Sunday, February 28, 2010

Christians Under Attack Again In Mosul

Since the beginning of the year the Christian community in the city of Mosul has been under siege. From January 2010 to the present 12 people have been killed. The last incident occurred on February 23 when militants stormed a house and killed three members of a Christian family. The first was when a Syriac Orthodox church was bombed. As a result, the head of the Syriac-Catholic church sent a letter to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanding that the government protect the Christian community and form an inquiry into the incidents. Pope Benedict XVI has also said he’s concerned about the Christian community in Iraq, and Human Rights Watch has called for the government to increase security in Mosul. 

In the meantime, Christians are suspending their usual routines and leaving the city. Up to 61 families have fled Mosul and gone to other Christian towns to the north. The two leading Christian parties in Ninewa province, the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council and al-Rafidayn have suspended their campaigns for the 2010 election, and hundreds of Christian university students are not going to school due to threats. 

So far both Baghdad and the Ninewa government say that they are doing all that they can to protect Christians. Ninewa’s Governor Atheel al-Nujafi called on the Ninewa Operations Command to increase security and restore order. Maliki’s government has created a committee to look into the attacks. Christian politicians have been critical of both efforts. One said that Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not coordinate, and that is creating security gaps that have been exploited by militants. Even under the best of conditions however, Mosul is the most violent city in Iraq per capita because it is the last urban stronghold of the insurgency.

This is very similar to the series of attacks that beset the Christians in Mosul in October 2008. That time, 40 Christians were killed and up to 12,000 fled the city. Both Arabs and Kurds were blamed for the attacks, but an investigation by Human Rights Watch concluded that the culprits were Arab insurgents. By mid-November 2008, the threats were over and up to 80% of the Christians had returned to the city to go back to their jobs and school. Both incidents came before Iraqi elections. In 2008 Christians were preparing for the January 2009 provincial elections, and this year voting is being held for Iraq’s parliament in March. Christians are also caught in the conflict between Baghdad and Kurdistan over the disputed territories. Driving them out of Mosul may be aimed at keeping their participation down, and punishing them for not taking sides.

Hopefully this will all be over soon as the parliamentary balloting is due in just a few more days. It still shows how vulnerable Christians are in Iraq, and that the government is incapable of protecting them from determined campaigns of intimidation and murder. Already thousands of Christians have left their homes and moved to either Kurdistan or to other countries. This latest round of attacks will surely lead to more of that.

SOURCES

Ahmad, Jareer, “Christians flee Iraq’s Mosul,” Azzaman, 2/24/10

AK News, “Escalation of targeting Christians in Mosul predicts more displacement,” 2/25/10
- “The non-stop series of Christians targeting in Iraq – Analysis,” 2/26/10

Alsumaria, “Iraq to probe Iraq Christians killing,” 2/26/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Gunman kill 3 Christians in Mosul,” 1/23/10

DPA, “Iraqi lawmakers highlight ‘political’ killings of Christians – Summary,” 2/25/10

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Protect Christians from Violence,” 2/23/10
- “On Vulnerable Ground,” 11/10/09

Kamal, Adel, “christians targeted ahead of elections,” Niqash, 2/25/10

Friday, February 26, 2010

Timeline of Iraq’s De-Baathification Campaign

The anti-Baathist campaign in Iraq is not over yet. After the Accountability and Justice Commission successfully banned hundreds of candidates from the March 2010 elections, it announced on February 24 that it wanted 376 soldiers and policemen removed for alleged Baathist ties. Unlike the barring of candidates, which was of questionable legality, the February 2008 Accountability and Justice Act actually says that Baathists are not allowed jobs in the Interior and Defense Ministries. Many southern provinces that are controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list have also created their own Accountability and Justice committees to weed out former regime members in the local governments. The latest news on that front was when Karbala said that it had fired 10 professors for being high ranking Baathists on February 25. They claim that have a list of 40 others that they are investigating. On the more positive side, banned candidate Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front will participate in the elections, and dropped its threatened boycott. This process will probably continue to play out until March 7 when Iraqis head to the polls since it has been so successful for the two leading Shiite coalitions, the Iraqi National Alliance and the State of Law.

Below is a partial timeline of the events surrounding the anti-Baathist campaign. It’s meant to help follow the various twists and turns that have occurred since the banning of candidates was originally announced.

December 2009
Al Hayat reported that the Election Commission got a legal opinion from Iraq’s top court that it could ban any Baathists from participating in politics under Article 7 of the constitution. 

January 7, 2010
Accountability and Justice Commission that was never appointed by parliament announced that it was banning 511 candidates and fifteen parties from the March 2010 elections for alleged Baathist ties. Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq and his Iraqi National Dialogue Front, who were part of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement are the most prominent of those banned. Al Sharqiyah of Dubai listed others banned: Iraqi National Unity Grouping, Solution Movement, Iraqi Republican Grouping, Al Rafidayn National Trend, Iraqi Al Sawaid Grouping, Our Sons Bloc, National Council of the Grouping of Iraqi Tribes, Iraqi Social Movement, Sad al-Jubouri List, Iraqi Kurdistan Justice Party, All of Iraq Bloc, People’s Trend, Iraqi Resurrection Party, and National Change Plan.

January 8
Iraqi National Movement held a meeting about banning. Said that they rejected decision and threatened a boycott.

U.N. mission in Iraq sent a letter to the Election Commission calling on it to reject the banning of candidates.

January 9
Vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and said afterward that the banning was not official and should be discussed more.

Deputy of the Iraqi National Alliance said that courts should decide on bannings.

January 13
Deputy head of Karbala provincial council said that Baathists were trying to destabilize Iraq

January 14
Election Commission announced that it was following the Accountability and Justice Commission's banning of candidates.

Accountability and Justice committee head in parliament said he supported ban. Called for more parties and candidates to be barred. 

Parliamentarian Mutlaq said that he would appeal his case to the courts.

Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi visited Washington and met with Vice President Joe Biden on a pre-planned trip. The two discussed the candidate banning. Biden later called President Jalal Talabani, speaker of parliament Iyad Samarrai, Vice President Hashemi, and Prime Minister Maliki about the matter. 

Members of the Qadisiyah provincial council who are part of the Iraqi National Alliance said that they were working to prevent Baathists from returning to power

Demonstration in Mosul against the banning of candidates. 

January 15
Arab League Secretary General arrived in Iraq to lobby for overturning banning of candidates. 

January 16
Prime Minister Maliki came out in favor of the banning. 

Demonstration in Qadisiyah against Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front, and called for expelling Baathists from the government. Governor and provincial council members said they would work against Baathists. 

January 18
Najaf’s provincial council demanded that all Baathists leave the province, and promised that former regime members would be purged from the government. 

United Nations asked Accountability and Justice Commission to reverse its decision. They replied by telling the U.N. to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs. 

Press reports that one of those banned is Defense Minister Jassim al-Obeidi, member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law.

January 19
Presidential Council held an emergency meeting over candidate banning. Pres. Talabani said that the Council was creating a special commission to look into the matter. Talabani also sent a letter to Chief Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, head of Iraq’s highest court, for his opinion on the barring.

January 20
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said that the banning of candidates was illegal, and that the Accountability and Justice Commission had no authority. 

Vice President Joe Biden criticized Accountability and Justice Commission and said that it wasn’t being impartial. Suggested that banning candidates should be postponed until after the election.

January 21
Secretary general of the Iraqi cabinet said they had passed a resolution calling for the Accountability and Justice Commission to end their work since their members had never been approved.

Demonstrations in Basra and Najaf in favor of banning candidates. 

January 22
Vice President Biden visited Iraq and proposed that all the banned candidates be allowed to participate in the vote as long as they disavowed the Baath Party. Said their cases should be dealt with after the election. Head of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ali al-Lami rejected the idea. Government spokesman later said that the U.S. was interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Press reported that of the 511 banned candidates, 72 were from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and 67 were from Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. 

January 24
Maliki called special meeting with speaker of parliament Iyad al-Samarrai, and the Presidential Council. Maliki said that a Cassation Panel created as part of the Accountability and Justice Act would determine the future of the banned candidates, and that overrode the special Presidential Council commission announced on January 19.

January 25
Accountability and Justice Commission reinstated 59 candidates saying that there were errors in their paperwork.

January 26
Accountability and Justice Commission claimed that the Election Commission asked them to review 600 candidates to see if they had Baathist connections. 

January 27
American commander of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said that the Accountability and Justice Commission was working at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. Commission responded by accusing Petraeus of working with Baathists.

January 28
General Petraeus said that 55% of those banned were Shiites, and 45% were Sunnis. 

January 29
Sheikhs from the Southern Clans Council who supported the Iraqi National Movement threatened a boycott to protest candidates being banned. 

January 30
Sheikh Ahmad Abu Risha of the Anbar Awakening threatened a boycott over banning of 70 candidates from his and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. 

February 1
Accountability and Justice Commission said that it had just banned 57 new candidates on top of the original 511. 

February 3
Cassation Panel said that banned candidates could run in the election, but that they couldn’t take office until their cases were fully investigated. Government spokesman and Accountability and Justice Commission head Ali al-Lami condemn decision. Said that it was done at the behest of the U.S. Embassy. Accountability and Justice Commission claimed that Cassation Panel only had authority to rule on individual appeals cases, not to overturn all of their bannings. Lami said that if the Election Commission followed the Panel’s decision they would be taken to court.

February 4
Maliki called for a special session of parliament on February 9 to discuss latest developments in the deBaathification crisis. Claimed that the Election Commission didn’t have to follow the Panel’s ruling. Head of Maliki’s State of Law List said that the Cassation Panel should’ve followed the original Accountability and Justice Commission banning, while the Prime Minister told U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill to stop interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs

February 5
Government spokesman said that the Cassation Panel’s decision was illegal. Moqtada a-Sadr of the Iraqi National Alliance also criticized Panel, while Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said it was the right move

February 6
Iraqi’s top court the High Judicial Council said that it would review the banned candidates’ cases, and the legality of the Accountability and Justice Commission. Maliki pressured court to come up with a decision before the February 9 special session of parliament.

Parliamentarians said that they wanted to withdraw support for Cassation Panel after they allowed banned candidates to run in the election again. 

Iraqi National Alliance said that some parties were trying to bring the Baathists back into power, and that the U.S. was behind the Cassation Panel’s decision. 

Head of legal committee in parliament who is a Sadrist, called for the banning of Vice President Hashemi from the election for promoting Baathism while on trip to U.S. 

February 7
Iraq’s Election Commission announced a delay in the beginning of campaigning until February 12 so that deBaathification crisis could be resolved.

Election Commission originally said that they agreed with the Cassation ruling that the barred candidates should be able to run in the balloting. Then reversed opinion and agreed with Accountability and Justice Commission that the Cassation Panel could only rule on appeals cases, not the banning process itself.

Baghdad’s governor from State of Law announced deBaathification drive. Head of
provincial council there said they would create their own Accountability and Justice Committee. Came as State of Law organized protests in Basra and Baghdad against Baathists and American influence. 

Basra, and Najaf followed suit saying that they were intent on finding and expelling Baathists within the local administrations.

Dhi Qar and Babil fired members of the security forces for suspected Baathist ties.

Muthanna began arresting civil servants with suspected ties to the former regime.

February 8
High Judicial Council ruled that the Cassation Panel only had jurisdiction over individual appeals of banned candidates.

Speaker of parliament al-Samarrai said that the legislature had endorsed the creation of the Cassation Panel, and that meant no one could withdraw confidence in it as some had threatened. Said that Panel had agreed to finish appeals before campaigning began on February 12. 

Cassation Panel went back to work, and during their review said that parties had replaced more than half of their banned candidates and those cases could no longer be dealt with. Said that left only 177 cases to be appealed. Of those, only 37 had filed their complaints correctly and the rest were disqualified for technical reasons.

Demonstration in Dhi Qar against the Cassation Panel allowing banned candidates to participate in the elections. 

Maliki called off special session of parliament as a result of Cassation Panel going back to reviewing individual cases. 

February 9
Maliki began trip across central and southern Iraq campaigning against Baathists. Started in Sadr City, and focused upon tribal sheikhs. 

Aide to Ahmad Chalabi of the Accountability and Justice Commission told Iranian TV station that the U.S. was conspiring to bring Baathists back into power. 

Demonstration in Qadisiyah against Baathists. 

February 10
Protests in Karbala against Baathists organized by provincial council. They said there were Baathists throughout the local government and security forces.

February 11
Ali al-Lami said that the Cassation Panel had finished going through all the appeals of the banned candidates.

Karbala and Qadisiyah announced formation of their own Accountability and Justice committees.

Protests across Diyala against Baathists running in the election and complained about American influence.

February 12
Election Commission announced that only individuals were banned from the voting, not political parties. 

Among those banned are Dhafir Al Ani, leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, and Hussein Saeed, head of Iraq’s Football Federation. Ani was running as part of Iraqi National Movement.

February 13
Iraqi National Movement suspended their campaigning over the banning of some of their candidates. Called on the Judicial Council to rule on the banning, wanted a special meeting of parliament, and a talk with President Talabani, parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai, and Prime Minister Maliki. 

Kurdish Alliance said that they supported the Accountability and Justice Commission’s decision and all other parties should do the same. 

February 14
Ahmad Chalabi of the Accountability and Justice Commission accused Vice President Biden and U.S. Ambassador Hill of pressuring the Commission as well as the Cassation Panel. 

February 16
Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno said that Ahmad Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, the leaders of the Accountability and Justice Commission were working at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. 

February 19
Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front announced they were boycotting the elections because of Mutlaq’s banning, alleged Iranian influence in the voting, and the arrest of one of their followers in Diyala. National Dialogue would still run in Tamim

Just before Mutlaq’s decision, the Iraqi National Movement said that it would resume campaigning for the March election.

February 24
Al Hayat reports that the Accountability and Justice Commission wanted 376 soldiers and police officers fired for Baathist ties.

February 25
Banned candidate Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front announced they would not boycott the March elections, and would run as part of the Iraqi National Movement.

Karbala’s provincial council’s Accountability and Justice committee announced the firing of 10 professors for being high ranking Baathists. Claim they have files on 40 other educators that are Baathist loyalists.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Chalabi accuses US of interfering in Iraq election,” 2/14/10
- “Iraqi province gives Saddam loyalists 24 hours to leave,” 1/18/10
- “Iraqi secular list suspends campaigning,” 2/13/10

AK News, “Demonstration in Diyala against the decision of the Appealing Committee,” 2/11/10
- “Demonstration in Karbala condemns the Discriminatory Committee and Baath return,” 2/10/10
- “IHEC: more candidates excluded,” 2/2/10
- “Iraq considers dissolution of the Accountability and Justice Commission,” 1/20/10
- “Iraq in stalemate of appeals commission,” 2/8/10
- “Iraqi government: Hussein Sa’eed included within de-Baathification procedures,” 2/12/10
- “Iraqi MP Calls for VP ban from polls,” 2/9/10
- “KAL seem support Justice and Accountability decisions,” 2/13/10
- “Karbala Council: Baathists destabilize the situations in Iraq,” 1/13/10
- “MP: Parliament may withdraw accreditation from appeals commission,” 2/6/10
- “National coalition fighting to prevent return of Baathists,” 1/14/10
- “’Political blocs working to rehabilitate Baathists,’” 2/6/10
- “Tenion university professors fired because of their inclusion within the procedures of Accountability and Justice,” 2/25/10

Al Alam, “Al-Chalabi Aide Qanbar Refers To Dirty U.S.-Ba’thist Alliance,” MEMRI Blog, 2/9/10

Alsumaria, “Appeals panel backtracks Iraq poll decision,” 2/8/10
- “Al Maliki firmly rejects Baathists in power,” 2/9/10
- “IHEC: Nine entities excluded from elections,” 1/28/10
- “Iraq Cabinet: Appeals panel decision illegal,” 2/5/10
- “Iraq Cabinet Secretary halt works of Justice and Accountability Committees,” 1/21/10
- “Maliki discusses Iraq appeals panel decision,” 2/5/10
- “Petraeus: Justice and Accountability manipulated by Iranian Quds Force,” 1/27/10

Ashour, Muhammad, “al-mutlaq, a ban and a crisis,” Niqash, 1/15/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Chieftans in southern Iraq threaten to boycott elections,” 1/29/10
- “Debaathification decisions illegal-VP,” 1/20/10
- “Demonstration in Diwaniya against Baathists’ return,” 2/9/10
- “Demonstration in Ninewa against accountability commission’s decision,” 1/14/10
- “Demonstrators in Diwaniya call for closing Mutlak’s office,” 1/16/10
- “IHEC excludes 500 candidate from election,” 1/14/10
- “IHEC says blocs of Motlaq, Aani not excluded from election race,” 2/13/10
- “Karbala forms accountability committee to remove Baathists,” 2/11/10
- “MP proposes debaathification to cover VP Hashemi,” 2/6/10
- “Parl. Cancels extraordinary session,” 2/8/10
- “Political prisoners foundation in Thi-Qar protests against Cassation Board’s decision,” 2/8/10

Bakri, Nada, “Barred Politicians Mostly Secular, Iraqi Says,” New York Times, 1/22/10

Danly, James, “Iraqi Elections Update,” Institute for the Study of War, 2/15/10

DPA, “Report: 376 Iraqi security officers to be fired for ‘Baathist’ ties,” 2/24/10

Jakes, Lara, “Iraqi sheik threatens boycott over ballot purge,” Associated Press, 1/30/10

Jamail, Dahr, “Iraq Political Fissures Widen as March Vote Nears,” Truthout, 1/16/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Ban on Hundreds of Iraqi Candidates Overturned,” New York Times, 2/4/10
- “In Turmoil, Sunni Party in Iraq Calls for Vote Boycott,” New York Times, 2/21/10
- “Iraqi Court Given Time to Review Candidates,” New York Times, 2/8/10

Najm, Hayder, “local governments launch new front in de-baathification,” Niqash, 2/22/10

Pessin, Al, “US Commander Says Iran Planned Political Dispute in Iraq,” Voice of America, 2/16/10

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraq Parliament Campaign Raises Fears Of Sectarian Strife,” 1/18/10

Al-Rafidayn, “Key Sunni Group to Boycott Iraqi Elections,” MEMRI Blog, 2/19/10

Recknagel, Charles, “What Do We Know About The Election Crisis In Iraq?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1/28/10

Reuters, “Most banned Iraqi poll candidates’ appeals rejected,” 2/9/10
- “Prominent Iraqi Sunni Ends Party’s Poll Boycott,” 2/25/10

Roads To Iraq, “Barred candidates allowed to stand, INA’s emergency meeting … updated,” 2/3/10

Salloum, Sa’ad, “commission defends election ban,” Niqash, 1/26/10

Sly, Liz, “Iraqi prime minister backs ban on 500 election candidates,” Los Angeles, 1/17/10

Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Sunni Politicians Barred From Candidacy,” Institute for the Study of War, 1/14/10

Visser, Reidar, “Constitutional Disintegration (Part III): The IHEC Is Making Up the Law,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 1/15/10
- “The Reign of Terror Continues in Iraq,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 2/2/10

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb. ’10 Iraqi Poll Finds A Divided Electorate, Support For De-Baathification

The government run National Media Center released its latest poll of Iraqis on February 23, 2010. The survey was conducted from February 1 to 15, 2010. 5,000 people were questioned across all of Iraq’s 18 provinces. 66% were from urban areas, 34% from rural ones. 53% were males, 47% were females.

On whether they would vote in the March 7 elections, 63% said they would. That compares to the 79.6% that turned out in the 2005 parliamentary elections, and 58% that participated in the January 2009 provincial balloting. Dohuk and Dhi Qar had the most respondents saying they would vote at 83% and 78% respectively, while Anbar had the lowest amount at 43.6%. In 2009, only 40% voted in Anbar, and there have been reports of dissatisfaction within the province with their politicians and the elections. When broken down by ethnicity and sect, 67% of Kurds, 63% of Shiites, and 58% of Sunnis said they would turn out.

When asked whom they would vote, those polled showed the divided nature of Iraq’s current electorate. 29.9% said they would vote for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list, 21.8% said they would support the National Movement of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, 17.2% said they would choose the National Alliance of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and Sadrists, 10% said they would select the Kurdish Alliance of the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), 5% said they would vote for Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance, and the Iraqi Consensus, the successor to the Islamic Party led Iraqi Accordance Front, came in last with 2.7%. 4.9% had no opinion, while 2.2% made no response.

Who would you vote for in the 2010 parliamentary elections?
29.9% State of Law – PM Maliki
21.8% Iraqi National Movement – Ex-PM Allawi
17.2% Iraqi National Alliance – SIIC, Sadrists, Ex-PM Jaafari, Iraqi National Congress
10% Kurdish Alliance – PUK, KDP
5% Unity of Iraq Alliance – Minister Bolani, Sheikh Abu Risha’s Anbar Awakening
2.7% Iraqi Consensus – Iraqi Islamic Party
4.9% No opinion
2.2% No response
(+/- 2% margin of error)

Respondents were asked about where the political parties were getting financed, and their greatest concern was over foreign interference. 29% said lists were funded locally, 13% said that they got money from abroad, and 72% said that they were afraid of the influence of foreign funds. All of Iraq’s neighbors are believed to be funding parties in this year’s election. Those range from Iran, to the Saudis, to the Gulf States, to Turkey, etc.

Iraqis were questioned about the current deBaathification controversy, and a plurality said they supported it. 47% said they were for the Accountability and Justice Commission’s banning of candidates for alleged Baathist ties. 38% said they were opposed, and 15% had no opinion on the matter. That might reflect the fact that 60% of Iraq is Shiite, and that the Baathist card still plays well with many of them.

Last, people were asked about what they thought about Iraq’s future. 60% said they were optimistic. That follows other recent polls. A December 2009 survey by IIACSS found that 51% said that Iraq would be better in 2010 compared to 2009. Another poll from that month by YouGov reported a more mixed opinion with 46% responding that Iraq was heading in the wrong direction, while 44% said it was on the right track. 

Overall, the new poll shows the divided nature of Iraq’s politics, along with their fears and hopes. In the March 2010 election, no list is likely to walk away with a majority. Instead, the vote will be closely divided between the two or three largest alliances. That will mean another coalition government that will likely look a lot like the current one. The big question now is whether Prime Minister Maliki will be able to keep his job. Iraqis are also afraid that other countries will have undo influence on the balloting by funding their favorite parties. The anti-Baathist campaign appears to have wide support as well, and that could help bring out the Shiite vote. Finally, a majority of respondents think that Iraq is moving forward.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Foes Maliki and Allawi top contenders in Iraq poll: survey,” 2/24/10

Farbman, Rob, “IIACSS poll shows Iraqis mostly optimistic as 2010 begins,” Edison Research, 1/6/10

National Media Center, “Latest NMC poll results,” 2/23/10

Zawya, “More Iraqis fear unemployment than security issues, YouGov Siraj research report reveals,” 1/12/10

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iraq Will Continue Large Food Imports in 2010

Iraq has large and fertile agricultural lands compared to its neighbors due to the two large rivers that flow through it, the Euphrates and Tigris. The country was once self-sufficient in farm products, but the agriculture sector began a steady decline in the 1970s due to government emphasis upon the oil industry. In 1976 for example, Baghdad spent 18% of its budget on farming, which then dropped to less than 10% in 1980. The Iran-Iraq War disrupted the business even more, and during the 1990s the irrigation system began breaking down and salt levels in the soil dramatically increased. Rapid population increase over the decades, a series of droughts, and international sanctions, put added pressure on the industry. By 2002 Iraq imported 80-100% of its food staples, but was still self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables.

Today Iraq is suffering the third year of drought, which is increasing the need for food imports. At the end of January 2010 for example, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that rice production decreased from 120,000 tons in 2008 to 102,000 tons in 2009. That will require about 1 million tons of rice imports to meet the country’s need. Wheat production is also down, and Iraq will need to buy 4 million tons of that staple this year. The large increase in food imports in recent years has partially led to a trade deficit in 2009

The latest numbers by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction show that farming makes up 8.4% of Iraq’s GDP, and 12.3% of the workforce. That makes it the second largest employer after the government. The decline of agriculture however, is leading to people leaving the rural areas to look for jobs in the cities. Whether the industry will be able to recover will largely be determined by the amount of water that Iraq receives this year. Even then, the lack of government support, and the large food ration system that distorts commodity prices and discourages farming, will mean that the business will continue to struggle in the future.

SOURCES

Iraq Survey Group, “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCIA on Iraq’s WMD,” 9/30/04

Shatab, Ali, “Iraq rice yields slump; rice imports surge,” Azzaman, 1/29/10

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Large Increase In Corruption Convictions From 2008 To 2009

The new Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR) January 2010 report to Congress  detailed a large increase in the number of cases prosecuted for corruption in 2009 compared to 2008. As reported before, the main anti-corruption body in Iraq, the Integrity Commission released a paper on its work in 2008. It documented that 3,207 cases presented to a judge led to 630 arrests warrants, 417 arrests, but only 97 convictions. SIGIR found almost the same number of cases were dealt with last year, 3,402, but those led to 972 warrants, and 285 convictions, a 100% increase from 2008. The vast majority of convictions however, were of low-level officials such as policemen. In 2008 only two senior officials were put on trial and convicted. In 2009, that increased to four.

Work Of The Iraqi Integrity Commission 2008 vs. 2009
2008: 3,207 cases, 630 warrants, 97 convictions, 2 senior officials convicted
2009: 3,402 cases, 972 warrants, 285 convictions, 4 senior officials convicted

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a 2009 report that has not been published yet, on the problems that Iraq faces in fighting corruption. Iraq has a state-run economy, so the Organization said that government procurement was the area most likely to lead to waste, fraud, and embezzlement. Specifically, public contracting is not transparent, competition is not required, accounting is “fuzzy”, and the three anti-corruption agencies do not cooperate.

The Finance Minister Bayan Jabr told the SIGIR that corruption now is the worst that he has seen it since 2003. He claimed that Iraq’s top leaders must emphasize fighting it otherwise the bureaucracy will do nothing about it. Unfortunately, despite the increase in convictions in 2009, there is still little drive to do so.  

SOURCES

Commission of Integrity, “Annual report for 2008,” December 2009

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vote Buying In Iraq’s 2010 Election

As campaigning for Iraq’s March 2010 parliamentary election officially began the country’s poor have been the unspoken beneficiaries. Political parties are once again offering people blankets, heaters, clothes, and money in return for their votes. The head of the Eyes of Iraq network that is monitoring the election complained to the Election Commission in mid-February 2010 that candidates were handing out appliances to people and promising them money for their votes. Abu Dhabi’s The National paper had a similar story. It interviewed a man from Sadr City in Baghdad who claimed he had organized 100 people in his neighborhood to give him control of their votes. In turn, he was trying to sell them to a political party in return for cash. Aswat al-Iraq also reported that the U.S. military had gotten a tip that up to four million dollars in counterfeit American cash had been sent to Maysan to buy votes. There were similar reports of these activities occurring in the 2009 provincial elections, as well as during the balloting in 2005.

Iraq’s democracy is in its infancy. Political parties have little experience in campaigning and spreading their views and debating their points. That’s why they are attempting to create these patronage systems by handing out goods, money, and the promise of jobs because it’s an easier way to get people to vote for them. There are also plenty of takers since Iraq has a large number of poor and unemployed people. This makes Iraq no different than most other developing countries that use these tactics, and industrial countries in the past as well, to get the vote out. The question for the country’s future is whether the election process will develop where these tactics will be replaced by modern campaign techniques or whether it will stay based upon personality, tribe, sect, and favors.

SOURCES

Abdullah, Muahmmed, “Diyala Sees Early Campaigning,” Niqash, 12/8/08

Aswat al-Iraq, "Counterfeit dollar bills in Missan to affect election," 2/21/10

Latif, Nizar, “Poor selling their votes for cash,” The National, 2/21/10

Middle East Online, “Iraqi Candidates Making Free with Election Gifts,” 1/30/09

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Iraqi Candidates Distribute Electric Heaters, Blankets To Poor To Buy Votes,” MEMRI Blog, 2/11/10

Tahir, Wisam, “Nasiriya Parties Hit the Airwaves,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 1/29/09

Former PM Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement Breaking Apart

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement list that is running in the March 2010 parliamentary election is quickly breaking apart. One of the major Sunni members of his bloc, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front of Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq recently announced that they would boycott the election because of Mutlaq’s banning by the Accountability and Justice Commission for alleged Baathist ties. Mutlaq claimed that his barring was the work of Iran that controlled the Commission, and that they were tainting the vote. The party is also protesting the arrest of one its members in Diyala at the beginning of February by government forces. The boycott is not a complete one however, as members of Mutlaq’s party will reportedly still participate in the balloting in Tamim province, stating that the situation in Kirkuk requires them to.

The Dialogue Front is said to be upset with the National Movement as well. It feels that it didn’t support Mutlaq enough during his problems with the Accountability and Justice Commission. The National Dialogue Front’s announcement also came right after the National Movement said that it would participate in the elections despite the problems with their candidates and the anti-Baathist campaign.

Just a few days before, one of the smaller coalition members in the National Movement, the Authentic Arab Gathering, said that it was leaving Allawi’s list too. It quoted differences in views, and that it would be joining parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi’s National Party instead.

Allawi’s list was considered the main nationalist rival to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law heading into the March elections. After the Prime Minister’s coalition won pluralities across the south and Baghdad during the January 2009 provincial balloting, it backed away from its nationalist and security based campaign due to the bombings against Iraq’s ministries in Baghdad that hurt Maliki’s standing. Instead, he turned to his Shiite base by joining the anti-Baathist campaign started by the Accountability and Justice Commission, which opened the door to Allawi’s National Movement to assume the mantle of the leading secular list in the March vote. Now he has lost one of his main allies, Mutlaq, and one of his smaller coalition members, the Arab Gathering. That probably means the nationalist vote will be even more diluted and divided. At the same time, no other party seems willing to join Mutlaq’s boycott. If he doesn’t change his mind he will lose the 11 seats the National Dialogue Front currently holds in parliament, and can only hope that his party does well in Tamim to maintain any official role in Iraqi politics. Mutlaq could come out the biggest loser in the end, more than Allawi.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Candidates withdraw from Al Iraqiya List,” 2/18/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “In Turmoil, Sunni Party in Iraq Calls for Vote Boycott,” New York Times, 2/21/10

Al-Rafidayn, “Key Sunni Group to Boycott Iraqi Elections,” MEMRI Blog, 2/19/10

Roads To Iraq, “Mutlaq’s National Front drops out of the elections? Not exactly,” 2/20/10

Campaigning Curfew Imposed On Sulaymaniya

On February 19 the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that it was imposing a 9 pm to 6 am curfew on all campaigning in Sulaymaniya. The ban was to last until campaigning officially ends on March 5. The parliamentary elections are to occur on March 7. The decree happened after a number of clashes in the province between rival political factions. The most recent event was when security forces loyal to the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) arrested 11 members of the new Change opposition list in downtown Sulaymaniya city. The Change List accused the security forces of shooting and wounded three of its members, while the PUK blamed the opposition group for firing shots in the air that provoked the incident. Just before the incident, the Change List had called on the KRG to end unrest between the various political entities in Sulaymaniya. It said there had been arrests and violence against its members as the election neared, and called on the Kurdish parliament to launch an investigation into the matter. The Iraqi Election Commission has also received 7 complaints about campaign violations in the governorate. Some of those occurred in the Qaladze district where all of the main parties accused each other of tearing down their opponents’ posters. In Sulaymaniya there are 155 candidates from nine different entities running for 17 parliamentary seats.

This year will be the first that the Kurdish vote will face major divisions in national elections. In 2005 the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), along with some smaller parties all ran together and won 53 seats in parliament. This time there are four main challengers vying for the loyalties of the Kurdish electorate. Those are the Kurdish Alliance of the ruling PUK and KDP, the Change List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The Change List is the main threat to the Kurdish Alliance. They won 23.7% of the vote in the 2009 Kurdish elections, including a majority in Sulaymaniya, and are hoping to build on that. They have done little since the 2009 regional vote however, with their main activity being complaining that their members are being harassed and arrested by the PUK and KDP. It’s likely that the Kurdish Alliance and Change List will also cooperate in the legislature after the vote, since they share many of the same concerns vis a vis the central government and on topics like Kirkuk. All of this controversy and bickering then before the March vote is more about pure power than a real difference of views.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Curfew on election campaign in northern Iraqi province,” 2/19/10

AK News, “Electoral campaign led to violence in northern Iraq,” 2/18/10
- “Kurdish lists in Qaladze accuse each other of violations,” 2/1/10
- “IHEC: 7 complaints in Sulaimaniyah so far,” 2/18/10

Khalid, Shorish, “Kurdish War of Words,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 1/28/10

Muhammad, Sardar, “kurds are split in the 2010 elections,” Niqash, 2/18/10

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Promises Of Jobs From Iraq’s New Oil Deals

Iraq’s ministries and foreign petroleum companies are all promising large numbers of jobs as a result of the deals that have recently been signed to develop Iraq’s oil fields. Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said his ministry has plans to build a new eastern pipeline to export oil to the Mediterranean. He also said that there is a need for new large storage tanks in southern Iraq, and that contracts have already been signed to build four new refineries in Tamim, Karbala, Maysan, and Dhi Qar provinces, and to upgrade three refineries in Baghdad, Salahaddin, and Basra. The Iraqi Drilling Company announced in 2009 that it would drill 180 new wells by 2010, and 250 new wells per year afterward. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs promised up to 1.3 million jobs as a result of all these new infrastructure projects. Companies are required to hire Iraqis for 85% of these jobs, and also to train them in technical skills. The Vice Chairman of Middle East Shell and the manager of Italy’s Eni Oil Company that both signed oil deals in 2009 also claimed that there would be a huge increase in jobs as a result. When the Eni official mentioned specifics however, he said that one oil field would only need around 10,000 new workers.

Many economists question whether the oil deals will address Iraq’s large number of unemployed. One expert from the Economic Reform Institute in Iraq said that petroleum couldn’t meet Iraq’s job needs because they are too great. Right now 250,000 Iraqis join the workforce each year, and the country’s population is increasingly getting younger with 38.8% 14 years old or below. Instead, he suggested that the government needed to reinvest its future oil revenues into diversifying Iraq’s economy. Another economist said that is unlikely to happen because the government would probably import the products it needs rather than build up its own industries with its extra money. Either way, what Baghdad does with the expected windfall in profits from these new oil deals will probably determine the future of the country just as much as the political and security situation.

SOURCES

Cordesman, Anthony, “Recent Trends in the Iraq War,” Center for Strategic and International Studies

Daood, Mayada, “12 million barrels of oil promise to solve unemployment problem,” Niqash, 2/12/10

Fordham, Alice, “Will oil wealth trickle down?” The National, 1/15/10

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

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraqi Officials Lament Failure To Refine More Oil,” 2/3/10

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

High Child Leukemia Rate Found In Basra


Map of Basra province

As reported before, in January 2010 a study done by the Iraqi ministries of Environment, Health and Science, found 42 contaminated sites throughout Iraq. One of them was in Basra, which reported high rates of cancer and birth defects. A new report done by the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and Basra University has found similar results. In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, they write that leukemia in children in Basra had almost tripled in the last fifteen years. The rate went from 3 per 100,000 children to 8.5 per 100,000 children. In neighboring Kuwait, which is just across the border, the rate is only 2 per 100,000 children, and in Oman, 2-3 per 100,000.

The possible causes of such an alarming increase in cancer is fires from oil fields that were set during the previous wars, fumes from oil and gas that children sell in the province, nerve agents and pesticides, and the use of depleted uranium munitions by the U.S. in the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. That coincides with the January Iraqi reported that hypothesized that oil leaks and depleted uranium might be causes for the health problems as well. Since Iraq’s health system has been depleted by years of sanctions, wars, and government inefficiencies, it’s unknown what Baghdad will do about these studies.

SOURCES

Chulov, Martin, “Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds,” Guardian, 1/22/10

Lister, Sam, “Nerve agents could be to blame for tripling of child leukaemia in Basra,” Times of London, 2/19/10

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sistani Calls On Iraqis To Participate In The March Elections

The leading Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, recently called on Iraqis to vote in the March 7, 2010 parliamentary elections. His announcement came after some of his followers asked whether they should participate in the balloting given how badly the government has operated. Sistani did not endorse any individuals or parties, but he obviously appeals to the more religious Shiites.

In the 2005 elections, Sistani promoted the formation of the United Iraqi Alliance that included the major Shiite parties the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Dawa Party, the Sadrists, and the Fadhila Party. He appointed current Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to help organize the list, and in the run-up to the vote the Supreme Council used pictures of Sistani to rally voters to their alliance.

This time, Sistani’s statement could favor the National Alliance made up of the SIIC, the Sadrists, the Iraqi National Congress, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Fadhila Party since they have stressed Shiite identity and religion. That could push them past Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law List that has been hurt recently by the large bombings that struck Iraq’s ministries in Baghdad beginning in August 2009. That undermined the Prime Minister’s main argument that he had brought security back to the country, and probably led him to join the anti-Baathist campaign instead of stressing nationalism as he did in the 2009 provincial elections. Sistani may also be able to reverse the declining voter turnout in southern Iraq that dropped from 2005 to 2009. How he will affect the elections will all be known soon enough as the balloting is only a few weeks away.

SOURCES

Independent, “Senior Shia cleric urges Iraqis to vote in elections,” 2/18/10

Shadid, Anthony and Vick, Karl, “Candidate Slate Shows Shiites Closing Ranks,” Washington Post, 12/7/04

Yacoub Sameer, “Iraq bans pictures of non-candidates in vote,” Associated Press, 7/3/08

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Massive 2009 Bombings In Baghdad Only Slightly Change Perceptions of Security In Iraq

The new Department of Defense “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” report to Congress for the last quarter of 2009 was just released. It contains a new public opinion poll about security in Iraq conducted in November 2009. That was after two of the large bombings of government ministries in Baghdad in August and October of last year. While only rough numbers were reported, the newest survey shows that the attacks were only able to slightly alter the opinions of Iraqis.

As with previous surveys conducted by the U.S. military, Iraqis felt much better about their own local area than the country as a whole when it came to security. About 55% said that their province was calm, compared to only around 25% who said that Iraq was calm, down 3% from the last poll in August 2009. Less than 45% said they felt that Iraq was stable, a 10% drop from August. Almost 90% however said that the security situation in their neighborhood was the same or better in the last six months. Over 75% said that security in the country overall was the same or better for the same time period, a 10% drop from August. Those declines were probably the result of the two massive bombings that had just happened in the country. Because of their apprehensions about the country in general, only around 40% said that they felt safe traveling outside of their area, a small decrease from August.

When asked about who specifically provided security the Iraqi army and police got overwhelmingly positive responses compared to other groups. Around 70% said they felt safe around the Iraqi army and police, just about the same amounts as in August. 60% said that the army was winning against terrorist, and 55% said that the police were controlling crime. Over 45% said that the police were most responsible for providing security in their area, while 35% said the same about the army. That compared to less than 5% who said that the Sons of Iraq, tribes, or neighbors were responsible. Continuing with the positive trend for the Iraqi security forces, 85% said that they trusted the army to protect them, and 80% said that about the police.

There was also a lot of confidence in the government. 50% said that the government was effective in maintaining security. Over 65% had confidence in the provincial government, and over 60% said they had confidence in the local government. More than 70% said that about the central government. In comparison, only 25% said they felt confident about the U.S. forces. The Americans have had similar low marks in other polls

The November 2009 poll showed that despite the mass casualty bombings that struck government buildings in August and October in the nation’s capital, Iraqis were still largely confident in the security situation in their area, and the ability of the government, Iraqi army, and police to protect them. An overwhelming number also said that security had not changed in their area or in the country in the last six months despite the attacks.

When asked about the rest of the country or leaving their neighborhood however, people were much more apprehensive, showing that going elsewhere was still considered a risk. Iraqis also felt that the security forces were much, much better at securing the country than unofficial groups like the Sons of Iraq or the United States. This was true of previous polls as well. Despite fears that the return of large bombings would mark a dramatic change in the security situation, and perhaps a return to civil war, the latest poll numbers show that Iraqis are still pretty confident at the grass roots level, and those positive feelings were only slightly shaken by the acts by Al Qaeda and other militants at the end of last year.

SOURCES

Department of State, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” 2/15/10
- “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” June 2009

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Iraq Ranked #1 For Risk Of Terrorist Attacks In The World For 2nd Year

An English based group called Maplecroft that studies human rights, the environment, terrorism, and politics issued its latest Terrorism Risk Index that found Iraq the number one country in the world most at risk for terrorist attacks. The organization looked at the number of terrorist attacks, the number of casualties they caused, the history of violence in a country, and the threats made by terrorist groups every six months to compile their list. For the second year in a row Iraq was ranked number one. It was followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, India, Algeria, Columbia, Thailand, and the Philippines at number ten. 

Maplecroft acknowledged that security had greatly improved in Iraq and that terrorist attacks were down, but it noted that over 4,000 people were still killed there in 2009, and that bombings and other security incidents are still daily occurrences. As reported before, deaths in Iraq are at their lowest point since the 2003 invasion. That still means 100-500 people are killed a month, which is far too many. Violence has also leveled off since taking a dramatic drop at the beginning of 2009. Unless Iraqi politics are able to work out the many differences in the country its unlikely that the terrorist attacks will end in the short-term.

SOURCES

Maclean, William, “Iraq has top terror risk, Thai danger up: ranking,” Reuters, 2/16/10

Maplecroft, “Iraq, India and Colombia top Maplecroft terrorism list – Thailand emerges as extreme risk nation,” 2/16/10

Will Baathism Bring Out The Votes In The March Election?

The spokesman for the chairman of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ahmad Chalabi who just presided over the banning of hundreds of candidates from Iraq’s March 2010 elections told the Los Angeles Times that the anti-Baathist campaign would motivate people to vote. The spokesman and Chalabi are both hoping so since they are running as candidates for the National Alliance. It’s an open question how the current Baathist hysteria will affect the Iraqi public however. On February 15 for example, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to the southern province of Babil where he gave a speech warning parties not to cooperate with Baathists because they had killed Iraqis and were trying to infiltrate the state. Afterward, some citizens seemed to dismiss his trip and comments as just election campaigning.

The Baathist issue may be the only thing the two main Shiite parties, Maliki’s State of Law and the National Alliance, run on this year. AK News reported that election posters are being plastered all over Baghdad, but none of them say anything about the candidates or their positions. In just a few weeks everyone will know how affective the focus upon Baathists instead of issues will play when Iraqis head to the polls. Voting in the Shiite south already took a drop from 2005 to 2009. The National Alliance and State of Law trying to out do each other on how tough they can be on former regime members may in fact lead to another decline in voter turnout since the Shiite parties aren’t talking about anything that’s really affecting people’s futures.

SOURCES

AK News, “Electoral programs are limited with pictures and banners without any clear programs,” 2/16/10

Alsumaria, “Al Maliki warns against external interference in Iraq,” 2/15/10

Sly, Liz, “Anti-Baath campaign a spur to Iraq Shiite voters,” Los Angeles Times, 2/12/10

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Individuals Not Parties Banned From 2010 Iraqi Elections

When the original announcement was made in January 2010 that over five hundred candidates would be barred from running in the March elections, it was reported that fourteen parties would be banned as well. For example, not only was parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq going to be stopped from running again for office, but his party, the National Dialogue Front was too. The justification was an order passed by the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004 that gave the Iraqi Election Commission the authority to exclude parties. When the Commission announced the final decision of a seven-judge appeals panel however in mid-February, Mutlaq was still banned, but his list and all the others were cleared to participate. That was an important step, because if entire parties could be banned because of their leaders or candidates that would allow guilt by association to determine their fate. The campaign for the March elections has been completely distorted by the Baathist hysteria, but at least all the original parties will still be able to compete.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “IHEC says blocs of Motlaq, Aani not excluded from election race,” 2/13/10

Inside Iraq, “Iraq bans 14 political blocs and its 400 politicians,” McClatchy Newspapers, 1/7/10

Visser, Reidar, “Mutlak and Ani Are Banned: Miscarriage of Justice in Iraq,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 2/11/10

Iraq’s Shiite Parties Turn To Blaming America Before The March Elections

Iraq’s two leading Shiite coalitions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the National Alliance, have increasingly turned to blaming the U.S. for the problems with the March 2010 parliamentary elections. This began last month when on January 27, U.S. commander of the Central Command General David Petraeus claimed the National Alliance run Accountability and Justice Commission’s banning of candidates was done at the behest of Iran. The Commission responded by accusing the general of working with Baathists. The head of the Commission, Ali al-Lami later complained that the United States was interfering in the elections. Later, on February 5, 2010 Prime Minister Maliki accused U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill of doing the same thing. 

When an appeals panel said that the banned candidates could run in the election and that their cases would be dealt with later, the National Alliance said the U.S. was responsible. Ahmad Chalabi of the Accountability and Justice Commission and National Alliance candidate told Iranian TV Al-Alam that this was part of a U.S. conspiracy to bring Baathists back into power. Later, he said that the Commission was under pressure from Vice President Joe Biden and Ambassador Hill, quoting  comments by the two Americans that they hoped that the candidate banning would be resolved.

Not to be out done, the State of Law began organizing protests against Baathists and America. In Baghdad for example, there was a demonstration on February 7 where one person had an American flag with the stars replaced with the word “Baath.”

Blaming America for Iraq’s problems seems a natural progression for the two main Shiite lists. Both have not talked about any real issues facing the country, and instead have focused upon a boogeyman, returning Baathists. Adding the U.S. to the mix seems the logical next step, since it is not a threat to Iraq either. How long this fiasco will continue is not known, but it allows the two largest alliances in the country to avoid dealing with their records, neither of which is that impressive, so it may last all the way up to the day of the election on March 7.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Chalabi accuses US of interfering in Iraq election,” 2/14/10

AK News, “IHEC: more candidates excluded,” 2/2/10
- “’Political blocs working to rehabilitate Baathists,’” 2/6/10

Al Alam, “Al-Chalabi Aide Qanbar Refers To Dirty U.S.-Ba’thist Alliance,” MEMRI Blog, 2/9/10

Alsumaria, “Maliki discusses Iraq appeals panel decision,” 2/5/10
- “Petraeus: Justice and Accountability manipulated by Iranian Quds Force,” 1/27/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraqi Court Given Time to Review Candidates,” New York Times, 2/8/10

Roads To Iraq, “Barred candidates allowed to stand, INA’s emergency meeting … updated,” 2/3/10

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Much Oil Will Iraq Produce In The Future?

Over 80% of Iraq’s budget and GDP is made up of oil sales. After the first two biddings rounds for Iraqi petroleum fields were completed in 2009, there was wide speculation about just how much Iraq would be able to produce in the future. Iraq’s Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani has been talking about Iraq having the capacity to produce up to 12 million barrels a day in 6 years. An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and a former oil minister himself, said that a more realistic amount would be 6 million barrels a day in output in 6-7 years. Those estimates were based upon the fact that international companies promised to boost Iraq’s capacity to 13.23 million barrels a day after the auctions. A recent business report from February 2009 thinks both of those predictions are way off. It forecast Iraqi production at only 3.1 million barrels a day by 2013, and 3.9 million by 2018. In 2009 the Oil Ministry was able to produce 2.02 million barrels a day, which was actually a decrease from the previous five years.

Continued growth in the oil industry is limited by aging infrastructure, inadequate facilities, and corruption. The port in Basra, which handles the vast majority of Iraq’s exports for example, is incapable of handling a larger flow of oil. The Oil Ministry is hoping that foreign companies will help with these problems, but there are still many questions about whether the Iraqi government has the will and the means to manage the situation. Corruption for instance, could get worse, and Baghdad still has an inefficient state-run economy. Whatever amount the government is able to produce will largely determine the economic future of the country.

SOURCES

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

Brock, Joe, “Firms overstate Iraq oil potential – govt adviser,” Reuters, 12/7/09

Companies and Markets, “Iraqi Crude Oil Production Is Forecast To Rise To 3.9mn B/d By The End Of 2018,” Official Wire, 2/8/10

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

Casualties In Mosul Continue To Drop In 2010

On a per capita basis, the northern city of Mosul in Ninewa province was the most violent area of Iraq last year. Deaths there have been declining since reaching a yearly high in August 2009. In that month, 102 people were killed, but afterward deaths went to 65 in September, 60 in October, 37 in November, and 44 in December. January 2010 followed that trend with 38 deaths. The number of wounded has gone up and down. Last month 89 were wounded, compared to 108 in December, 71 in November, 82 in October, 60 in September, 171 in August, and 169 in July. In the last two years however, the average number of wounded has steadily declined from 6.92 per day in the first half of 2008 to 3.59 a day in the 2nd half of 2009. For January 2010 there were an average of 2.87 wounded per day. At the same time, the number of attacks has stayed relatively the same in the last seven months at about 2 per day. For the second half of 2009 there was an average of 2.19 per day. Last month there was an average of 1.90 a day. Most of those were small bombings, IEDs, shootings, and occasional attacks on Iraqi security forces.

Mosul remains the last urban outpost of the insurgency, and the Arab-Kurd divide is what they use to justify their continued operations there. At the same time, the election of the al-Hadbaa party in the January 2009 provincial elections has empowered Arabs in Ninewa, and may have led to the decreasing casualty numbers there since last year.

Security Statistics For Mosul - January 2010
59 Attacks/Incidents, avg. 1.90/day
38 Deaths, avg. 1.22/day
89 Wounded, avg. 2.87/day

Averages:

Attacks:
1st Half 2008: 57.50/Month, Avg. 1.89/day
2nd Half 2008: 75.33/Month, Avg. 2.45/day
1st Half 2009: 75.66/Month, Avg. 2.50/day
2nd Half 2009: 67.16/Month, Avg. 2.19/day

Deaths:
1st Half 2008: 88.0/Month, Avg. 2.90/day
2nd Half 2008: 80.83/Month, Avg. 2.63/day
1st Half 2009: 59.66/Month, Avg. 1.97/day
2nd Half 2009: 64.50/Month, Avg. 2.10/day

Wounded:
1st Half 2008: 210.0/Month, Avg. 6.92/day
2nd Half 2008: 168.33/Month, Avg. 5.48/day
1st Half 2009: 135.66/Month, Avg. 4.49/day
2nd Half 2009: 110.16/Month, Avg. 3.59/day

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 bombs go off in Mosul,” 1/19/10
- “2 civilians killed separately in Mosul,” 1/17/10
- “2 civilians wounded in Mosul blast,” 1/21/10
- “2 gunmen killed in mortar blast in Mosul,” 1/9/10
- “2 soldiers wounded by gunmen in western Mosul,” 1/29/10
- “3 Christians wounded in Mosul Uni. Blast,” 1/10/10
- “3 soldiers, kid wounded in Mosul blast,” 1/10/10
- “5 civilians injured in thermal bomb blast in Mosul,” 1/4/10
- “5 killed or wounded separately in Mosul,” 1/31/10
- “10 wounded in Mosul explosion,” 1/4/10
- “Army forces kill gunman in Mosul,” 1/4/10
- “Army kills suicide bomber west of Mosul,” 1/21/10
- “Blast inside a restaurant northern Mosul,” 1/25/10
- “Body found, man wounded in mortar blast in Mosul,” 1/3/10
- “Bomb kills boy in Mosul,” 1/9/10
- “Bus attack foiled in Mosul,” 1/16/10
- “Christian shot dead by gunmen in Mosul,” 1/17/10
- “Civilian gunned down in eastern Mosul,” 1/25/10
- “Civilian gunned down in Mosul,” 1/11/10
- “Civilian killed in Mosul Christian – source,” 1/11/10
- “Civilian, soldier wounded in checkpoint attack,” 1/16/10
- “Civilian wounded in Mosul attack,” 1/26/10
- “Civilian wounded in shooting inside Mosul restaurant,” 1/14/10
- “Cop gunned down in popular café in Mosul,” 1/20/10
- “Cop wounded in mortar attack in Mosul,” 1/23/10
- “Eastern Mosul blast casualties up to 36,” 1/20/10
- “Former Iraqi army officer gunned down in Mosul,” 1/26/10
- “Goldsmith kidnapped in Mosul,” 1/14/10
- “Gunman throws hand grenade at police vehicle in Mosul,” 1/4/10
- “Gunmen arrested after attacking patrol in Mosul,” 1/18/10
- “Gunmen kill 3 guards in Mosul,” 1/3/10
- “Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul,” 1/23/10
- “Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul,” 1/25/10
- “Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul,” 1/27/10
- “Gunmen kill woman, daughter in Mosul,” 1/25/10
- “Gunmen shoot bank employee in western Mosul,” 1/18/10
- “House blast kills 2 kids, wound another in Mosul,” 1/6/10
- “IED wounds 2 cops in Mosul,” 1/6/10
- “Iraq soldier wounded in IED blast in Mosul,” 1/14/10
- “Iraqi soldier wounded, IED defused in Mosul,” 1/7/10
- “Iraqi soldier wounded in Mosul blast,” 1/2/10
- “Katyusha rocket hits a house in southern Mosul,” 1/12/10
- “Mayor gunned down in Mosul,” 1/27/10
- “Second attack on Christians in Mosul in less than 24 hours,” 1/18/10
- “Sticky bomb kills cop in Mosul,” 1/20/10
- “Sticky device kills civilian in Mosul,” 1/24/10
- “Woman killed inside her house in Mosul,” 1/31/10

DPA, “Two policemen killed, Christian man kidnapped in Iraq,” 1/2/10

Al Dulaimy, Mohammed, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq, Thursday 07 January 2010,” 1/7/10

Iraq Body Count, “Civilian deaths from violence in 2009,” 12/31/09

Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Jan 1,” 1/2/10
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Jan 14,” 1/14/10
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Jan 22,” 1/22/10
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Jan 27,” 1/27/10

Schreck, Adam, “Iraqi President Orders Probe on Elections,” Associated Press, 1/20/10

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Campaigning Officially Begins In Iraq As Hunt For Baathists Spreads To The Local Level

February 12, 2010 marked the official start of campaigning for the March parliamentary elections in Iraq. Two prominent Sunnis have been banned from the vote however, Saleh al-Mutlaq of the National Dialogue Front and Dhafi Al Ani, the head of the Accordance Front. Both are members of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s National Movement List. Of the 511 candidates that were originally barred from running, over 300 were replaced by their parties, and of the remainder, 160 had their appeals rejected, and only 28 were cleared. This could turn out to be just the latest chapter in this on-going drama, as the banned candidates may not accept these decisions.

The Baathist hysteria has also spread to the local level. On February 11, the Karbala provincial council said that it was forming its own Accountability and Justice Committee to investigate Baathists in the province. The head of the Economic Committee there said that 40 Baathists had already been identified in the local government, and that more would be found. Qadisiyah said that it too was creating an Accountability and Justice Committee. That same day there were protests in Baquba, Baladruz, and Muqdadiyah in Diyala against allowing the banned candidates from participating in the election. On February 10 and 9 there were demonstrations in Karbala and Qadisiyah organized by the provincial councils against Baathists, while a group called the Political Prisoners Foundation led a march in Dhi Qar on February 8. On February 7 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party also put together protests in Basra and Baghdad, Iraq’s two largest cities. Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, and Qadisiyah are all ruled by Maliki’s State of Law List, while Diyala has a large Shiite population. These acts at the provincial level are all signs that local politicians want to get in on the anti-Baathist campaign. This suits them well since the State of Law List has not done much since they came into power in the 2009 provincial elections. They have been burdened by large debts left over from the previous governments that have curtailed any hopes that they had of improving services or providing new jobs as they promised when they were running for office. Attacks and deaths have also hit a plateau, and the large mass casualty bombings have weakened Maliki's claim that his party has brought back law and order to the country. That has led them to jump on the deBaathification bandwagon since they have little else to run on.

Even as campaigning for the March elections has officially begun, the Baathist issue just wont go away. The banned candidates that lost their appeals may not be willing to give up, while the State of Law is pushing the hunt for former regime members down to the provincial level to make up for their lack of development and progress. With the vote just a month away, it appears that entire time will be spent focusing upon the crimes of Saddam, rather than the future of Iraq.

SOURCES

AK News, “Demonstration in Diyala against the decision of the Appealing Committee,” 2/11/10
- “Demonstration in Karbala condemns the Discriminatory Committee and Baath return,” 2/10/10
- “Iraqi government: Hussein Sa’eed included within de-Baathification procedures,” 2/12/10
- “Karbala council: 40 Baathists run important governmental posts,” 2/11/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Demonstration in Diwaniya against Baathists’ return,” 2/9/10
- “Diwaniya council applies Accountability, Justice law,” 2/11/10
- “Karbala forms accountability committee to remove Baathists,” 2/11/10
- “Political prisoners foundation in Thi-Qar protests against Cassation Board’s decision,” 2/8/10

Kami, Aseel, “Bad state services dampen Iraqi appetite to vote,” Reuters, 2/12/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraqi Court Given Time to Review Candidates,” New York Times, 2/8/10

Friday, February 12, 2010

Maliki Steps Into Middle of Governor Dismissal In Salahaddin

Some new details have emerged as to why Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided to have the Iraqi Army take over the local government of Salahaddin province in January 2010. Back on September 9, 2009, the provincial council there dismissed the governor, Mutashar Hussein Alawi, for negligence. He refused to step down, and not only appealed his case to the Federal Supreme Court, but sued the head of the council for having a criminal record and faking his school records. The council chief was dismissed by parliament on October 11, but the crisis with the governor continued. The Prime Minister at first said he would not support the removal of Alawi, but when the Federal Court sided with the council, Maliki demanded that he leave office. The provincial council went ahead and elected a new governor, Ahmed Abdul Jabbar Abdul Karim, but Alawi tried to hang on. That prompted the Prime Minister to send in the troops on January 20, 2010. The twist is that the Iraqi Army unit that controls the provincial building has kept everyone out, even the local council. Apparently Maliki wants to name the new governor, and does not want Karim in office either. The U.S. army unit in Salahaddin, along with the Provincial Reconstruction Team there are both supporting the council, and telling them that they have the law on their side, but the Prime Minister has not budged. This is now a three-way test of wills between Maliki, Alawi, and the provincial council over who will control Salahaddin.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “Demonstration in Salah el-Din against dismissal of governor,” 9/9/09
- “Parliament dismisses local official in Salah al-Din,” 10/11/09

Myers, Steven Lee and Shadid, Anthony, “Leader Faulted on Using Army in Iraqi Politics,” New York times, 2/11/10

More Information On League Of The Righteous Kidnapping Of American Contractor

As reported before, at the beginning of February 2010, the Iranian backed militant group, the League of the Righteous broke off talks with the Iraqi government. The reason was apparently the arrest of two mid-level League members who were caught during a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on Moqtada al-Sadr’s new militia, the Promised Day Brigades. Afterward, the League said that they were not only ending reconciliation meetings with Baghdad, but that they held a British and two American hostages. The English captive is likely security guard Alan McMenemy who was taken in a raid on the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The group also claims to have an American they took in 2006. Finally, the League aired a video of Issa Salomi, an Arab linguist who worked with an Army Human Terrain Team that does sociological studies of Iraq, who was kidnapped on January 23, 2010 in the Iraqi capital. A senior U.S. official told the Christian Science Monitor that Salomi’s kidnapping might have been carried out by a breakaway faction of the League who are no longer following the leadership who renounced violence and said that they want to participate in Iraqi politics.

The two League members recently detained are being held by the Iraqi government, so it is up to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whether he wants to try to resolve this issue or not. Talks between Baghdad and the League were originally facilitated by the United States who was hoping to turn the Shiite group away from militancy. Since, then the League has split at least once with about 300 members rejoining the mainstream Sadrist Trend. The League also said that it would not run in the March 2010 elections, after flirting with joining Maliki’s State of Law List. The Prime Minister will likely consider whether the League is still relevant, along with pressure from Washington and London to get their nationals released, when thinking about what to do next.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Asaib Ahl Haq kidnaps another American,” 2/8/10

Arraf, Jane, “Kidnapping of American in Iraq sparked by faltering reconciliation talks,” Christian Science Monitor, 2/11/10

Mohammed, Abeer, “Maliki’s Chess Game,” Institute of War & Peace Reporting, 9/10/09

Roads To Iraq, “Leader of “Asaib” militia not released yet,” 1/6/10

Sullivan, Marisa Cochrane, “Iraq’s Parliamentary Election,” Institute for the Study of War, 10/21/09

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Struggle Over Control of Salahaddin Province



There is an on-gowing dispute over control of the northern province of Salahaddin, but few details have been revealed as to just what it is about. The struggle began in January 2010 when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a letter to the governor of Salahaddin, Mutashar Hussein Alawi, saying that he was dismissed, and that he would have to leave office as soon as another governor was appointed. Under the 2008 Provincial Powers Act the Prime Minister has the authority to remove any governor, but the request must go through the parliament. There is no word whether that latter step has been taken. Governor Alawi responded by saying that he would not step down until he gets orders to do so from the Presidential Council. The Council has to sign off on the decisions of the legislature for them to go into affect.

Despite the procedures laid out under the Provincial Powers Act for the removal of a governor not having been fully implemented yet, on January 20 Maliki ordered the Iraqi Army to take over the provincial council building in Tikrit, Salahaddin’s capital. The soldiers turned away all employees and residents who attempted to enter the offices. The commander of the unit said that he would be running things until a new governor was sworn in. He has been in charge ever since, and he still has not allowed any employees to go back to work. On February 9, he even stopped the provincial council from entering their offices. The standoff led to a demonstration in Tikrit against the dismissal on February 10. Several hundred protestors were said to have come out for the occasion.

Why Prime Minister Maliki decided to dismiss Governor Alawi has not been revealed. Whether Maliki sent his request to get rid of the governor to parliament is also not known. The governor has the ability to protest his dismissal by going to the Supreme Federal Court, and continue with his duties until the judges make a decision, but Alawi has apparently not done this. He is instead insisting that he is still governor until the Presidential Council says otherwise. That’s been made moot by the fact that the security forces are not allowing him to do any of his official duties. Provincial councils also elect the governors, but in this case, the Army has shut them out as well. This is another example of the lack of rule of law in Iraq. The legal procedures laid out in the 2008 Provincial Powers Act are apparently not being followed and the chief executives of the country and Salahaddin are instead resorting to a battle of wills until the other backs down.

SOURCES

AK News, “Security source: Iraqi military force seized Salahaddin Governorate,” 1/21/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Army forces besiege Salah al-Din council,” 2/9/10
- “Army prevents personnel from entering Salah al-Din building,” 2/7/10
- “Demonstrations in Salah al-Din against security forces,” 2/10/10
- “Security forces surround provincial building in Salah al-Din,” 1/25/10

Iraq Strengthening Provincial and Local Government Program, “PPA Question and Answer Guide,” United States Agency for International Development, 2/27/09

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Iraqi Politicians Stepping Up Attacks On Each Other As Elections Near

With Iraq’s March 2010 elections just a few weeks away, the country’s top parties and politicians are increasing their attacks upon each other.

First, on February 6, the head of Iraq’s legal committee in parliament sent a request to the Accountability and Justice Commission, the former deBaathification Commission, to look over comments made by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi while he was visiting Washington D.C. The parliamentarian accused Hashemi of promoting the Baath Party during his trip. On February 9, the committee head went further, calling on parliament to ban Hashemi from running in the election, accusing him of being a Baathist sympathizer. Hashemi is the head of the new Renewal Party, and is part of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s National Movement List. The head of the legal committee is a Sadrist, which is part of the National Alliance. It controls the Accountability and Justice Commission, and has been at the forefront of banning candidates from the vote.

Next, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently gave a speech to sheikhs and leaders from Baghdad’s Sadr City, claiming that he would prevent any Baathists from ever returning to power. He went on to say that there were some political parties that were helping former regime members. The National Alliance took issue with that claiming that the Prime Minister meant them, and accused Maliki of letting 32,000 Baathists back into the government. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s State of Law List denied that the Alliance was ever mentioned in the speech. Maliki jumped on the Baathist bandwagon when a series of large bombings occurred in Baghdad beginning in August 2009, blaming it on former regime members residing in Syria. His party has also supported the banning of candidates from the upcoming election. This spat with the National Alliance shows that can cut both ways. Since Baathism has become the center of the national campaign, anyone can be charged with helping or sympathizing with them.

These two events show what a free-for-all this year’s election has become. The banning of candidates in January for alleged Baathist ties was the start, but most of those involved were not well known to the public. Now the vice president and prime minister are being attacked, which shows that no one is off limits to these pointless accusations. Once the Baathist rabbit was let out of the hat, anything can happen, and the accusers can quickly become the accused.

SOURCES

AK News, “Iraqi MP Calls for VP ban from polls,” 2/9/10
- “Iraqi MP says: Al Maliki’s Governenment brought the Baathists back to the governmental institutions,” 2/9/10

Alsumaria, “Al Maliki firmly rejects Baathists in power,” 2/9/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “MP proposes debaathification to cover VP Hashemi,” 2/6/10

Only 37 Banned Candidates Can Appeal Their Cases

There are reports coming out of Iraq that only 37 of the more than 500 banned candidates can appeal their cases to a seven-judge panel. Originally 511 candidates were barred from participating in the March 2010 parliamentary elections in January by the Accountability and Justice Commission (the former DeBaathification Commission). Later a few more politicians were added to the list. In early February, the appeals panel said that it would deal with the banned candidates before the election rather than afterward as they originally announced. Officials are now saying that political parties replaced around 300 banned candidates, and that they are now ineligible to have their cases reviewed. Alsumaria TV reported that only 177 banned politicians are left, and that the judges are going through their cases now, having completed 88 so far. Reuters however, notes that of those 177, only 37 lodged their complaints correctly, and the rest have been disqualified.

This is just the latest twist in the drama that is Iraqi politics. The election will continue, and most of the political parties have found substitutes for more than half of their banned candidates, only a few of which were that known to begin with. The campaign for office however, has been hijacked by the National Alliance that controls the Accountability and Justice Commission. They have nothing to run on, so as long as all the talk is about Baathists rather than issues, it suits them well. More importantly, it sets a bad precedent for the future of the country, because it shows that the largest parties can manipulate the entire system to suit their needs, and push around the smaller political entities. Rather than the 2010 ballot being a step forward for Iraq, it could be a reversion to 2005 when sectarianism was one of the driving forces, and the major lists dominated the proceedings.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Appeals panel reviews contests of barred candidates,” 2/9/10

Reuters, “Most banned Iraqi poll candidates’ appeals rejected,” 2/9/10

Salloum, Sa’ad, “commission defends election ban,” Niqash, 1/26/10