Thursday, December 31, 2009

Iranians Planned Kidnapping And Held British Captives Taken In Iraq

On December 30, 2009 British computer technician Peter Moore was released from captivity by the Iranian backed League of the Righteous in return for the freeing of their leader, Qais Khazali. Moore and four British bodyguards, Alan McMenemy, Alec MacLachlan, Jason Swindlehurst, and Jason Creswell, were originally kidnapped from the Iraqi Finance Ministry building in downtown Baghdad on May 29, 2007. The Guardian claims that not only was this an Iranian organized operation led by their Revolutionary Guards Qods Force, but that the British hostages were held in Iran for most of their two and a half year captivity.

The events surrounding the kidnapping are a complicated one beginning with a series of American raids against Iranian operatives working within Iraq. In 2006, President George Bush okayed the killing and capturing of Iranians in Iraq who were supplying weapons and training to Shiite militias. In December 2006 that led to the arrest of General Mohsen Chirazi, the number 3 man in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force, which is in charge of Tehran’s Iraq policy. That was followed by a speech by President Bush in January 2007 where he said that the U.S. would stop Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs. Later, on January 11, five Iranians were arrested in Irbil, Kurdistan. The Americans actually missed their targets, Mohammed Jafari, the deputy of Iran’s National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the intelligence chief of the Revolutionary Guards, when Kurdish peshmerga stopped U.S. forces at the Irbil airport. Tehran retaliated by leading a raid on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in conjunction with the League of the Righteous that led to the deaths of five U.S. soldiers in January. In March 2007, U.S. and U.K. forces detained the League’s leaders Qais and Latih Khazali in Basra in March 2007.

Qais Khazali was one of the leading figures in the Sadr movement when Moqtada’s father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, created it in the 1990s. Qais helped keep the movement alive underground after Saddam killed the elder Sadr. When Moqtada emerged as one of Iraq’s new leaders after the 2003 invasion, Qais was one of his top lieutenants. He would split and then rejoin Moqtada several times before creating his own group, the League of the Righteous in 2006. That year he was also selected to lead the Special Groups that Iran was creating to gain more direct control of Shiite gunmen in Iraq.

Iran planned the May 2007 raid on the Finance Ministry as part of the tit for tat exchange with the United Sates, while the League of the Righteous wanted hostages to gain the release of the Khazali brothers. 80-100 members of the League drove up to the Ministry’s buildings in SUVs in Baghdad, and kidnapped the five Britons in just about 15 minutes. Iraqi intelligence officers from the Defense Ministry who happened to be in the Ministry at the time told the Guardian that they followed the kidnappers to Sadr City where the captives were kept for one day before being transferred to Iran. They passed this information to the Defense Ministry who did nothing. In Iran, the Britons were moved around to several locations. General David Petraeus confirmed this in a recent interview with the BBC where he said he was 90% sure that Tehran held the captives for a time. All negotiations for the release of the hostages occurred in Qom, Iran, but the British Foreign Office refused to directly talk with them, which greatly complicated things.

Almost two years later, Iraq, England, the U.S., Iran, and the League worked out a release plan with Lebanon’s Hezbollah acting as a middleman. In March 2009 a deal was cut whereby the Americans would release all of the League of the Righteous members they held including Laith and Qais Khazali in return for the British captives. In that month a video was released of Moore, followed by the freeing of Laith Khazali. After that U.S. prisons were emptied of some 300 League followers they held under the guise of an Iraqi reconciliation program, along with some of the top Qods Force members that were arrested in 2006-2007, in return for the bodies of Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst, and Alec MacLachlan. Alan McMenemy has yet to be released, but it’s believed that he is dead as well. Sources told the Guardian that the Iranians killed all four bodyguards because for one, they were not considered important since they were only security men, and two to show that they were serious to the British government. The process finally ended with the release of Peter Moore and Qais Khazali. Some American military officers were against this deal, but the Status of Forces Agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad at the very end of the Bush administration in December 2008 requires the U.S. to release all the detainees they hold unless they have broken Iraqi law.

The kidnapping and release of Moore, MacLachlan, Swindlehurst, Creswell, and McMenemy mark the end of one period of post-Saddam Iraq. Washington and Tehran were involved in a covert war for influence within Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The U.S. focused upon Iran’s Qods Force and their support for Special Groups like the League of the Righteous. The U.S. tried to kill or capture as many militiamen and Qods Force operatives as they could, but interference by Iraqi officials meant that this effort could only go so far. The smashing of Shiite militias by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offensives in 2008, along with Iran’s greater interest in political influence through support of Shiite parties in the 2009 and coming 2010 elections, means that their military policy has been put on the back burner. The League even renounced violence in 2009, and briefly flirted with running in the upcoming vote, before withdrawing in early December. What that means for the League is unknown. Qais Khazali is said to still have sway with many Sadrists, which has made Moqtada very worried about his leadership, but its too late for them to run as a party in 2010, which would greatly limit their influence if they wished to join Iraqi politics. There’s a good chance that the League will fade from the scene just as the military confrontation between Iran and the U.S. in Iraq has.


Chulov, Martin, “Shia cleric’s release by US forces provided key to Peter Moore’s freedom,” Guardian, 12/30/09

CNN, “U.S. raid on Iranian consulate angers Kurds,” 1/11/07

Cochrane, Marisa, “The Fragmentation of the Sadrist Movement,” Institute for the Study of War, January 2009

Cockburn, Patrick, “The botched US raid that led to the hostage crisis,” The Independent, 4/3/07

Fordham, Alice, “Hostage Peter Moore’s fate tied to that of Laith and Qais al-Khazali,” Times of London, 12/31/09
- “Peter Moore freed after US hands over Iraqi insurgent,” Times of London, 12/31/09

Hines, Nico, “Peter Moore: 31 months of Iraqi captivity,” Times of London, 12/30/09

Lake, Eli, “GIs Raid Iranian Building in Irbil,” New York Sun, 1/12/07

Linzer, Dafna, “Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq,” Washington Post, 1/26/07

Mahmood, Mona, O’Kane, Maggie, Grandjean, Guy, “Bush threats and an $18bn secret: why Iran’s kidnap squad struck,” Guardian, 12/31/09

Roggio, Bill, “US releases ‘dangerous’ Iranian proxy behind the murder of US troops,” Long War Journal, 12/31/09

Woodcock, Andrew and Johnson, Wesley, “Petraeus ‘90% certain’ that UK hostage was in Iran,” Independent, 12/31/09

Wright, Robin and Trejos, Nancy, “U.S. Troops Raid 2 Iranian Targets in Iraq, Detain 5 People,” Washington Post, 1/12/07

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hans Blix Replies To Tony Blair

In early December 2009 former British Prime Minister Tony Blair conducted an interview with the BBC in which he said he believed in invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam even if he didn’t have WMD. Blair thought that Saddam was a threat to the Middle East, that he had never complied with United Nations resolutions for 12 years, and had used WMD on his own people. Blair also saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to influence the struggle over the future of Islam between moderates and radicals. He finished by saying that if not for WMD, he would’ve come up with another argument for overthrowing Saddam. The former prime minister’s comments were quite controversial, and started a heated debate in England, which is in the middle of the Chilcot Inquiry into the causes and consequences of the Iraq war. Hans Blix, the former chief of U.N. weapons inspector from 2002-2003 joined the discussion with an editorial in the Guardian on December 14 entitled, “Blair sold Iraq on WMD, but only regime change adds up,” arguing that Blair’s comments reveal that the United Kingdom was more interested in overthrowing Iraq’s government than disarming it.

In late 2002 England and Secretary of State Colin Powell finally convinced President George Bush to go to the United Nations and call for renewed inspections. British officials had continually told Washington that the price for their participation in any military action was a new U.N. resolution. Blix believes that the U.S. and U.K. were hoping that Iraq would obstruct the inspectors like they did in the 1990s, and that would lead to the U.N. authorizing war. That was actually exactly how British officials tried to sell the U.N. route to the Bush administration. For example, the British Ambassador to the U.S. Christopher Meyer had lunch with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on March 17, 2002 and said that tripping up Iraq in weapons inspections would be a way to gain international support for regime change. England was gambling that going the U.N. route would provide the rational for war, but ended up losing.

The U.K. and U.S. got Resolution 1441 passed in November 2002, which brought the inspectors back into Iraq. The problem was that they did not turn up any WMD. Inspectors for instance, went to 202 suspected sites by the end of December and reported no evidence of an active WMD or nuclear program. In fact, they were running out of places to go, and asked the U.S. to provide more specific intelligence on where these illicit programs might be. Baghdad also ended up cooperating more as the inspections progressed, and the problems that did arise, to Blix at least, were not serious enough for the U.N. Security Council to vote for war.

The real issue was that the war plans of the U.S. and England were moving ahead at the same time that the U.N. inspectors were undermining the reasons for the invasion. Former Ambassador Christopher Meyer told the Chilcot Inquiry, in early December 2009 that:

The real problem, which I did draw several times to the attention of London, was that the contingency military timetable had been decided before the UN inspectors went in under Hans Blix. So you found yourself in a situation in the autumn of 2002 where you could not synchronize the military timetable with the inspection timetable. The American military had been given instructions to prepare for war. Initially it was ‘we want you ready by January.’ … January was never realistic and in the end it went back to March. … So the result … was to turn resolution 1441 on its head. Because 1441 had been a challenge to Saddam Hussein, agreed unanimously, to prove his innocence. But because you could not synchronize the programs, somehow or other, program, preparation for war, inspections, you had to short-circuit the inspection process by finding the notorious smoking gun. And suddenly, because of that, the unforgiving nature of the military timetable, you found yourself scrabbling for the smoking gun, which was another way of saying ‘it’s not that Saddam has to prove that he’s innocent, we’ve now bloody well got to try and prove that he’s guilty.

The U.S. had set the date for the war to begin in March 2003, and that’s exactly when they demanded the inspections end, and the invasion began. Blix believes that this is more proof that the U.S. and U.K. were not interested in disarmament and the inspectors doing their work, but were rather looking for some evidence of WMD to get to their ultimate goal of regime change. The U.N. however, was not turning up any serious incriminating material. This should have made the British and American intelligence agencies and governments re-evaluate their claims about Iraq’s weapons program, but they actually argued that not finding any WMD was proof that Iraq was hiding them. This was largely due to the fact that Saddam had never complied with the U.N. in the 1990s, so Washington and London were convinced that Iraq must have been hiding something again. The rest of the Security Council though, wanted the inspections to continue, and were not convinced of the arguments for war. When England tried to push for a second resolution they failed.

Blix believes that England was caught in a Catch-22. They would only join the U.S. invasion if the United Nations authorized it, which required the inspectors returning to Iraq to look for WMD, but they didn’t find any, and that undermined the rational for war. The result was that the Security Council refused to support military action. The British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in turn, said the war was illegal as late as March 7, 2003, and only changed his mind after a phone call from Blair who argued that it was legitimate due to previous U.N. resolutions. As former Ambassador Meyer told the Chilcot Inquiry, “We – the Americans, the British – have never really recovered from that because of course there was no smoking gun,” i.e. WMD, which the war had been sold on. Blair was committed no matter what though, as his recent comments point out. With the invasion set for March, the inspections and United Nations ended up hindering England’s plans rather than assisting them.


Blix, Hans, “Blair sold Iraq on WMD, but only regime change adds up,” Guardian, 12/14/09

Burrough, Bryan, Peretz, Evgenia, Rose, David and Wise, David, “Path To War,” Vanity Fair, May 2004

Gledhill, Ruth and Brown, David, “Blair ‘would have gone to war without Iraqi WMD,’” Times of London, 12/12/09

Meyer, Ambassador Christopher, “CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL,” British Embassy, Washington, 3/18/02

Norton-Taylor, Richard, “Chilcot inquiry: US said Iraqis would welcome invasion,” Guardian, 12/1/09

Tran, Mark, “Iraq war inquiry key witnesses: Sir Christopher Meyer,” Guardian, 12/9/09

Monday, December 28, 2009

Anti-Government Protests In Both Southern and Northern Iraq

In two separate incidents in Karbala in southern Iraq and Pirmargrun in northern Kurdistan Iraqis protested against the government in late-December 2009.

First, on December 23, the town of Pirmargrun in Sulaymaniya province in Kurdistan spontaneously erupted into street protests that quickly turned to rioting. The cause of the disruptions was a speech given by the town’s mayor on TV the day before who complained that inhabitants of Pirmargrun didn’t appreciate the local improvements that he was responsible for. The next day people began gathering in the streets and shouting slogans against government corruption and the lack of services. Half the town allegedly has no water supply, and the other part only receives water for one hour ever couple days according to a local policeman. The protestors went to government buildings and began throwing rocks at them, and eventually blocked off entrances to the town with barricades. The head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the town and the district chief were both assaulted. Police were called in from the neighboring city of Sulaymaniya, but they were not enough, so the Asayesh security forces and riot police had to be deployed. Seventeen policemen were eventually sent to the hospital, and two armored personnel carriers were destroyed.

On December 24, the mayor apologized for his comments on the air, but that only led to another street protest to his office, which was again struck by rocks and other objects. That march was broken up by gunfire from the PUK headquarters across the street. Pirmargrun was built in 1988 as a refugee camp for Kurds expelled by Saddam’s Anfal campaign in northern Iraq. The inhabitants have been unhappy with their situation for quite some time, and overwhelmingly voted for the Change List in the 2009 Kurdish elections, a new political party that promised better services, and an end to the cronyism and corruption of the two ruling Kurdish parties. These were the largest protests in Kurdistan since 2006 when rioting erupted in Halabja that was also about a lack of services.

A few days later on December 26, around 5,000 Shiite pilgrims to the holy city of Karbala organized protests against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Thousands of Shiites were coming to the city for the Ashura ceremony. They were greeted by a march, slogans, and signs complaining about corruption in Baghdad, and complaints about the Iranian takeover of a oil well in the Faquil field in Maysan province. The government allegedly tried to block these protests from being broadcast on TV.

Both demonstrations may be a sign of things to come as Iraq heads toward the March 2010 parliamentary elections. Better governance and ending corruption were key issues in the 2009 provincial elections, and many Iraqis seem upset with their current leaders who have done little to address these issues. The likely result is a wide range of parties getting votes in 2010, which will make it all the harder to put together a new ruling coalition.


McDermid, Charles and Rath, Tiare, “Kurdish Town Swept by Day of Rioting,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 12/23/09

Mizher, Qais, “Anti-government protests held in Iraq,” Washington Post, 12/27/09

Najm, Kamaran, “Focus on Kurdish Riots,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 12/24/09

Roads To Iraq, “Thousands of Shiite pilgrims chanted Anti-Iraqi government slogans,” 12/26/09

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Islamist Terrorists Return To Sectarian Attacks

Beginning in August 2009 Al Qaeda in Iraq began attacking government institutions. On August 18 they bombed the Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries, killing 101 and wounding 1,023. On October 25 they attacked the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad provincial council building resulting in 135 casualties. Finally, on December 8 the federal appeals court, a technical college, the headquarters of the state-run Raifdain Bank, and the new offices of the Finance Ministry were all targeted, leading to 127 dead, and around 500 wounded. These spectacular operations grabbed the world’s headlines, as they were the deadliest since the sectarian war of 2006-2007. It also led to reports that the Islamists  were changing their tactics from attacking Shiites to trying to undermine the government, and specifically Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has been running on improved security for the upcoming March 2010 parliamentary elections. At the end of December 2009 however, Al Qaeda  returned to their old ways attacking both Shiites and Christians during the Ashura ceremony and Christmas holiday.

Baghdad, Karbala, and Mosul have seen over a dozen sectarian attacks in recent days. On December 26, three separate bombings in Baghdad left four Shiite pilgrims heading to Karbala for the religious festival dead, and nineteen wounded. The previous day a bomb went off in the capital killing three more pilgrims and wounding seven. December 24 saw over 31 casualties in Karbala. Nine other bombs were discovered north of the city and defused, while a Christian man was gunned down in the northern city of Mosul. Finally, on December 23, four bombs went off in Baghdad targeting pilgrims leaving 6 dead, and 44 wounded, while two Christian churches in Mosul were attacked resulting in two dead and five wounded. Iraqi nationalist insurgent groups have tried to minimize civilian casualties in recent years, having been turned off by Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate killing of Iraqis. They also do not stress sectarian attacks, which means the Islamists are the main culprits for these terrorist incidents.

Despite the turn towards targeting public institutions in recent months, it seems that the Islamists still hate Shiites and Christians who they see as apostates and symbols of the West. In fact, Al Qaeda tried to legitimize the bombings of government buildings by saying that they were run by Shiites. While the attacks have weakened the standing of Maliki, they remind the public of the extremism of the Islamists. It is exactly these types of sectarian attacks on civilians that led to the majority of the insurgency and the Sunni population to turn on Al Qaeda in Iraq, reducing them from being in the vanguard of the fight against the U.S. and Baghdad to a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, they still get some domestic and foreign support, which will mean these attacks will continue into the foreseeable future.


Aswat al-Iraq, “2 pilgrims killed, 11 wounded in Baghdad blasts,” 12/26/09
- “2nd attack on Shiite mourners leaves 2 dead, 7 wounded,” 12/23/09
- “9 bombs defused in north of Karbala,” 12/24/09
- “22 pilgrims killed or wounded in Karabala,” 12/24/09
- “31 pilgrims killed, wounded in Baghdad blast,” 12/23/09
- “Attack on Shiite procession leaves 3 killed, 7 wounded in Baghdad,” 12/25/09
- “Bomb targets group reviving Shiite rituals in Baghdad,” 12/23/09
- “Christian killed in eastern Mosul,” 12/24/09
- “ED explodes inside restaurant in Karbala,” 12/24/09
- “IED targeting Shiite procession leaves 10 casualties,” 12/26/09
- “Karbala blast wounds 9 people,” 12/24/09
- “Mosul attack’s casualties up to 7,” 12/23/09

Londono, Ernesto, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq regaining strength,” Washington Post, 11/22/09

Siegel, Pascale Combelles, “Militant Iraqi Nationalists Struggle with Approach to al-Qaeda’s Islamist State of Iraq,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 12/23/09

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” - Chapter 6 Charting A New Course

Chapter 6 of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” report on the American effort to rebuild Iraq focuses upon the first days of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The appointment of Paul Bremer as the new head of the occupation of Iraq would turn out to a fateful one. The lack of coordination and consultation between the different government agencies in charge of Iraq would continue, and Bremer’s first decisions would turn a large segment of the populace against the United States.

In April 2003 Vice President Dick Cheney’s office contacted Paul Bremer about whether he would like to serve in Iraq. Bremer was a former State Department official with no experience in the Middle East, with civilian-military operations, or reconstruction. By the end of that month he had accepted the job, and on May 6 President Bush announced that Bremer would by the U.S. envoy to Iraq. The White House told the press that they wanted to transition Iraq from military to civilian rule, and that this was a first step, but the real reason was that Washington had lost confidence in the head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) retired General Jay Garner.

At the time, ORHA and Garner had only been in Iraq for one month, and were being overwhelmed by the amount of problems they were facing. There was no government, no electricity, no security, and mass looting was still going on. As reported before, America’s pre-war planning for Iraq had been haphazard, disorganized, and based upon best case scenarios. The U.S. thought that it could go in quick and leave just as fast. The ORHA had neither the staff nor the know how to deal with a country that suddenly found itself with a political and security vacuum after the toppling of Saddam. This led the Bush administration to panic, and make a dramatic about face in strategy from a short stay in Iraq to a long-term occupation symbolized by the replacement of Garner and the ORHA by Bremer and the CPA.

The appointment of Bremer would make the situation little better. First, his arrival continued the disconnected chain of command in Iraq. Bremer reported to President Bush through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but Bremer felt he was directly under the President. The Multi-National Forces in Iraq were a separate entity as well. This led to little coordination with both the Defense Department, and the U.S. military, and ultimately with the White House as well, as Bremer would make many decisions on his own without any higher consultation or authorization.

The first problem that occurred was that officials were working at cross-purposes. When Bremer arrived in Iraq in May 2003 Garner, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to the Iraqi opposition, and the U.S. military were still thinking in terms of the old policy to create an Iraqi interim government and withdraw. Garner and Khalilzad were consulting with Iraqi leaders, and the head of the Central Command (CENTCOM), General Tommy Franks had issued orders in April to have most U.S. troops home by the end of July 2003. Bremer on the other hand, said that the transition to Iraqi control would take a lot longer than expected. Washington officials would say the same thing such as Rumsfeld telling the press in May that the U.S. could be in Iraq for more than a year. Undersecretary of Defense Doulgas Feith captured this confusion when he told Congress that the U.S. was committed to remaining in Iraq and leaving. In fact, the creation of the CPA was the beginning of an open-ended commitment to stay in the country.

That was implied by Bremer’s political plan that he announced on May 22. He said that the Iraqis would form a governing council, then a constitution, and then hold elections for a permanent government, which could take 1-2 years. As a further sign of the change in policy, in July, the new head of CENTCOM, General John Abizaid halted the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Bremer than set about issuing a series of orders that would come to haunt the United States’ occupation of Iraq. First CPA Order Number 1 started deBaathification. The idea originally came from Washington where many officials were enthralled with comparing the occupation of Iraq with the post-World War II occupation of Germany. Bremer also liked that analogy, and felt that the deBaathification was a sign that the old Iraq was dead. The order banned the top four ranks of the Baath party from office. It also did away with the top three ranks of management in any government institution. Garner and the CIA Chief in Baghdad both objected to the decree saying that it would create new enemies. Since the state ran everything in Iraq, deBaathification decapitated the already struggling government. Afterward, U.S. officers such as the new commander in Iraq General Ricardo Sanchez and General David Petraeus, who at the time was leading the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, questioned the entire process, believing that it did more bad than good by turning people against the new Iraq.

Bremer than issued CPA Order Number 2 that disbanded the military in Iraq. It got rid of the Ministries of Defense, Information, and State for Military Affairs, the intelligence services, the National Security Bureau, the Directorate of National Security, and the Special Security Organization. In one fell swoop, Bremer had put 500,000 Iraqis out of a job. This was another reversal from previous plans that envisioned the Iraqi army helping with security and reconstruction after the war. U.S. soldiers and members of the ORHA were even consulting with Iraqi officers to reconstitute their units. Bremer’s national security adviser Walt Slocombe drafted the order, and believed that the Iraqi military had already disbanded itself during the invasion. The idea was sent to Washington where Rumsfeld, the Defense Department, and President Bush okayed the plan. Like CPA Order Number 1, this one caused even more resentment amongst Iraqis. Riots quickly broke out in Baghdad, Mosul, and other cities as unemployed soldiers demanded pay and pensions, and ten days later, Bremer was forced into agreeing to cover those costs. General David Petraeus would later say that this decision helped create a nationalist backlash against the Americans, and fuel the insurgency.

When Bremer was appointed the head of the CPA, the U.S. was already struggling with the situation in Iraq. The country was a collapsed state, and the Bush administration lacked the planning or manpower to handle it. The idea of American officials in Washington and Baghdad was to get out as soon as possible, and turn things over to the Iraqis. Bremer ended all that, and turned the U.S. presence into a prolonged occupation. This angered many Iraqis who had been told that they would soon regain their sovereignty. On top of that, Bremer made a series of fateful decisions that would only make things worse. With deBaathification and demobilizing the military, he turned thousands of Sunnis against the U.S. They simply had no place in the new Iraq, and this dissatisfaction led to militancy. The Americans and Baghdad are still struggling with these orders to this day, as the Iraqi military is a work in progress, and former Baathists and soldiers continue to try to find their place in society.

For previous chapters in Hard Lessons see:


Part I Planning for Postwar Iraq September 2001 to May 2003

Chapter 2 The Agencies Engage

Chapter 3 The Department Of Defense Takes Charge

Chapter 4 Staging In Kuwait

Chapter 5 ORHA In Baghdad


Foreign Policy, “Seven Questions: The De-Bremerification of Iraq,” January 2008

Gordon, Michael, “Fateful Choice on Iraq Army Bypassed Debate,” New York Times, 3/17/08

Harkavy, “Paper Trails in Iraq,” Village Voice, 9/5/07

Loeb, Vernon and Gellman, Barton, “Rumsfeld foresees year in Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10/03

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

PBS Frontline, “Interview L. Paul Bremer,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03
- “Interview Maj. Gen. David Petraeus,” Beyond Baghdad, 2/12/04

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Tyler, Patrick, “Big step toward a new Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/8/03

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Questions Than Answers On Iran-Iraq Oil Field Dispute

On December 18, 2009 eleven Iranian soldiers stormed Well Number Four in the Fauqi oil field that straddles the Iran-Iraq border, and chased off Iraqi workers who were there. Two days later the Iranians withdrew, although Iraqi officials claim they are still on Iraqi territory. The Iranian action led to protests in Karbala and Anbar, and a tribal council in Basra threatened to retake the oil well by force if Baghdad wasn’t able to reclaim it. Tehran on the other hand, said it was all a misunderstanding that was being blown out of proportion by Iran’s enemies. There are still several unanswered questions as the incident is coming to an end.

First, why were Iraqis at Well Number Four? A sheikh from Maysan’s tribal council said that the Iranians had been acting belligerently around the Fauqi field since the beginning of December, harassing both Iraqi civilians and members of the security forces. Well Number Four is also dormant, and a spokesman from the Oil Ministry said no Iraqi workers had been there to extract oil before the Iranian take over. The two countries have an unwritten agreement not to work on disputed parts of the oil field as well. Given this situation, it would seem a provocative action for Iraqi oil workers to go to Number Four last week, and put up the Iraqi flag. Were they there for some routine maintenance, or did they go there on purpose as part of a tit for tat game the two countries had been playing recently at disputed oil fields along the border?

Second, why has Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki been completely silent on the issue? Iraq’s Interior Minister said it was not a big deal, while the Foreign Ministry said Iraq and Iran would meet soon to work on the border, but Maliki has said absolutely nothing. This seems like an odd thing, especially because the country is in full election mode for the 2010 vote, and the Prime Minister has been running on his nationalist credentials. This has raised questions about Iran’s role in Iraqi politics amongst some.

Despite these questions, this incident is likely to go down as a minor event. It’s not going to change the larger political, economic, and cultural relationship the two countries have forged since the overthrow of Saddam, but it does show there are underlying tensions between the two. It will also provide fodder for nationalists who would like to see that be more of an equal exchange between the two, and who want Tehran’s influence in the government to end.


Agence France Presse, “Iran troops still on Iraq’s soil: Iraqi politician,” 12/21/09

Alsumaria, “Hashemi calls on Iran to withdraw from Iraq,” 12/23/09
- “Iran: Iraq border incident misunderstanding,” 12/23/09
- “Iraq awaits Iran troops exit from oil well,” 12/23/09
- “Iraq tribal council forms combat brigades in face of Iranian troops,” 12/23/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Joint committees to determine Fakka oilfield’s fate – amb.,” 12/23/09
- “Parliament to host FM on Iranian violation,” 12/23/09

Lando, Ben, “The Iranian invasion,” Iraq Oil Report, 12/18/09

Latif, Nizar, “Iraq-Iran oil well tensions simmered ‘for weeks,’” The National, 12/21/09

Al-Rafidayn, Al-Sumarianews, Al-Mada, Al-Zaman, “Iranian Occupation of Oil Field in Iraq Unleashes Widespread Anti-Iran Reactions,” MEMRI Blog, 12/23/09

Rao, Prashant, “Iraq protests against Iranian takeover of oil well,” Agence France Presse, 12/18/09

Williams, Timothy and Adnan, Duraid, “Iran-Iraq Standoff Over Oil Field Ends,” New York Times, 12/20/09

Monday, December 21, 2009

Will New Oil Deals Provide Jobs For Iraqis?

Iraq recently completed the second round of bidding on its oil fields, which will hopefully usher in the return of international petroleum companies to Iraq that will bring in much needed investment and know how. This round went much better than the first with deals for seven of the ten fields up for auction. Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani believes that Iraq could reach 12 million barrels a day in capacity in six years as a result, which would make it a rival to the world’s largest producer Saudi Arabia. With such high expectations, many Iraqis, especially in southern Iraq where most of the oil resides, are hoping that this wealth will trickle down in the form of jobs and better services.

Currently southern Iraq has some of the poorest sections of the country despite the huge petroleum reserves. A recent report by the government’s Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology, found that 49% of the population in Muthanna and 41% in Babil lived in poverty, the highest rates in Iraq. Residents of Dhi Qar told Agence France Presse that they didn’t expect much from the new oil deals, feeling that the best jobs would go to those that had political connections or paid bribes. In contrast, the Italian head of Dhi Qar’s Provincial Reconstruction Team, U.S.-funded groups that are aimed at improving the political and economic development of Iraq at the local level, believed that there would be plenty of job opportunities, and the complaints about corruption were overblown. Provincial officials in Basra also expressed similar optimism.

If jobs do appear, they will have to be from spin-offs such as construction and services, because its estimated that Iraq will only need 40,000 new oil workers by 2015. That’s a drop in the bucket when compared to the 250,000 young Iraqis who enter the job market each year. In Wasit for example, the sole foreign petroleum company currently operating in Iraq, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), only hired 450 Iraqis since it started working there in late-2008. They have also been accused of damaging farmland that has set off a wave of protests and small-scale sabotage against the corporation.

The problem as ever is that petroleum is not a labor-intensive industry. There will be a flurry of construction early on to improve the oil fields, which could offer opportunities to Iraqis. After that, probably in the best case, the increased revenues from higher exports will give Baghdad the necessary funds to improve services to placate the public. Otherwise the new oil deals will just give people another excuse to complain about their government.


Agence France Presse, “Southern Iraq town hopes for jobs boom after oil auction,” 12/17/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “COSIT: Unemployment, poverty drop in Iraq,” 12/13/09

BBC, “Iraq oil capacity ‘to reach 12m barrels per day,’” 12/12/09

Gunter, Frank, “Liberate Iraq’s Economy,” New York Times, 11/16/09

Al Jazeera, “Iraq’s oil wealth eludes the poor,” 11/4/09

Yackley, Ayla Jean, “Iraqi oil deals mean reams of steel, miles of pipes,” Reuters, 12/10/09

Sunday, December 20, 2009

United Nations Human Rights Report On Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released its latest human rights report for Iraq covering the first half of 2009. The U.N. noted the decrease in violence in Iraq, but that there were still deaths everyday in the country. More importantly, it recorded continued institutional abuses in the justice system, and reminders of the old regime.

The number of deaths and unidentified bodies found are down greatly. In the last half of 2008 for example, 434 people were found dead in the streets, compared to 210 in the first six months of 2009. There were still daily attacks, but the U.N. made an important observation that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell political violence from ones involving crime, especially because many gangs also work as militias and insurgents. The major targets in Iraq are the security forces, government officials, professionals, Sons of Iraq (SOI) members, and tribal leaders. Two generals were killed and one escaped a car bombing during the first half of 2009, along with four SOI leaders killed or wounded in four areas in Diyala.

Iraq’s minorities are also targets. Yazidis, Sabeans, Shabaks and Christians claim that their numbers have been drastically reduced because of the violence, with many becoming refugees. Yazidis say their population went from 500,000 before the war to 300,000 now. Sabeans reported 35,000 followers in 2003, and 7,000-8,000 now. There were 1.4 million Christians in the 1987 census, and they now believe there are only 500,000-800,000. All of these groups complain about being arrested by the Kurdish security forces, and being pressured to vote for pro-Kurdish parties.

With the dramatic decrease in militant activity, cultural and institutional abuses are gaining more prominence. UNAMI has been focusing upon women’s issues for the last year or two, concentrating upon the Kurdistan region. The U.N has found continued honor killings and suicides due to abuses there. Few of these cases are ever reported to the police, as they are considered family matters. Journalists also say they face regular harassment by the security forces and politicians’ bodyguards. One NGO reported 64 cases of abuse in 3 days in Baghdad, Basra, Babil, and Anbar. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has also arrested and convicted journalists for criticizing the authorities.

Most importantly the U.N. reports that Iraq’s justice system remains overwhelmed by the number of detainees, and its reliance upon confessions leads to widespread abuses. From January to June 2009 the number of prisoners held by the government increased from 27,466 to 29,871. Detainees are regularly held for long periods of time without charges or seeing a lawyer. Torture and beatings are common, and this includes against children held. That led to a series of protests by prisoners in June 2009 against corruption, lack of trials, and abuses in Maysan and Qadisiyah provinces. That same month, the Interior Minister announced that 43 police officers were going to be prosecuted for abuses. Similar conditions and treatment are also prevalent in Kurdistan. UNAMI interviewed people who were held for 5 years or more in the region without charges or trials, while noting that the KRG has begun a program to renovate and improve conditions in its prisons.

Finally, the authorities are finding remains of the Saddam era. In May and June 2009 dozens of mass graves were found in Qadisiyah, Najaf, Basra, Karbala, and Tamim. Most of those contained hundreds of Kurdish victims of Saddam’s Anfal campaign, while two sites were found in Karbala that had Kuwaiti prisoners of war that were killed during the Gulf War. The Ministry of Human Rights believes that they may be 270 unopened mass graves throughout the country.

Iraq remains a troubled nation. The insurgency has been largely defeated, but there are still terrorist attacks everyday that continue to take a human toll. With the fighting largely over, other problems are coming to the fore including overcrowding and abuses in Iraqi prisons and the justice system, lack of rights for women, and limits on press freedom. This shows that Iraq remains a fragile, developing state, with a large terrorist threat.


United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, “Human Rights Report 1 January – 30 June 2009,” 12/15/09

Friday, December 18, 2009

Disputed Oil Field Leads To Flare Up Between Iraq And Iran

Today, December 18, 2009, around ten Iranian border guards stormed oil well number four at the Fauqi oil field in Maysan, after some Iraqi workers started work there last week. Well number four is on the Iraqi side of the border, but the field straddles both countries. There is an unofficial agreement between the two that neither will work on the disputed parts of the Fauqi. According to a U.S. officer in southern Iraq however, the two countries often provoke each other. He said every couple of months one side will go to a well, work there for a few days, put up their flag, and then as soon as they leave, the other country will do the same. He said the last time this happened was in September 2009. Today’s event was definitely an example of this as well number four is dormant.

While Iraq officially called on the Iranians to withdraw from well number four, they are trying to keep the event low key. Interior Minister Jawad Bolani for example, said it was not a major incident. The National Security Council and the Maysan provincial council both had emergency sessions over the incursion. There is a joint Iran-Iraq committee to settle the disputed border, but it has done little since the U.S. invasion in 2003.


Allam, Hannah, “Iraq accuses Iran of sending troops to seize disputed oil well,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/18/09

Associated Press, “Iraq Accuses Iranian Troops Of Seizing Oil Well,” 12/18/09

Al Jazeera, “Iraq-Iran in oilfield dispute,” 12/18/09

Lando, Ben, “The Iranian invasion,” Iraq Oil Report, 12/18/09

Rao, Prashant, “Iraq protests against Iranian takeover of oil well,” Agence France Presse, 12/18/09

Williams, Timothy and Schmitt, Eric,  “Iraq Says Iran Occupied a Border Oil Field,” New York Times, 12/18/09

Oil Production Down in Nov. 09, But Exports Up

The latest numbers for Iraq’s oil industry are out, and they show that while production declined in November 2009, exports actually increased. Last month, Iraq produced an average of 2.36 million barrels a day of petroleum, while exporting 1.99 million barrels a day. In October Iraq produced an average of 2.50 million barrels, and exported 1.89 million barrels.

Iraq’s oil industry has never had steady output, and constantly goes up and down. So far this year, Iraq is average 2.40 million barrels in overall production, the second highest since 2003, while exporting 1.89 million barrels, marking a post-invasion high. Both are below marks set by the Oil Ministry and 2009 budget however. The Ministry wanted to achieve 2.50 million barrels a month this year, which was only achieved in September and October. The 2009 budget called for 2.00 million barrels in exports each month. That only happened in July, 2.08 million barrels, and August, 2.00 million barrels. This has led to a deficit, which is going to continue into next year, especially because the new budget calls for 2.15 million barrels of exports per day. Iraq’s economy is still largely state-run, and relies upon oil for almost all of its revenue, so these deficits are holding up reconstruction and development of the country. The first two rounds of bidding on Iraq’s oil fields will not help in the short-term either as the new production is not likely to come on line for several years.

Monthly Averages of Iraqi Oil Production/Exports in Millions of Barrels Per Day

Yr. Avg.1.44/0.7952.25/1.472.07/1.362.11/1.502.11/1.662.42/1.842.40/1.89


Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 12/16/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United Sates Congress,” 10/30/09

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Iraq Still Has Problems Spending Its Money

The new Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction report to Congress was released at the end of October 2009. It notes that Iraq is still having problems spending its budget. By June 2009 50% of Iraq’s $58.6 billion budget had been released, but only $16.4 billion, 27.9%, had been spent as of that month. $1.6 billion of that was for capital projects that are investments in infrastructure and services. The provinces had $16.4 billion, and only spent 30% of that during the same time period.

80% of the 2009 budget is for operational costs such as salaries, pensions, and the food ration system. Of the money spent in the first six months of the year, 90.3% came from the operational budget. That’s because from 2005 to 2008 Iraq’s spending increased each year and the ministries and agencies went on a hiring spree. In 2005 for example, there were 1.2 million government employees. By 2008 that had more than doubled to 2.8 million. Last year the country was also flush with money due to high oil prices and doubled most salaries for public employees. Now Iraq has no money to cover those costs because the global recession has caused a drop in the oil market, which is the nation’s main source of revenue.

Since Iraq got its official sovereignty back in 2005 its budgetary expenditures have gone up and down, with the majority of spending going to operational costs. In 2005 Iraq did its best, spending 73% of its $30.2 billion budget. Then followed 67% in 2006, 65% in 2007, and 69% in 2008. Barely any of the capital budgets were spent during those years, while the majority of the operational budgets were. In 2005 91% of the operational budget was spent, compared to 23% for the capital budget. In 2006 it was 83% operational versus 19% capital, 2007 it was 80% operational versus 28% capital, and in 2008 Baghdad did its best job spending 39% of its capital budget. Iraq’s major ministries responsible for security and services did an even worse job. In 2005 they spent 14% of their budgets, in 2006 13%, 2007 11%, and 2008 23%.

Iraq is now facing the triple pressures of reduced American and international aid, low to moderate petroleum prices, and increasing government costs. The bureaucracy, centralized control, and lack of trained staff has gotten no better since 2005, which are some of the main reasons why expenditures have so many problems. What that’s leading to is a bloated government, with limited money for development to raise the standard of living for its public.

Iraq’s Budget Expenditures

2005 73% of total budget, (4) 91% of operational budget, 23% of capital budget
2006 67% of total budget, 83% of operational budget, 19% of capital budget
2007 65% of total budget, 80% of operational budget, 28% of capital budget
2008 69% of total budget, 39% of capital budget

Budget Expenditures By Security and Services Ministries
2005 14%
2006 13%
2007 11%
2008 23%


Cockburn, Patrick, “Collapse in Iraqi oil price shatters hope of recovery,” Independent, 3/20/09

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” June 2009

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 1/30/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09

United States Government Accountability Office, “IRAQ Key Issues for Congressional Oversight,” March 2009
- “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008
- “Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed,” June 2008

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

U.S. Reconstruction Coming To An End

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the United States has promised the country $52.8 billion in reconstruction funds. That was the largest rebuilding effort in American history. Now this program is expected to end by 2014.

Of the $52.8 billion made available to Iraq, $43.57 billion of it has actually been obligated to specific projects, and $39.54 billion has been spent. The Obama administration has asked for $800 million for the 2010-2011 Fiscal Year. There is also $1 billion in supplemental funding for 2010 and $1.5 billion in 2012. The reconstruction effort is already winding down as only $58 million of the $1 billion in 2010 money has been obligated as of September 2009, and only $300,000 has been spent. That’s largely the result of the beginning of the withdrawal of U.S. forces. With less troops out in the field and the planned drawdown of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, there are fewer opportunities for new projects to be planned. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) estimates that by 2012-2014 all of the money currently in the pipeline for Iraq will run out. After that the U.S. will continue to provide aid, but not in the large amounts that it has in the past.

The largest chunk of reconstruction funds ended up going to security. In total, $24.52 billion was allocated for various security endeavors, with $20.72 billion actually being spent. Creating a new Iraqi Army is considered the one success of the U.S. effort. There are 245,000 Iraqi soldiers, and over 400,000 police. They now have control of all of Iraq’s 18 provinces, are in the lead of the country’s counterinsurgency program, and the Army is considered competent enough to handle internal security. The police are more open to political and local influences, thousands have not been trained, and are still considered a work in progress. Both forces remain almost completely dependent upon the U.S. for logistics and procurement however, and Iraq is not capable of protecting itself from outside threats.

In comparison, $21.2 billion was spent on the economy and government. $12.36 billion was allocated for infrastructure, $7.28 billion for governance, and $1.56 billion for the economy. Of that, $18.83 billion has actually been spent. The sectors that got the most money were electricity, $5.16 billion, water and sanitation $2.74 billion, government capacity $2.50 billion, oil and gas $2.06 billion, and developing democracy and civil society $2.03 billion.

There is still over $11.6 billion in on-going projects. Baghdad has the most with $2.92 billion, followed by $543.46 million in Basra, $362.23 million in Tamim, and $1.11 billion across the country. In terms of sectors, there is $5.07 billion in electricity projects, $3.08 billion in water and sanitation, $1.77 billion in oil and gas, $1.27 billion in transportation and communication, and $467.97 million in governance and infrastructure.

Reconstructing Iraq’s infrastructure and government has run into many problems. While things like electricity production is at an all time high, it is still not meeting demand. There are also millions of dollars worth of projects that are either not operating at capacity or have been abandoned because Iraqis cannot staff, supply, or afford them. Most importantly, just over half of the money got diverted to security rather than developing the country. 

Overall, the SIGIR believes that the U.S. failed in this endeavor because of a lack of pre-war planning and coordination, bad contracting practices, and building projects that Americans wanted, not Iraqis. Another major problem was that the lack of security derailed many projects, and led to huge cost overruns. That’s seen in the fact that as the reconstruction effort winds down, more money was spent on the Iraqi military and police than the economy or government. There are some successes like the Iraqi Army, but many continuing problems like the lack of adequate services. The U.S. invasion ended the dictatorial rule of Saddam, but the $52.8 billion reconstruction effort is leaving behind a rather typical, dysfunctional Third World country.

Status of Major U.S. Reconstruction Funds

$7.29 bil
6.82 bil
6.03 bil

$6.11 bil
$5.68 bil
$5.45 bil

$5.81 bil
$5.55 bil
$4.84 bil

$2.55 bil
$2.41 bil
$2.17 bil

Rule of Law
$1.50 bil
$1.48 bil
$1.27 bil

Related Activities
$1.27 bil
$1.15 bil
$0.97 bil

$24.52 bil
$23.09 bil
$20.72 bil
$5.16 bil
$4.99 bil
$4.86 bil

Water and

$2.74 bil
$2.63 bil
$2.47 bil

Oil and Gas
$2.06 bil
$1.92 bil
$1.91 bil


$1.25 bil
$1.24 bil
$1.24 bil

Transportation and

$1.15 bil
$1.09 bil
$0.99 bil

$12.35 bil
$11.88 bil
$11.47 bil

$2.50 bil
$2.29 bil
$1.91 bil

Democracy and
Civil Society

$2.03 bil
$2.04 bil
$1.66 bil

Public Services
$1.93 bil
$1.91 bil
$1.73 bil


$0.82 bil
$0.82 bil
$0.75 bil

$7.28 bil
$7.06 bil
$6.04 bil

$0.82 bil
$0.80 bil
$0.74 bil

Private Sector

$0.74 bil
$0.74 bil
$0.57 bil

$1.56 bil
$1.54 bil
$1.32 bil

$45.72 bil
$43.57 bil
$39.54 bil

Remaining Infrastructure Projects by Province

Water and

Oil and

tion and


$1,504.22 mil
$755.31 mil
$40.6 mil
$282.17 mil

$2,923.97 mil
$543.46 mil
$238.32 mil
$558.55 mil
%171.8 mil
$8.39 mil

$362.23 mil
$42.87 mil
$187.39 mil
$21.09 mil
$8.47 mil

Dhi Qar
$106.67 mil
$399.69 mil
$0.43 mil
$21.42 mil
$13.06 mil

$311.19 mil
$59.51 mil
$71.52 mil
$65.75 mil
$7.37 mil

$251.58 mil
$188.88 mil
$70.15 mil
$3.92 mil

$118.74 mil
$126.87 mil
$0.08 mil
$66.06 mil
$6.97 mil

$102.54 mil
$201.67 mil
$0.08 mil
$5.07 mil
$2.46 mil
$311.82 mil
$80.66 mil
$143.47 mil
$2.89 mil
$23.79 mil
$6.24 mil
$257.05 mil
$15.02 mil
$189.79 mil
$0.07 mil
$19.12 mil
$3.87 mil
$227.87 mil
$121.65 mil
$47.63 mil
$36.01 mil
$3.49 mil
$208.78 mil
$72.79 mil
$60.84 mil
$14.26 mil
$4.43 mil
$152.31 mil
$86.78 mil
$30.46 mil
$21.75 mil
$2.65 mil
$141.63 mil
$76.31 mil
$20.26 mil
$0.06 mil
$14.06 mil
$6.32 mil
$117.01 mil
$45.38 mil
$30.21 mil
$19.18 mil
$10.23 mil
$105.01 mil
$46.99 mil
$39.0 mil
$4.88 mil
$1.58 mil
$92.45 mil
$61.4 mil
$8l.34 mil
$0.93 mil
$7.63 mil
$78.3 mil
$49.03 mil
$15.28 mil
$2.98 mil
$1.06 mil
$68.35 mil
& Regional

$1,115.1 mil
$487.18 mil
$916.14 mil
$418.14 mil
$28.16 mil
$2,964.71 mil
$5,071.73 mil
$3,085.58 mil
$1,777.81 mil
$1,278.6 mil
$467.97 mil
$11,681.69 mil


Cordesman, Anthony, “Assessing the Readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/12/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/09