Given the record of the US occupation and the profound limitations of America’s present stature, the Barack Obama administration is right to continue to draw down the American presence in Iraq. But in remembering the egregious mistakes of its predecessor the administration should not claim victory as it exits. It should not, as Vice President Joe Biden did in the midst of the de-Ba’athification crisis, claim all is well in Baghdad. A more honest and realistic approach would recognise the impossible legacy left by the Bush administration. The damage the previous administration did so much to encourage would then be minimised with the help of US allies and multilateral organisations. In short, after seven years of American occupation, it is time to go home.
To establish even a marginally functioning economy out of the wreckage of Iraq would have been a daunting task. Despite decades of a heavily controlled, state-run economy; the deterioration caused by a succession of wars; a decade of international sanctions; and the looting and sabotage that followed the 2003 war, the U.S. government set its sights high after toppling Saddam Hussein: to create a liberal, market-based Iraqi economy, a key piece of its broader goal to bring democracy to Iraq.
Within the broader debate over the political economy of statebuilding, the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in fragile and post-conflict settings is increasingly controversial but still understudied. This paper examines the tensions between the good governance agenda currently being implemented in Iraq and the investment dynamics occurring at the country’s national and provincial levels. Drawing on disaggregated data, the paper argues that the flow of FDI is reinforcing destabilizing dynamics in Iraq by increasing levels of inequality, deepening the decentralization process, and undermining internal and external balances of power.
I n July 2009, the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) facilitated a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to capture the experiences of USDA agricultural advisors deployed to ministries and Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The discussions yielded numerous individual observations, insights, and potential lessons from the work of these advisors on PRTs in these countries. This article presents a broad overview of the challenges identified by the conference participants and highlights key recommendations generated as a result of suggestions and comments made at the workshop. The workshop was intended to capture insights and lessons from the !eld to develop recommendations for improvements in PRT operations, with a particular focus on agricultural development. The 30 participants came from a broad spectrum of USDA: the National Resources Conservation Service, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration. To focus the agenda, CCO and USDA designed a preworkshop survey administered to the 30 USDA returnees (22 from Iraq and 8 from Afghanistan). After receiving 24 responses, CCO and USDA used the results to develop an agenda built around facilitated group discussions in four areas: doctrine and guidance, civil-military cooperation and command and control relationships, projects and their impact on the host nation, and administrative issues.
Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active insurgencies. The authors test that prediction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces and (2) violence that kill civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, the data emphatically reject a positive correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces (p < .05 percent). There is no significant relationship between unemployment and the rate of insurgent attacks that kill civilians. The authors identify several potential explanations, introducing the notion of insurgent precision to adjudicate between the possibilities that predation on one hand, and security measures and information costs on the other, account for the negative correlation between unemployment and violence in these three conflicts.
From 2007 to 2008, Iraq’s tribal “Sahwa” (Arabic for “Awakening”) was a key component of the U.S. “surge” strategy and largely credited for its role in the dramatic reduction of violence across the country. In the last two years, though, members of the movement have increasingly become the target of a retaliation campaign led by al-Qaeda’s “Islamic State of Iraq” and other insurgent groups still active on the battlefield, with almost daily assassinations and attacks in which hundreds have died. In the present context of resurgent violence, persistent political tensions triggered by the 2010 stalemate and the U.S. military’s scheduled withdrawal of its remaining troops by the end of 2011, the Sahwa’s future looms as one of the most crucial tests of Iraq’s stabilization and successful “democratic” transition. Concerns over the fate of the movement also come amid the growing alienation of its members from a government that has overall failed to incorporate them into its new security apparatus. While U.S. officials might continue to downplay this scenario, reliable sources indicate that a number of Sahwa fighters have already flipped back into armed struggle, including within the ranks of their erstwhile nemesis, al-Qaeda.
Building on my own extensive research, this article seeks to analyze a worrying trend and shed new light on the complex nature of the Sahwa since its appearance on the Iraqi scene. It first attempts to highlight the multiple reasons for the movement’s gradual downfall, especially following the U.S. military drawdown in the summer of 2009, with specific focus on the motives likely to have incited some of its members to revert to al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups. The second part emphasizes aspects of continuity linking the Sahwa’s recent evolution to the more historical transformations of Iraqi tribalism. It attempts to show, more particularly, how Iraq’s tribal structures have undergone a continuing dynamic of “subversion” that actually preceded the establishment of Iraq’s modern state. The last part underlines why U.S. policy makers should draw serious lessons from the movement’s experiment, in particular why “tribal engagement” strategies in conflict configurations, even when bringing short-term security gains, should not be used at the expense of genuine state- and nation-building efforts.
While political accommodation and the passage of time may heal the wounds in Iraqi society, it is just as likely that the lack of real reconciliation will undermine the political process.
The world breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement of a new Iraqi government on 21 December 2010. After nine months of wrangling following the 7 March elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki finally engineered a deal that kept him in place at the head of a 42-person cabinet. Maliki was unable to name a full coterie of ministers; ten of the portfolios, including the main security ministries, are being managed on a temporary basis by other ministers until permanent nominations are made. Nevertheless, approval of the cabinet brought to an end a crisis that left the political system in limbo and saw a deterioration of the security situation.
But now the deed is done, a much bigger question looms: will the government be able to manage Iraq, stabilise the country further and heal the internal divisions that threaten its long-term security?