Friday, December 21, 2007

DOD Report: Iraq’s Security & Economy Improving; Iran Continues Its Lethal Meddling Unabated

The quarterly DOD report, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, December 2007, has been released. It contains some good news, some troubling, particularly as to Iran and the Kurdish north. The report compliments and, in some instances, flushes out many of the problems identified by LTG Barry McCaffery in his own report. What follows is a brief summary of the DOD report:

1. Political Stability:

 Security is substantially improved setting the conditions for improvements across the spectrum of government functions.

 The most notable improvements in governance and the economy are at grass roots.

 The Iraqi central government is grid-locked and not functioning to pass needed legislation.

2. National Reconciliation:

 The central government has succeeded in passing a law authorizing pensions for former civil servants in the Saddam regime.

 The “de-Baathification laws” has received first and second reading but has yet to be voted out of the central government.

 Reconciliation is occurring at the grass roots level as Sunnis join the political process and Maliki has been reaching out to bring Sunnis into the political process, irrespective of specific legislation

3. Politics:

 The Maliki government has been weakened by resignations in August of Sunni ministers and the earlier resignation of Sadrist ministers

 Maliki has appointed technocrats unaligned with any political party to take the positions left by Sadrist ministers. Several of his nominations are being thwarted by manuevering in the parliament.

 Hydrocarbon Laws are still stuck in parliament, but the government has been de facto collecting and distributing oil revenues to the provinces, and there has been no complaints to date that it has been doing so unfairly.

 The Kurdistan Regional Government has passed their own hydrocarbon law in direct challenge to the Central government, which has declared the KRG laws illegal.

 Constitutional review of all the “hard questions” left unanswered in the original Constitution is ongoing but showing no signs of resolution. Some of the biggest issues resolve around Kurdish aspirations for a separate government and “Article 140” issues – i.e., whether major oil-rich territories, including Mosul and Kirkuk, will come under the ambit of the KRG.

 The UN is playing a positive role in resolving the Constitutional issues and, in particular, those associated with Article 140.

 Provincial Elections – The UN is also playing a positive role in setting the stage for provincial elections. The law authorizing these elections is now with Maliki for review. The problems are lack of a census, security and logistics concerns, and large numbers of displaced persons are seen as problems that must be addressed.

4. Government Reform:

 Ministry Reform – work with the various ministries by State Dept. and USAID are receiving mixed results

 Provincial Reconstruction Teams – These are in every province and are doing exceptional work in helping to rebuild infrastructure, foster local governance and economic development.

 Rule of Law – the Iraqi legal system of detention through trial is not yet up to speed. The number of judges in the country only recently went from 100 to 1200.

5. Transnational Issues:

 Iran – Iran’s lethal meddling in Iraq is a significant destabilizing force and has in no way abated.

. . . There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi’a militias in Iraq. Tehran’s support for Shi’a militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress towards stabilization. The Iranian Islamic Revolu-tionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) provides many of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups, to include Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM). Although Sadr’s late August 2007 freeze on JAM activity is still in effect, some elements continue to attack Coalition forces with Iranian weapons. The GoI and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq have made it clear to the Iranian Government that IRGC-QF’s lethal activities must cease.

 Syrian Influence

Terrorists, foreign fighters, and former Iraqi regime elements continue to find sanctuary, border transit opportunities and logistical support in Syria. Syria is estimated to be the entry point for 90% of all foreign terrorists known in Iraq. Recent efforts by the Syrian Government to stem the flow of foreign terrorists and suicide bombers inside of Syria may have had some effect in decreasing the flow of extremists into Iraq. The Syrian Government participates in the Neighbors Process framework, having hosted both the inaugural Border Security Working group in August 2007 and the follow-up Border Security Working group in November 2007. While these are positive diplomatic steps, it is not clear that Syria has made a strategic decision to persistently and comprehensively deal with foreign terrorists. The Syrian Government must take additional measures to further reduce the flow of foreign terrorists transiting Syria into Iraq.

 Tensions on the Border with Turkey

Turkey’s primary concerns regarding Iraq continue to be terrorism conducted by the Kurdistan Peoples Congress (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)) from camps in northern Iraq, increased autonomy for the Kurdistan Regional Government from the central Iraqi Government and the final status of the oil rich city of Kirkuk. After the election of President Gul in Turkey and Prime Minister Maliki’s visit to Turkey, these governments signed a counter-terrorism cooperation agreement establishing a bilateral, interagency security commission to work towards curbing the actions of terrorist organizations, including the KGK and al Qaeda.

6. Economy:

 Oil production now averages 2.28 million barrels per day and is increasing with improvement to security and infrastructure.

 The economy is expanding at a healthy rate of 6.3%, but there are some significant problems that need to be addressed. Weak institutions, a poor business climate, limited access to capital, lack of essential services, poor technical skills and security issues remain obstacles to private sector-led growth.

 Inflation is being brought under control. Year-to-date inflation as of October 2007 is 4.2%, compared to year-to-date inflation through October 2006 of 42.7% and 22.9% in 2005.

 Unemployment and underemployment are estimated at 17.6% and 38.1%, respectively.

 Agriculture, which employs 25% of Iraqi’s workforce, is being modernized with new technologies and the growth of private farms are at the heart of a program by USAID.

 The key to resolving long-term employment issues in Iraq is private sector investment, but this requires a secure positive legal environment, access to capital and access to markets. Access to capital is increasing through U.S. and Iraqi central government programs, but Iraq’s legal system is still in a state of flux and market access still remains problematic.

7. Essential Services:

 The news here is not improving but still poor.

 Improving the availability of basic services such as electricity, water and healthcare to all Iraqis could help improve the public’s confidence in the government. During this reporting period, the GoI’s improvements in budget execution have translated into minimal advances in the delivery of essential services to the people of Iraq, mainly due to sectarian bias in targeting and execution of remedial programs. With the U.S. Government’s 2004 Iraq Relief and Reconstruction fund limited to deobligated funds authorized for reobligation and with significantly reduced appropriations for other reconstruction funding sources in 2008, Iraq will now be required to fund most future reconstruction projects.

 Electricity – both demand and generation are up significantly.

 Water and sewer – this area seems shaky at best

 The Mosul Dam is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The Mosul Dam was built on an unstable rock foundation that is continuously dissolving, resulting in the formation of cavities and voids below the dam’s foundation that could cause catastrophic failure.

8. Security:

 Security has improved dramatically. Violence is down by all measures to a level last seen in the summer of 2005.

 In many parts of Iraq, the reopening of schools, clinics, markets and improvements in essential services all suggest improvements resulting from hard-fought security gains. These improvements coincide with the growing willingness of Sunni and Shi’a tribal leaders to cooperate with efforts to stabilize Iraq. . . .

 Shi’a criminal activities have become growing threats to security and stability as the role of insurgents and AQI wanes.

 “Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Qods Force (IRGC-QF) efforts to train, equip, and fund Shi’a extremists also continue despite reported assurances to Prime Minister Maliki that Iran will cease lethal aid. Unequal adherence to Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for a Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) forces ceasefire has resulted in schisms within the Office of Martyr Sadr and JAM, particularly among JAM special groups, but has also opened the door for increased engagement with the Shi’a community.”

 “AQI retains the capability to conduct spectacular and highly lethal terrorist attacks in parts of central and northern Iraq. This helps explain the rise in car bomb attacks in July 2007 that temporar-ily disrupted an overall downward trend from February through November 2007. AQI has also shifted to a murder and intimidation campaign directed at its former Sunni allies in an attempt to counter the growing anti-AQI tribal movement. This strategy has not been productive, however, and the tribal movement continues to spread beyond western Iraq to other provinces such as Salah ad Din and Diyala, where the CLC program has been important in reducing AQI’s capabilities.”

Part II of the report deals with the statistics governing the growth in training and operations of Iraqi military, police and other security forces.

You can find the entire DOD report here.

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