"Conflict in Iraq: Socio- Economic, Cultural Political Dynamics"
Draft Paper for ESCWA- November-December 2009
[This paper relies on the data base of the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Conflict Assessments carries out by the author in 2004-5, 2006-7, and 2008-9. No reproduction or citation without previous written authorization from the author or the IIST. © All rights reserved. Not part of this publication may be reproduced stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronics, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing of the author or the IIST]
Faleh A. Jabar (Ph. D. Political Sociology, Director of Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies- IIST)
CONCEPTS AND OVERVIEW
I-Introduction: Conceptual Framework
1 With the seventh anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq few months ahead, Iraq’s transition to normalcy- meaning peaceful, legitimate institutional politics- is still threatened by the spectres of a failed state with inter- and intra-communal uncivil war or violence, mafia lawlessness, and a communitarian type of Islamist fundamentalism. But there is a ray of hope for normalcy as a moderated type of communitarian democracy.
2 Iraq and the broader Middle East seem to have been embroiled in multiple conflicts, actual or dormant, involving states and sub-state actors, and verging on civil war condition. The Iraqi case may have been the most obvious example; but the cases of Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, or Afghanistan, are further evidences. Basically, these involve a contest over the levers of power and resources, but they have multi-dimensional, national, communal, sectarian, ethnic, tribal and ideological-political character conditioned by regional and global contexts.
3 In the Iraqi as in other conflicts a plethora of actors, native, regional and global are involved. Native actors or groups are ethnic (Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian), religious (Muslim-Christian), sectarian (Shi’i-Sunni), tribal, regional (South, West, north) or social (urban poor, middle classes, etc.) Grievances, both of the past or present, stem from several sources of political, economic, social, cultural and other factors that are, in most cases, intricately interwoven. Discourses of protest or representations of grievances are more and more expressed in the idiom of sub-national identity politics, in contradistinction to the old ideological representations of class and nation.
Actors, grievances, factors, discourses and identity politics are historical products of national histories of the past and national contexts of the present.
4 National history and national context revolve on nation-building and state formation. The term nation-building denotes the inclusion of various ethnic, communal and cultural groups into a unitary state; whereas the term state-formation refers to constructing/reconstructing the political system, or agencies of legitimate governance, such as the administration, the legislature, (representative institutions), agencies of violence, the judiciary and the like.
5 Nation-building and state formation’ are intertwined, yet they are different. The differentiation between the two processes is crucial for any sound analysis of conflict in Middle Eastern contexts, and perhaps beyond. The ambiguity of using one term to denote the state as a system of governance, and the state as representative of national community, essentially stems from the fact that state formation and nation building are congruent in ethnically homogenous societies. Not so in multi-ethnic ones, where each of the two aspects has its own form, logic and structure, overlapping notwithstanding.
6 The context of conflict and violence in Iraq - past, current and potential - is complex and dynamic. The realisation of a more stable Iraq, of reconstruction, development, and democracy, must be based on building a sustainable peace. Understanding the drivers of conflict and how interventions may act to reduce conflict or inadvertently exacerbate tensions (or both) in the transition process is crucial to this goal.
7 The prospects for the transition developing along a more, or less violent trajectory will be determined by the divergence or convergence of native and regional perceptions of, and interests in, equitable nation building, legitimate state formation and stabilisation.
8 The methods applied by the elected Iraqi Government and its international civil and military backers in pursuing these outcomes will also be crucial.
9 This paper examines the forms and modalities of current conflict in Iraq, its root causes, actors, discourses within the context of Iraq’s national history and the ongoing process of nation-building ,state formation, and stabilization.
II-General View of the Conflict
1- Following the US-led invasion of Iraq and the demise of the totalitarian Ba’ath regime in April 2003, a plethora of social, political, institutional and cultural forces was unleashed, some unpredictable and uncontrollable. They sought and continue to seek to reshape the political order and redefine national integration mechanisms, to redress grievances or retrieve privileges.
2- Post-conflict transition was envisaged by the CPA along a liberal model of market-embedded democracy with consociational 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, and invigorated drivers of conflict.
3- The CPA phase (May 2003-June 2004) was characterised by a bitter sense of Iraqi disempowerment, absence of sovereignty, and gradual loss of faith in the CPA to deliver essential public goods (security and services).
4- Iraq has emerged from half a century of authoritarian-military rule, inheriting a thorny legacy from devastating wars, crippling sanctions, misrule, mismanagement 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.
5- Iraqization and legitimating of the new polity overseen by the US-led coalition, proceeded as mid-course corrections of US blunders: transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) under Ambassador Paul Bremer (May 2003-June 2004), to an interim Iraqi government under Prime Minister Iyad Alawi, and the interim president Gjhazi Yawir. The electoral process in January 2005 ushered Iraq into the first elected government under PM Ibrahim Ja’fari. The constitutional process followed, culminating in national referendum. Constitution was endorsed despite strong Sunni opposition against a basic law written mainly, but not exclusively by Kurdish and Shii Islamic groups. A second general election, with broader participation, ended with the inception of a new cabinet under Nuri Maliki (Da’wa party), and a consociational three-member presidential that wields veto powers.
6- Conflict overshadowed the process of Iraqization and legitimisation of the newly-forming polity as pursued by the US-led coalition. While the bulk of society was (and continues to be) more inclined towards peaceful, institutional or street politics, violent segments have continued their actions, shifting the borders between the two inclinations as a result of MNF(I) blunders or insurgency successes.
7- Prior to the US-led invasion, ethno-communal, social, economic and political grievances were reactions against the state as the main actor, and regulator and owner of the bulk of social wealth (oil). Subsequently, these grievances were shifted against the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). With the creation of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) in July 2003, the transfer of sovereignty in Jun 2004, and the inception of an elected government in 2005, grievances gradually took on a more direct inter and intra ethno-communal character. Grievances were also directed against the Multi-National Forces Iraq (MNF(I)) which is conceived by some native actors as a decisive agency of change, as an obstacle to their agendas and hence as a key actor to influence positively or negatively. It is notable that the majority of these native forces are competing to get into the political system through peaceful institutional or ‘street’-politics.
8- By contrast, institutional forces of the old state, ex-Ba’th, and Sunni fundamentalist groups (native and alien), conceive of change as a zero-sum game. Militarised violence conducted by these two major groups is a major challenge to stabilization and transition. Criminal violence is also widespread, heavily armed, and overlaps with the militarised political violence through contracted crime.
9- In addition, Shi’i militias of Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi led by Muqtada al-Sadr) Badr Corp (a proxy of the Majlis al-Islami al-‘Ala fil ‘Iraq of Aziz al-Hakim), and other Shi’i messianic (Mahdawiya) armed groups, disrupted security and played different roles in challenging the US-led coalition forces, the elected governments, in Shi’i-Sunni armed conflict, or in Shi’i-Shi’i inter-fight. These forces had one foot in peaceful institutional, another in violent extra-institutional politics.
10- At the heart of conflict is a defence of or protest against the new distribution of political, economic and social power cast in large communal blocs: Shi’is, Sunnis and Kurds; at the heart of it is also a contest over supremacy within each community.
LEGACY OF THE PAST
I- Political Background of Conflict
1- Historically, Iraq was a territorial state in search for nation-hood of an agrarian society fragmented by multi-ethnicity and multi-religious society. Under the monarchy (1921-1958) the state was run by two main native forces: firstly, the diverse landlord class which enhanced the national integration of all the agrarian segments of society; and, secondly, the military-bureaucratic elite who were mostly drawn from the Sunni Ottoman institutions. Both landlords and military-bureaucrats developed common interests and blended under the monarchy.This class was multi-ethnic and multicultural, and as such served all-inclusive nation-building.
2- Revolutionary, middle class-military regimes (1958-68), by contrast, improved representation of modern urban classes, but disrupted national integration institutions, creating disparities between regions and ethno-cultural communities. Ba’th (1968-2003) rule destroyed mechanisms of inclusion and participation. All post-monarchy regimes reproduced a centralist monopoly in favour of northern/western provinces led by provincial-rural lower middle strata, at the expense of old upper classes and wealthy Aghas and Sheikhs in central, northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shi’i) ones, as well as the broader upper and middle classes.
3- Under the ancient Ba’th regime (1968-2003), the single party system and mono-ideology rendered large swaths of the Kurds and the Shi’is politically marginalised. There was no meaningful representation of either group in political institutions: the old Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was a predominantly Ba’th-Sunni body, so were the Ba’th cabinets and the four controlled national assemblies (parliaments). Inclusion was limited, selective and totally controlled by the ruling elite. This triggered sub-national identity politics and a crisis of national identity.
4- An estimated 80% of the officer corps was Sunni, whereas more than 80% of the soldiery was Shi’i. Only Arabized Kurds were admitted to the military. Parts, but not all, civil administration were perhaps the only outlets of broader, trans-communal (ethnic and religious) inclusion throughout the Ba’th period (1968-2003).
5- Secular Ba’th ideological hegemony targeted and weakened the Shi’i informal and autonomous religious institution; Shi’i rituals and religious taxes came under particular pressure, exacerbating a sense of religious-sectarian oppression. Kurdish Sufi orders were politically co-opted and manipulated (the Qadiriya) or weakened (pro-Barzani Naqshabandiya).
6- As a rentier state with command economy, political exclusion produced economic disparities between regions, groups and communities, and exacerbated grievance couched in the sectarian and ethnic conceptions and idiom. Disparities between regions and communities are more dangerous than class inequalities.
7- All in all, political, economic, social and cultural participatory and inclusive mechanisms and spaces were dominated by a state agency bent on total hegemony, with a ruling elite relying on a very narrow social base of kin and comrade. The pretence of national unity was shattered in 1991, following the south-north uprisings.
II-Rise and Fragmentation of Identity Politics
1- The dynamics of identity politics in post-conflict transition in Iraq has been and continues to be crucial in motivating and forming the multi-layered conflicts that shape the new political order of the state in both aspects of state formation and nation-building.
2- Iraq’s particular strands of identity politics is best grasped in a comparative outlook with the nature of other identity politics elsewhere. For example, in the Ex-Soviet Union and ex-Yugoslavia the official and declining socialist and internationalist ideologies were gradually replaced by the promotion of nationalism that soon caged the power struggle into ethnic infighting, once the central authority and central command economy melted down. In Iraq by contrast, failure of socialist-nationalism had a different trajectory. Throughout 1990s up to 2003, religion and tribalism were encouraged, and their networks and informal institutions rehabilitated by state patronage. In the Diaspora, Shi’i Islamist parties have been developing their own strand of sectarian-fundamentalist version of identity since the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979. Once the single-party system and the command-rentier economy collapsed, tribe and religion emerged across the Arabic parts of Iraq.
3- In the Kurdish region, Kurdish ethnic identity politics, embedded in a de facto local statelet since 1991, invited responsive identity politics on the part of the Assyrians-Chaldeans and Turkmen, thus spreading new forms of social and political action.
4- Thus in the early phases of post-conflict transition, grand communal identity politics among Shiites and Sunnis began to crystallize catching up with the previous grand ethnic identities of Kurds, Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrians that had taken shape in 1990s.
5- The rise of identity politics created novel and complex dynamics that overshadowed post-war transition. While the Kurdish identity was as old as the inception of the Iraqi nation-state, Shiite and Sunni identity politics is fairly new. Cultural differences existed, but politicization began in the mid 1970s, grew under the impact of the 1979 Iranian revolution, and expanded throughout the sanctions year (1991-2003), but militarized after 2004.
6- Identity politics is not fission free. The holistic political blocs, based on identity, sustained a measure of disunity and/ or degeneration (Sunnis and Shi’is, and to a lesser extent the Kurds), caused by particularistic group interests of tribe, clan, class, city, ideology and other fracture lines. Thus new actors emerged and patterns of voting and alliances also modified, with continued polarization of communal/sectarian, ethnic, tribal and class mobilization, and fragmentation of sectarian, communal/ethnic tribal and class blocs at one and the same time.
7- Identity and sub-identity created pluralistic socio-political chaos of unique pattern of hyper segmentation involving a Hobbsian ‘war of all against all’ in political and electoral terms.
MAPPING THE CONFLICT
I Security Dimension
Since the controversial CPA order to dissolve agencies of violence (the formations of the defence and the interior ministries of the old regime as early as June 2003, security, both national and domestic, has been and will continue to be the central problem for the newly-elected authorities and the Multi National Forces-Iraq (MNF—I). State monopoly over the means of violence is a basic precondition for governance and sovereignty.
A mixture of intense political and criminal militarised violence has created a highly insecure environment, disrupted services and oil production, incurred huge national loss (estimated between $12 b.-$15 b. in the period under consideration), caused dislocation of an estimated 850,00o, and exodus into neighbouring countries of some 2.25 m, and brought reconstruction almost to a standstill. The years 2006-7 saw a mini Shi’i-Sunni civil war and a number of local wars of supremacy in the Shi’i southern provinces, involving Sadr-led Mahdi Army and Hakim-led Badr militia.
Criminal violence has been no less problematic. Some 200,000 ex-convicts had been released prior to the invasion, with 30,000 who were either on death row or serving life sentences. The criminal underworld is organised in mafias, specialised in oil smuggling, drugs, bank robbery, forgery, kidnapping and assassination.
An added element of the insecure environment is the presence of tribal warlords, tribal gangs, and private or political militias. While some of these have the potential for serving either as auxiliary paramilitaries or of being incorporated in institutional security structures, they still pose an actual or a potential threat.
The country has been left awash with arms (4.5 million pieces from the old army), and the culture of violence is deep rooted in a militarised society stricken by poverty and weak governance.
At the beginning, counter-insurgency replaced peace-building and reconstruction as the Coalition’s immediate priority (2003-5). The Iraqization of security functions was accelerated (2005), and capacity-building was adjusted from an initial focus on the military, to an emphasis on law-enforcement, and subsequent re-adjustment back towards developing a more robust military counter-insurgency capacity (2006), and only recently (2009), a new shift towards enhancement of national defence capacity.
Divided loyalties, a degree of infiltration by insurgents, intimidation, and (in the case of the police) corruption, reduce the capabilities and efficacy of security agencies.
The combined ratio of native and MNF(I) security forces is still far behind a regional average of 30 per 1000 per head of population, and a national average of 34 per 1000 under the old regime, which could not, even at that level, control effectively the Arabic parts of the country (i.e. excluding the Kurdish de facto autonomous region). Whilst regional ratios should not be taken to imply optimal levels, it is clear that the current numbers of security personnel have remained throughout the period 2003-9 well below those necessary to maintain law and order to reasonable levels of security.
The Iraqi ex- and current Ministers of Interior have estimated that around 40% of the police force is unreliable. Desertion and/or disobedience against fighting under foreign command lowered the morale of the INA. Only a few units seemed cohesive and consistent. Another handicap to effective security is weak intelligence; capacity in this area is being rehabilitated almost from scratch in terms of manpower, data-base and infrastructure.
As it stand now Iraq’s military capacity (army) and law enforcement capacity (police) run into 220,000 and 450,000 respectively against a 30 million or so of population; the obtaining security to civilian around 2.2% or 22 per one thousand.
Political and criminal violence is, however, likely to continue to overshadow the political process although on a gradually diminishing scale. Reduction is contingent on growing security capacity, among other factors.
II Socio-Political and Institutional Dimensions
Post-conflict transition was envisaged by the CPA along a liberal model of market-embedded democracy with consociational and decentralised structures. While this has opened up an 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 in a political and security void.
Following the demise of the totalitarian Ba’th regime, a plethora of social, political, institutional and cultural forces was unleashed. They sought to reshape the political order and redefine national integration mechanisms, to redress grievances or retrieve privileges.
These forces were dominated by a multitude of incompatible Islamist, nationalist notions with conflicting interests that ran counter to the US-led CPA liberal conception of market-democracy. Kurds were for federalism, Shi’i Islamist groups were for majority rule (demography=democracy), Sunni forces and old institutional groups were for retrieval of supremacy or of equal representation.
The CPA restructured the political system along decentralized and federal lines. Three levels of government were created: the central (=federal) administration in Baghdad regional government in the Kurdish region, and local governments in the provinces. This arrangement still holds to this very day, enshrined in the US-sponsored Transitional Administrative Law of March 2004, and reinstated in the constitution of 2005 written and endorsed by the elected Iraqi constituent assembly.
Early Polarization of Conflict Issues
This major process of nation-building was the effect and cause of profound historical conflicts: centralism vis federalism (Arabs versus Kurds), centralization vis decentralization (Iraqi authoritarian centralists versus US liberalism and rising local forces) involving fierce contests over slices of power and, in a rentier-state condition, economic resources: oil. And as such, it was a formidable obstacle to state-formation: the re-construction of the agencies of power: the cabinet, presidency, parliament, army and police, a rendering the latter a protracted, painful and macabre process.
Decentralisation empowered local governance in the provinces and weakened the potential authoritarian tendencies of the central government, but exacerbated periphery-centre polarisation (e.g. Basra). In the security void, decentralisation had the potential to empower local mafias and warlords at the expense of enhancing the institutional basis of the rule of law and civil society empowerment.
Reducing Central Authoritarianism
With the growing security capacity, decentralized provincial power structures has the potential to curb authoritarian tendencies at the centre, and offer local communities the opportunity to run their affairs freely.
Attempts by the executive power (the government) to reverse decentralisation have an authoritarian potential, and have already accentuated tensions between the centre and the periphery. The conflict, however, is embedded in institutional-constitutional processes.
The institutional reforms initiated by the CPA and continued by subsequent native governments, while essential to establishing the rule of law, empowering civil society and enhancing democratic transformation, were approached in broad-brush enterprise, as to act as a strong driver of conflict over the short-medium term.
Negative Perceptions of Restructuring :
The formation of the Iraqi Governing Council (ICG), (13 July 2004) and the interim government under Iyad Alawi (July 2004-2005) on a communal-quota basis invited the first reaction by the Muslim Ulema Council (MUC), at present led by Dr. Harith al-Dhari, which denounced the communal composition of the IGC rather than its formation per se. An interesting passage in their communiqué reads:
“ [T]he Governing Council divided the Iraqi people on a sectarian basis and gave a certain sect the absolute majority…with no accurate consensus to support this claim…The community that was given the majority status does not - with all due respect - represent the absolute majority…Previous statistics show that Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen Muslims constitute more than 50% of the population.”
Much of the Sunni-embedded violence has been generated by perceptions of majority rule as an unfavourable mono-empowering scheme; whereas consociationalism (i.e. the very arrangement envisaged to protect minority rights and balanced communal inclusion), was distorted by the very method of forming the ICG and, to some extent, the interim government. Both of these institutions were seen to represent the ‘sinister’ plans of the occupying powers.
III Economic Dimensions
Aid donors and the Iraqi authorities have rightly viewed the security situation as a severe constraint on economic reconstruction; they also rightly admit that the lack of economic rehabilitation is a contributing factor to current violent conflict, and increased risk of spreading violence if the population does not perceive real improvements in their economic conditions.
Accelerated economic reconstruction and reform have the potential to dampen down existing grievances and reduce the propensity towards violence, particularly among those who are less politically/ideologically motivated, and hence weaken the popular support bases for those who seek to mobilise support for violence through the manipulation of economic grievances and frustrations.
General View of the Economy
Three wars, over a decade of international sanctions, political repression, costly militarization and pervasive state intervention have dislocated the Iraqi economy. The consequence was a severe deterioration in Iraq’s human development indicators, which had exceeded the average for the region only two decades previously (GDP per capita dropped from over $4000 in the early 1980 to as low as $200 in the mid 1990s).
Oil Dependency: Rentierism
From the 1980s, the structure of the Iraqi economy was shaped by increasing reliance on the oil sector, unsustainable expansion of non-productive service sectors (particularly the military), the continuing decline of productive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing industry, the collapse of productive investment in non-military connected economic activities, unaccountable political and bureaucratic control, and an overvalued currency which accentuating the rentier features of the Iraqi economy.
Command Economy and Private Sector
Unlike the command economies of the Soviet type, Iraq had a mixed economy with a substantial private sector that employed more than 70% of the workforce. However, most of the jobs were in the informal economy that developed rapidly during the 1990s. In the formal economy, the private sector was heavily dependent on government expenditure and subsidies. The state sector controlled oil revenues, around 200 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and prices of refined oil products, and distributed food rations as a placatory measure to virtually all Iraqis, absorbing a substantial part of the state budget.
On the eve of the war, the Iraqi economy was already in very poor shape: high unemployment (18% according to underestimated official figures in 1997 and between 40-50% according to international estimates); deteriorated infrastructure; a rentier-state welfare mentality; ageing state-owned enterprises and obsolete capital equipment; inefficient bureaucracy undermined by wide-scale corruption; a heavily diminished human capital base due to a low quality education system and the outflow of qualified people,; accentuated regional economic imbalances; an unsustainable foreign debt; and the near absence of a well-defined structure of corporate governance and property rights.
Though military operations in Spring 2003 and subsequently caused limited damage to the infrastructure compared to the 1990-1991 war, post-conflict looting and the continued sabotage of oil, power and water facilities have effectively neutralised Coalition/government efforts to avoid damaging the infrastructure (as well as progress that might have been expected in improving such services beyond their March 2003 levels).
Reform and Debt
In the difficult conditions created immediately after the war, economic reconstruction was conceived by the CPA and the IIG with double-embedded objectives: rebuilding productive capacities in the goods and services sectors, and introducing structural market-oriented economic reforms.
The sensitivities of economic reform are intensified by the question of debt and repayments. UN Security Council Resolution 1483 attempted to immune Iraq’s oil revenues and assets from debt collections until December 31, 2007. This resolution did not, however, mention or address the issue of interest accrual on outstanding debts. Iraq, with a debt of $120bn, is the largest per capita debtor in the world. It still has to pay reparations as a result of the war with Kuwait in 1991. This currently stands at $33bn, but there is a further $71.6bn of claims pending decision or in unprocessed claims. The issue of debt overhang (including possibly repayments through reparations) is a vital one if sustainable development is to be secured. In September 2004, the IMF obtained assurances from all Iraq’s major creditors, including the complete Paris Club, that a moratorium on debt and interest payments would be extended to December 2005, and this was followed by the Paris Club decision in November 2004 to cancel over a period of 10 years 80% of the debt it is owed by Iraq. This amounts to around $33bn, and the decision may encourage other creditors to follow suit. However, this relief will still be subject to IMF conditionality. Whilst the Paris Club decision was fully endorsed by the Iraqi authorities, reservations were expressed by Iraqis over the IMF conditionalities attached to the agreement, and opposition may grow once serious steps are taken in that direction.
With the collapse of non-oil economic activities and their unlikely recovery over the short and medium term, Iraq’s oil industry is expected to generate the bulk of government revenues needed for reconstruction and debt repayment. However, considering the fluctuating production capacity and the burdens of debt and compensation, oil revenues cannot provide any more than government resources needed to fund essential services, civil service salaries and other operating expenses in the budget. Therefore, foreign aid and foreign investments will be the major source of funding for economic and institutional reconstruction.
Shortages of petroleum products and corruption in their distribution have become a major source of discontent. Huge sums are being allocated to finance their import from neighbouring countries in order to meet rising domestic demand for gasoline as restrictions on car imports were lifted and as the domestic refineries and feed and distribution pipelines have been unable to meet increased consumption, the latter as a result of frequent sabotage.
Involvement of the private sector, both national and foreign, in the economy as a whole will be essential since public resources are inadequate to provide the needed volume of investment in the foreseeable future. However, the extent to which private capital can seriously contribute to restoring Iraq’s infrastructure in the foreseeable future remains unclear.
Economic Cost of Insecurity
The deterioration of the security situation impacts the economy in multiple ways:
· It raises production costs and diverts reconstruction resources to non- productive activities.
· It deals a serious blow to reconstruction efforts, forcing existing foreign enterprises and NGOs to leave Iraq, dissuading prospective foreign investors from bringing much needed capital and sharing reconstruction risks, impeding the rehabilitation of existing production capacities and destroying newly created ones. Thus insecurity imposes a physical constraint on the entry of foreign contractors to the country and hampers the resumption of normal economic activity.
· Insecurity causes severe shortages in the production of public services, particularly electricity, and in oil products, generating pervasive black market and other illegal activities. These shortages and their ensuing consequences in terms of deteriorating living conditions, lower purchasing power and growing discontent, erode public confidence in the government and the political process. It thus comforts and reinforces the message of radical and fundamentalist opposition groups.
However, though security concerns remain serious, Iraq’s economy has not been totally crippled by violence, and small trade businesses have been able to grow and thrive despite domestic unrest. This is largely due to the reforms discussed below. A tangible rise in government salaries has improved the living standards of some three million employees and more than one million pensioners. The previous basic salary of government employees was $5 per month.
Among the market-oriented reforms started by the CPA and followed by both the interim government, the transitional government and elected governments, the reforms of the currency and financial system have yielded positive results by successfully changing and stabilising the currency and introducing accepted standards in the banking sector. On the other hand, the autonomy of the Central Bank remains only grudgingly accepted by the executive power. Most reforms have been institutional, steering clear from a destabilising shock therapy approach.
Growth, Unemployment Differentials and Corruption
Growth in the post-conflict period from April 2003 to September 2004 was high (in the range of 55% to 65%), thanks largely to a windfall increase in oil prices, but also as a result of monetary stability and increased trade and commerce. However, the IMF put growth in 2004 at around 52%, falling to an estimated 17% in 2005. While unemployment rates dropped relative to 2003, differential local averages show alarming disparities between provinces. Regional disparities and inequalities are more dangerous than inequalities between social classes in the conflictual political transition. The highest regional unemployment rate is in Thi Qar province (46.2%), the lowest are in Karbala and Najaf (14% and 18% respectively). Moving to the Sunni areas, Anbar, Mosul and Diyala are the most affected: 33.3%, 31.2%, and 31.2% respectively. This situation will feed into radical politics, insurgency and communal grievances.
Corruption has become systemic and is draining resources and eroding confidence in the interim/transitional authorities and the transitional process altogether.
The Political Price of Oil Rentierism
Iraq’s oil rentierism and command/mixed economy have ambivalent effects relative to conflict. Iraq’s command economy structure is tied to state-led development under dominant communal elites and a ‘consent for cheap services/employment’ social contract. The state has been, and may well continue to be for some time to come, the largest single owner-employer, and the largest single producer-investor, but it cannot sustain that role. This involves a strategic risk.
Lastly, oil rentierism must be examined from strategic political perspectives. Oil rentierism has been the political economy of authoritarianism. Under the monarchy a Development Board and the parliament had some control over the allocations of oil revenues. Without some checks and balances on oil, unrestricted authoritarian tendencies are at risk of developing. Oil is also at the heart of the dispute over Kirkuk, and is a major factor stimulating federalist tendencies in the south.
The Business Classes
Shi’i and Kurdish businessmen who had their assets confiscated or were previously excluded from state contracts are now in the process of reintegrating into the business class. Multi-party coalition in the government has rendered state economic patronage, which had formerly been monopolised by a few, fragmented. This fragmentation of economic monopoly has allowed wider access to resources, economic and otherwise, across the business classes. Some of the previously privileged elites are now suffering from the loss of their monopoly, which is feeding into wider grievances. Not until state agencies are ‘re-institutionalised’ can this patronage system be ended, to allow for a more integrated business class to mature.
Cultural and Social Dimensions
The politicisation of ethnic, communal and cultural identities is both a cause and effect of conflict. This politicisation is the result of half century or so of the destruction of all-inclusive and participatory mechanisms, replaced, as they were, by a coercive system of selective inclusion, and personal patronage.
Ethnic, communal and sectarian fracture lines pre-dated the inception of the Iraq nation-state. At present, they are focused on the distribution of and securing access to power, economy and resources. This contrasts sharply with the ideological politics of the 1950s and 1960s. But this apparent shift from ideological to identity politics could be misleading at first, if it is abstracted from other aspects of sociological realities, and second, if the inner divisions of identity politics are not examined. An examination of the social dynamics of conflict needs to go beyond the trichotomy of Kurds-Shi’is-Sunnis to take into account four major components of Iraq’s composite and transitional society, which produce significant complexity in the dynamics of conflict and approaches to managing them.
The first aspect is the existence of a pan-Iraqi national identity cemented by a long and shared history of revolutions, wars, and cultural spaces (educational system, art, literature) and collective institutions (army, bureaucracy). Even under Ba’th rule, the Ba’th party had to sacrifice some of the basic themes of its Pan-Arabist discourse in favour of ‘Iraqi’ patriotism, invoking pre-Islamic history (Babylonian, Somerian and Akadian history), or pre-Islamic tribal discourses. On the negative side, this nationalism is xenophobic (including against Iraqi exiles), invoked between 1980-2003 successively against Iran, Israel and the West. On the positive side, it has trans-communal potency, embedded in urban life, middle-class values and lifestyles, business interests and shared institutions (education, army, bureaucracy). Iraqi nationalism is nowadays widely invoked in response to the politicisation of various sub-national identities, but also, while more narrowly so, against the occupation.
The second aspect often neglected in analysis, policy-making and strategic assessment, is the development of cross- or trans-community modern social forces, such as upper business classes, middle classes (professionals, technocrats) and industrial working classes (forming some 2%, 54% and 18% or urban populace). These groups have their own interest-based associations, leagues and unions, and are the main reservoirs of civility and economic-oriented action. Profit has no ethnicity or creed. It is universal. Exclusion from economic participation can become couched in the idiom of identity politics if this exclusion, as indeed is the case in Iraq, is the result of group discrimination (in particular the case of discrimination against Shi’i merchants). But the assertion of economic interest is bound to be trans-communal. It is embedded in the economics of the market, of monetary and fiscal policies, in investment and protection of property rights. No market can function properly without consolidation of the rule of law.
The third aspect is clan or tribe-based social structures. This segment plays a crucial role in preventing or mediating conflicts; in other cases it gets involved in violence, or in mafia-like highway robbery. The tribal world is formed from three different structures: 1) the ‘tribe’ per se in the countryside; 2) tribal associations which urban social movements, and 3) tribal chieftains, who figure as a bridge between 1 and 2.
The fourth aspect is local identities that commonly take the form of city solidarity. Local identities reflect the social diversity and regional disparities in any given community, which is anchored in diverging interests, uneven development and cultural cleavages.
All these aspects cut across ethnic and communal identity politics lending the latter a fractured structure. This has two results: reducing the power of sectarian-communal identitiy politics; and multiplying socio-political actors beyond any comprehensive unifying framework.
V- Representations by the Media
Nowhere have regional media been such an integral part of conflict as in Iraq. Bereft of any medium of communication other than state-controlled media (in 2003), Iraq fell completely under the influence of regional media networks, which were hostile to ‘Operation Iraq Freedom’, as indeed was the public in the region at large. Motivated by ideology (Islamism, Arabism) or regional interests (Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia), these networks came out more or less strongly in opposition to peaceful transition, and were clearly supportive of political violence. TV networks such as al-Jazeera (Qatar), al-Arabiya, MBC (both Saudi), Al-‘Alam (Arab-speaking Iranian network), Al-Manar (of Hizbullah in the Lebanon), almost dominated the public media space in Iraq, determining not only the focus of coverage but more importantly the public’s perceptions of it.
The overnight deregulation of the media sector lead to a rush to install satellite dishes, connecting Iraq’s public to the outside world. But it had no national networks by which to put through a multi-vocal message.
Under the sustained impact of regional media, violent discourses were successfully integrated into the political public discourse in Iraq. Such framing lent legitimacy to political violence and acts as an agitator and mobilizer region-wide. Ironically, even the Western print and electronic media unwittingly or otherwise took part in this circulation.
The internet has also had an impact. Native and foreign groups fighting in Iraq have access to the internet and are using it to connect globally. Their video footage, photo images, oratory, and written statements spread the message and act as a conduit of agitation, mobilisation, fundraising and organisation.
From early 2004, however, the regional monopoly over TV coverage was broken. Some thirty TV networks were started by Iraqi groups such as al-Sharqiya and al-Fayha, al-Sumariya, among others, to meet the Iraqi public demand for information, as regional networks were deemed untrustworthy or impartial. The US-sponsored Al-Hurrah which has a special section covering Iraq, began to make its impact felt, inviting the wrath of insurgents.
Iraqis are more inclined to the word of mouth (mosques) and the power of image (TV); the radio, it seems, lost its centrality as the medium of the masses. Iraqi perceptions of regional TV coverage of their affairs are generally negative; they see it either as attempts to destabilise Iraq, or manifestations of envy by Arabs of Iraqi freedoms and prospects for prosperity. Most insurgents seem to think of this coverage as a signal of brotherly support.
Native media have emerged and grown in numbers: some 280 or so dailies and weeklies, more than fifty radio station, and around thirty TV networks, and several news agencies. While mostly supportive of transition, they are funded and controlled by powerful Iraqi political groups and figure, and a measure of regional funding and influence. Native media soon succumbed to the sectarian war, and took active part in fomenting violence and communal agendas. Monopoly of information, however, has been broken, and a room for multi-vocal coverage developed, benefiting the public at large.
VI- Regional Dimensions
Porous, unmanned or undermanned borders have allowed intensive, unhindered cross-border interaction between Iraqi society and its neighbours. All Iraq’s neighbours have a stake, and all engage in one form or another of intervention: governments, non-state actors, business and civil society, and the criminal underworld.
Through the porous borders, money, weapons, ‘volunteers’, intelligence incursions by regional governments, imported goods or smuggled merchandise maintain a steady flow. Weapons and ‘volunteers’ are not only sustained by covert Syrian and Iranian regime support, but also by regional networks of Islamist, mostly Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist), groups. Palestinian Saudi, Kuwaiti, Yemeni, Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese Arab ‘volunteers’ have been contributing to militarised violence; this is verified by arrests made at the borders and inside Iraq.
Sunni-Shi’i polarisation in Iraq has regional echoes, which are more strongly felt in the Gulf, and above all in Saudi Arabia. Fundamentalist groups, known as Salafi or al-Qa’ida, have been agitating openly for ‘Jihad’ (holy war) in Iraq, supported by public fatwas (religions injunctions) from Saudi and Yemeni clerics. Shi’is in Kuwait (30% of the population) and Saudi Arabia (10%, mostly in the Eastern District) increased their Khums (Shi’i religious taxes) payments to Najaf, mostly to Sistani, but also to the Karbala-based ayatollah Muhamad Taqi Mudarrisi, and Muhamad Bahr al-Uloom of Najaf, among others. Such contributions have fuelled a ‘funding race’, and the flow of money from all sources to native groups is estimated at $60m per month. Not all of it is channelled to violent ends and actors - some peaceful parties are benefiting from such cash flows, for charitable or political ends. Faith-embedded informal institutions and Islamist political groups on both sides of the sectarian divide are the main beneficiaries.
Cross-border interaction is expanded by trans-national tribal networks. These networks serve a multitude of purposes, such as facilitating insurgents’ movements, smuggling and trade, and may shift from one ‘commodity’ to another. Business groups, such as the Iranian Bazaar and Kuwait exporters, are building fruitful cross-border trade relations with the Basra business community. This has the potential to improve peaceful ties (in addition to the clear economic benefits).
Iraqi public opinion views the flow of arms and Arab volunteers negatively as an attempt to ‘square accounts with the US at the expense of Iraqis’. Even in the eyes of their fellow Islamists, the coming of volunteers is seen as an insult to the manhood and ability of Iraqis to deal on their own with their own problems.
DRIVERS OF CONFLICT FOCALIZED AND DRAFTED
I-Varieties of Conflict
Conflict can be violent or non-violent. It has the potential to be destructive and constructive at one and the same time. Even short-term ‘localised’ violent conflict, while destructive in its own right, has the potential to allow for the venting of frustrations. A narrow focus on short-term security stabilization may risk storing-up greater long-term inter- and intra-communal violent conflict.
Accompanying the underlying structural dimensions of conflict analyzed above, there are eight major native drivers of conflict intertwined with regional and global drivers, which will affect, reshape, perhaps derail, or even reverse, the shaky transitional process. These drivers developed and crystallized throughout the January 2005 constitutional elections, the constitutional process of 2005 that followed it, the constitutional referendum, the Shi’i-Sunni civil war of 2006-7, and the ‘law and order’ campaign launched by the US (the Surge) and, consequently continued by the Maliki cabinet. As will be clear further below, conflict was more and more woven into the fabric nascent state institutions.
II Constituent Elections
The 31 January 2005 elections were held to legitimize the constitutional process as envisaged in the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). Despite endemic violence, some 58 per cent of eligible voters turned out, with massive voter participation in the Kurdish and Shi’i provinces (88 and 67 per cent respectively), but a very low turnout, 19 per cent on average, in Sunni provinces.
The elections yielded two powerful blocs: the Kurdish Alliance Coalition with 27 per cent of the vote and 75 seats, and the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA, the Shi’i Islamic bloc) with 48 per cent and 140 seats. The centrist Iraqi List of ex-Prime Minister Iyad Alawi received only 13 per cent and 40 out of 275 seats. Political entities representing ethnic and religious minorities were only marginally represented.
As elections conferred a degree of legitimacy to transitional politics, it left two glaring gaps: the absence of a moderating centrist bloc, and the lack of any proper representation of the various Sunni groups, at a time when the Shi’i–Sunni rift was hardening, and ethno-communal identity politics were still superseding other forms of political action According to the 2004 electoral law proportionate representation was established and the country as a whole was one single constituency. Hence a high or low turn over of voters will not reflect the demographic weight of each and every community.
Sunni politicians and groups were stunned by the success of the ballot. The elections helped change Sunni positions. Mosque preachers in Sunni areas began to encourage the public to register for the referendum, setting off new political dynamics towards more involvement in institutional and constitutional rather than violent politics. The US and UK pressure, and the UN mediatory effort, throughout this period focused on: encouraging broader Sunni participation as a political response to ending the insurgency; and moderating the Shi’i Islamic conservative drive in the drafting process to secure basic international norms of democratic rights and liberties.
III The Constitution: Focal point of conflict
The constitutional process exacerbated the contest between different groups and communities over the redistribution of political power and economic resources. Drafters were segmented along ethnic, religious and communal lines, and divided by ideology, culture and reciprocal scepticism. Concepts crystallized as follows
1. The Shi’i view
The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), dominated by Islamist groups, focused on simple majority rule (against consociational power sharing), the Islamization of polity (the Shari’a law) and society, conservative family law and enforced rigid public morality.
The UIA was willing to compromise with the Kurds within certain limits to avoid the dissolution of the Assembly, but was unwilling to accept an all-inclusive process. Two grand clerics, Sistani and Mahmood Ya’qubi supported a Shi’i vote in favour of the Constitution; Muqtada Sadr kept his opposition to the Constitution on centralist-fundamentalist grounds undeclared until the last moment; while Jawad Khalisi of Kazimain called for a no-vote.
2.The Kurdish view
The Kurdish Coalition (KC) focused on federalism (inclusive of Kirkuk), consociational power sharing (veto power for the president versus the Prime Minister and the Parliament), the distribution of oil and gas resources, liberal civil and women’s rights, and moderate secularism.
Given the weakness of the other blocs, the KC felt overburdened with the task of securing its own federal demands, moderating the Islamization forces and securing women’s rights. The KC also feared the dissolution of the Assembly might strengthen Islamism with fundamentalist anti-federal Sunni forces. The KC, however, was more flexile than the UIA in accommodating Sunni, in particular some Ba’ath, demands.
3.The centrist view
Centrist groups, including small liberal and leftist organizations, were painfully aware of their relative weakness (gaining just 18 per cent of the vote), but also mindful of the public’s need for a trans-ethnic, trans-communal social force. While the bloc advocated a strong central state, it endorsed exisiting the Kurdish federalism, and was willing to accept a measure of decentralization. This bloc was strongly opposed to Islamization, sectarian concepts, religious-embedded family law, and the shari’a law. It was more willing to accommodate Sunni demands. It announced its readiness to endorse the Constitution.
4.The Sunni view
Sunni forces, while diverse, were united in their opposition to: decentralization, the distribution of oil and water resources, federalism (other than ethnic), and Iraq’s multiethnic/multicultural identity (stressing Iraq’s Arab identity), and lastlly de-Ba’thification.
Unlike the UIA and KC, this bloc lacked a unified leadership, and was split into a moderate Islamic and secular groups on the one hand, and a fundamentalist/Ba’ath wing, on the other hand. The former was inclined to participate in the process and extract as many concessions as possible to amend the draft. The latter wanted to endlessly delay the process. Most Sunni groups support the shari’a and conservative family law. Both wings want to end their political marginalization and have announced they will engage in the next general elections.
5. Minorities’ views
Prior to the drafting, minority groups displayed concern over their marginalization in the process. In the Constituent Assembly, the Chaldo-Assyrians had one seat, the Turkmen had three, and the Sabaeans, none.
The Christians constitute an estimated 3 per cent of the population, and like the Turkmen are spread over several provinces. Small ethnic minorities, including the Chaldo-Assyrians and Turkmen, and the Arabs of Kirkuk, fear marginalization under the Kurdish-federated provinces.
Religious minorities, including the Christians, Sabaeans and Yezidis, are alarmed by the insurgency targeting them, Shi’i Islamic conservatism, and the Islamic influence over the Constitution. They fear for their religious freedoms, their meaningful representation, and their welfare.
6.The USA, UN and Arab League
The Constitution was also constrained by regional and international concerns: the US brokering was focused on a political strategy to end insurgency and bring stability. The US were keen to keep to the ‘deadline’ of contitution writing, thereby sacrificing the principle of consensus and to some extent the text of the Constitution.
But the US was also keen on major principles of democracy, civil rights and freedoms. Arab countries were concerned over federalism and Iraq’s Arab identity. The Arab League’s General Secretary, ‘Amr Musa, raised the issue of Iraq’s Arabic identity with President Talabani.
IV Referendum and Beyond
Constitution-writing offered a unique opportunity to determine the structure of the Iraqi state, and develop a unified vision to facilitate peace and stability for all groups in Iraq. The new permanent Constitution of Iraq is the first since 1924 to result from an elected Constituent Assembly and national referendum. The process also marks a turning point in Iraq’s beleaguered transition from authoritarian–centralized rule and post-US-led war and mayhem towards constitutional representative government, federal and decentralized structure, consociational three-man presidential council with veto power (for one term of presidency).
The text of the Constitution is ahead of many in the region. It recognizes civil rights, decentralization, democratic governance, federalism, and freedoms. However, it lacks protection measures for these basic norms and freedoms, and has alarmingly vague or conflicting Articles on civil society autonomy, minority and women’s rights, political freedoms, the role of religion, etc. Further, the Constitution rests on more than 60 yet-to-be enacted laws and numerous legislative, judicial and other institutions. The Constitution is in a legal and institutional vacuum.
On 15 October 2005, following a relatively high turnout (63 per cent of eligible voters), the Constitution was endorsed by 78 per cent of the votes. The massive rejection from the Sunni provinces showed a failure to reach a nationwide consensus, but some willingness to engage with the political process. This marked a split between pro- and anti-participation camps. The latter was bent on whole-sale sectarian war.
SECTION FIVE: CLUSTERS OF CONFLICT DRIVERS
DEFINED, REFINED AND EXCENTUATED
Transition, restructuring and legitimazation reached the point of civil war during 2006-7; the situation was aggravated by the disintegration of large communal blocs, in particular the Shi’is and the Sunnis, the rise of tribal actors (Sahwa and others on the Sunni side, Majalis al-Isnad on the Shi’i side. The US Surge in 2007-8, and the Law and Order campaign by Maliki’s cabinet ended the supremacy of the Shii mlitias in the south (Mahid army and Badr Corp), and reduced the capacity of the Sunni insurgency. These changes brought social and political actors to define, refine and accentuate their sundry interests that may well be categorized in ramified clusters:
Cluster One: Politics of Participation and Inclusion
Cluster one is contest over the nature of political order that is not yet final. Conflict is lingering on:
1 Simple majoritarian rule (the Shi’i position) versus consociational rule (basically Sunnis but also Kurds and minorities). The conscoiational three-man presidential council with veto power is to terminate by the first term of the parliament (January 2010) and conflict over the structure of power is pending. The removal of the presidential veto power will paradoxically destroy a major source of institutional conflict, but will remove a major instruments for checks and balances in the system. The only existing checks and balances pertain to the system of voting in the parliament: simple majority (for most laws), absolute majority (for certain laws), two third majority (the election of president and endorsement of the cabinet), and 75% for constitutional amendment. With the inherent weakness of Constitutional Court and the yet-to-be introduced Federal Council (the second chamber envisaged in the basic law).
2 Federalism(Kurds) versus centralism (Arabs, Turkmen and part of the Assyrians). While the principle of Kurdish federalism is enshrined into the constitution and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) is formally and firmly in place, the federalist demands of Kurds assumed more territorial character not only over Kirkuk, but also over the so-called ‘disputed territories’ in Mosul (Ninewa province) and Khanaqin (Diyala province); the role of Peshmerga (Kurdish guerrilla fighters turned into military units), the final status of Kirkuk, and the hydrocarbon law (distribution of oil and gas resources). Tension between PM Maliki and both presidents Talibani and Barzani have been growing and may be carried over to the new government emerging from the coming general elections. Unless workable consensus is reached, the federal-central polarization may cause a deep split in the Iraqi armed forces and spells omen to the progress achieved thus far in the security area.
3 Centralized versus decentralized governance. This polarization involves segments of all social and political groups, including entrenched bureaucratic vested interests of the central service-providing ministries. While politics have assumed a great measure of local character as a result of the rise of local social actors across the national gamut, centralization tendencies are still strong. The 2008 Law of Provinces marked a set-back for local, decentralized governance compared to the power granted for provincial entities in TAL. Recent provincial elections (January 2009) brought a great success to PM Maliki’s list, and his lot hold 11 out of 14 posts of governors. The conflict, however, has structural and constitutional roots that favour centralization and curtail the scope of decentralization.
4 Lastly, institutional inclusion versus monopolization. A fair and balanced inclusion of different communities (however defined) into the administration, the army and police, the intelligence service, and independent commissions, a major source of grievances past and present, is again actually and/or conceivably disrupted. A part of favoritism benefiting next of kin, protégés and party ‘comrades', discrimination assumed manifold guises: exclusion on, political ethnic, -sectarian, regional and ideological bias. This monopoly turned ministries into communal, ethnic or partisan fiefdoms, jeopardizing the very functioning of these agencies, and threatening perilous divisions within security forces. Due to weak market economy, government employment is a major source of distribution of social wealth among some 5 million state employees and pensioners. This mostly felt in Sunni provinces, and a segment of exs-Ba’th Shii groups have also been victims of such discrimination.
Cluster Two: Socio-Economic Conflict Over Distribution, Rehabilitation, Reformation and Public Goods
Command Economy vis Market Economy, Distributionism versus Monopolization
Cluster Two involves a a number of interrelated, conflictual issues that stem from the nature of Iraq’s rentier economy, i.e. its over in fact mono reliance on oil production and revenues., the central role the state plays in providing employment, subsidies, services, and the urgent need to rehabilitate the economy and thoroughly reform the legal and institutional structure inherited from the old command economy.
1-Economics of distribution may involve conflict between social classes, communities (however defined) and regions. Conflict is aggravated in rentier economies, as deprivation is exacerbated by higher expectations; it is even further aggravated in a command economy by dint of monopoly over resources. With identity politics in operation, disparities and the contests flowing from them deepen ethno-communal and regional conflicts. Oil revenues are controlled at present by the central government, and the national assembly decides the shares allocated to the KRG and the local governments in the provinces. Hence conflict is embedded in parliamentary and institutional politics but has the potential to spill over.
2- Services and Subsidies: The Iraqi public is reliant on centrally-provided social services, such as electricity water, education, health, and public transport. Since 2003, services have been fully retrieved in education and health, but not in other areas. Electricity, pure water and fuel shortages have become the subject of widespread public discontent.. Protests could well be ignited by the wholesale de-subsidising of prices.
With gradual liberalisation ahead, readjustment and restructuring might have some short-term negative effects (such as inflation), which have become intertwined with the effects of shortages. A sound fiscal and monetary policy might be compromised, leading to further economic hardships. Another factor is uncertainty surrounding oil revenues: their recent rise was a source of timely additional funds; a crash in oil prices could have devastating effects.
3- Unemployment and Income Disparities: Unemployment feel tangibly from an estimated national average of 48-50% in 2003 to 18%; still ratio of unemployment among the youth (40% of the population are under 14) is still as high as 30%. Per capita income also rose by tenfold from some $300 to more than $3000, but is still lagging behind regional levels (except averages in Ghaza and the West bank). Measured against high expectations of quick improvement, this feeds into the politics of extremism. With unmet expectations in the areas of social services, welfare, and economic improvement, grievances are likely to be strong drivers of popular discontent, which are likely to be manipulated by those espousing violence and those engaged in radical protest politics.
4-Market versus command economy: A wholesale privatisation programme is unlikely to be implemented in the coming period however, not only because there is recognition that it would cause widespread grievances, involving 200 State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) with 380,000 staff, but also for lack of proper legal framework. Even in the longer term, there is likely to be a continued commitment to public services, although this may be in the context of some form of partnership and risk-sharing strategy with the private sector. A ‘quick fix’ model of liberalization, democratization and ‘market-ization’ is not an immediate but rather a long-term conflict reduction and stabilization strategy, and indeed, in the short-term even cautious moves in this direction may intensify violent conflict.
There must therefore be recognition that the transitional/development process itself risks being a major factor in causing future conflict, as well as in reducing it
4-Legal framework for investment requires state reform and enhancement of transparency and legality in order to provide a more conducive framework for foreign investment to occur. These questions relate to issues of the nature, timing and content of state reform as well as the development of a market economy, and the relative weakness of the private sector.
The question of building a civil and commercial legal system and institutional capacity remains crucial to the short-term, as the issue of ‘timing’ (of liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation) is crucial to the issue of future conflict reduction.
5- Oil Nationalism: There are particularly sensitive questions around the issue of foreign ownership of the oil industry. Investment laws allow foreign capital in all sectors save oil and minerals. Foreign investments, however, are necessary for the renewal of the outdated infrastructure of oil industry and the development of new fields (estimated cost: $20 b.). Oil nationalism remains a strong, but thus far, potential driver of conflict.
5- Over-Reliance on oil is extremely hazardous. At present, oil constitutes 90% of foreign exchange earnings, 86% of government revenues, and 75% of the Iraqi GDP. Windfall increases in 2007-8 generated vast revenues and higher expectations; subsequent fall caused drastic cuts in government budget. The much needed investment component was drastically downsized, and the bulk of annual budget covers operational cost. This hampers developmental future plans.
6- Aid is not a central influence on the conflict dynamics, but it can play a role in sustaining and exacerbating rather than addressing grievances underlying much of the conflict. Clearly there is a need for reform of the state apparatus, which under the anckient regime was inefficient, top-down and over-centralised, but the way in which reform will occur is crucial. These factors also relate to the fact that the post-conflict period, and reconstruction programmes, enhanced expectations among the Iraqi population, which generally have not been met, which in turn has helped to trigger conflict.
7- Corruption has become so pervasive in Iraq that hardly any sphere of political, economic, and social life is spared. It was already in-built in the logic and practice of the regime of Saddam Hussein. As corruption assumes systemic levels, it not only hampers reconstruction efforts, but presents a serious security risk resulting from the defense of strong vested interests in the continuation of lawlessness, and the possible collaboration between corrupt police elements and armed groups. It threatens also the political process by weakening the authority and credibility of the government.
8- Iraq’s industrial, agricultural, service, and financial sectors are either weak or in shambles. Despite the relative growth of the business classes, thanks largely to foreign aid investments that favour partnership with the local entrepreneurs, the bulk of business was government contracts accorded to protégés, involving nepotism, and corruption. As foreign aid is limited, government budgetary constraints are growing, and foreign investment are limited, future development is hardly sustainable. This involves a major strategic risk.
Cluster Three: Reconciliation versus Confrontation
1-Reconciliation, particularly between the dominant Shi’i-Kurdish alliance and the Sunni opposition and insurgency, is a political pre-condition for restoring normalcy. A staggered approach with workable phased agendas and clear timelines has never been worked out properly,, despite countless initiatives, meetings, conferences, and negotiations sponsored by the US-UK and a host of European countries and international bodies. The ministry of national dialogue’ has become, like the ministry of local governance, an empty shell. And the reconciliation committee entrusted to vice-president Adil Abdul Mahdi may benefit from his pragmatist approach but is actually constrained by his limited jurisdiction and his own party politics, al-Majlis al-Islami al-‘Ala ( The Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISICI), which strongly opposes re-inclusion of ex-Ba’th. General principles, such as the mechanisms for organized and sustained dialogue, the discussion over resource- and power-sharing formulas, and the eventual inclusion in government, are forsaken in atmosphere of mistrust, scepticism and fomenting fears of a allegedly pending ‘ Ba’th coup de etate’, or a ‘restoration of Ba’th rule.
2-Reconciliation: One consistent approach for reconciliation is required in order to build a national consensus regarding the principles of inclusivity and an end to violent conflict and extremism.
3-Dialogue: A process of national dialogue needs to begin as soon as possible; it can begin with a sub-set of groups but must grow quickly. The pro-Syrian Iraqi Ba’th which had been part of the opposition to Saddam Husain’s regime is one such example. Among the insurgency, nationalists, ex-Ba’th and national-Islamists are differentiated and approachable. A number of smaller marginal groups also exist. If the process works and inclusion proves effective and appealing, the larger groups can influence or neutralize the smaller groups.
4-Amnesty: The Iraqi government has not yet developed the necessary terminology, sophistication and legal groundwork to effectively use the tool of amnesty. The word amnesty itself is too harsh from the perspective of the armed groups, but too lenient from the perspective of Shi’i leaders. A new terminology could and should be developed: this could be something like ‘dropping of charges’, ‘suspension of legal procedures’, or ‘closure of indictment cases’, etc., in return for ‘apologies’ or ‘denunciation of past atrocities’. It is not at all clear, nor has it been adequately discussed, how, to whom, and under what conditions would amnesty be offered. Nor has their been serious discussion of a Truth and Reconciliation process such as was used in South Africa or, more recently, in Morocco. These are important reconciliation post-conflict strategies that require concerted attention and effort.
5-De-Ba’thification: dialogue and amnesty should culminate in or be part of a pact to amend old and new de-Ba’thification statutes toward a legal common ground targeting only top leaders indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide. The judicial branch, which should be in charge of the vetting process for this, is also itself in need of strengthening and more transparency in order to increase its credibility and reinforce its role in this respect. Almost all political and armed groups on both sides of the communal divide, including the Mahdi Army and Majlis, have admitted ex-Ba’thists in their ranks, showing self-serving pragmatism; and it is this pragmatic principle that could well be writ larger on a national scale.
6-Participation: A broad-based national unity government based on electoral merit is hypothetically the results of such national reconciliation process. It needs to be perceived as fair empowering and representative coalition for nation -building conflict Iraq. This inclusive coalitional approach can also then be reflected in the make up of the Constitutional Court and the yet-to-be-established Union Assembly.
Cluster Four: Minorities:
Ethnocentrism versus Pluralism
Ethnocentrism is manifolds: Arabs versus Kurds, and Kurds versus ethnic minorities in the KRG territory, and Arab-Muslims versus minorities in the Arabic part of Iraq.. As federalism resolves the first aspect, ethnocentrism continues to revolve on:
1- Proper representation in the legislative assembly (at present Christians are offered 5 seat, and other minorities one seat each).
2-Proper representation in the local governments (Kirkuk and Arbil, among other provinces).
3-Cutural rights yet require the implementation of articles 119-121 to ensure that minorities enjoy their constitutional rights within the provinces..
Minorities fear such cultural and other rights and liberties are contingent on a yet-to-be-enacted law (Articles 119 and 121) over whose formulation they may have little influence
Cluster Five: Overdue Constitutional and Law Enactment
1-The current constitution has failed to secure national consensus. Not only Sunni, but also Shi’i factions and Iraqi centrist nationalists have objections. Major contentious issues revolve around the distribution of power, land, resources, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, the distribution of resources and fear of marginalization. Constitutional amendments are long overdue, and extremely difficult because of the high legislative quorum they require (75%).
2- These concerns are aggravated by the institutional and legislative void; more than sixty laws are pending legislation, and such institutions as the Union Assembly, among many others, are yet to be established.
Cluster Six: Islamism versus moderation and Pluralism Socio-cultural aspects
Islamization (Shii Islamism, sunni fundamentalism) versus moderation, secularism and pluralism ( middle classes across the religio-communal spectrum, non-Muslim communities).
Islamization has taken on different constitutional, institutional and macabre social forms.
1- Constitutionally, Islamization has partly coloured the text of the basic law providing grounds for imposing rigid morality (Islamists of all types) on civil freedoms of women, secular or modernist groups and non-Muslims: code of dress, closer of bars, closure of female hairdressing salons, of internet cafes, and, in certain cases, of music shops, forcibly disrupting pluralism of value-systems and life systems. Islamization has virtually abolished the secular family law and degraded women’s status, triggering cultural and social conflicts.
2- Institutionally, religious endowments that have been divided into three departments (Shii, Sunni and Christian) ended authoritarian control over religious endowments, but it also triggered the ‘war of mosques’ between Shii and Sunni militias, and fed into the larger sectarian conflict.
-3Extra-institutionally, Islamization fomented and exacerbated religious and sectarian animosity. Attacks on ritual processions, on worshiping venues (mosques and churches), on clerics, and on individuals at large, created a precarious and threatening environment for believers across the nation. Most vulnerable have been religious minorities, above all Christians, Shii Turkmen, and Kurdish Shabak,
Cluster Seven: Identity of Iraq
Arabism versus Persianism
Cluster seven: Arabism versus Persians Cluster eight: for discussion only
Cluster Eight: Problems of Sovereignty
SECTION SIX: NEW POLARIZATION
By early 2009 state formation processes made tangible and concrete steps forward. The army, the police and the intelligence service (however infiltrated by militias, and mafia), and the bureaucracy (yet segmented by partisan gangs and sectarian fiefdoms), are not only functioning more or less properly, but have grown in capacity and numbers. Central institutions of the parliament, cabinet, presidential council, and regional (KRG) and local governments, as well as the federal court are in place- as weak as they are or may seem to be.
This is clearly seen in the tangible improvement in security and relative political stability in 2008-9 that followed both the US-led surge and the ‘Law and Order Campaign’ of PM Nuri al-Maliki, despite sensational car bomb attack in August-October.
On the nation-building side of transition, the political context is dramatically changing. Less and less Shi’ite radical forces are inclined to extra-institutional and militia-type of politics. On the Sunni side, more and more social and political groups and faction are inclined on inclusive, institutional politics. In both ‘communities’ the unifying tendencies of identity politics, together with their ‘communal drivers of sectarian conflict, seem to have waned. The fragmantative proclivities, active or dormant, within communal identity blocs have reached a high energetic level. The grand communal blocs have collapsed, and new actors have also emerged. This involved the transformation of fundamentalist-sectarian mind-set of influential Islamist groups into rational positions anchored in the idiom and practice of law and order and Iraqi patriotism. It also involved disunity at both local and national levels, not only of Shiite and Sunni fronts, but also of the Kurds as well, where a new reform front siphoned some 26 seat of the 111 seat Kurdish parliament in the July 2009 elections.
The increase in the number of actors on all ethno-communal fronts may well have sundry effects. On the one hand, it will be more difficult to reach out for workable agendas. On the other hand, this all-pervasive pluralism have rendered sectarian politics weaker, and the potential for the pursuance of institutional national politics stronger.
State institutions took shape under conditions of fierce, bloody competition between communities defined by ethnic, sectarian and religious identity politics. And they are still tainted by these effects. The deepening cleavages in these identity spaces, however, may require restructuring and reforming, which have the potential to disruptively modify, or, in the worst case scenario, perhaps undo, the nascent power structures necessary to stable governance in the coming election year 2010 and after.
Table 1: Native Security Capacity Building: The New Army in 2005 (weak phase) July 2005 Projected percentage of capable units (Manned, trained and equipped) over the period November 04-July2005
Category Target 1Nov.04 31Dec04 31Jan05 1Julyo5
Regular Army 27,000
18 Battalions 17% 78% 100% 100%
Intervention 6584 33% 100% 100% 100%
Force 9 Battalions
National Guard 61,904 12% 58% 74% 100%
Commando 828 soldiers 58% 64% 67% 95%
Counter 451 24% 40% 40% 70%
Source: Iraqi Ministry of Defence, November 2004.
Table 2: The New Police Force in 2005 (weak phase)
Projected percentage of capable policing units (manned, trained and equipped) Novemebr04-July05
Category Target 1Nov.04 31Dec04 31Jan05 1Julyo5
Regular police 135,000 32% 35% 37% 56%
Border enforcement 32,000 55% 60% 62% 72%
Emergency Response 270 37% 63% 84% 100%
Special Regiment 1,200 0% 50% 50% 100%
Public Order Battalions 3,600 15% 19% 23% 43%
Dignitary Protection 500 96% 100% 100% 100%
Highway Patrol 6,300 15% 19% 23% 43%
Police Commandos 2,019 45% 45% 75% 100%
Source: Iraqi Ministry of Defence, November 2004.
Table: 3 Participation ratios in constituent and local elections January 2005:
Province population eligible voters % voters % 100,000 voters constituent Participation local Participation
Baghdad 6486 3,502,440 1,866,040 53.27 1,750,772 49.98
Anbar 1180 637,200 13,753 2.15 3775 0.59
Babil 1244 671,760 501,331 74.62 494,054 73.54
Basra 2063 1,114,020 738,243 66.26 713,271 64.02
Diyala 1174 633,960 204,155 32.20 210,574 33.21
Duhok 652 432,587 393,655 91 383,265 88.5
Erbil 1345 726,300 657.030 90.46 647,994 89.21
Karbala 756 408,240 302,641 74.13 297,201 72.80
Misan 743 401,220 253,156 63.09 246,957 61.55
Muthana 536 289,440 189,429 65.44 173,155 59.82
Najaf 946 510,840 368,338 72.10 359,268 70.32
Ninawa 2224 1,200,960 201,477 16.77 165,934 13.81
Qadisiya 1087 586,980 338,717 57.70 337,220 57.44
Salah Al-Din 978 528,120 144,598 27.37 137,476 26.03
Sulaimaniya 1659 895,860 743,120 82.95 731,323 85.05
Tamim 989 534,060 397,224 74.37 400,892 75.06
Thi Qar 1427 770,580 531,211 68.93 522,271 67.77
Wasit (Kut) 942 508,680 348,482 68.50 324,678 63.82
Total 26 431 14,353,000 8,192,582 58.9 7,900,080 55.04
Table4: Participation Averages in Provinces January 2005
Provinces % Remarks
The capital (Baghdad) 49.98 Predominantly Arab, some 7% Christians, 7% Kurds, 1% other categories
The Sunni Shii divide could well be on a par (50-50)
Sunni Arab Provinces
Anbar 2.15 purely Arab Sunni
Diyala 32.20 Ethnic mix (Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen), plus a Shi’i minority
Ninawa (Mosul) 16.77 Ethnic mix (Arabs and Kurds), Religious mix (Muslims-Christians)
Salah al-Din (Tikrit) 27.37 Some pockets of Kurds and Shi’is
Average participation 19.62 This ratio does not include Sunni participation in mixed cities and the capital, Baghdad.
Babil 74.62 Pockets of Sunni tribes on the fringes of the province
Basra 66.26 A considerable Sunni-Arab community (12-15%)
Muthana (Simawa) 65.44
Qadisiya (Diwaniya) 57.70
Thi Qar (Nasiriya) 68.93
Wasit (Kut) 68.50 Pockets of Sunni Arabs and Kurds
Average participation 67.86
Tamim 74.37 Tamim’s status has not been legally defined. It has a Kurdish-Turkmen and Arab mix, as well as a considerable Turkmen/Shi’i community.
Table 5: General Data on Elections
Category Size %
Population 26.5 million -
Eligible voters 14.4 million 100
Votes for the constituent assembly:
Votes for winning lists 8,011,450
Votes of losers 350, 511
Invalid votes 94,305
Total 8,456,266 58.9
Diaspora votes 283,685
Votes per seat 30,750 (the number of votes cast divided by the number of seats on the assembly, 275)
Votes per sear: filtered 29,132 (discounting irregular votes and votes of losers then divided by 275)
Votes for the local governments 7,900,080 55.04
Table 6: Winning Political Entities in the constituent elections January 2005
List List No. votes % % % Original Filtered seats seats
1 2 3
1-Islamic Action Org-
nization- C.C* 111 43,205 0.51 0.33 0.3 1 1
2-Kurdistan Alliance 130 2,175,551 25.72 27.15 15.29 70 75
3-United Iraqi Alliance 169 4,075,295 48.19 50.86 28.65 133 140
4-Turkmen Iraqi Front 175 93,480 1.10 1.16 0.65 3 3
5-National Rafidayn 204 36,255 1 1
6-Iraqis (Ghazi al-Yawir) 255 150,680 0.83 0.87 0.49 5 5
7-National Democratic 285 36,795 0.43 0.45 0.25 1 1
8- Islamic Kurdish Society 283 60,592 0.71 0.75 0.42 2 2
9-The Iraqi List 285 1,168,943 13.8 14.59 8.21 38 40
10-Reconcilaition and 311 30,796 0.36 0.38 0.21 1 1
11- The Communist Party 324 69,920 0.82 0.87 0.49 2 2
12-Elites and Cadre 352 69,938 0.82 0.87 0.49 2 3
13- Losers ( and invalid votes were discounted.
Total 259 275 1 = % of actual votes cast; 2=% of total eligible voters; % of population.
*The official name as translated by the IECI is: Islamic Labor Movement in Iraq, a Shi’i-Islamic outfit, a splinter group from the mother organization led by the Karbala based ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarissi.
Table 7: Relative Size of Major Blocks by political orientation
Bloc votes % % %
Of votes cast filtered votes of total eligible voters
Centrist Bloc 1,586,869 18.76 19.80 11.05
[Arab, Turkmen and Christian groups]
Kurds 2,175, 551 25.75 27.15 15.15
Non-winning Centrists 350,511 4.14 4.37 2.44
[Centrist liberals, tribal associations, individual candidates, all non-Islamic]
Total Potential Centrism 4,112,931 48.63 - 28.65
Kurdish Islamist 60,592 0.71 0.76 - 0.42
Total Shi’i Islamic Block 4,188,438 49.53 - 29.18