the house of Mullah Shihab al-Safe, the leader of a Sons of Iraq (SOI) unit in Buhrez, south of Diyala’s provincial capital Baquba. Al-Safe wasn’t home at the time, but his brother and father were. They were arrested, but eventually released. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the raid was conducted because there were charges of terrorism and murder against the SOI head. Al-Safe told Reuters that Iraqi forces also went to the house of the Diyala provincial spokesman for the SOI. He was arrested, and according to al-Safe, beaten as well.

As reported earlier, Baghdad has been going after the SOI in Diyala since at least May 2008. The government has issued arrest warrants, shut down their offices, rounded up over 100 fighters and leaders, and the provincial security chief who was an SOI supporter was dragged away by a counterterrorism unit in a controversial raid on the provincial government headquarters in Baquba.

Prime Minister Maliki views the SOI as an American-controlled force that has no allegiance to Baghdad. That is the reason why he has acted to weaken and disrupt the SOI in Diyala and other provinces. At the same time, the government accepted control of 54,000 SOI in Baghdad this month. That gives Maliki a carrot, their paycheck, and a stick, jail, to use against much of the SOI program. Most will probably be run off by threats, intimidation, and warrants, with the rest eventually given low level jobs in the security forces or left to be unemployed.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “5 Popular Committees members arrested in Diala,” 10/21/08

Farrell, Stephen, Rubin, Alissa, Dagher, Sam and Goode, Erica, “As Fears Ease, Baghdad Sees Walls Tumble,” New York Times, 10/10/08

Levinson, Charles, “Awakening Councils in hiding as arrests on rise,” USA Today, 9/22/08

Londono, Ernesto, “For U.S. and Sunni Allies, a Turning Point,” Washington Post, 9/30/08

McCallister, William, “Sons of Iraq: A Study in Irregular Warfare,” Small Wars Journal, 9/8/08

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

Reuters, “Iraqi Forces Raid Home Of Pro-U.S. Group Leader,” 10/21/08

Russo, Claire, “The Maliki Government Confronts Diyala,” Institute for the Study of War,” 9/23/08

al-Tuawijri, Ali, “Iraq’s anti-Qaeda fighters fear for their future,” Agence France Presse, 9/6/08

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies’ Survey Of Iraqis

The Iraq based think tank, the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies recently released a public opinion poll they conducted from late September to October 2008. Surveys of Iraqis, especially, by Iraqis themselves in English are rarities. The questions covered a wide range of topics from general security and political ones, to the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the U.S., to accessibility of basic services, to what should Iraq do if there was war between America and Iran. Overall, the polling shows the growing popularity of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that security is still a main issue, but that services have surpassed it as a pressing need, and general opposition to a security agreement with the United States.

The poll was conducted face-to-face with 3,000 Iraqis from September 25 to October 5, 2008. Roughly one-third of the respondents came from Baghdad, with the rest spread across the country. 61.8% were men, 38.2% were women. 93.9% had some kind of education from primary to a college degree. 77.8% were Arab, 15.3% were Kurds, 2.0% were Turkomen, and 0.9% were Assyrian.

First there was a general question of what was the most important issue facing the country. Basic goods, services, and jobs combined received the most responses at 36.1%. Security with 30.6% was the single most important issue. After those, the dispute over Kirkuk 6.0%, poverty and standard of living 5.5% rounded out the top five. At number six was the presence of U.S. and Coalition forces at 4.5%, followed by disarming militias 4.3%, corruption 3.2%, federalism 2.8%, and other economic topics 1.8%. On security itself, 68.4% of those surveyed said they felt very safe in their own district. That compared to almost 30% who said they did not feel that way. The number of non-security issues that Iraqis responded to highlights the post-Surge status quo in Iraq. Violence and attacks are still major problems, but increasingly Iraqis want a functioning government and employment.

When asked what Iraqis want from their government 55.3% said security was still the top priority. After that services 24.9% and jobs 14.8% were next. Most were very unhappy with the state of Iraq’s services and infrastructure. On food rations 27.8% said they were very good to good, compared to 45.8% who said they were not good to very bad. 25.5% said they were acceptable. The availability of fuel was seen as equally lacking with 21.5% saying the situation was positive, while 49.5% saying it was not good to very bad. On access to water, 30.3% said it was very good to good, compared to 46.4% saying it was bad, while 22.6% saying it was acceptable. The greatest discontent seemed to be with electricity with only 9.8% saying it was good. 25.3% said it was not good, and a whopping 53.4% said it was very bad. Only 10.3% felt it was acceptable. The Iraqi government has consistently struggled to provide basic services and goods to its public. This is due to the lack of trained staff, a brain drain of middle class professionals, corruption, and a paper based bureaucracy that takes months to get anything done.

Iraq’s parliament recently passed a new provincial election law, so there was a question about which party people supported. The largest response was no one with 17.9%, showing a level of cynicism amongst Iraqis. After that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party received 14.7%, followed by 13.3% for former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s National Accord Front, 8.5% said don’t know, and then the two Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party at 7.2% and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan with 6.4%. The Sadrists only got 4.1%, but that was better than their main rival and the largest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) at 2.4%. Of the Sunni parties, Vice president Tariq Hashimi’s Islamic Party of Iraq did the best at 3.4%. They were followed by the Sunni independents Al-Eummah Iraqi Party at 2.5%, another independent group, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front at 2.4%, which tied it with the Anbar Awakening Council. The most surprising result of this question was the strong showing by former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s National Accord Front. Allawi’s party, which is nationalist in character, has largely gone unmentioned in the inter-Shiite and inter-Sunni power struggles now occurring in the country. If these polling numbers hold up, Allawi’s party could have a surprising showing in the 2009 election. Also of note was the poor showing by the SIIC, which controls most of the southern provinces plus Baghdad. Maliki’s new standing has boosted his party as well, and they could ride that to election victories. Even the weakened Sadrists could do better than the SIIC based upon this poll.

When asked which politician could do the best job for Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had the highest positives with 17.2%, followed by former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at 16.7%, none at 13.2%, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari at 7.9% who broke away from the Dawa party and formed his own National Reform Movement, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani at 6.3%, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at 4.3%. Sadr ranked eighth at 3.8%, while SIIC Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi got 3.6%, and SIIC head Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem 1.9%. Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi of the Islamic Iraqi Party was the most popular Sunni politician at 3.6%. Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the independent Sunni party the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, got a 2.9%, while Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Awakening got 2.2%. These results closely followed the one about the parties, with Ayad Allawi again doing surprisingly well, coming in second only to the Prime Minister. The established Sunni politicians also seem to be doing better than Sheikh Abu Risha of the Anbar Awakening Council, but that probably won’t stop the tribes from sweeping the Iraqi Islamic Party out of power in Anbar. In the rest of Iraq, the Iraqi Accordance Front coalition and independents like the Iraqi National Dialogue Front will probably get the majority of Sunni support, which could change the provincial councils in Salahaddin and Ninewa, which are currently controlled by the Kurdish parties.

The Prime Minister’s new standing in the country after his security operations led the poll to ask if Maliki stayed in office would it improve the country. 46.2% said yes, 42.5% said no, showing a divided opinion about Iraq’s leader.

The survey also included questions about the timing, registration, and information about the provincial elections. 66.7% said the elections should have a specific date, 15.2% said they should be delayed for a year, while 5.5% said they should be at the same time as parliamentary election. 69.7% said they had not updated their election information, which hopefully means they did not have to. Iraq’s voter registration is based upon the food rations system, so only those that move have to re-register. 26.6% said they had.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments are currently in a heated debate over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two that would legalize a continued U.S. military presence in the country after December 31, 2008, and would set their diplomatic relations into the future. Despite the importance of the issue, 49.8% said they had not heard of the SOFA, while 46.2% said they had. Overall, 61.3% said they disagreed with the agreement, compared to 28.5% who supported it. The survey then broke down the opinions of those who had heard of the SOFA about how it would affect Iraq’s economy, security, and politics. 18.9% said it would improve Iraq’s economy and standing in the region. 17.7% however said it would weaken the economy and allow the U.S. to control the country’s resources. 19.2% said it would help with security and establishing a strong government, while 18.2% said it would weaken Baghdad and lead to instability. 18.7% felt it would have a bad effect on the future of the country and its relations with the region, while 18.5% said it would help stabilize Iraq. The overwhelming opposition to the SOFA, and the mixed views about its effects, has put the agreement in jeopardy as current press reports show.

In terms of the Middle East, those polled felt like Iraq should play a greater role in the region and stay clear of U.S. disputes. When asked what should Iraq do if war broke out between the U.S. and Iran for example, almost two thirds, 71.6% said their country should stay neutral. Only 14.7% said Iraq should help the U.S., while 6.1% said they should help Iran. When asked who Iraq should have a strategic relationship with, the U.S. and Iran engendered almost the same responses. 48.1% were strongly to somewhat opposed to ties with the U.S., while 49.2% said the same about Iran. Britain had the third highest negatives with 44.1% against. On the positive side, 77% said Iraq should have ties with Syria, 73.2% said the same for Jordan, and 66.9% for Saudi Arabia.

Today, the issue of federalism and regional governments is only between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. The SIIC use to support an autonomous southern Shiite region, but has largely dropped that from their agenda. That was largely because their idea was unpopular, which is shown in the survey. 69.9% said Iraq should have a strong government in Baghdad, as opposed to 17.7% who said authority should reside in the provinces. 70.0% also said they were opposed to establishing any new regional governments outside of Kurdistan, while only 23.9% said there should be.

The last question on the survey was about how the respondents identified themselves. 69.8% said they preferred Iraqi citizen. 10.6% said their nationality such as Arab, Kurds, Assyrian, Turkomen, etc. 7.6% said their tribe, and 5.2% said their religion, while 4.9% said their town, locality or region. From 2006-2007 as violence in Iraq was at its peak and Shiites and Sunnis were at war, American commentators said that Iraq had always been divided by sect. When the Anbar Awakening began turning the tide on Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Sons of Iraq spread across central Iraq, analysts then began saying that Iraqi society was based upon tribes. This survey however shows that over two-thirds still think of themselves as Iraqis first, with tribes and sect ranking below 10%.

Here are all of the results of the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies poll.

Gender
  • Men 61.8%
  • Women 38.2%

Education
  • Preparatory 23.2%
  • Secondary 22.9%
  • Primary 16.6%
  • Bachelor 15.6%
  • Diploma 13.9%
  • None 5.1%
  • High education 1.7%
  • Don’t know 0.6%
  • No answer 0.4%

Sample by Provinces:
  • Baghdad 32.2%
  • Ninewa 8.3%
  • Basra 8.2%
  • Sulamaniyah 6.5%
  • Irbil 5.7%
  • Dhi Qar 4.6%
  • Babil 3.7%
  • Najaf 3.6%
  • Anbar 3.5%
  • Tamim 3.5%
  • Diyala 3.2%
  • Maysan 2.8%
  • Wasit 2.8%
  • Salahaddin 2.7%
  • Karbala 2.6%
  • Qadisiyah 2.6%
  • Dohuk 2.0%
  • Muthanna 1.3%

What is the most important topics facing Iraq at present?
  • Security 30.6%
  • Unemployment 18.2%
  • Basic goods and services 17.9%
  • Kirkuk 6.0%
  • Poverty and standard of living 5.5%
  • Presence of Coalition forces 4.5%
  • Disarming militias 4.3%
  • Corruption 3.2%
  • Federalism 2.8%
  • Other economic topics 1.8%
  • Relations between sects, ethnicities and religious groups 1.0%
  • Other political topics 1.0%
  • Forced migration 0.8%
  • Accommodation 0.7%
  • Education 0.6%
  • Crime 0.4%
  • Changing constitution 0.3%
  • Don’t know 0.2%
  • No reply 0.1%

Feelings about security in your district?
  • Very safe 68.4%
  • Not very safe 22.0%
  • Not safe at all 7.5%
  • Don’t know 1.8%
  • No Answer 0.3%

Do you agree on setting a curfew in insecure areas?
  • Yes 56.4%
  • No 40.5%
  • Don’t know 2.5%
  • No answer 0.6%

If agreed, what is the result?
  • Weakening of armed groups? Yes 48.3%, No 5.9%, Don’t know 1.4%, No answer 0.7%
  • Increase in suffering for public Yes 32.3%, No 22.0%, Don’t know 1.3%, No answer 0.7%
  • Imposing law and order Yes 41.1$, No 12.4%, Don’t know 1.9%, No answer 0.8%
  • Collective punishment Yes 17.5%, No 36.3%, Don’t know 1.7%, No answer 0.8%
  • Incapacitate security forces Yes 15.6%, NO 37.4%, Don’t know 2.4%, No answer 0.8%

What is the best media source for information about the law and order operations?
  • TV 82.4%
  • Don’t know 7.1%
  • No answer 5.9%
  • Poster 3.5%
  • Radio 0.6%
  • Newspaper 0.5%

What do you think about the reporting on the law and order operations?
  • Somewhat accurate 36.9%
  • Very accurate 29.1%
  • Somewhat inaccurate 11.4%
  • Not accurate at all 9.1%
  • Don’t know 8.5%
  • No answer 5.0%

What do Iraqis want from their government?
  • Security 55.3%
  • Services 24.9%
  • Jobs 14.8%
  • Democracy 3.4%
  • Don’t Know 1.3%
  • No Answer 0.3%

Level of agreement with the following
  • Quantity of food ration 4.6% very good, 23.2% good, 25.5% acceptable, 21.9% not good, 23.9% very bad
  • Oil, gas, oil availability 6.8% very good, 21.7% good, 26.2% acceptable, 22.8% not good, 22.5% very bad
  • Fuel availability 3.6% very good, 17.9% good, 27.6% acceptable, 24.8% not good, 24.7% very bad
  • Roads and bridges 6.0% very good, 21.7% good, 25.9% acceptable, 20.4% not good, 24.3% very bad
  • First aid 9.4% very good, 27.2% good, 28.1% acceptable, 16.8% not good, 17.9% very bad
  • Waterways 6.7% very good, 18.6% good, 22.9% acceptable, 19.8% not good, 30.5% very bad
  • Garbage pick up 7.4% very good, 17.8% good, 27.1% acceptable, 19.1% not good, 27.3% very bad
  • Electricity 9.8% good, 10.3% acceptable, 25.3% not good, 53.4% very bad
  • Water 5.2% very good, 25.1% good, 22.6% acceptable, 21.8% not good, 24.6% very bad

When do you want provincial elections?
  • Specific time 66.7%
  • Delay it for a year 15.2%
  • Same time as parliamentary elections 5.5%
  • Don’t know 9.1%
  • No Answer 3.5%

Did you update your election information?
  • 69.7% no
  • 26.6% yes
  • Don’t know 2.3%
  • No answer 1.4%

If you did update your election information, was it correct?
  • 17.8% correct
  • 8.3% somewhat correct
  • 0.1% incorrect
  • 0.2% don’t know
  • 0.2% no answer

Which one of the following person could make the most positive change in the country?
  • Nouri al-Maliki [Prime Minister – Dawa Part] 17.2%
  • Ayad Allawi [Former Interim Prime Minister – Iraqi National List] 16.7%
  • None 13.2%
  • Ibrahim al-Jaafari [Former Prime Minister – National Reform Movement] 7.9%
  • Masooud Barzani [President Kurdish Regional Government – Kurdistan Democratic Party] 6.3%
  • Jalal Talabani [President of Iraq – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] 4.3%
  • Don’t know 4.2%
  • Moqtada al-Sadr 3.8%
  • Adil Abdul Mahdi [Vice President of Iraq – Supreme Islamic Iraq Council] 3.6%
  • Tariq al-Hashimi [Vice President of Iraq – Islamic Party of Iraq] 3.6%
  • No Answer 3.0%
  • Saleh al-Mutlaq [Head Iraqi National Dialogue Front] 2.9%
  • Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha [Head Anbar Awakening Council] 2.2%
  • Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem [Head Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council] 1.9%
  • Barhem Salih [Deputy Prime Minister – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] 1.9%
  • Neachirevan Barzani [Prime Minister Kurdish Regional Government – Kurdistan Democratic Party] 0.9%
  • Kusart Ali 0.7%
  • Mithal al-Alusi [Ummah Iraqi Party – Sunni independent] 0.7%
  • Younadim Kanah [Assyrian Democratic Movement] 0.5%
  • Ahmed al-Chalabi [Iraqi National Congress] 0.5%
  • Ayad Jamal al-Deen [Iraqi National List] 0.5%
  • Adnan al-Dulaimi [General Council for the People of Iraq, part of Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.4%
  • Khalaf al-Ulayyan [Iraqi National Dialogue Council, part of Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.4%
  • Harith al-Dhari [Head Association of Muslim Scholars] 0.4%
  • Mahmoud al Mashhadani [Speaker Iraqi Parliament – Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.3%

If Prime Minister Maliki stayed in office would it improve all of Iraq?
  • 46.2% yes
  • 42.5% no
  • 9.6% don’t know
  • 1.7% no answer

Who will you vote for in next election?
  • None 17.9%
  • Islamic Dawa Party [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] 14.7%
  • National Accord Front [Former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi] 13.3%
  • Don’t Know 8.5%
  • No Answer 7.4%
  • Kurdistan Democratic Party [Kurdish Regional Government President Masooud Barzani] 7.2%
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [President of Iraq Jalal Talabani] 6.4%
  • National Reformist Movement [Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari] 4.3%
  • Sadr Movement [Moqtada al-Sadr] 4.1%
  • Islamic Party of Iraq [Vice President Tariq Hashimi] 3.4%
  • Al-Eummah Iraqi Party [Member of Parliament Mithal al-Alusi] 2.5%
  • Anbar Awakening Council [Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha] 2.4%
  • Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council [Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem] 2.4%
  • Iraqi National Dialogue Front [Saleh al-Mutlaq] 2.4%
  • Iraqi National Dialogue Council [Khalaf al-Ulayyan] 0.9%
  • Islamic Dawa Party-Iraq 0.6%
  • Iraqi National Congress 0.4%

What media source do you get most of your information from about the provincial elections?
  • TV 83.9%
  • Poster 9.8%
  • Don’t know 3.5%
  • No answer 1.8%
  • Newspaper 0.5%
  • Radio 0.5%

What is your favorite media source for information about the provincial elections?
  • TV 89.5%
  • Poster 5.4%
  • Don’t know 2.4%
  • No answer 1.6%
  • Newspaper 0.6%
  • Radio 0.6%

What is your favorite TV channel for news?
  • Al Arabia 21.7%
  • Al Iraqia 18.9%
  • Alhurra Iraq 17.6%
  • Al Jazeera 13.6%
  • Sharqia 10.6%
  • No answer 6.0%
  • BBC Arabic 3.8%
  • Don’t know 3.2%
  • Al Huryah 1.7%
  • Kurdistan 1.6%
  • Sumaria 1.2%

What form of federalism should Iraq have?
  • Strong government in Baghdad 69.9%
  • More authority in provinces 17.7%
  • Don’t know 8.0%
  • No answer 4.4%

Do you support establishing another regional government in addition to Kurdistan?
  • No 70.0%
  • Yes 23.9%
  • Don’t know 4.0%
  • No answer 2.1%

Have you heard about the SOFA with the U.S.?
  • 49.8% no
  • 46.2% yes
  • 2.9% don’t know
  • 1.0% no answer

If you heard about the SOFA, what is your opinion of how it will affect Iraq?
  • Economy will improve and Iraq will become an economic leader in Middle East 18.9%
  • Weaken Iraq’s economy and U.S. will control its resources 17.7%
  • Don’t know 5.5%
  • No answer 4.0%
  • Will help with security and stability and a strong government 19.2%
  • Will lead to instability and weak government 18.2%
  • Don’t know 4.9%
  • No answer 3.8%
  • Bad affect on the future of the country and its relations with region 18.7%
  • Will help stabilize Iraq 18.5%
  • Don’t know 5.1%
  • No answer 3.8%

Do you agree/disagree with SOFA?
  • Disagree 61.3%
  • Agree 28.5%
  • Don’t know 8.6%
  • No answer 1.5%

If you agreed, what is the time to sign it?
  • Now 18.0%
  • 2008 U.S. presidential election 7.8%
  • Don’t know 1.9%
  • No answer 0.6%

What should Iraq do if war breaks out between the U.S. and Iran?
  • Neutral 71.6%
  • Help U.S. against Iran 14.7%
  • Help Iran against U.S. 6.1%
  • Don’t know 4.7%
  • No answer 3.0%

Which countries do you support having strategic relationships with?
  • U.S.: No answer 2.7%, Don’t know 3.9%, Strongly oppose 39.4%, Somewhat oppose 8.7%, Somewhat support 16.0%, Strongly support 29.3%
  • Britain: No answer 2.7%, Don’t know 4.2%, Strongly oppose 35.0%, Somewhat oppose 9.1%, Somewhat support 17.9%, Strongly support 31.0%
  • Turkey: No answer 2.1%, Don’t know 4.2%, Strongly oppose 20.6%, Somewhat oppose 11.6%, Somewhat support 23.8%, Strongly support 38.7%
  • Kuwait: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 3.2%, Strongly oppose 21.7%, Somewhat oppose 14.5%, Somewhat support 26.8%, Strongly support 31.2%
  • Iran: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 2.9%, Strongly oppose 38.7%, Somewhat oppose 10.5%, Somewhat support 20.4%, Strongly support 24.9%
  • Syria: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 2.4%, Strongly oppose 11.5%, Somewhat oppose 6.5%, Somewhat support 27.0%, Strongly support 50.0%
  • Saudi Arabia: No answer 23%, Don’t know 25%, Strongly oppose 18.0%,Somewhat oppose 10.3%, Somewhat support 25.4%, Strongly support 41.5%
  • Jordan: No answer 2.2%, Don’t know 2.6%, Strongly oppose 12.4%, Somewhat oppose 9.6%, Somewhat support 29.6%, Strongly support 43.6%

Nationality
  • Arab 77.8%
  • Kurd 15.3%
  • Turk 2.0%
  • Assyrian 0.9%

Religion
  • Muslim 66.3%
  • Shiite 24.3%
  • Sunni 6.3%
  • Christian 2.5%
  • Don’t know 0.3%
  • No answer 0.1%
  • Protestant 0.1%
  • Catholic 0.1%
  • Orthodox 0.1%

What is your most important way to identify yourself?
  • Iraqi citizen 69.8%
  • Nationality (Arab/Kurd/Assyrian/Turkmen, etc.) 10.6%
  • My tribe 7.6%
  • Shiite/Sunni/Christian 5.2%
  • My town/locality/region 4.9%
  • Job or occupation 1.1%
  • Don’t know 0.6%
  • No answer 0.2%

For more on Iraqi public opinion see:

Pentagon Public Opinion Poll of Iraqis

SOURCES

Chon, Gina and Naji, Zaineb, “Iraq Drive for Voters Lags,” Wall Street Journal, 9/18/08

Colvin, Marie, “Deal on American presence in Iraq close to collapse,” Sunday Times of London, 10/26/08

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” September 2008

Gluck, Jason, “From Gridlock to Compromise: How Three Laws Could Begin to Transform Iraqi Politics,” United States Institute of Peace, March 2008

Iraq Centre For Research & Strategic Studies, “Public Opinion Survey in Iraq; The Security & Political Situation in Iraq,” October 2008

Sheridan, Mary Beth, “As Iraq’s Oil Flows Freely, Profits Are Stuck in Bureaucracy,” Washington Post, 10/17/08

Susman, Tina, “Iraq too dangerous for many professionals,” Los Angeles Times, 10/5/08

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

Friday, October 24, 2008

Largest Number Of Asylum Seekers Continue To Come From Iraq

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released its latest report on asylum seekers for the first half of 2008. For the third year in a row, Iraq has the largest number of people asking for asylum in 44 industrialized countries. Iraq has been number one in this category since 2006. Before that, it had also been number one in 2000 and 2002 under Saddam Hussein’s rule. In total, 19,500 Iraqis applied to leave. Russia was second with 9,400 asylum seekers, followed by 8,700 from China, 7,400 from Somalia, 6,300 from Pakistan and Afghanistan each, 6,200 from Serbia, 5,200 from Mexico, 4,800 from Nigeria, and 4,600 from Iran. 60% of the Iraqis applied to go to four countries: Sweden (3,900 Iraqis), Germany (3,400), Turkey (2,700), and the Netherlands (2,400).

Overall, the number of Iraqis asking for asylum has decreased from 2007. In that year, 45,000 put in claims. The number for the first half of 2008 was a 10% decrease from the number of Iraqis applying in the first half of 2007, and an 18% decrease from the last half. The lowest number of claims came from April-June 2008. That could point to a trend of fewer Iraqis trying to flee their country for the remainder of 2008.

Iraq still has the largest on-going refugee crisis in the Middle East since the Palestinians. Approximately 4.7 million Iraqis have left their homes. In late 2007, Iraqis began to return to their homes, but only around 3% of the total have gone back so far. The number returning has gone up and down each month, and there are ongoing disputes about whether there are more leaving or returning.

For more on Iraq’s refugees see:

Al Jazeera Report On Squatters

Baghdad Issues Ultimatum To Squatters

Baghdad Sets A Deadline For Squatters (Again)

Baghdad Working On Extending Plane Trips For Iraqi Refugees From Jordan

Brookings Institution Iraq Refugee Report

Déjà Vu? Government Returns Refugees

Displaced Iraqis Returning Slowly, Government Bureaucracy Might Be Slower

Enticing Iraqi Refugees To Return

Few Iraqi Refugees Want To Return

Government Refugee Policy At Work In Najaf and Diyala

Government’s Displaced Plan?

International Crisis Group’s Report on Iraqi Refugees

International Organization for Migration and Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration Survey of Displaced Iraqis

International Organization for Migration Monthly Report on Iraq’s Displaced

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

Numbers on Internally Displaced Iraqis

Only Sunnis Displaced Welcomed in Baghdad’s Dora District?

Returns And Removals In Baghdad

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s Numbers for Iraq’s Internally Displaced

SOURCES

Cohen, Robert, “Iraq’s Displaced: Where To Turn?” American University International Law Review, Fall 2008

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Asylum Levels and Trends In Industrialized Countries, First Half 2008,” 10/17/08

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Latest United Nations Report On Cholera Epidemic - Updated

On October 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest report on Iraq’s cholera outbreak. It recorded 531 confirmed cases of cholera. That was up from 479 cases on October 14, and 418 on October 5. The first case was reported on August 7, 2008 in Maysan province. Since then it has spread across 37 districts in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. 56% of the cases have been children under five years old, and half of the eight deaths have been from the same age group.

Most of the cases have been in southern Iraq, but it has spread to northern and western provinces as well. After starting in Maysan, that currently has three cases, and one death, it spread to Baghdad that has 78 cases, one under investigation, and one death. On August 28, the first case was detected in Babil, which has 236 confirmed cases, with fifteen under investigation, and three deaths. As reported earlier, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council members used expired chlorine to clean the water system there, which is responsible for the higher number of victims in that province. In September Karbala (40 cases), Anbar (8 cases), Diyala (one case), Basra (one death, 50 cases), Najaf (16 cases), Diwaniyah (two deaths, 93 cases), and Wasit (2 cases) were hit. The latest instances have been found in Muthanna (2 cases) and Irbil (2 cases). Those numbers still pale in comparison to the 2007 incident in which over 3,000 Iraqis were affected, and fourteen died.

Spread of Cholera In Iraq

  • Maysan 8/7/08 first case, 1 district affected, 1 death, 3 confirmed cases
  • Baghdad – 8/18/08 first case, 10 districts affected, 1 death, 1 under investigation, 78 confirmed cases, 15% of total
  • Babil – 8/28/08 first case, 4 districts affected, 3 deaths, 15 under investigation, 236 confirmed cases, 44% of total
  • Karbala – 9/5/08 first case, 3 districts affected, 3 under investigation, 40 confirmed cases, 8% of total
  • Anbar – 9/7/08 first case, 2 districts affected, 8 confirmed cases
  • Diyala – 9/9/08 first case, 1 district affected, 1 confirmed case
  • Basra – 9/14/08 first case, 5 districts affected, 1 death, 2 under investigation, 50 confirmed cases, 9% of total
  • Najaf – 9/17/08 first case, 3 districts affected, 5 under investigation, 16 confirmed cases
  • Diwaniyah – 9/20/08 first case, 4 districts affected, 2 deaths, 22 under investigation, 93 confirmed cases, 17% of total
  • Wasit – 9/30/08 first case, 1 district affected, 2 confirmed cases
  • Muthanna – 10/7/08 first case, 1 district affected, 2 confirmed cases
  • Irbil – 10/7/08 first case, 2 districts affected, 2 confirmed cases

For more on the cholera outbreak see:

Political Intrigue and the Cholera Outbreak

Latest United Nations Numbers On Cholera Epidemic

Cholera Cases Multiplying

Cholera Outbreak In Iraq

SOURCES

IRIN, “Cholera deaths rise to eight as disease spreads,” 10/15/08
- “Over 400 confirmed cholera cases so far,” 10/6/08
- “Two more cholera cases confirmed,” 9/8/08

World Health Organization, “Situation report on diarrhoea and cholera in Iraq, 20 Oct 2008,” 10/20/08

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Babil Province Handover To Iraqis

This week, the United States is scheduled to turn over security responsibility for Babil province to the central government. It will be the 12th of 18 provinces to be handed to the Iraqis. Although Babil is 95% Shiite, because it borders Baghdad to the north and Anbar to the west, Sunni insurgents have been active there. In 2007, the U.S. began organizing tribes into the Sons of Iraq (SOI) there to counter the militants. Babil has also been the scene of political feuds between the Sadrists, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and Dawa party. Its proximity to the capitol also made it one of the major supply routes for Iranian weapons into Baghdad. Because of this volatile mix, security in the province is still uneven. Despite this, in the summer the U.S. designated Babil to be the next province to be handed over to the Iraqis.

Babil is a rather small, agricultural province in central Iraq. It has a population of 1,444,400 people, 95% of which are Shiite. The remaining 5% are Sunni. The economy is based upon farming, which is the largest employer in the country, and accounts for 52% of the province’s GDP. Babil has some of the most advanced farming techniques in the country, but there is not enough water to take full advantage of it.

The provincial government is controlled by the Society of Faithful Iraqis, which is a part of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). The U.S. led Provincial Reconstruction Team has rated their rule from low to average. Political development and reconciliation were given the lowest ranking, beginning, while governance was given a developing rank, the second lowest out of five. In 2007, Babil was second best out of eighteen provinces in its budget execution, spending 49% of its $127 million budget. In the fall of 2008 however, incompetent or corrupt SIIC officials used expired chlorine to clean the province’s water supply that resulted in a large cholera outbreak that is still affecting Babil. Several SIIC members were arrested as a result, but Badr Brigade militia members forced the police to release one of them.

Because it is so close to Baghdad, Babil has received a large number of internally displaced from the capital. This has strained and overwhelmed its services. At the end of July 2008, the Special Inspectors General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) counted 77,914 internally displace residing in the province. At the same time, 102 families, consisting of 18,757 people, have recently returned to the province. Of a survey of 11 families conducted by the International Organization for Migration, 91% were able to go back to their original homes, but 57% found them in bad condition.

Security is still an issue there as well. The SIGIR ranked Babil the 8th most violence province in the country. There is still fighting and bombings in the northern section that neighbors the capital, and in the south. The middle is relatively secure in comparison. On October 20 for example, there was a shoot out between insurgents and local tribal SOI along the border with Anbar that resulted in fifteen deaths. The United States began organizing SOI in the province in the fall of 2007. Today there are over 5,000 fighters organized into 23 groups. Attacks in the province have been cut in half as a result.

Another major conflict in the province is the dispute between the Sadrists, Supreme Islamic Council, and the Dawa. This has played out in a number of ways, both politically and violently. In December 2007, an SIIC backed provincial police chief was appointed after the original one was assassinated in a bombing. Both the Dawa and the Sadrists protested his arrival. During the summer of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki created a Tribal Support Council there to bolster both his military and political standing in the province. The sheikhs received money from Baghdad, and in return pledged their tribesmen to stand by the government. The SIIC governor protested its formation. In September, an Iraqi army squad supported by Americans raided the SIIC office in the provincial capital Hilla and found missiles and IEDs. With the Sadrists weakened after the government’s crackdowns, that leaves the SIIC and Maliki’s Dawa to battle it out for control of the province before the provincial elections, and all of these moves are part of that process.

The last major actor in the province has been the Iranians and their Special Groups. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qod Force created two main supply routes for weapons and support to flow into the capital. One was shut down due to the efforts of U.S. and Iraqi forces, leaving the southern route that went from Maysan province to Baghdad along Highway 8. That route takes it through Babil, which became a major way station. During the fighting with the Sadrists in March and April 2008, many local police supported or were passive in the face of the Special Groups, Shiite militants supported by Iran. It is not clear how much of their network was cleared up by the Iraqi forces.

It is into this environment that the U.S. plans to hand over Babil to the government this week. The government and economy are doing well by Iraqi standards. The provincial council has done a relatively good job spending its money, and farming is above average, but the SIIC, who rule the province, still see themselves as above the law. Prime Minister Maliki’s Dawa party is trying to challenge their rule by organizing tribes. On the other hand, the formation of SOIs has greatly improved security, but there is still occasional fighting. There is potential for that to increase as the provincial elections near, but it could also re-arrange the political chairs. That could be a small change from SIIC to Dawa rule, but new parties may also join the council.

SOURCES

Ahmed, Farook and Cochrane, Marisa, “Recent Operations against Special Groups and JAM in Central and Southern Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 4/7/08

Ali, Fadhil, “The Mahdi Army: New Tactics for a New Stage,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 6/26/08

Alsumaria, “Rows growing between two major Iraqi parties,” 9/18/08

Aswat al-Iraq, “Babel to receive security duties on Thursday,” 10/21/08

Cockburn, Patrick, “Corruption blamed as cholera rips through Iraq,” Independent, 10/10/08

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraqi Force Development,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 2008

Institute for the Study of War, “Fact Sheet on Iraq’s Major Shi’a Political Parties and Militia Groups,” April 2008

International Organization for Migration, “IOM Emergency Needs Assessments,” 10/1/08

IraqSlogger.com, “Iraq Papers Wed: Setting Priorities,” 3/11/08

Al Jazeera, “Iraqis clash before Babil handover,” 10/21/08

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

Lubold, Gordon, “U.S. takes Anbar model to Iraq Shiites,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/2/07

Middle East Reference.org, “Governorate elections held in Iraq on 31 January 2005”

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies,” Washington Post, 8/4/07

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

Voices of Iraq, “SIIC denies it had banned arms in Babel office,” 9/29/08

Zavis, Alexandra, “First violence, now drought threatens Iraq farmers,” Los Angeles Times, 6/26/08
- “Iraqi Shiites protest appointment,” Los Angeles Times, 12/25/07

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shiite Rivalries Increasing As Provincial Elections Near

The followers of Moqtada al-Sadr are coming under increasing fire. As reported earlier, on October 9, 2008, Sadrist member of parliament Saleh al-Auqaeili was assassinated in a bombing near Sadr City. Sadr’s followers initially blamed the U.S. for the death, which led to a brief clash between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi and U.S. forces, in Baghdad. Later, they blamed criminals gangs, which has usually meant breakaway Sadrist elements or Iranian backed Special Groups. On October 20, Alsumaria TV reported that two suspected culprits were arrested for the assault. They were members of the local electricity directorate, which gave them access to the area that was near an Iraqi army checkpoint, and patrolled by the United States. Iraqi authorities said they came from Sadr City and belonged to an outlaw group.

There are also more reports pointing towards a growing gap between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). Together they make up two-thirds of the coalition behind Maliki’s government and are both members of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). However, the UIA largely exists in name only as the Dawa and the SIIC are planning on running against each other in the upcoming provincial elections. This increasing divide is being played out in places like Babil, Qadisiyah, Nasiriyah, Maysan provinces, and Baghdad. In June when Maliki sent forces against the Sadrists in Maysan, the security forces tore down posters of SIIC leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. A few months later, the SIIC protested a new police chief sent to Nasiriyah by the Interior Ministry. In late September, an Iraqi Army unit and U.S. forces raided the headquarters of the SIIC’s Badr Brigade in Hilla, the capital of Babil. The SIIC governor claimed they only had AKs for personal defense, but Iraqi forces said they came away with missiles and IEDs. In October, a dinner celebrating the end of Ramadan by the al-Fatla tribe in Qadisiyah was interrupted by SIIC controlled police. The sheikh from the tribe had recently agreed to head the government funded Tribal Support Council. As noted earlier, the councils are an attempt by Maliki to build up his support in the south. The SIIC has condemned their formation. Finally, a draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraq to maintain a U.S. presence in the country after United Nations authorization expires on December 31, 2008 was passed to government officials. SIIC leader Hakim said his party had kept silent on the issue because if it failed, they wanted the blame to fall on Maliki.

All of these developments are linked to the inter-Shiite struggle for power in the face of upcoming elections. The Sadrists, Maliki’s Dawa, and the Supreme Council, once all allies in the United Alliance, are now rivals. They will all be competing for provincial council seats across the Shiite south and Baghdad. This has led to an up tick in assassinations as in the case of Saleh al-Auqaeili, and increasing political disputes between Maliki and the SIIC. When the elections actually happen, they could lead to the rise of new independent parties and individual politicians, a redistribution of power amongst the Sadrists, SIIC, and Dawa, or violence between them to hold onto or increase their position.

For more on the SIIC-Maliki/Dawa split see:

Maliki Responds To His Critics On Tribal Support Councils

Disputes Over Tribal Support Councils

For more on assassinations of Sadrists see:

Another Sadrist Assassinated

Sadrist Cleric Assassinated In Basra

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “2 perpetrators involved in Sadrist MP assassination arrested,” 10/20/08

Fleishman, Jeffrey, “Shiite fighters clash with Iraqi, U.S. troops in Baghdad,” Los Angeles Times, 10/10/08

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Shiite split could complicate Iraqi efforts to approve security pact with US,” Associated Press, 10/16/08

Klapper, Bradley, “Thousands of al-Sadr supporters mourn lawmaker,” Associated Press, 10/10/08

Levinson, Charles and Nabhan, Ali, “Iraqi tribes caught between rival Shiite parties,” USA Today, 10/20/08

Parker, Sam, “ISCI/Da’wa alliance showing strain,” Abu Muqawama Blog, 9/17/08

Reuters, “U.S. Pact Hits Snag As Iraqi Shi’a Seek Changes,” 10/19/08

Visser, Reidar, “More Tension between the Iraqi Security Forces and the Badr Brigades, This Time in Hilla,” Historiae.org, 9/29/08

Voices of Iraq, “SIIC denies it had banned arms in Babel office,” 9/29/08

Monday, October 20, 2008

Iraq’s Deteriorating Oil Infrastructure

As Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani moves forward with his plans to open up the country’s oil and natural gas wealth to foreign investors, the Financial Times reports that he also needs to pay attention to the country’s aging petroleum infrastructure, which is in great disrepair. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state-run South Oil Company did a survey of the oil pipes in Basra and found that they could fail at any moment due to lack of maintenance. The pipes are underwater, and connect Basra’s oil storage facilities to the fueling terminals that ships dock at to pick up petroleum. The pipes carry up to 2 million barrels of oil each day. Fixing them could cost up to $5 billion. American officials have noted that the government has not been quick to deal with the problem, which means it could be years before it is ever taken care of.

The pipes are not the only issue facing the Basra oil facilities, the largest and most important in the country as it is the only access point to the Persian Gulf. The entire port needs to be completely redeveloped if the Oil Ministry’s plans of increased production is to be realized. The channel needs to be widened, the waterway needs to be dredged, new pipes need to be installed, and larger storage facilities need to be built to name just a few improvements. The border between Iraq, Iran and Kuwait also needs to be re-negotiated for this expansion to happen, a very touchy matter in the region. Without these steps, there won’t be enough room for ships to dock at Basra to take in the increased production of oil.

Oil Minister Shahristani told the Financial Times that he has plans to do all of these renovations. Many analysts doubt this will happen however. It may be beyond the capabilities of the Ministry to negotiate new deals with foreign companies, expand production, and renovate Basra all at once. Another issue is that U.S. aid is coming to an end for Iraq. In total, the U.S. has allocated $2.7 billion to Iraq’s oil infrastructure over the last five years. The Americans now want the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country, but it has not had a good record with spending its budget.

The amount of money the Oil Ministry has been appropriated has increased recently, but the amount of money it has actually been able to spend, and what it has spent it on has been erratic. In 2005 the Ministry spent a total of $160 million, $111 million of which was on investment in infrastructure. By 2007, it only spent $36 million, only $1 million of which was on its capital budget, the rest went to operating expenses such as salaries. In 2008, because of booming petroleum prices, the government allocated $2 billion for the Oil Ministry. Overall, Iraq has allocated $10.5 billion for its oil industry from 2005-2008, but only $300 million of it has actually been spent up to April 2008 according to the United States Government Accountability Office. These problems go back to the lack of training and competence amongst Iraqi officials, a situation made worse by a massive brain drain of professionals and bureaucrats from the country, and an old paper based government system that takes up to 6-9 months to okay any money to be spent on projects. Iraqi officials say they can make do in the meantime since they have kept up production through three wars and United Nations sanctions that contributed to the deterioration of the oil infrastructure.

United States Government Accountability Office’s Figures On Iraq’s Oil Ministry’s Spending

2005: $160 million total spent
  • $49 million operational budget
  • $111 million capital budget
2006: $191 million total spent
  • $48 million operational budget
  • $143 million capital budget
2007: $36 million total spent
  • $35 million operational budget
  • $1 million capital budget
January-April 2008: $52 million total spent (Note Iraq’s budget was not approved until February 2008)
  • $13 million operational budget
  • $39 million capital budget

Note: The U.S. GAO said that using Iraqi dinars is a better measure of average growth than using American dollars, because the Iraqi currency has greatly increased in value against the dollar in recent years, which would skew the numbers.

Annual average growth rate 2005-2007 in Iraqi dinars: -56% decrease in total spend
  • -22% decline in operational spending
  • -92% decline in capital spending

Iraq’s Oil Minister has very ambitious plans for the future of Iraq’s natural resources. He wants to invite international energy companies back into the country, and double oil production within the next few years. This is doubly important as oil provides 90% of the country’s revenues. Iraq needs to deal with its aging infrastructure first that has suffered greatly. The inability of the government to spend its budget however will be a major impediment. Until then, Basra, Iraq’s only seaport, is facing the threat of a pipe rupture that would set back the country’s plans even further.

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


Iraq Signs Natural Gas Deal, As Half Of Oil Plan Is Dropped

Iraq Moves Ahead With 2nd Part Of Its Oil Plan

Analyst On Iraq’s Oil Plans: Don’t Expect Much Until A New Oil Law Is Passed

SOURCES

Dombey, Daniel, “US warns on aging Iraqi oil pipelines,” Financial Times, 10/14/08

Hoyos, Carola and Dombey, Dan, “Baghdad pipe plan remains a dream,” Financial Times, 10/14/08

Sheridan, Mary Beth, “As Iraq’s Oil Flows Freely, Profits Are Stuck in Bureaucracy,” Washington Post, 10/17/08
- “Iraq Opens Bidding on Oil Field Contracts,” Washington Post, 10/14/08

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

Susman, Tina, “Iraq too dangerous for many professionals,” Los Angeles Times, 10/5/08

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Baghdad Continues To Encourage Return Of Refugees

The Iraqi government is continuing with its policy of encouraging refugees to return from abroad. On October 14, 2008 140 Iraqi families arrived from Syria on a trip organized by Baghdad. They joined 58 families that came back the week before from Jordan, facilitated by the Iraqi embassy there. They are coming at a time when more Iraqis are trying to get back for a variety of reasons. They still constitute only a small portion of the nearly 5 million Iraqis that have been displaced however.

The government has been telling refugees to return home since the end of the summer. In August, 2008, two groups of refugees from Egypt came back to Iraq on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s personal jet. Those were the first returns paid for and organized by Baghdad. This was part of Maliki’s $85 million displaced program announced the same month. In late September, the Iraqi embassy in Amman, Jordan announced that it too would be helping Iraqi refugees in that country return by plane. Those started the next month, and have reached a total of 116 families. In Damascus, Syria, the Iraqi embassy there said they were offering free bus and plane rides back to Iraq in October. The first jet arrived in the second week of that month with 140 families. The government said all of the families were eligible for $850 from the government for coming back, plus $145 for the next six months to help with expenses. A September 2008 survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration of 2,102 returning families, found that of the 1,043 that applied for these government payments, only 311 (14.7%) had received any money. Maliki’s office is also promising them their homes and jobs, something that will be hard to provide with underemployment and unemployment ranging anywhere from 20-60%.

This summer did see an increase in Iraqis coming home, but it is still only a small fraction of the total number of refugees. In June 2008 16,338 refugees returned, 20,546 in July, peaking in August at 37,835, and then falling back to 23,821 in September. According to the United Nations, this is an increase from the monthly average coming back from August 2007 to June 2008, which was 11,000. The IOM-Iraqi Displacement and Migration Ministry poll found that 38.58% said they were returning because of improved security. 36.39% stated they were motivated by both better conditions and hardships. It is still not clear whether more Iraqis are coming back or leaving. Either way, the IOM estimates that only 8% of Iraqi refugees have gone back to their homes. These returnees face sporadic attacks, but more importantly lack employment, food, and basic services.

The country still has a long way to go before it can claim light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the refugee problem. Unfortunately the process has been politicized by Prime Minister Maliki to improve the country and his government’s image. He is pushing for Iraqis to return whether conditions are right or not or whether the authorities can assist them. A member of the Displaced and Migration committee in parliament claimed that the Prime Minister wants to be done with the matter by the end of 2008, highlighting the lack of any long-term planning to help the displaced. It will take a lot longer than that to cure the plight of almost five million refugees.

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “UN-Iraq dispute over refugees returning home,” Gulf News, 10/10/08

Aji, Albert, “140 Iraqi refugees in Syria head home,” Associated Press, 10/15/08
- “Iraq offers free returns for its Syrian refugees,” Associated Press, 10/8/08

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

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraq receives 58 returnees from Jordan,” 10/12/08

Cohen, Robert, “Iraq’s Displaced: Where To Turn?” American University International Law Review, Fall 2008

Cordesman, Anthony, “Transferring Provinces To Iraqi Control: The Reality And The Risks,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9/2/08

Dagher, Sam, “Schools Open, and First Test Is Iraqi Safety,” New York Times, 10/12/08

Fadel, Leila, “Displaced Iraqis, now told to go home, fear for their lives,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/5/08

IRIN, “Plane-load of Iraqis due to be repatriated this week,” 9/29/08

Ministry of Displacement and Migration & International Organization for Migration, “Returnee Monitoring and Needs Assessments Tabulation Report,” September 2008

Reilly, Corinne, “Iraqis are being attacked and killed for returning to their homes,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/13/08

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Maliki Wants Provincial Elections By The End Of The Year

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has let it be known that he wants provincial elections that are currently scheduled for January 2009, to happen by the end of 2008 instead. The Prime Minister recently made statements that the government will be asking for the balloting to happen as soon as possible. He will be talking to the High Election Commission to push the timetable forward, while making sure the voting will be free and fair. This seems a rash decision as neither the Commission, nor the country seems ready for early voting.

Prime Minister Maliki’s statements come before the election process has even been finalized. Parliament passed the election law on September 24, 2008, and it was ratified by the Presidential Council on October 8. It sets aside 25% of provincial council seats for women, while dropping a similar quota for Christians, Yazidis and Shabeks in six provinces. A committee is suppose to deliberate on how to deal with this issue. The Election Commission said they would try, but could not guarantee voting by January 31, 2009. They have not received a list of all the candidates yet, and still need to hire 300,000 election officials to watch the polls. Those are just the technical issues that need to be addressed.

Then there is the more difficult political and security situation in the country. General Ray Odierno, the new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, the new head at Central Command, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the new National Intelligence Estimate have all said that the situation within Iraq is tenuous. They are all worried about the possible outcomes and affects of the election, especially if it leads to new violence. That might already be happening.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have noted an increase in targeted assassinations in recent weeks. The two new weapons of choice are magnetic car bombs and pistols with silencers. A Karbala city council member for example, was recently killed by one such car bomb. From July to August 2008, ten people were assassinated with pistols each month in Baghdad. One of the favorite targets have been Sadrists. Since the middle of September, eight Interior Ministry officials were also killed or wounded in these types of attacks as well. On the positive side, 112 suspected pistol men have been arrested.

Real and imagined violence has also sent a chill through women and minorities. The Associated Press reported that many women that were thinking of running for office have been intimidated by the new voting rules. During the 2005 elections, candidates were only identified by numbers or parties. Under the new election law, they have to list their names. This raises the fear of being attacked since their identities will be known. As reported earlier, Christians, who lost their quota under the voting legislation, are coming under attack in the northern city of Mosul right now, which is causing thousands to flee.

It is within this environment that Maliki is calling for early voting. There is still violence in Iraq, some of which is aimed directly at intimidating voters, officials, and the candidates. That is unlikely to end anytime soon. More importantly, the final election process has not be set, and the Election Committee is not even sure it can carry out the vote by the end of January 2009, let along the end of 2008. In recent months the Prime Minister has pushed for a whole slew of policies that are aimed at improving his position in the country. His plans for elections by December 2008 seem part of this. Holding elections this year appears to be an ill advised decision aimed more at show than substance. It would be better if the vote is held when officials and parties are ready, rather than at the whim of the Prime Minister.

For more on Iraq’s provincial elections see:

Election Law Passed, Now To Get People To Vote

Iraq’s Displaced Not Exciting About Election

Iraq’s New Voting System

Who Rules Iraq’s Provinces And How Are They Doing?

SOURCES

Fadel, Leila, “Assassinations replacing car bombs in Iraq,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/9/08
- “Iraqi provincial elections likely to be held early next year,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/8/08

Gamel, Kim, “Iraqi women fear going public as candidates,” Associated Press, 10/6/08

Goode, Erica, “Iraq Passes Provincial Elections Law,” New York Times, 9/25/08

Goode, Erica and Farrell, Stephen, “Iraqis Unite to Restore Minority Representation Law,” New York Times, 10/7/08

LaFranchi, Howard, “US more cautious in Iraq appraisals,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/16/08

Reuters, “Iraq strives for provincial vote this year,” 10/14/08