"Iraq in the aftermath of the new US Strategy"
Conflict Assessment and Policy Implications
Faleh A. Jabar
In less than two months Iraq will mark the fourth anniversary since the US-led invasion, which imitated what has become a macabre post-conflict transition.
Iraq is torn between two warring strategies, one bent on escalating sectarian cleansing into full-fledged sectarian civil war; the other on blending conflict into peaceful institutional politics.
The new US strategy announced on 10 January 2007 is a last-ditch attempt to break out of the present stalemate.
2- Since the bombing of the Shi’i holy shrines in Samara (February 2006) Iraq has effectively been thrown in the midst of a mini-sectarian civil war centred mainly on Baghdad. While anti-coalition violence is still raging, though relatively diminishing in scope and intensity; and criminal lawlessness is no less rampant, the main thrust of violence is Shi’i-Sunni sectarian fight for supremacy in Baghdad and its environs. This sectarian conflict has actually blocked the institutional-constitutional process that marked the year 2005, eroded confidence in the central authorities and their international backers, and caused a critical mass of Sunni and Shi’i embedded forces to shift back from centrist to extra-institutional violent politics. In human terms, it has also driven an estimated 180,000 families out of their homes, and perhaps a greater number driven into ‘voluntary’ exile. The continuation of this condition may well further weaken centrist proclivities and reverse the 2005 process completely, bringing down the nascent institutions of power, and most probably inviting aggressive regional intervention.
3- Major sources of current conflicts pre-existed the invasion, but their dynamics have become intimately intertwined with those set in train by the conduct of the ‘occupation’, and by flawed transitional politics, characterized since 2005 by a de facto ethno-communal monopoly of the process, and marginal Sunni inclusion.
The various Iraqi conflict actors have been and will continue to be vying for control over both the (re)distribution of socio-economic resources and the levers of political authority in post-Saddam Iraq.
4- This conflict involves intra-, inter- and trans-community forces vying for both the ‘slices’ and ‘layers’ associated with the triple process of: a- nation rebuilding (all-inclusion and participation); b- state-formation (inception of legitimate institutions of power) and, c- stabilisation (asserting state’s monopoly over legitimate means of violence: security and peace).
5- Escalating violence has eroded centrist potential in society at large as within major political parties. The massive exodus of middle class professionals, businessmen and intellectuals into neighbouring countries, have almost emptied the social spaces, at least in Baghdad, that oppose politics of brutal coercion and long for peace and assertion of trans-communal Iraqi nationalism.
6- The rise of Islamism on both sides of the communal divide has heightened sectarian sentiments; the inclusion of extremist in government (the Mahdi army for instance) helped blend extremist sectarian politics into the very national agencies of law and order, undermining the legality and legitimacy of these very agencies. Intensified, sectarian confrontation has also crept into regional politics, with the potential to spill over to some Gulf societies at large.
7- The major, new, perhaps third, mid-course correction of US strategy announced by President George W. Bush on 10 January 2007 conveys a strong sense of failure of earlier stabilization-reform strategies; it also signals a new and perhaps last drive to prevent a Somali-type scenario, and possibly and eventual reverse of the situation. This new strategy, while a crucial factor, has less than a year before it could flesh out and possibly score some tangible results; its success or failure, will be contingent on the constraints set in by, the interconnectivity of native (Iraqi), regional, and possibly, international factors. The new strategy faces a maze of conflict drivers
II Method and approaches:
8- This paper will examine the feasibility of the new US-Iraq strategy in the context of domestic and regional politics. There are two major approaches to conflict assessments: counter-insurgency approach and political economy approach.
9- The first, counter-insurgency approach, has two simplified military and political components: on the military side there are the well-known three Ps (Pursue insurgents; Protect vital facilities; Promote reconstruction); on the political side there are the three Cs (Co-opt important political groups; Corrupt others to cooperate; Coerce those who refuse).
10- The second, ‘political economy’ approach, involves complex sets of security, political, economic, social, cultural, media, regional, and international factors, all intertwined in a dynamic pattern of analysis. Precedence exists in certain aspects combining cases like Kosovo or East Timor with models of post-war Germany or Japan. But Iraq’s is a complex and unique case for analysis, where the principal international actors on the ground interested in peace building are conflict actors in their own right.
In this paper takes an eclectic approach benefiting from these two approaches.
III Transitional process, dilemmas and blunders:
11- The invasion and occupation of Iraq constituted the greatest challenge the US had to face in nation-building since WWII. With scanty planning and controversial understanding of Iraq’s socio-political and cultural intricacies, the US undertook a colossal task of invading Iraq, deconstructing the old power structures, and reforming Iraq’s polity and society along liberal lines of market embedded democracy.
12- Iraq’s realities, however, were complex. Iraq’s totalitarian system rested on oil rentierism, command economy, coercive mass politics, and kinship politics. Wars and sanction eroded or weakened much of these foundations. Consequently, the very conditions of democracy building were wanting: political power structures were personalized, economic institutions or social institutions to hold; no regional environment supportive of such change; and no social forces to act as an agency of change. The nation has emerged from half a century of authoritarian-military rule, inheriting a thorny legacy from devastating wars, crippling sanctions, misrule, mismanagement of command and oil economy, and all-pervasive nepotism and corruption. This condition drained much of the nation’s rich resources, destroyed its once vibrant civil society, personalised institutions of power, and left the national community in a state of hyper-segmentation and crisis of identity.
Following the demise of the Ba’ath regime, a plethora of social, political, institutional and cultural forces was unleashed, some unpredictable and uncontrollable. They all sought to reshape the political order and redefine national integration mechanisms, to redress grievances or retrieve privileges
13- Post-conflict transition was envisaged by the CPA along a liberal model of market-embedded democracy with federal and decentralised structures. While this has opened up a historical opportunity to restructure Iraqi polity, both in its system of governance and as a nation-state, it has also laid bare the pre-existing fracture lines and freed all active and dormant forces of conflict.
14- This endeavour has been severely criticized as being ‘idealist’ and ‘ideological’, rather than ‘pragmatic’, and that it had little understanding of Iraq’s totalitarian regime that rested on weak autonomous social institutions, command economy, corrupt bureaucracy, and a system of oil-financed cheap-services for loyalty. US forces un-preparedness for peace-building has also been largely criticized together with the lack of any meticulous planning. The ad hoc reforms, undertaken by the Coalition Provisional Authority under Ambassador J. Bremer, have been taking the brunt of disparagement. Disregard for regional impact was another gap that did not elude critics’ attention. Transitional politics had been conceived as a smoothly staggered process; they proved too thorny. They went through three major phases, and are poised to enter the fourth, with the announcement of the launch of the New Baghdad Security Plan (14 February 2007). A few words on these phases are not irrelevant.
IV Three Phases and a Fourth:
15- For the sake of simplicity, transition can be divided into three major phases:
Phase one: the CPA’s direct rule (June2003-30 June 2004);
Phase two: transfer of sovereignty and the inception of the interim government under Prime Minister Iyad Alawi (June2004 April 2005);
Phase three: the inception of transitional government under Ibrahim Ja’fari (April 2005-April 2006);
16- The new phase under Prime Minister Jawad Maliki. Each period had its own conflict drivers and conflict reduction strategy.
17- Phase One: US-controlled administration under Bremer The CPA phase was ushered with a series of radical changes that had the multiple objectives of dismantling the old regime (dissolution of the defence and security agencies, information ministry, massive purges under the de-Ba’thification), decentralizing the authoritarian system and liberalizing the economy, all tailored along the US-led radical reform of Nazi Germany and Japan. These drastic and controversial measures created a de facto political vacuum. Prior to the war the ratio of security forces to civilian population was in the region of 34 per 1000; now it dropped to less than 3 per 1000 at a moment when the new condition unleashed a plethora of uncontrollable and indeed unpredictable forces. Intelligence capacity was down tom zero. Unprepared either to keep domestic security or protect the porous borders, the very inception of the CPA signalled loss of sovereignty: the UN resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 authorized the ‘occupying forces’ to rule the country and the CPA officials controlled a reluctant and xenophobic old bureaucracy. The sense of Iraqi disempowerment was felt across the political spectrum, embittering even those forces supportive of the removal of ancient regime. Hostile forces, drawn mainly from the old institutional forces, the deposed ruling party, Islamic nationalists, and foreign fundamentalist groups (of al-Qaeda), initiated their armed campaign to dislodge occupation and block any transition. Amidst chaos, the CPA phenomenally failed to deliver essential public goods (security and services). Plans to create a new army never took off; attempts to build freely elected provincial local governance stumbled in the face of mounting violence.
The country polarised for or against peaceful transition. While the bulk of society was (and may continue to be) more inclined towards peaceful, institutional transition, violent segments escalated their armed activities; the borders between the two trends kept shifting as a result of MNF(I) blunders or insurgency successes.
The CPA easily managed to dismantle the old structures, but was unable to create new ones, let alone putting them firmly in the saddle. The original plan to purge and reform came to a stalemate. And transfer of sovereignty was the first major mid-course correction taken in the hope to reduce drivers of conflict and forge a new way a head. Its main objective was the Iraqization and legitimization of the process. Perhaps the only solid change was the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) which was the basis of the subsequent elections and constitution writing.
18- Phase Two: The interim Government: Iyad Alawi
Mediated by the UN (Lakhdar Ibrahimi) to lend it an international legitimacy, transfer of sovereignty was problematic. Its domestic legitimacy hinged on securing elections and delivering security. It delivered the first, but failed in the second. With eight and a half million defying violence, the electoral feat dealt a political blow to the logic of violence, but had sundry results: it marginalized Sunni representation, over-represented the Shi’i bloc United Iraqi Alliance), and accentuated the need to redress this marginalization, either by more effective participation (the Islamic party) or initiating a sectarian civil war. These two strategies hand over like Damocles’ sowrd.
19- Phase Three: Constituent Elections and the Ja’fari’s Legacy
Ja’afari’s government, the first to result from free elections, was more inclined to majoritarian rule. Its legacy consists of contradictory outcomes: on the positive side, Sunni centrist, or more flexible forces were enthused to partake in the government. The constitutional process was kept on track, followed by referendum and general elections in October and December 2005.
The drafting of the constitution throughout 2005 (until October) was dominated by a Shi’i-Kurdish alliance, giving the Sunnis more impetus to mobilize to fail the referendum and display their power.
On the negative side, the basic law did not enjoy national consensus. The No vote was massive in Sunni provinces (Anbar, Mosul, Salhudin). The inclusion, and empowerment of the Sadr faction in the government helped give it a double voice, one in the militia and street, and one in the government.
Ja’fari’s majoritarian-authoritarian style and his liaisons with Iran won him the wrath of the Kurds, centrists, and the US. His replacement took few months to achieve, during which the Shi’i bloc seemed divided, and a vacuum of central authority was apparent.
The more a critical mass of Sunnis was determined to use the ballot to secure better inclusion in the process, the more Salafi insurgents were bent on their strategy of sectarian war.
20- Leap into the Abyss: Bombing the golden domes in Samara:
The success of the general elections lent a degree of legitimacy to the political process, weakening the political logic of insurgent and weakening their claim to represent the nation. Though the constitutional process was largely monopolized by a Shi’i-Kurdish bloc, it attracted a large Sunni mass to the ballot, in both the October 2005 referendum and the December 2005 first general elections.
Insurgents have shown that they intend and have the capacity to continue to use extreme violence with the aim of disrupting the post-election consolidation of the changed political status quo, with the intention of undermining the reassertion of Iraqi sovereignty through the constitutional process and follow-up elections up to the end of 2005. Their major strategy was less of a national crusade to dislodge foreign forces conceived as evil occupiers than a flagrant sectarian war.
The bombing of the two holy shrines in Samara in February 2006, was a major turning point in their favour. Their success stems from the response in kind offered by their foes. Sectarian cleansing followed unabated in Baghdad and its environs.
21- Failure and retreat:
Sadr’s faction reacted to the bombing of the holy shrines in Samara by stepping up counter sectarian war, causing institutional politics to slip into a competition of extra-legal vengeance, thus serving the very ends of their own adversaries. The new escalation of conflict dealt a heavy blow to the hopes pinned in 2004-5 drive to legitimization through the ballot and the Iraqization of security functions. This further eroded an already weak centrism, and triggered mass exodus of some 1,6 million, mostly middle classers: intellectuals, professionals, businessmen, and technocrats. This was the largest vote against blind violence perpetrated by terrorists, insurgents, militias in the uniform, death squads and criminal underworld.
In sum, If the year 2004 was that of the transfer of sovereignty, and 2005 was the year of legitimization through voting, the 2006 was one of regression into armed civil conflict.
V- Re-examining basic assumptions:
In the deteriorating condition of 2006, the US reviewed its major assumptions
The major assumptions the US had proved erroneous:
· Primary challenge was believed to be an un-differentiated Sunni insurgency; the real challenge proved to be multiple: Sunni and Shi’i extremism, alien terrorism, and mafia underworld.
· Political process was believed to defuse insurgency; but with the flawed constitutional process and majoritarian monopoly, the process exacerbated conflict, causing the moderate centre to rode.
· The Shi’i bloc was believed to have interest in and support of stabilization and keeping a unified Iraq; in reality leaders were in pursuit of their narrow interests.
· Electoral process was believed to attract a critical Sunni mass, but insurgents managed to neutralize this shift by successfully advancing their sectarian strategy.
· Security capacity building was believed to be progressing; this progress proved merely quantitative, compromised by infiltration, corruption and sectarian agendas.
· The public was believed to support efforts to build democracy; the majority however is disillusioned with this effort and demand security and stability first.
· Pursuit of national conciliation was believed to be a one-stand process, it proved elusive and piecemeal.
· Regional powers were believed to be interested in the stabilization of Iraq; in reality they were more geared to support proxies and advance their own agendas.
This list of dichotomies is not in the least exhaustive; it reveals, however, a sober realization of how far actual strategy was oblivious of realities. The Baker-Hamilton report forced an open rethinking; Bush’s new strategy was in fact recognition of failure.
VI- The Contours of Bush’s New Strategy
23. The new Bush’s strategy is not only a change of plan but also of team. Seemingly, the plan is military: i.e. committing additional troops for counterinsurgency effort; in fact it has multi-aspects: political, constitutional, legal and regional.
24. The military aspect:
Campaign will be focused on Baghdad and its environs, and on the Anbar province which is, in the words of the US president, ‘the home base’ of Al-Qaeda.
· A massive military deployment is to penetrate Baghdad ten military sectors, and the 30 miles circle around the capital, to conduct door-to-door search, directly protect citizens, and end forcible cleansing.
· In the Anbar province, a search and destroy campaign will be conducted.
· Troops will have Rules of Engagement (ROEs) free from political and sectarian constraints.
· U.S. formations will be embedded within the Iraqi troops: one brigade in each division.
· The much suspected and yet to be purged police force will be part of this operation.
· Operation will commence in all districts simultaneously, and target all private militias irrespective of sect, religion or political affiliation (on the Shi’I side Sadr’s Mahdi army will be a prime target).
· Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria will be sealed
The objective is to bring to a halt the sectarian war and cleansing that plagued the capital, Baghdad, and to secure some acceptable level of security, to regain, thereby, the diminished public confidence in the central authorities and the U.S, and encourage local communities to take part in their security. .
25- Political, constitutional and legal aspects:
The military phase is meant to be a breathing space to help the government resuscitate national conciliation, the very political condition for security and stability. Once tangible results are to be achieved, presumably by the end of November 2007, the political process could well be set again on track.
National conciliation is basically a strategy for an all-inclusive participatory system to heal the sectarian and other wounds. This is contingent on a number of political and constitutional conditions:
· Implementation of the long-overdue constitutional amendment enshrined in the constitution.
· Reforming the de-Ba’thification laws on legal and pragmatic rather than indiscriminate ideological grounds.
· Passing a legislation to share oil revenues equitably among all Iraqis.
26- Economic and Provincial aspects:
Added to the political military aspects are reconstruction and provincial election:
· A $10 b. is allocated by the Iraqi government on reconstruction and infrastructure to reduce unemployment in beleaguered communities; the US committed $ 1 b. to this end.
· Provincial elections will be held later this year to empower local leaders in a presumably fairly less threatening environment.
Contrary to the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, the centrepiece of Bush’s new strategy is the very old policy of rallying pro-US ‘moderates’ in the region against Iran and Syria, the ‘pariah’ or ‘rouge’ states in the US official jargon. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice initiated the diplomatic effort to build a region-wide anti-Iranian axis (comprising Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt) and build support for the US strategy in Iraq (‘the new unity government’), benefiting from regional concerns over the growing Iranian influence, and the ‘sectarian’ traits marking regional tensions. The US also took military measures in this direction: an additional carrier strike group and patriot air-defence systems have been deployed in the region. Iraq’s borders with Syria and Iran have been sealed effective of 14 February 2007 to signal this new resolve. Turkey’s concerns over problems on its borders with Iraq have also been addressed; the US offered diplomatic brokering in this regard.
Recognizing interconnectivity with the wider Middle East issues, the US seems to initiate a new diplomatic effort to revive the peace efforts.
VII- Limitations and Challenges
28- On the surface, the new strategic package seems neat, interconnected, and plausible; it, however, has loopholes and uncertainties, and may encounter, as it already has, tremendous actual and potential challenges.
29- Limitations of the strategy: The centre piece of this strategy revolves on security first approach. The other pieces in the jigsaw-plan will not fit until the security drive could achieve tangible results. The security campaign itself has political constraints, native, regional and international (including the US politics), and may create unfavourable political condition that would jeopardise its own progress. The timeline is also too tight, and may well set impediments too ramified to surmount (we discuss this aspect further below).
The new campaign has several military, security, organizational and political loopholes.
Soft Targets, redeployment and spreading thin:
The prime targets for insurgents shifted from hard targets, such as the heavily guarded facilities and leaders, the aim of their armed attacks has become what is termed as ‘soft targets’, i.e. ordinary citizens. The protection of ‘soft targets’, i.e. the victims of sectarian cleansing, requires concentration of troops and holding of territories; hence the massive deployment of some 30 mixed brigades in Baghdad and Anbar. But this concentration cannot be effected across the national gamut. The squabble in Baghdad over whether or not to involve the Facility Protection Service in the campaign is an indication of the paucity of troops for the battle of Baghdad. Consequently, citizens, i.e. soft targets, will be left in the open in other ethno-communally mixed regions such as: Diyala, Kirkuk, Mosul or Basra. This quantitative-spatial limitation will not escape the attention of the insurgents; the coalition may face the dilemma of spreading too thin once the insurgents decide to redeploy and spread far and wide towards Mosul, Salahudin and Diyala, which would again render the overstretched US forces ineffective in terms of ‘pursue, purge and protect’ tactic. Security may improve in Baghdad, but could well deteriorate elsewhere, undermining the strategy as a whole. Unless non-Salafi armed groups are engaged and/or neutralized to allow for strong and willing local powerful actors in Anbar, Salahudin, Mosul and Diyala come forward to defy Salafi insurgents, the latter can and will wreak havoc.
30- Time Limits:
The time limit (i.e. November, i.e. nine months from now) set to hand over security tasks to the Iraqi defence and security, implies that this interval should be sufficient to achieve the main security-political objectives, a task suffused with countless uncertainties. The failure to keep the timeline has the potential to backlash, triggering political crisis. Extension of timeline is not inconceivable; other possibilities could and should be explored in advance.
31- Capacity Building:
Nine months would scarcely be an optimum period to heavily equip and train the Iraqi units. Barely could the Iraqi defence forces be battle-ready by that date, nor does any guarantee exist that the current campaign could by then achieve its military targets.
The Iraqi New Army (INA) is largely an infantry based corps, and its transformation into a heavy-armoured formation could take much longer than anticipated, triggering nationalistic emotive misgivings.
32- Purging the Police:
Another risk is the deployment of the much mistrusted police force, notably its commando-style special units infiltrated by insurgents, militias, ‘death squads’ or mafias. In their training of the Iraqi police force, the US military focused on the ‘commando’ units to help face insurgency; the Justice department concentrated on combating crime; this duality deformed the police force, and created a duality of army-police sundry missions. With Baghdad divided between the two by sectors, the unchecked police units got a free hand to carry out private agendas.
A vetting process is a must; but implementation during the campaign is out of question; a gradual approach to vetting may prove necessary and practicable. It could start with legal vetting (e.g. purge ex-convicts) which cannot draw much political opposition; and vetting can continue on a disciplinary basis (e.g. misconduct). Placing the commando style and the facility protection units under the control of the defence ministry might face political obstacles, but could prove healthier. Operational coordination is the best chance to effect this re-organization.
33- Both the army and the police forces will not function properly unless led and organized by professional, career high brass with proven non-partisan record.
34- Leadership challenges: The question whether or not Maliki can hold is not irrelevant. Maliki’s party is squeezed between two powerful Shi’i allies, the rich and resource-abundant SCIRI, and the populist and popular Sadr. In addition to this weakness, Maliki inherited a party divided over his own candidacy for premiership. The execution of the deposed president Saddam Hussein by the end of 2006 bolstered Maliki’s status among Shi’is, Sadr included. In the current campaign to retake control over Baghdad, Maliki had to re-surrender this control, a symbol of sovereignty and patriotism, hedging his bets on security success. The poli tical uncertainties involved in president Talbani’s. ailment and succession, may add to the leadership dilemma.
35- Building parliamentary support is a necessary but extremely difficult task. Much of this consensus building will be contingent on the winning over the support of large swaths the Kurdish, the Shi’i and the Sunni parliamentary blocs. This good can only be secured if the ‘battle for Baghdad’ proceeds successfully, and if norms of impartiality were evident. Such consensus is not a one-stand off; rather it is a constant effort at rallying forces behind every single military, political, economic and constitutional aspects of the process.
36- Dissolving the militias: Sadr, Badr and the others, will be arduous, piecemeal, and long, with possible setbacks and fireback effects. An array of tactics must be handy: re-employment of armed individuals and groups in civil and military jobs, paid-decommissioning, peaceful surrender through mediated effort, crack down, and amnesty. Local dignitaries and communities can and must be engaged.
37- MNF-I operational freedom and decision making and coordination in the current security operation may weaken the government’s national credentials if, on the short run, drastic measures, or indiscriminate raids are carried out without due political consideration. Agitation by the Sadr faction is already in motion in this direction.
38- The national credentials of the government could on the long run be eroded, if and when security proves elusive.
On the short and medium run, the secondary role the New Iraqi army is, or will be, playing could also be politically damaging. Prime Minister Nuri Maliki had already voiced his displeasure at the US reluctance to allow INA to procure heavy armour and other sophisticated wherewithal, echoing a similar criticism by his predecessor, interim PM, Iyad Alawi. While this argument might have served to justify the US presence or increase of forces and the extension of their stay in Iraq, it could also serve as a nationalist rallying cry for full Iraqi monopoly of Iraq’s own legitimate means of violence, i.e. full Iraqi sovereignty.
39- The US argument that infantry is most suited for counter-insurgency operations would not hold for long; it would even deepen the misgivings among the political class over pre-conceived American ‘hidden’ intentions and interests. Shi’i leaders are already blaming the US for security failure, and assert that if Iraqis had security matters in their hands, the balance would have tipped in favour of stability.
40- Moderate Sunni leaders seem more in favour of US prolonged presence to offset what they conceive of as an Iranian-backed Shi’i onslaught to decimate Sunnis, beginning with the Shi’iatization of Baghdad. Most Sunni leaders refer to sectarian cleansing as a ‘Safavid plots’, a reference to age-old Iranian invasion of Ottoman Iraq.
41- Sunni and Ba’ath extremists still hold to the view that the withdrawal of MNF-I would also bring to an end the ‘Shii-Islamic’ government.
42- Presence of the MNF is a major problem: a clear cut commitment to withdrawal pending on the combat-readiness of the Iraqi forces could be politically helpful. Britain’s declaration of future partial withdrawal of troops is an appeasing signal but far from enough. This positive move may encourage a demand for a similar commitment on the part of the US. A clear US commitment to staggered withdrawal could well serve to bolster Maliki’s position and meet some of armed groups’ major demands, notably of the Society of Muslim Ulama under Harith Dhari..
43- Reconciliation is the political pre-condition for retrieving normalcy. A staggered approach with phased workable agendas and clear timeline is required. This should involve setting the general guiding principles, the mechanism-jurisdiction, the dialogue, amnesty, down to inclusion in the government. The constitutional amendments can better proceed as a culmination of the process.
44- Consensus first: In the government three approaches to reconciliation prevail: all inclusive, pragmatic-selective, and ideological approaches. They are contradictory and confrontational. Maliki himself requires more encouragement to give up lukewarm attitudes.
In the violent camp: three strands also exist: fundamentalist Sunni ‘holy’ warriors (al-Qaeda and native Salafis); Institutional and Ba’ath forces, and lastly moderate Sunnis. These imply three different strategies. A self-differentiation between ‘honest resistance’ and others is already part of the insurgents jargon. The US terminology is now differentiating ‘insurgents’ from ‘terrorists’.
45- Mechanism: Together with the Kurds, Vice-president Tariq Hashimi echoes this position of ‘terrorists and the rest’. This is a feasible starting point if a clear-cut position is adopted by workable Shi’i majority: to engage all save al-Qaeda. This could prove the deadlock. Vice-president Adil Abdul-Mahdi is in charge of the reconciliation dossier. His pragmatism may prove crucial for success, but his limited jurisdiction could narrow down expectations.
46- Dialogue can be pursued immediately, partly at the beginning, but ultimately all-inclusive (the conduct of the security campaign can impact in negative or positive way). Interconnectivity is too sensitive to pass over. The largest group is al-Jaish al-Islami, second is Jaysh Muhamad (Ba’ath), and third is Jaysh Thawrat al-Ishreen (of Harith al-Dhari). Other marginal groups exist and act more like sub-contractors. If appeals are attractive, large groups can step in and have the potential to neutralize the peripheral, small groups, however the latter might become nasty. As the New IRA (Northern Ireland) experience shows, splinter groups can be easily isolated and neutralized once the main body of armed insurgents are coopted.
47- Amnesty could be selective-pragmatic, ideological, or legal. A political will to shift to the legal approach is not wanting, but is still vague and definitely weak. Amnesty should be conditional on participation and actual inclusion in the government. The word amnesty itself is too harsh for armed groups, but too lenient in the Shi’i perceptions. A new concept should and could be coined: closure of judicial indictment, or drop of legal pursuit, etc, in return for ‘apology’ or ‘denunciation’ of past atrocities.
Dialogue and amnesty should culminate in or be part of a pact to amend the de-Ba’thification statutes and laws to a legal common ground targeting top leaders indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide.
Pragmatic legalism can be selective with the aim to serve the grand political objective, civil peace, rather than the ideological total rejection of Ba’ath.
The vetting agency should be under the jurisdiction of the judiciary. Almost all political and armed groups on both sides of communal divide have admitted ex-Ba’athists in their ranks, showing self-serving pragmatism, a rational argument for nation-serving pragmatism.
49- Inclusion, broader-based government, can and must be part of any reconciliation pact, and may well be immediately effected in the federal government, and the yet-to-be-established Union Assembly, Constitutional Court, among other state agencies.
50- Provincial elections, scheduled by the end of this year, offers an ample opportunity to broaden this inclusion, notably in beleaguered Sunni provinces, increasing the apparently growing gulf between native peaceful elites, moderate armed groups, on the one hand, and Qaeda fundamentalists on the other hand. In the 2005 referendum and general elections, the former proved strong enough to impose total suspension of armed attacks in their regions. A political breakthrough could encourage a similar attitude in 2007.
50- The current constitution failed to gain national consensus. Not only Sunnis, but also Shi’i factions, and Iraqi centrist nationalists, have objections. Major contentious issues stem from concern over unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, strong centralist proclivities, distribution of resources, and fear of group marginalization.
51- Concerns are aggravated by the institutional and legislative void. More than sixty laws are pending legislation; the Union Assembly, the Constitutional High Court, among many others, are yet to be established.
52- Universal federalism (ethnic for the Kurds and regional for the nine Shi’i provinces) is causing fear among Sunni leaders and centralist groups. The status of Kirkuk is another explosive issue.
53- The dual focal points may exacerbate ethnic (Arabic-Turcoman-Kurdish tensions) and sectarian (Shi’i-Sunni ) relations.
54- Distribution of resources (mineral and otherwise, or current and future resources, is contentious and volatile.
55- Simple majority rule is a source of concern, tension and misgiving and is actually disruptive: the constitution stipulates the end of consociational presidential council, raising alarm among smaller groups in the parliament.
56- Local governance (provincial) is generally accepted, despite some Sunni reservations relative to the wide range of powers provincial governments are constitutionally granted: their control over border guard, their right to federation (pending on referendum), among others.
But local governance holds also promise to empowerment of local elites and militate against over-concentration of power at the centre.
57- Economic reconstruction is a basic precondition to end armed, political violence. With unemployment and underemployment hitting the younger generation hard, mafia and militia ‘informal economy’ (dubbed Baqsheesh- free tip- economy) is highly attractive. Unemployment ranges from over 40% to 12% as the highest and lowest ratio in different provinces.
58- De-regulation, de-subsidizing (fuel and food prices), threaten populist-violent reactions that may derail the ongoing plans
59- Privatization plans of some 200 outdated State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) should be suspended, Rehabilitation of ‘state owned industrial sector on short and medium terms could prove vital to provide for some 400,000 employees who are now surviving on handouts. At a later stage privatization could proceed gradually.
60- Focus on rehabilitating services (electricity, water sanitation, health care) is of paramount importance to improve daily lives and enhance confidence in the new process.
61- The Iraqi $10 b. and the US $1b.funds announced for reconstruction plans may well raise expectations but deliver too little if insecurity, corruption, and mismanagement continue unabated.
62- Current windfall increase in oil prices is both a blessing and a curse: it is unsustainable and collapse of prices may impact severely on Iraq’s economy, with dire political consequences.
63- The $58 b. offered but not yet delivered by world donors should be put to service where plausible, (provincial differentials are too obvious to ignore), should oil prices crash. Or, alternatively, medium and long term plans should be tied to the new process.
Broader Nation-Re-Building Challenges:
64- State formation is focused on building power structures, agencies of defence and law and order, constitutional institution, and bureaucracy. Nation-re-building hinges on power-sharing, consociational, federal or provincial. In the current volatile Shi’i-Sunni relations, defence, interior, and finance portfolios should be technocrat-ized. A federal ‘Civil Service’ agency can and must be founded to ensure de- sectarian-ization of the administration.
65- Conciliation, amnesty, constitutional review should all culminate in furthering inclusion and participation, which falls into four categories:
1 Political inclusion (the cabinet, the parliament, the Union Assembly, the Constitutional Court);
2 Administrative participation (inclusion in the bureaucracy, judiciary)
3 Institutional participation (inclusion in the army, police, and border guards on the basis of the province).
4 Economic participation (Oil Trust Funds, fair budget allocations, distribution of government contracts, etc.)
5 Cultural participation (education, religious endowments )
66-The Middle East is embroiled in at least four major crises: the Lebanese impasse, the Palestine syndrome, the Iranian nuclear dossier, and, of course, Iraq’s conflict.
67- Regional relations are embedded in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Lebanese-Syrian confrontation, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry assuming a sectarian polarization regionwise, and the US-Iranian, US-Syrian tensions.
68- The Saudi diplomacy seems invigorated by a series of diplomatic initiatives: the Mecca conference for Iraq (late 2006), the new Mecca Fateh-Hamas agreement, and the pending Arab summit.
69- The US is geared towards rallying a ‘moderate’ Sunni alliance vis-à-vis Iran and Syria. Its overtures to Turkey are part of this rally. Condoleeza Rice’s new shuttle diplomacy for a breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict serves to consolidate an appeasing regional atmosphere.
70- In this polarization, the Maliki government is more inclined to appease Syria, but to develop good relations with Iran. A conflict of interests and policy is apparent.
71- The danger of sectarian polarization of regional politics has the potential, if exacerbated, to disrupt Iraqi transition even further. And Maliki’s government is painfully aware of this danger. Appeasing and winning over Saudis and Syria may appease and please Iraqi Sunnis but does not in the least guarantee Riyadh or Damascus would stop funding and supporting Sunni insurgency. If endorsed by the Mailki government such a move has the potential to divide the Shi’i bloc at a critical moment in the political process.
Appeasing Iran has thus far been elusive, and may serve to deepen Sunni fears and yet with no guarantee it would pressure Iran into more constructive attitude, given the nuclear dossier is still hot.
72- The regional-international one-day conference held in Baghdad (10 March) signalled a diplomatic recognition of the elected Maliki government, but it fell short of any progress on tackling the roots of the conflict in Iraq. It may, however, constitute a step to continue the process: in the forthcoming Arab summit in Riyadh, if Iran and Turkey attend as observers. A second summit regional-international in Baghdad is under consideration. The momentum must be continued.
73– Progress on the Lebanese and Palestinian-Israeli tracks can pave the way to disengage the Syrian from the Iranian tracks. The two nations are united by common concern over regime security and fear of US pressures; their regional interests are not identical. The differential must translate into well crafted policies that steer clear of new ‘dual containment’ fiasco.
Thoughts in Lieu of Recommendations:
*Defence and Security:
-Provide heavy and sophisticated wherewithal to the |Iraqi army;
-Purge the Police Service; re-link the Special Units and the Border Corps with the defence ministry;
-Expand the army and set admittance in the INA on provincial quotas system, and allow a measure of re-inclusion of old but meticulously vetted military experts;
-Set up a fund for retirement allowances of army, security and intelligence, legally cleared ( or amnestied) veterans.
* Federal Authority:
-Set a clear commitment to check majoritarian tendencies at the federal level (the presidential council, the quorum in the national assembly, the system of decision making: i.e. presidential endorsement, etc); reassert consociational mechanism: presidential veto; two thirds quorum in the assembly, and other mechanisms.
- amend constitution to meet safeguard these mechanisms.
* Prepare plans and initiate negotiations to set up the Union Assembly, the Constitutional Court and Oil Allocation agency in 2007; and use these instiutions as leverage for wider, more meaningful inclusion.
- Discuss contingencies should a power-vacuum m arise.
* Reform de-Ba’thification laws on the basis of legal rather than ideological norms, and allow a measure of pragmatic application; abolish the de-Ba’thification committee; and entrust the task to the judiciary;
*Establish a nationwide agency for civil service with norms of equity for employment, using the provincial quota system for a start;
*Re-inclusion of old technocrats and bureaucrats in the administration on the basis of merit backed by legal clearance approved by judicial authorities.
Oil and mineral wealth:
· Fair distribution of the proceeds of all current and future mineral resources among all provinces: create a trust fund in which all proceeds are deposited: deduct federal, regional and provincial taxes by law’; distribute a net of 20-25% of oil revenues directly to all 18 year-old Iraqis through citizens fund.
· Ensure individual share is not tied to the individual’s birth place, rather it should move and transfer to his province of residence, allowing free movement of both individuals and their revenue shares.
* Focus immediately on the long-overdue constitutional amendment: the current constitution stipulates this amendment should Have been finalized within six months from the formation of Maliki’s government.
- Bring diverse constitutional experts from all strands of opinion, rather than politicians;
-Proceed in a staggered fashion and avoid premature publicity;
- Amendments should follow a thorough examination and exchange of views to reformulate controversial articles:
-Give priority to solve the easy issues to build confidence and hopes;
-Move to thorny issues: the southern federalism, Iraq’s identity, power-sharing, among others.
Business and technocratic classes:
-Rehabilitate the business classes and facilitate the gradual reversal of their flight to neighbouring countries;
-Distribute government contracts evenly and fairly by introduction of transparency measures, and parliamentary approval or monitoring.
-Bring technocrats and middle class professionals back from neighbouring countries, and engage them in the constitutional referendum and electoral processes.
Proceed with national conciliation with the largest groups down to the smallest in a staggered fashion, once major changes are discussed or halfway through;
Keep the fine lines that separate ‘insurgents’ from ‘terrorists’, which is echoed by ‘the resistance’ lot who differentiate ‘honest’ from dishonest ‘resistance (muqawama sharifa). Further differentiation is required to set the institutional from extremist forces covered by the term ‘insurgents’. Dialogue should continue under all circumstances.
This requires further refinement of institutional from fundamentalist and alien group
-Keep the momentum of the Baghdad conference, and strike a balance between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand, and Iraq-Syria, on the other hand. Pay due attention to the interconnectivity between domestic and regional politics. Proxies and regional patrons will always use each other to further their agendas.
- The Iraqi government engagement of neighbours should not be thwarted by drastic international measures.
In strategic terms, the resolution of conflict is likely to come through the construction of a democratic, pluralistic, federal decentralised polity with broader participation and consociational checks and balances. The crucial social basis for such a polity is the trans-communal, trans-ethnic urban middle classes, freed from state patronage and embedded in market economy, and consequently delivered from the narrow confines of particularistic identity politics. [ on the short term, an alliance of the Moderates will be a necessary phase before a pan-Iraqi centrist bloc could emerge. This is a strategic choice whose foundations will take a decade or so to establish.