Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baghdad Tries To Prevent Iraq’s Minorities From Leaving

Recently Amnesty International and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released reports that documented the plight of Iraq’s minorities. Both groups noted that the country’s Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis were disappearing. They have been singled out for attacks by militant groups, abused by the Kurds, and neglected by the government. Half if not more of each community has either died or fled the country since 2003. Amnesty and the U.S. Commission criticized Baghdad for not caring about minorities. They have never provided adequate security for them, investigated attacks, or brought to justice the culprits. Now Radio Free Iraq reported that the government has ordered its ministries to stop minorities from leaving the country.

The Minister of Immigration and Displacement told Radio Free Iraq about Baghdad’s new policy.  The Minister said that he was asking the European Union, the United States, and Australia to not accept asylum cases by minorities. He claimed that this was to preserve the country’s diversity. Baghdad has also talked about the matter with the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Iraqi Human Rights Organization criticized the move as a violation of people’s rights to live where they like, which is included in the country’s constitution. A Christian priest from Baghdad was also critical saying that with a lack of security and jobs it would be very difficult for Iraq to maintain its minorities. Already they are a disproportionate size of the refugee population. Christians, Mandeans, and Yazidis are only 3% of Iraq’s population, but 15% of the refugees registered by the United Nations in Jordan, and 20% of those in Syria. More importantly, if the government continues to not protect these groups, while preventing them from leaving, the authorities may be dooming Iraq’s minorities to oblivion. This would be just the latest example of Baghdad’s misguided refugee policy where image is more important than actual solutions. The government may say that it wants to preserve the nation’s diversity, but this idea can only do harm.

SOURCES

Amnesty International, “Iraq Civilians Under Fire,” April 2010

Radio Free Iraq, “Iraq Trying To Retain Its Minority Communities,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 6/24/10

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” December 2008
- “Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” May 2010

Sotaliraq Political Cartoon: Iraqi Parliament Entrance On The Right, Exit On The Left

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

U.S. Ambassador To Iraq Christopher Hill About To Step Down

On June 26, 2010 it was reported in the Iraqi press that the Obama administration would replace the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill. A month before, the story was leaked in the U.S. as well. Hill has had a controversial tenure in Baghdad, and is going to be replaced by a long time Middle Eastern hand James Jeffrey.

Hill’s nomination was a controversial choice by President Obama at the beginning of 2009. He was replacing Ambassador Ryan Crocker who had successfully worked with General David Petraeus during the Surge. Crocker had extensive experience in the Middle East, and developed a good working relationship with the military. Hill too was a long-time diplomat, but all his experience was in Europe and Asia as ambassador to Poland, Macedonia, South Korea, and the lead U.S. representative to the Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnia War. His last posting was as the Bush administration’s chief negotiator with North Korea. Hill also did not speak Arabic. Those were some of the reasons why his confirmation in the Senate was held up for several months, leaving Iraq without a U.S. ambassador for nearly two months

Hill’s tenure in Iraq was also criticized. Tom Ricks at his blog The Best Defense reported in September 2009 that Hill and the commanding U.S. general in Iraq Ray Odierno had a strained relationship. The basic disagreement between them involved how much the United States should be involved in Iraqi politics. General Odierno wanted Americans to touch every aspect of Iraq’s government, while Hill wanted a more hands off approach believing that was more appropriate since America was withdrawing from Iraq. For example, General Odierno allegedly wanted the U.S. to play the role of guarantor of Sunnis’ rights in the new Iraq, while Hill disagreed. Despite those stories, Hill and the U.S. embassy staff were deeply involved in the March 2010 parliamentary elections, holding weekly meetings with Iraqi politicians during the drafting of the election law, and the negotiations to form a government after the balloting. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that the U.S. needed to shift from a military to a diplomatic approach to Iraq, but thought that Hill and his staff were too caught up on benchmarks like the Iraqi elections that would lead to the U.S. withdrawal rather than building a long-term relationship with Baghdad. 

James Jeffrey has been pegged as the new ambassador to Iraq. He is currently the ambassador to Turkey, and has extensive experience in the Middle East and in Iraq. Jeffrey was the deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and the special adviser to the secretary of state for Iraq in the Bush White House. From 2004-2005 he was the deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires in Baghdad. He held similar posts in Kuwait, and also served in Germany, Bulgaria, and Tunisia.

While there were many questions about Christopher Hill’s nomination and time in Baghdad, his general approach to Iraq seemed to be rooted in Obama administration policy. When Obama was elected president he said his main priority in Iraq would be withdrawal. That was what Hill appeared to be focused upon as well. While the ambassador was involved in Iraqi events like the March 2010 vote, those seemed to be necessary steps for the Americans to leave behind a stable country. Whether the appointment of James Jeffrey, a diplomat with lots of time dealing with Iraq will make any difference is an open question. He may know more Iraqi officials, and get along with General Odierno, but he will still be following the same approach to the country set by the President.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Obama nominates new US Ambassador to Iraq,” 6/26/10

Brose, Christian, “Obama’s Iraq speech: Brought to you by George W. Bush,” Shadow Government, Foreign Policy, 2/28/09

Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq: A Time To Stay?” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 7/30/09
Cordesman, Anthony, “Observations From a Visit to Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6/12/09

Feaver, Peter, “Jim Jeffrey: the right man for Iraq mission,” Shadow Government, Foreign Policy, 5/7/10
- “Should Chris Hill be our man in Iraq?” Shadow Government, Foreign Policy, 2/3/09

Kessler, Glenn, “Hill Tapped as Ambassador to Iraq,” Washington Post, 2/3/09

Madhani, Aamer, “Envoy to Iraq has message of tough love,” USA Today, 7/21/09

Ricks, Thomas, “Iraq, the unraveling (XXIV): U.S. embassy vs. U.S. military, again,” Best Defense, Foreign Policy, 9/28/09
- “More on Ambassador Hill,” The Best Defense, Foreign Policy, 9/29/09

Rogin, Josh, “As Iraqi election worries mount, State and DoD dispute U.S. role,” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 10/20/09
- “Hill denies Iraq rift with Odierno,” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 9/29/09
- “U.S. Embassy Baghdad: Iraq elections most credible in Arab history,” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 5/15/10

Rozen, Laura, “Chris Hill confirmed (UPDATED),” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 4/21/09
- “Top brass disturbed by GOP stalling of Iraq ambassador,” The Cable, Foreign Policy, 3/18/09

Monday, June 28, 2010

Iraq’s Shiite Parties Still No Closer To Forming New Government

Prime Minister Maliki and Former Premier Allawi Unite And Divide The Shiite Parties

Iraq’s two main Shiite parties, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance have joined together into the National Alliance coalition, but they are no closer to forming a government now than in March when the elections were originally held. The problem is only one thing unites them, opposition to Iyad Allawi becoming prime minister again, while Maliki remaining in power is what divides them.

The Shiite lists are determined to hold onto the premiership, which is why they are against Iyad Allawi. In June Allawi and Maliki finally met, three months after the elections, but nothing came of it despite the two having many ideological similarities about nationalism and the power of the central government. The meeting turned out to be nothing more than a photo opportunity, and Maliki even allegedly told Allawi that he had no chance to become prime minister again. A member of Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement later said that its attempt to merge with State of Law was blocked by the National Alliance and the Kurds.

The Shiite coalition itself however, remains weak and divided over who should be the next prime minister. Maliki is determined to hold onto his office, but is opposed by both the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). The two are pushing the negotiations with State of Law to the limit as a result. They demanded a Wise Men committee to determine the coalition’s candidate, but that has now been dropped. The National Alliance then asked that there be limits placed on the prime minister’s power through three deputy prime ministers or advisers from each party to the premier. Maliki agreed to those provisions, but that led nowhere. That leaves SIIC head Ammar Hakim’s calls for a round table of all the major parties in the new parliament to form a new government, or for the coalition to come up with several candidates which the legislature would then vote on. Both ideas are currently being rejected by State of Law. Not only that, but the Sadrists and Supreme Council can’t agree on their own nominees either. The Sadrists support former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, while the SIIC is nominating Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, who Sadr opposes. The result of all these disputes is extreme deadlock until Maliki is outmaneuvered or gives up his post. The National Alliance though, believes that it is gaining the upper hand. They think that the continued terrorist attacks and the protests over the lack of electricity are weakening Maliki.

There are in fact continuing rumors that State of Law is either going to give up on Maliki or that he will step aside if his demands are met. For example, Kuwaiti newspapers reported that Maliki’s list has come up with some alternative candidates. Those are Habib al-Sadr, the former director of the government-run Iraqi Media Network, Ali Dabbagh, Maliki’s spokesman, Khudayr al-Khuzai, the Minister of Education, and Sharwan al-Waili, the Minister for National Security. State of Law still publicly maintains that they have no other candidate besides Maliki. Asharq Al-Awsat ran a story that claimed Maliki was willing to step down if he, his family, and his Dawa Party were given immunity from any investigations or criminal cases. Maliki’s son for example is the head of the government procurement office, and has amassed a large fortune, and various properties in foreign countries while in office. The National Alliance has allegedly rejected this offer.

The Shiite coalition has successfully isolated Allawi, but is divided itself. State of Law and the National Alliance are only a few seats shy of the 163 needed to form a government. Together they have shut out Allawi’s National Movement from gaining new allies to put together its own ruling coalition. The issue of who the Shiite parties will nominate for prime minister, remains the main sticking point. The National Alliance has made demand after demand of State of Law, some of which Maliki has agreed to, some he has not, but the two sides are no closer to coming up with the next premier. In fact, these talks are just meant to wear Maliki down, and split him from his list so that they eventually drop him. Even if the National Alliance were successful at that, the divisions within that list don’t point to a breakthrough happening soon afterward. Iraqi politics are thus at a standstill, just as it has been at since March. 

SOURCES

AK News, “ISCI leader stresses round table talks best way to agree on forming govt,” 6/23/10

Asharq Al-Awsat, “Coalition leaders al-Hakim told: Propagation condition of the waiver al-Maliki not to sue,” 6/25/10

Druzin, Heath, “Talks Fail Between Leading Iraqi Parties,” Stars and Stripes, 6/23/10

Al-Jasim, Huda, “Iraq: Major Disputes within the National Alliance,” Asharq Alawsat, 6/16/10

MEMRI Staff, “Divisions among Shi’a Could Prolong Discussion to Form a New Government,” MEMRI Blog, 6/25/10

Al-Rafidayn, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, “Iraqi PM Al-Maliki Opens Verbal Fire In All Directions,” MEMRI Blog, 6/22/10

Roads To Iraq, “Allawi, Maliki and the political message of the meeting,” 6/13/10
- “The revolution of electricity in the southern provinces topples the Minister, eyes on Maliki, while new names of candidates emerged,” 6/22/10

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iraq’s Shi’ite-led groups edge closer to government,” Reuters, 6/16/10

Asharq Al-Awsat, “Coalition leaders al-Hakim told: Propagation condition of the waiver al-Maliki not to sue,” 6/25/10

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Al-Hakim: No Agreement On Horizon With Al-Maliki Over Premiership,” MEMRI Blog, 6/11/10

Wasat online, “Iranian Officials Expressed Reservations About Allawi Becoming Prime Minister,” MEMRI Blog, 6/23/10

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Iraq's Oil Industry Is At Capacity


 Iraq's oil production has hit a plateau, characterized by slight fluctuations in exports over the last year and a half. In February the Oil Ministry hit a post-2003 high of 2.05 million barrels a day in exports. Since then sales have fallen to 2009 levels. In March Iraq exported an average of 1.84 million barrels, followed by 1.80 million barrels in April, and 1.88 million barrels in May. The result was that the first five months of 2010, when the country averaged 1.89 million barrels a day in exports, was little different than 2009 when there was an average of 1.88 million barrels shipped a day.

Overall production has also experienced a slow decline since the second half of last year. In 2009 the Oil Ministry produced 2.49 million barrels a day in July and August, and 2.50 million barrels in September and October. Production began to decline in November with 2.37 million barrels, 2.40 million barrels in December, 2.46 million barrels in January 2010, 2.44 million in February, 2.25 million in March, 2.38 million in April, and 2.35 million in May. That averaged out to 2.40 million barrels a day in 2009, and 2.37 million barrels in 2010.

Iraq Avg. Monthly Oil Production/Exports
Month 
Avg.
Production
(Million Bar
Per Day) 
Avg. Exports
(Million Bar
Per Day) 
Jan. 09 
2.16 
1.91 
Feb. 09 
2.32 
1.70 
Mar. 09 
2.37 
1.81 
Apr. 09 
2.37 
1.82 
May 09 
2.41 
1.90 
Jun. 09 
2.44 
1.80 
Jul. 09 
2.49 
2.04 
Aug. 09 
2.49 
1.98 
Sep. 09 
2.50 
1.95 
Oct. 09 
2.50 
1.89 
Nov. 09 
2.37 
1.92 
Dec. 09 
2.40 
1.91 
2009 Avg. 
2.40 
1.88 
Jan. 10 
2.46 
1.92 
Feb. 10 
2.44 
2.05 
Mar. 10 
2.25 
1.84 
Apr. 10 
2.38 
1.80 
May 10 
2.35 
1.88 
2010 Avg.  
2.37 
1.89 


Despite the drops in production and exports, Iraq's revenue has stayed relatively stable due to rising petroleum prices, which is a great help to the government. One barrel of Iraqi crude went for $73.39 in December 2009, $73.97 in January 2010, $73.40 in February, $76.20 in March, and $79.66 in April, before going down to $73.85 in May because of fears about the European Union. Those prices earned Iraq between $4.2-$4.4 billion a month from December to May. That's good news for Iraq's budget, which is based upon $62.50 a barrel. As a result, the government has an estimated $10 billion surplus, which will help cover the projected $19.59 billion deficit this fiscal year. 

Monthly Earnings/Prices/Production
Month Total Oil
Earnings
Price Per
Barrel 
Total Oil
Production 
Dec. 09 $4.4 bil $73.39  61.3 mil bar 
Jan. 10 $4.4 bil$73.97  59.7 mil bar 
Feb. 10 $4.2 bil $73.40 57.9 mil bar 
Mar. 10 $4.3 bil $76.20 57.1 mil bar 
Apr. 10 $4.2 bil $79.66 53 mil bar 
May 10 $4.3 bil $73.85 58.7 mil bar 


Weather, bottlenecks, and attacks upon pipelines account for the monthly fluctuations Iraq has experienced in the last few years. Otherwise the country is operating at just about capacity. That's why output has hardly changed in the last 17 months. Its aging infrastructure cannot handle much more. Luckily prices for Iraqi crude have been increasing until May, which has meant a steady income for the government. Even if prices decline more in coming months they will still probably be above the budget's mark, which will mean Baghdad will be able to finance its operations. That will give it enough time and money to hold it over until the international companies get to work with the new oil deals, and hopefully boost production. How much that will be is the real question facing Iraq's petroleum industry.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, "Iraq oil revenue dip despite record exports," 3/23/10

Associated Press, "Iraq's Oil Exports Dip in March by 11 Percent," 4/20/10
- "Iraq's oil exports in April down 4.3 percent," 5/18/10
- "Iraq's Oil Exports Inch Up in May by About 7.4 Pct," 6/22/10
- "Iraq's oil revenues up by $300m in Dec. 2009," 1/23/10

Aswat al-Iraq, "$4.4b Iraq's oil revenues in Jan.," 2/23/10
- "Iraq's oil revenues up by $300m in Dec. 2009," 1/23/10
- "Iraq's oil sales reach $4.3 billion in May – oil ministry," 6/21/10
- "Oil ministry achieves $1 billion surplus in 2010," 5/21/10

Bayoumy, Yara, "Iraq eyes fall in deficit, investment increase," Reuters, 6/10/10

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, "Iraq Status Report," U.S. Department of State, 6/23/10

DPA, "Iraqi oil revenues topped 4.35 billion in March," 4/22/10

Hafidh, Hassan, "Iraq Dec Oil Exports Up 4% On Month At 1.977 Million B/D," Dow Jones, 1/4/10

Reuters, "Iraq oil exports surge to 1.9mbpd," 6/1/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, "Quarterly Report to the United States Congress," 4/30/10

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Maliki Forced To Respond To Public Protests Over Lack Of Electricity In Iraq

At the end of April 2010 Iraq’s Electricity Ministry announced that despite its plans to install new power plants across the country, there would be an electricity shortage this summer. The public finally grew tired of these types of statements, and took to the streets in several urban centers in Iraq. As a result, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to get rid of the Electricity Minister and attempt to save face.

Beginning in April the government announced that the country’s power supply was down, but that it had big plans for the future. First, due to attacks, a lack of fuel, and maintenance problems, the Electricity Ministry said that 480 megawatts had been lost that month. In June, the Ministry of Planning said that it might have to shut down hydroelectric power plants because of the drought. At the same time, the Electricity Ministry said that it was moving ahead with plans to install new generators in Salahaddin, Karbala, Babil, Baghdad, Maysan, Najaf, Basra, and Wasit. In May, the government also began working out the details for developing the country’s natural gas resources, which would fuel many of these new plants. By 2012, the Electricity Ministry hoped to provide 24 hours of power. In the meantime, the authorities claimed that it had 9,000 megawatts in capacity, but that estimated demand was 12,000 megawatts. Iraq’s power supply has risen above pre-war levels, largely due to investments by the United States, but it has never met the nation’s needs. Baghdad was finally attempting to tackle this issue beginning this year, allotting the Electricity Ministry one of the largest amounts of money in the 2010 budget, before it was swept up by public dissatisfaction with the slow pace of progress.

 June 19 protests in Basra over lack of electricity

Iraqis took to the streets in mid-June calling for the Electricity Minister to step down, and for the government do something about the lack of power during the scorching summer heat. First, on June 19 an estimated 3,000 people demonstrated in Basra over electricity shortages, leading to a clash with security forces that led to two deaths. Then on June 21, 14 police and four protesters were wounded when demonstrators went to the Dhi Qar provincial council building in Nasiriyah. They were turned away with water canons. That same day there was a follow-up march in Basra, and one in Ramadi in Anbar province on June 22. There were also reports of demonstrations in Baghdad. The marchers got religious backing when one of the leading clerics in the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Bashir Hussein al-Najafi issued a statement condemning the lack of electricity. With improved security, Iraqis have increasingly turned towards services as a pressing issue that the government needs to address. Politicians seemed to respond by making power, water, and health care campaign issues in the 2009 and 2010 elections, but little changed. Public anger finally boiled over in this wave of protests.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was taken off guard by these demonstrations, but was eventually forced to respond by firing the Electricity Minister. On June 21 Minister Karim Wahid al-Hasan offered his resignation. Maliki however, said that the lack of power was an old problem, and that he would look into the matter, showing little concern for the protests. The premier went as far as to call the people in Basra rioters. He also voiced support for Hasan, saying he was best suited for the job, that his work was complicated by years of attacks upon the infrastructure by insurgents, and that he had not accepted his resignation yet. Maliki went on to state that it would take two years for Iraq to solve its power problems when all of the new generators were installed. The Prime Minister wasn’t able to hold that line for very long as there were more demonstrations and his political opponents, the Sadrists and the Supreme Council of the Iraqi National Alliance and the Iraqi National Movement of Iyad Allawi all came out in support of the marches. They are all hoping to push Maliki out of power. That led to him dropping Hasan on June 23.

To save face, Maliki put Oil Minister Hussain Shahristani temporarily in charge of the Electricity Ministry and made a series of announcements about pumping up the power supply. In Karbala, Maysan, Basra, and Muthanna local officials told the press that they were getting money for new generators and maintenance on their power systems, along with extra fuel to power plants. The central government also said that it was re-directing power from the Green Zone and industries to the general public in Baghdad, and that it would get increased supplies from Iran and Turkey. Whether this news will quell the public is not known yet.

Prime Minister Maliki has never shown much appreciation for criticism, and that was seen in his response to the recent protests. When the demonstrations started, Maliki attempted to discount them. When the protests continued he was forced to get rid of Electricity Minister Hasan, who was an ally, but replaced him with another supporter Oil Minister Shahristani, while making a series of public announcements about the power supply meant to appease the people. That might not work as all those moves could’ve happened before, so they did not appear to be decisive actions that would dramatically change the situation. The fact that Maliki’s opponents came out in support of the marches, did not help the matter either, and gave the Prime Minister reason to question their motivations. The issue now is whether the government will go back to business as usual, or whether Iraqis will continue to take to the streets pressuring the authorities into more urgent action. If they do, that would be an important change in Iraqi politics and society, as officials have rarely been held accountable in the country. More likely, Maliki will attempt to hold fast, and hope the marches will blow over.

SOURCES

Associated Press, “Iraqi riot police turn water cannons on protesters as anger spreads over outages,” 6/21/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “3rd unit of al-Kahlaa power plant starts operating next month,” 6/24/10
- “Additional ID300b for power network in Basra,” 6/23/10
- “Government allocates 10 billion dinars for Karbala electricity,” 6/22/10
- “ID10 billion allocated to support electricity in Missan,” 6/22/10
- “Oil ministry increases Muthanna’s share from generators’ fuel,” 6/24/10
- “Al-Shahrestani says power production to increase to 250 Megawatt,” 6/25/10
- “Tens of people sit in Basra,” 6/21/10

Iraq Pundit Blog, “Maliki’s Own Goal,” 6/23/10

Kami, Aseel, “Chain’s Shanghai works on $1 bln power deal in Iraq,” Reuters, 5/29/10

Karim, Ammar, “Iraqi PM warns of two-year power misery,” Middle East Online, 6/22/10

Latif, Nizar, “Protesters take to Iraq’s baking streets over crippling electricity supply crisis,” The National, 6/23/10

Latif, Nizar and Sands, Phil, “Iraqis’ power cut protests powered by grass-roots anger,” The National, 6/24/10

MacMillan, Arthur, “Iraqi PM accepts electricity minister’s resignation,” Agence France Presse, 6/23/10

Najm, Hayder, “lights out for electricity minister,” Niqash, 6/24/10

Parker, Ned, “IRAQ: Electricity minister resigns after violent demonstrations,” Babylon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times, 6/21/10

Reuters, “Iraq plans power boost after gas fields auction,” 5/10/10

Reuters, Financial Times, “Iraq’s Oil Minister Takes on Electricity Portfolio,” Iraq Business News, 6/23/10

Roads To Iraq, “The revolution of electricity in the southern provinces topples the Minister, eyes on Maliki, while new names of candidates emerged,” 6/22/10

Saleh, Khayoun, “Lack of water likely to force Iraq to shut down thermal and hydro power plants,” Azzaman, 6/8/10

Waleed, Khalid, “Iraqi Energy Protests Grow,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 6/25/10

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” Chapter 7 “CPA’s Shortfalls”

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” review of the American rebuilding effort in Iraq covers the reconstruction funds available to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the staffing problems it faced in its Chapter 7. In the fourteen months that the CPA was operating it spent around $20 billion, but the lack of qualified personnel greatly hindered this effort.

The CPA had four sources of funds available to it during its tenure. First an executive order gave it control of $1.7 billion in frozen Iraqi assets. Second, U.S. forces found $900 million during the invasion, mostly in Saddam’s palaces. Third, the CPA was given command of the Development Fund for Iraq, which was created in May 2003 by the United Nations to receive all of Iraq’s oil and gas revenues as part of international sanctions. Finally, in April 2003 Congress approved $2.4 billion for the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The seized assets mostly went to pay for Iraqi government salaries and pensions, while the other money went to reconstruction. 70% of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund was appropriated to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that had already started rebuilding projects immediately after the invasion. Paul Bremer and the CPA had little control over the USAID, but tried to control their job orders, which set off bureaucratic battles between the two. That left the Development Fund for Iraq as Bremer’s primary source of cash for the CPA’s rebuilding plans.

The CPA’s reconstruction effort turned out to be ad hoc at best. Bremer said that Iraqis were supposed to be involved in the process, but were only given token positions. The CPA was also to come up with a comprehensive funding plan, but never did. There was little oversight over spending either, which auditors criticized during and after the CPA’s existence.

Another major drawback to the CPA’s plans was the lack of adequate staff. During its entire fourteen months it’s estimated that it never had more than 66% of the people it needed. Originally, the CPA inherited 600 staffers from the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA), the original civilian agency tasked with post-war Iraq. The Pentagon ordered the Army to fill military positions that the CPA needed, but other government agencies were never able to fill the remaining slots due to their own lack of staff. There were various recruitment programs set up within the Bush administration, but these never proved effective enough. There was also a very high turnover rate, which robbed the CPA of an institutional memory, and many people sent lacked experience in the Middle East, conflict situations, or reconstruction. The growing insurgency in Iraq also was a strong deterrent from more Americans going to work in the country.

Overall, the Special Inspector General thought that the CPA’s reconstruction effort was poorly planned and staffed, and inadequately managed. The Bush administration went to war thinking little about the post-war situation, and lacking any coordination in its plans. It believed that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, Iraqi bureaucrats would be back to work the day after Saddam fell, and a new government instantly installed with little American involvement. Instead, the state collapsed, chaos reigned, and the White House was left unprepared. The CPA itself was a panic move after the administration decided that the ORHA couldn’t handle the situation, and went about running Iraq for fourteen months in the same ad hoc style that it was put together. Its lack of staff and especially consulting of Iraqis over what they wanted would make much of its effort to rebuild Iraq a failure.

SOURCES

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

Basra Protest Over Lack Of Electricity Reflects Twenty Years of Problems

(BBC)
 Summer is upon Iraq with high temperatures in the 120s. Basra, the country’s second largest city, is only receiving an average of two hours of power a day during this scorching weather. As a result, on June 18, 2010 a reported 3,000 people demonstrated there over the lack of electricity. The Electricity Ministry promised an increase in supply this June, but that has not happened due to maintenance work, one power plant going off line, and a lack of fuel to power generators. The Basra protest was just the latest manifestation of Iraq’s electricity problems that have lasted for twenty years beginning with the Gulf War in 1990.

During the Gulf War the Coalition targeted Iraq’s infrastructure, including its electricity network, hoping that it would undermine the government and lead to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. During the actual conflict, commanding General Norman Schwarzkopf denied that the Coalition was targeting Iraq’s power supply, but the truth later came out shortly after the war ceased. (1) On January 17, 1991 for example, the U.S. dropped metallic filaments onto the power network that short circuited the system, and caused blackouts. (2) The Coalition then targeted 28 power plants, flying 215 sorties against them, along with 9 transformer and switching yards. Within a few days, the entire power grid was knocked out of action. Military planners hoped that would cut off communications and the air defense system, as well as cause long-term hardships on the society, which would put pressure on Saddam. While the Bush administration had ruled out direct involvement in overthrowing the government, (3) it hoped to encourage a coup that would get rid of the dictator. Knocking out the power supply was part of that effort.

The problem was there was no coup. In turn, the United States was forced into a long-term strategy of attrition against Saddam, centered on the United Nations sanctions that were imposed in 1990. In the process, Iraq’s power grid began to degrade after it was severely damaged during the war. Four months after hostilities had ceased, 80% of the electrical system was still off line, and the government announced eight-hour blackouts.  A Harvard report made immediately after the war found that bombing damaged 17 of the country’s 20 generating plants, and 11 were total losses. The Pentagon reported that the country’s capacity was down to 1920 levels. U.S. analysts believed that it would take 1-5 years to repair the infrastructure with U.S. aid. That assistance and the spare parts necessary to repair the power grid were largely cut off for thirteen years due to sanctions. In the 1980s Iraq was producing around 9,000-9,500 megawatts. By 2002 it was only producing 4,075 megawatts

When the U.S. invasion came in 2003, the Coalition again targeted the power network, and the post-war chaos led to more damage. A report by a military war college and the State Department’s Future of Iraq project warned of outages and other problems that could occur after the war, but the U.S. plans contained nothing abut the electricity network. As a result, during the looting that took place immediately after the fall of the regime, power plants, electricity lines, and other parts of the system were stripped and destroyed. (4) As the situation deteriorated in the months following the overthrow of Saddam, cities and towns began knocking down towers as well to keep power for themselves. By July 2003 the electricity supply was down to 3,100 megawatts. Bechtel received a $515 million contract from the United States Agency for International Development in September 2003 to fix the power system, but the lack of security undermined that effort. In October 2003 the U.S. committed $5.7 billion in reconstruction money to the electricity network. By 2010 America had spent $4.9 billion of that money, and supply had been boosted above pre-war levels to 5,635 megawatts. The dilemma, was that demand skyrocketed after 2003 due to the removal of sanctions, cheap imports, an increase in buying power of Iraqis, and cheap prices. Usage spikes during the summer as well as temperatures rise. Discontent has been rising as a result for the last seven years, and finally boiled over in the Basra protest.

The governor and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have both promised investigations into the Basra matter, but nothing is likely to change, at least not in the short-term. The Electricity Ministry has promised improved service every year. In 2010 for example, it plans on installing at least one power plant in every province except for the three Kurdish ones. Even that is unlikely to provide enough power to satisfy the public until the entire system is overhauled. That will cost billions more, and there are no current plans to do so. Until then, the gap between supply and demand is unlikely to be met, and anger may boil over again.

FOOTNOTES

1. Gellman, Barton, “Storm Damage in the Persian Gulf,” Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 7/8-14/91

2. Tyler, Patrick, “Iraq Devastation Worse Than Allies Intended,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/91

3. Seib, Gerald, “How Miscalculations Spawned U.S. Policy Toward Postwar Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, 5/31/91

4. Hanley, Charles, “500 felled towers keep Iraqi power at home,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/2/03 

SOURCES

Collier, Robert, “Iraqis swelter in 115 heat – and fume at U.S.,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/3/03

Fineman, Mark, Wright, Robin, and McManus, Doyle, “Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace,” Los Angeles Times, 7/18/03

Gellman, Barton, “Storm Damage in the Persian Gulf,” Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 7/8-14/91

Hanley, Charles, “500 felled towards keep Iraqi power at home,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/2/03

Seib, Gerald, “How Miscalculations Spawned U.S. Policy Toward Postwar Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, 5/31/91

Al-Shalchi, Hadeel and Juhi, Bushra, “Anger over power cuts leads to violence in Iraq,” Associated Press, 6/19/10

Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09
- “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10

Tyler, Patrick, “Iraq Devastation Worse Than Allies Intended,” San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/91

Wolffe, Richard and Gegax, T. Trent, “The Best-Laid Plans,” Newsweek, 7/21/03

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Al Qaeda In Iraq Takes Responsibility For Central Bank Attack In Baghdad

On June 13, 2010 gunmen driving three vehicles with military markings and wearing police or army uniforms stormed the Central Bank of Iraq in central Baghdad. The number of attackers varied in press reports from 16 to 30. Five days later Al Qaeda in Iraq officially claimed responsibility for the attack on several Islamist websites. The assailants did not try to rob the bank, but rather destroyed files in an attempt to undermine the institution and the Iraqi government.

The attack began around 2:30 pm, and led to an extended siege of the Central Bank building lasting around five hours. The attackers went to the front entrance first where a suicide bomber set off his charge. Another group of assailants hit another entryway with another suicide bomber. The insurgents were then able to enter the Central Bank complex and began setting files and records on fire, while snipers took position on the roofs to keep security forces at bay. They were not able to get into the main building however. In the end, around 21 were killed and 72 wounded, while downtown Baghdad was paralyzed as the security forces shut down the central part of the city. Amongst the dead were seven of the attackers, but most of them apparently escaped

While officials originally thought the aim of the operation was to rob the Central Bank, it now appears to have been much more ambitious. First, the attack happened a day before the new parliament was to be seated, so it was a symbolic message to the new politicians. Second, it happened in one of the most fortified sections of the capital. There were around 1,000 police, soldiers, and security guards in the immediate area, telling the public that nowhere was safe from the insurgents. Third, the Central Bank is one of the most important financial institutions in the country, and Al Qaeda wanted to destroy its files in an attempt to wreck the economy. Luckily, they did not accomplish that last goal, but the others they did. If anything, the Islamists have proven resilient. Just a few days before the Central Bank raid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq claimed that 34 of Al Qaeda’s 42 leaders had been killed or captured, including their top two commanders, Abu Ayab al-Masri and Omar Baghdadi. On May 27, Iraq’s Foreign Minister announced that the group was running out of suicide bombers as foreigners, who were mostly used for the task, where heading to Afghanistan and Pakistan instead. Since then however, the organization has increased its bombings, and was able to launch this dramatic attack that obviously took in-depth planning and preparation. Such headline grabbing operations are exactly what they want, so that they can prove that they are still a force to be reckoned with despite their setbacks. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is likely to remain a plague on Iraq for at least the short-term. Hopefully when the Americans’ withdraw in 2011 they will lose much of their rationale, and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries will take up most of the passion of the global jihadist movement so that Iraq will eventually be left alone.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Fifteen killed in Baghdad central bank attack,” 6/13/10

AK News, “Iraqi forces put an end to storming into Central Bank of Iraq, release hostages, kill one attacker,” 6/14/10
- “Security and Defense Parliamentary Committee attribute the Central Bank’s incident to the weak procedures,” 6/14/10

Alsumaria, “Al Qaeda claims attack on Iraq Central Bank,” 6/18/10
- “Death toll of Central Bank attack reaches 21,” 6/14/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “BOC attributes CBI attack to Qaida,” 6/19/10
- “CBI blast leaves 15 civilians, 3 gunmen killed,” 6/13/10
- “CBI security chief says all 7 gunmen killed,” 6/13/10

Chulov, Martin, “Iraqi Central Bank raided by militants disguised in military uniforms,” Guardian, 6/13/10

Financial Times, “Blast at Baghdad central bank kills 15,” 6/13/10

Hussein, Jinan and Fadel, Leila, “Armed men carry out coordinated bombings outside Iraq’s Central Bank,” Washington Post, 6/14/10

Al Jazeera, “Multiple explosions rock Baghdad,” 6/14/10

Latif, Nizar, “In Iraq, al Qa’eda militants are down but far from out,” The National, 6/19/10

Al-Mada, “Terrorist Attack on Iraq’s Central Bank,” MEMRI Blog, 6/14/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Arrest Led to Strike on Two Top Iraq Qaeda Leaders,” New York Times, 4/22/10

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Baghdad Bank Attack Kills 12,” 6/13/10

Reuters, “Al-Qa’ida ‘running out of suicide bombers in Iraq,’” 5/28/10

Shanker, Thom, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says,” New York Times, 6/4/10

Sly, Liz and Hamid, Nadeem, “At least 24 killed as gunmen storm Iraq’s Central Bank,” Los Angeles Times, 6/13/10

Friday, June 18, 2010

Musings On Iraq's 2 Year Anniversary!

Two years ago I started this blog and I'm still going strong. I'd like to thank all the readers, and especially those that leave comments. I wish there were more. Hopefully I am informing people about what is going on in Iraq, and that continues to interest you as much as it does me.

Supreme Islamic Iraqi Party Comes Out Against Maliki

On June 14, 2010 Iraq’s new parliament was finally seated. The problem was it was only in session for 18 minutes before it went into recess for an indefinite period until the largest blocs come up with some kind of agreement upon who will be the next prime minister. The two main Shiite parties, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance (INA) are trying to lay claim to the top spot, but internal divisions are preventing them from forming a new government. The Sadrists came out early against the current prime minister remaining in office, but now the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) is also voicing opposition to Maliki as well.

The SIIC went public with their criticism of Maliki recently in a meeting with Baathists in Syria of all places. The same day that Iraq’s parliament convened, members of the Supreme Council met with three Baathists outside of Syria’s capitol Damascus, where they announced there was “no way” Maliki would return as prime minister. The Supreme Council’s envoy to Syria went on to claim that the Maliki was vengeful and isolated all those who disagreed with him. Finally, he said that the State of Law-National Alliance coalition should be able to nominate several candidates for prime minister, and then let the parliament decide upon the winner. The Iraqi constitution says that the list with the largest number of seats will put together a majority coalition in parliament, and then name the premier making the Supreme Council’s proposal unconstitutional, but they are just trying to find ways to marginalize Maliki.

Another way that the Supreme Council is trying to block Maliki’s return to power is by blocking his nomination within the State of Law-National Alliance coalition. On June 6 the two sides created a fourteen member “wise men” committee that is suppose to select the super-lists’ nominee for the premiership. The group is made up of seven State of Law representatives (4 Dawa members, 1 Dawa-Iraq, and two from the Independent bloc), and seven Iraqi National Alliance members (3 Sadrists, 2 SIIC, 1 National Reform Party, and 1 from the Fadhila Party). The Supreme Council successfully pushed through their plan that 80% of the committee, 11 members, had to agree on the coalition’s nominee. With the Sadrists and Supreme Council holding five out of twelve seats, and both being against Maliki he has no chances of winning that  contest right now. On the other hand, neither does the National Alliance, which means continued deadlock.

The reason why the SIIC is increasingly against Maliki is because they are afraid of being marginalized within the new Shiite coalition. State of Law came in second in the election with 89 seats, 35 of which belong to Maliki’s Dawa Party. The National Alliance was third with 70 seats, but the Supreme Council only won 20 of those. They want their candidate Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi to become the next prime minister, something they have been pushing since the 2005 elections. That’s impossible right now since the Sadrists, who have the largest number of seats within the National Alliance are pushing former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as their nominee. Since both State of Law and the Sadrists outnumber the SIIC, the only thing the Supreme Council can do is play spoiler until they figure out some back room deal that will get their man Mahdi into office. The problem is that’s as unlikely as Maliki retaining power. Until the Shiite parties work out their differences there will be no real movement towards a new Iraqi government, and that could take months, perhaps until the winter.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 Shiite alliances to form “committee of wise men,”” 6/6/10

BBC News, “Iraq Shias move to form coalition,” 2/14/05

Sands, Phil, “Pro-Baathist Iraqis side with rivals against PM,” The National, 6/15/10

Shadid, Anthony, “Anger With Political Class Grows Among Iraqi Public,” New York Times, 6/14/10

Visser, Reidar, “The Fourteen Wise Men,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 6/12/10

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Casualties In Mosul Only Slightly Down In 2010

Mosul remained as violent as ever in May 2010. In that month there were 57 attacks for an average of 1.83 per day. That was an increase from the previous month when there were 47 attacks, for an average of 1.56 per day. The number of deaths stayed at just about the same level for the two months however at 41 in May and 43 in April. The number of wounded almost doubled from 94 in April to 192 in May. That was largely due to a dual car and roadside bomb that targeted Christian students going to Mosul University on May 2 that killed one, and left 90 wounded. There were a total of 223 casualties last month, the highest amount for the year, and the largest dead and wounded since 273 in August 2009.
Overall, despite a drop in attacks and deaths over the last year in Mosul, the number of casualties in the city has not much changed. From June to December 2009 there were an average of 68.0 attacks per month, 2.22 per day. That compared to 58.2 attacks per month from January to May 2010, 1.92 per day. The city also saw a decline in deaths, going from 63.5 per month, 2.07 per day in the second half of 2009, to 43.0 per month, 1.42 per day in the first five months of 2010. That was offset by a small increase in wounded. The last seven months of 2009 saw 112.0 wounded per month, averaging out to 3.66 per day. 2010 has seen 119.8 wounded per month, and 3.96 per day. That has meant the total number of casualties has not really changed in the last year. In the second part of 2009 there were 175.5 casualties per month, 5.75 per day. That only went down a small amount to 162.8 casualties per month in 2010, 5.39 per day.

Attacks and Casualty Statistics for Mosul

Month Attacks/
Avg. Per
Day 
Deaths/Avg.
Per Day 
Wounded/
Avg. Per
Day 
Casualties
Overall/
Avg. Per Day 
Jun. 
73/2.43 
58/1.93 
123/4.1 
181/6.03 
Jul. 
73/2.35 
79/2.54 
169/5.45 
248/8.00 
Aug. 
77/2.48 
102/3.29 
171/5.51 
273/8.80 
Sep. 
72/2.40 
65/2.16 
60/2.00 
125/4.16 
Oct. 
66/2.12 
60/1.93 
82/2.64 
142/4.58 
Nov. 
55/1.83 
37/1.23
71/2.36 
108/3.60 
Dec. 
60/1.93 
44/1.41 
108/3.48 
152/4.90 
Jan. 10 
59/1.90 
38/1.22 
89/2.87 
127/4.09 
Feb. 
61/2.17 
66/2.35 
109/3.89 
175/6.25 
Mar. 
67/2.16 
27/0.87 
125/4.03 
152/4.90 
Apr. 
47/1.56 
43/1.43 
94/3.13 
137/4.56 
May 
57/1.90 
41/1.36 
182/6.06 
223/7.19
Averages 
May-Dec. 09 
68.0/2.22 
63.5/2.07 
112.0/3.66 
175.5/5.74 
Jan.-May 10 
58.2/1.92 
43.0/1.42 
119.8/3.96 
162.8/5.39 

The violence in the city appears to be largely self-sustaining, regardless of national events. In recent months, Al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership was rounded and killed in Ninewa, of which Mosul is the provincial capital, and in Iraq as a whole. That has not really changed the casualty figures in the city however as Mosul remains the only urban center for the country's insurgency. The Arab-Kurd divide is the main reason why the militants still hold sway with the local inhabitants. There is little coordination between the Kurdish peshmerga that patrol half the city and the Iraqi army and police that are in the other, which allows security gaps that are exploited by insurgents. The province also has two separate administrations since the January 2009 provincial elections, one led by the victorious Arab-led al-Hadbaa party, and the other by the Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood list. Mosul also has a large number of minorities such as Christians, who are caught in the middle of the dispute between the two main ethnicities. As a result, neither has been willing to make the effort necessary to protect minorities, but instead has tried to exploit them in the larger power struggle. There appears to be no resolution on the horizon over this issue, which means that Mosul will remain the deadliest city per capita in Iraq.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, "1 killed, 90 wounded in attack on Christian students in Mosul," 5/2/10
- "1 policeman, 1 civilian killed in Mosul," 5/5/10
- "2 civilians wounded by stun bomb in Mosul," 5/8/10
- "2 cops killed, child injured in Mosul," 5/31/10
- "2 female bodies found in southeastern Mosul," 5/31/10
- "2 Iraqi soldiers wounded in Mosul," 5/27/10
- "2 security guards killed in Mosul," 5/25/10
- "2 Peshmerga fighters killed in suicide bombing in Mosul," 5/10/10
- "2 women injured by IED in Mosul," 5/17/10
- "5 wounded in blast targeting policeman in Mosul," 5/13/10
- "10 civilians wounded in grenade attack in Mosul," 5/1/10
- "11 civilians wounded in blast in Mosul," 5/4/10
- "Al-Iraqiya Alliance candidate dies of wounds in Mosul," 5/24/10
- "Al-Iraqiya member's driver dies of wounds," 5/28/10
- "Attack on police patrol injures 2 civilians in Mosul," 5/3/10
- "Attack on senior police officer's motorcade in Mosul," 5/5/10
- "Army forces kill gunman in Mosul," 5/9/10
- "Army soldier, child wounded in two attacks in Mosul," 5/15/10
- "Blast wounds 2 Iraqi soldiers in Mosul," 5/15/10
- "Car bomb kills soldier, wounds civilian in Mosul," 5/31/10
- "Civilian killed by gunmen in Mosul," 5/18/10
- "Civilian wounded in eastern Mosul," 5/17/10
- "Civilian wounded in eastern Mosul," 5/25/10
- "Civilian wounded in mortar attack in Mosul," 5/1/10
- "Gunmen blow up house in Mosul," 5/13/10
- "Gunmen kill 2 cops in Mosul," 5/20/10
- "Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul," 5/5/10
- "Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul," 5/9/10
- "Gunmen kill civilian in Mosul," 5/27/10
- "Gunmen kill civilian in western Mosul," 5/11/10
- "Gunmen kill Iraqi army soldier in Mosul," 5/8/10
- "Gunmen kill officer in western Mosul," 5/26/10
- "Gunmen kill policewoman in Mosul," 5/4/10
- "Gunmen kill student, injure civilian in Mosul," 5/10/10
- "Gunmen kill woman in Mosul," 5/18/10
- "Gunmen shoot dead guard north of Mosul," 5/7/10
- "Hand grenade wounds civilian in Mosul," 5/3/10
- "IED wounds policeman in Mosul," 5/11/10
- "IED wounds tribal notable's wife in Mosul," 5/27/10
- "Iraqi soldier wounded in blast in Mosul," 5/11/10
- "Kidnapped student found dead in Mosul," 5/6/10
- "Mosul blast casualties up to 95," 5/2/10
- "Old woman gunned down in central Mosul," 5/24/10
- "Police find decayed body in Mosul," 5/5/10
- "Police say gunmen kill civilian in western Mosul," 5/24/10
- 'Roadside bomb kills policeman in Mosul," 5/29/10
- "Roadside bomb wounds 2 soldiers in Mosul," 5/24/10
- "Roadside bomb wounds woman in Mosul," 5/24/10
- "Satellite channel's employee killed in Mosul," 5/12/10
- "Suicide attack kills cop, wounds 10 in Mosul," 5/20/10
- "Two bodies found in Ninewa," 5/29/10

DPA, "Al-Qaeda leader arrested, Imam killed by gunmen in Iraq," 5/4/10
- "Six dead, 23 arrested in string of attacks in Iraq," 5/26/10

Issa, Sahar, "Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq Friday 21 May 2010," 5/21/10
- "Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq Monday 10 May 2010," 5/10/10

Reuters, "FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 19," 5/19/10
- "FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, May 27," 5/27/10

Xinhua, "13 wounded in car bombing in northern Iraq," 5/4/10