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Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq

March 2008
Report to Congress
In accordance with the
Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2008
(Section 9010, Public Law 109-289)

Section 1-Stability and Security

1.1 Political Stability

During this reporting period, improvements in security led to more favorable conditions for reconciliation, political accommodation, economic development and the provision of basic public services. “Bottom-up” reconciliation initiatives expanded as growing numbers of Sunni and Shi’a tribal leaders worked with the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Coalition to improve security and economic conditions at the local level. The record on “top-down” reconciliation remains mixed. Certain measures progressed significantly, such as the publishing of the Unified Retirement Law in the Official Gazette, the Presidency Council’s approval of the Accountability and Justice Law and an amendment to the Flag Law. Iraqi leaders also demonstrated an increasing willingness to institutionalize power sharing by reconstituting the Political Council for National Security and formalizing the Executive Council—consisting of the Prime Minister, the President and two Vice Presidents. A critical political milestone was achieved on February 13, 2008, when the Council of Representatives (CoR) passed the National Budget, Provincial Powers Law and Amnesty Law in an unprecedented, Iraqi-orchestrated legislative bargain that saw major political groupings pursue their objectives through compromise, as well as alliance formation across ethnic and sectarian lines. The Presidency Council returned the Provincial Powers Law to the Council, which will have to continue negotiations over a provision that Vice President Mehdi holds to be unconstitutional. This process highlights the important role that the constitution and democratic exchange is playing in the political process. Progress in other areas, notably hydrocarbon legislation and the constitutional review process, remains stalled.

National Reconciliation

While progress continues to be hindered by competing interests, some gains in national reconciliation were made this reporting period.

Four laws passed by the CoR are particularly noteworthy. First, the Official Gazette published the amended Unified Retirement Law (Pension Law) on December 27, 2007. This law has the potential to advance reconciliation by allowing former regime elements to retire and draw pensions. Second, the Accountability and Justice Law passed in January 2008, if implemented transparently and impartially, could reinstate a larger number of former lower-level Ba’athists into the GoI. The third (Amnesty Law) and fourth (Provincial Powers Law) laws were passed as components of the legislative bargain on February 13, 2008. The Amnesty Law may further encourage reconciliation among ethno-sectarian groups, and the Provincial Powers Law is a first step toward provincial elections that may improve the representation of provincial governments. These laws are tangible steps toward addressing core Sunni grievances related to their perceived marginalization from government and society.

At the “bottom-up” level, the GoI and the Coalition continue to work with more than 91,000 Sons of Iraq (formerly known as Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs)) who reject extremism and are joining the political process by working through established governing institutions. Some senior Iraqi politicians who formerly opposed Sons of Iraq members have begun to recognize the value of these groups in stabilizing Iraq. These politicians are making public statements about the significance of this “bottom-up” initiative and supporting programs that integrate some Sons of Iraq members into the Iraqi forces.

Political Commitments

Despite the consensus reached among the top Shi’a, Sunni and Kurdish leaders in the August 2007 Leaders’ Conference communiqué, implementation of that consensus continues to lag and the GoI continues to miss or extend constitutional and legislative deadlines. On-going negotiations between the Executive Council and Tawafuq bloc leaders to bring the Sunnis back into the cabinet have yet to produce an agreement. Filling the remaining cabinet positions is critical to ensure that all of Iraq’s major ethnic and religious groups are represented at the highest levels of Iraq’s government. As a means to institutionalize power sharing and to re-energize political consensus among the major political blocs, Iraq’s political leaders established a Secretariat to support regular meetings of the Executive Council. The Executive Council has the potential to address critical national-level issues facing the GoI, such as filling vacant cabinet positions, breaking the logjam on ambassadorial appointments, increasing the effectiveness and inclusiveness of the Council of Ministers and building the political momentum needed to pass reconciliation-related legislation in the CoR.

After taking a break for the Hajj and the Eid holiday during most of December, the CoR returned to the legislative chamber on December 30, 2007, and remained until February 13, 2008, when the Speaker adjourned the session. During that time, the Parliament continued with a program to move key pieces of legislation forward. This legislation includes:

Accountability and Justice Law (De- Ba’athification Reform Law)

The Accountability and Justice Law addresses reconciliation and economic compensation issues. If this law is implemented in the spirit of reconciliation, it will mark significant progress toward national reconciliation by allowing some former Ba’ath party members to return to government. The CoR debated the law extensively, offering all political blocs an opportunity to raise their concerns. The law passed on its third reading in the CoR on January 12, 2008. The Presidency Council approved the law on February 3, 2008, and the law was published in the Official Gazette.

Provincial Powers Law

Given that Iraq’s Constitution is deliberately ambiguous about the balance of power between Iraq’s central government and its provinces, the Provincial Powers Law forced legislators to codify the meaning of Iraqi federalism. After several weeks of negotiation and debate, the party blocs compromised on a final version of the law. Despite the agreement struck among the CoR members, Vice President Mehdi returned the law to the CoR with requests for amendments, due to questions about the constitutionality of the strong central powers authorized in the bill. The Provincial Powers Law represents an important step toward establishing a balance between adequate central government authority and strong local governments. As part of the legislative compromise, the Iraqis introduced an article in the law that requires the passage of an Elections Law by May 2008 (within 90 days of its passage in the CoR on February 13, 2008) and establishes October 1, 2008, as a deadline date for holding provincial elections. It remains to be seen if the CoR will abide by the election requirements outlined in the Provincial Powers Law or if the deadline for passing an Elections Law will be adjusted in order to allow the CoR time to readdress the contentious areas of the law.

Elections Law

It is unclear if the CoR will hold to its requirement in the Provincial Powers Law to pass an Elections Law by May 2008 and direct that provincial elections be held no later than October 1, 2008. However, parliamentary approval of the Provincial Powers Law has brought the issue of elections to the political forefront and energized elections planning. The Prime Minister’s office reports that it has drafted an Elections Law, which sets the modalities for provincial elections. Technical preparations for provincial elections are underway to establish an updated voter registry using the Public Distribution System database and to build the capacity of the Independent High Electoral Commission. Other major technical steps include training of polling officials and establishing the mechanism to allow refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to vote. The United Nations Assistance Mission-Iraq (UNAMI) is taking an active role in helping the GoI prepare for elections. The head of UNAMI announced that the United Nations (UN) will assist Iraq in selecting the remaining directors of the governorate election offices (GEOs), which is one of the preconditions that will enable provincial elections to be held. While these elections will require intensive planning and support in the near term, over the long term, they promise to enhance reconciliation by enabling the creation of Provincial Councils that are more representative of the populations they serve.

Implementation of Article 140

There has been some progress on Article 140 normalization related to property claims and compensation, but the end of 2007 passed without the holding of a constitutionally required census and referendum on the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. On December 15, 2007, Iraq’s major political bloc leaders, as well as Prime Minister Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), agreed that the expiration of the deadline necessitated a six-month “technical delay” in implementation. This was a significant action because the leaders reached political agreement on the handling of a matter central to national political accommodation instead of ignoring a hard issue and letting another deadline slip with no action. The leaders also agreed to ask UNAMI for technical assistance to facilitate resolution of Article 140 issues. This assistance is intended to facilitate an inclusive political process among the Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman, Christian and other communities in the disputed territories. Since then, UNAMI has brought additional staff and resources to bear in establishing a factual baseline for discussion of the boundary issues, and the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative has continued to engage political leaders to promote practical solutions as mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1770. As a result of these efforts, all sides have begun to speak less about a referendum and increasingly about the need for a political agreement to resolve issues associated with disputed territories.

Amnesty Law

The Parliament passed an Amnesty Law as part of the February 13, 2008 legislation. Under this law, detainees in Iraqi custody will be considered for amnesty only if they are not already sentenced to death or if the charges against them are not included in the list of exemptions. Furthermore, detainees have to petition for amnesty through committees that are to be established in each of the 18 provinces. The law represents an important step toward addressing a long-standing Sunni demand for detainee releases, but the ultimate effect on national reconciliation will depend on the implementation of the law.

A Package of Hydrocarbon Laws

Progress on a package of hydrocarbon laws, which includes a framework law and three supporting laws, remains stalled. The framework law provides a legal construct to enable increased foreign investment in Iraq’s energy sector. It was forwarded to the CoR on July 6, 2007, and is the only part of the hydrocarbon package that has received CoR consideration. A draft of the revenue management law, which would allocate revenues from Iraq’s energy sector, is still with the Shura Council. The laws to reconstitute the Iraq National Oil Company and to reorganize the Ministry of Oil (MoO) are also with the Shura Council.

All four components of the hydrocarbon law are stalled. Negotiations over the content of a framework hydrocarbon law became increasingly problematic as 2007 progressed, mostly due to political differences between the KRG and the GoI. The KRG’s unilateral oil deals with foreign companies, which Minister of Oil Shahristani declared illegal, reflect a core difference over the appropriate degree of KRG autonomy. Asserting that no regional petroleum law can precede federal law, the Minister of Oil cautioned foreign oil companies that deals with the KRG would result in legal action and possibly exclude them from contracts signed after a national hydrocarbon legislation package is passed. Furthermore, the MoO recently reported that it will stop cooperating with foreign oil companies that have signed separate deals with the KRG. The GoI continues to distribute oil revenues equitably to the provinces in the absence of this comprehensive legislation.

Constitutional Review

Iraq’s Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) continued its work on revising the Constitution. It also continues to wrestle with longstanding disagreements among political leaders regarding the nature and the scope of presidential powers and the extent of the authority possessed by regional entities. The committee is reviewing almost 50 amendments addressing the authority of the federal government and governorates. The review is complicated by the fact that the CRC must address many of the same contentious issues associated with Article 140 and the hydrocarbon legislation. Kurdish leaders will continue to prevent progress in the review process until the GoI addresses the matter of disputed territories, especially Kirkuk, by implementing Article 140. Once the political blocs address Article 140, the Kurds should re-engage the CRC on constitutional review, which will likely break the gridlock surrounding the remaining issues. As a result of these problems, the CRC missed its December 31, 2007, deadline to produce a final report and was granted a six-month extension.

Government Reform

Ministerial Capacity Development

During this reporting period, Coalition efforts to build Iraqi ministerial capacity continued to focus on improving internal oversight and expanding Coalition advisory teams. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Embassy’s Iraq Transition Assistance Office (ITAO) lead efforts to assess current ministerial performance and to follow through with prioritized action plans, milestones and outcomes. A review of ongoing ministerial capacity building efforts by the Ministerial Engagement Coordination Committee shows an improvement in ministerial capacity since 2006.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams

The Office of Provincial Affairs coordinates all Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs) and Provincial Support Teams (PSTs) in Iraq. These teams are essential elements in the U.S. civil-military stabilization and reconstruction endeavor. At present, there are 11 PRTs working at the provincial level, 13 ePRTs embedded with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and seven PSTs operating from established bases at the local level. They draw on U.S. interagency and Coalition expertise to assist local, municipal and provincial governments to strengthen the GoI’s capacity to deliver basic services to its citizens, facilitate economic development, foster reconciliation and encourage application of the rule of law. The main effort of ePRTs is to partner with BCT commanders to bring diplomatic and development expertise to tasks in support of counterinsurgency plans and operations.

As of this reporting period, these teams have helped 17 of 18 provinces develop and submit Provincial Development Strategies to the GoI’s Ministry of Planning. The Provincial Development Strategy is the framework document guiding the budget process in each province. PRTs continue to rely heavily on Multi- National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) assets and assistance in a number of areas including logistics and life support, air and ground transportation, movement security, quick reaction force support and medical services (both routine and emergency).

As violence across Iraq continues to decrease and Sons of Iraq groups expand, life is returning to normal in communities nationwide. PRTs are working to facilitate this transition by assisting provincial and local governments in meeting basic needs related to schools, roads, sewage and water services. PRTs also play a vital role in sustaining the bottom-up political process that is laying the groundwork for national reconciliation.

Rule of Law and Criminal Justice Development

Current MNF-I rule of law priorities support the GoI surge of judicial resources to the Rusafa Rule of Law Complex (ROLC), support GoI efforts to identify, train and deploy additional criminal investigators, support the GoI Ministerial Committee on the Rule of Law and Detention, support the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) and its targeting cell, build Iraqi prison staff and capacity and continue the development of additional secure ROLCs around the country.

The Iraqi judicial system is stretched by the number of cases to be processed in addition to the cases heard by traditional provincial courts. The Higher Juridical Council (HJC) recently reported that between February 2007 and January 2008, 13,286 individuals were released by investigative judges, 5,363 individuals were referred to trial by investigative judges and 2,000 individuals were found not guilty at trial. Ongoing GoI and Coalition efforts to build the capacity of existing judges and investigators should help reduce the number of detainees who must wait for extended periods to have their cases resolved by an Iraqi judge. The number of Iraqi judges remained steady at approximately 1,200 since the last report. The HJC has hired hundreds of new judges and judicial investigators in the past two years, with plans to hire and train more in 2008. In January 2008, Iraqi force detentions in the BOC were reduced to about 130 per week, a decrease of 20 per week since the last reporting period.

The Law and Order Task Force (LAOTF) is building Iraqi capacity to investigate and prosecute major crimes of sectarian violence, extra-judicial killings, complex high-level corruption and foreign influences. The LAOTF is in the process of adding four additional senior Iraqi police investigators to its staff and has had major successes on recent investigations, particularly those in which LAOTF worked directly with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Arabian Peninsula. On January 4, 2008, the LAOTF presented a second courthouse to the Iraqi judges at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCC-I) in Rusafa. This additional courthouse will increase Iraq’s judicial capacity for processing the cases of the nearly 6,000 Iraqi pretrial detainees held at Rusafa. In cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, LAOTF is also developing an Iraqi Defense Bar Project in order to build Iraqi capacity to represent those accused of crimes.

The HJC established Major Crimes Courts (MCCs) in Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Baqubah and Ramadi as branch courts of the CCC-I. The MCCs were created to conduct investigative hearings and trials relating to acts of terrorism. As of January 31, 2008, there have been 219 trials conducted in Mosul, 29 trials conducted in Ramadi, 26 trials conducted in Kirkuk, 20 trials in Tikrit and five trials conducted in Baqubah. The relatively high number of cases heard in Mosul was made possible by sending an investigative judge and trial panel from Baghdad and providing them with secured housing, court facilities and transportation. In late January 2008, a trial panel from Baghdad was transported by Coalition forces to Mosul, where it conducted 27 trials involving 31 defendants over a 12-day period. In hopes of energizing the courts to increase productivity, the HJC has also recently made changes to the roster of judges in Ramadi and Kirkuk.

The threat to judges in Iraq remains. Since 2003, 35 Iraqi judges have been assassinated. In response to the continued threat against Iraqi judges and their families, the Coalition expanded the Rusafa ROLC concept, establishing secure judicial complexes in key areas in Iraq to provide safe locations for judges and their families to reside and hear criminal cases, thus increasing judicial productivity. The first ROLC project outside Baghdad is projected to be completed in the fall of 2008 in Anbar Province. ROLCs to replace the MCC in Mosul and at one other location are in the early planning stages.

Theater Internment Reintegration Facilities are under construction in Taji and Ramadi. The 8,280-bed Ramadi facility is projected to be complete in July 2008 while the 5,200-bed Taji facility is projected to be complete in September 2008. These facilities will provide education and skills training to ease the transition of individuals back into Iraqi society. Approximately 640 juvenile detainees are held at the Remembrance II Theater Internment Facility. These detainees participate in a mandatory Juvenile Education Program at nearby Forward Operating Base (FOB) Constitution where they are divided into three groups—basic education, middle school and high school—and take classes in math, reading and writing. Pending funding, plans include construction of a Juvenile Theater Internment Reintegration Facility and further expansion of the educational and training program at FOB Constitution.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

Judge Raheem was appointed as interim Committee for Public Integrity Commissioner in January 2008. This appointment appears to be strongly favored by the CoR’s Anti-Corruption Committee Chairman who believes Judge Raheem can help guide the GoI in its struggle against corruption. Judge Raheem faces many challenges as the new Commissioner. Corruption, in the form of extortion, theft and bribery, is rampant in parts of the GoI and business sector. Corruption in the oil and transport industries is also linked to the financing of extremists.

Transnational Issues

The Coalition has made progress in encouraging support for Iraq among its neighbors, the region and the international community. Progress on energy and refugee issues is building on the success of the May 2007 meetings hosted by Egypt for the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) and the November 2007 Expanded Neighbors of Iraq Ministerial in Istanbul, Turkey.

Iranian Influence

During their September 2007 meeting, Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Khamenei pledged to Prime Minister Maliki to assist in stemming the flow of weapons, funding and other militia and insurgent support that cross the Iranian border. Despite this pledge, there is no clear evidence that Iran has made a strategic decision to cease providing training and advanced munitions to extremist militias. Tehran’s support for Shi’a militant groups that attack Coalition and Iraqi forces remains a significant impediment to stabilization. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) provides many of the explosives used by these groups, including Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM). Although Muqtada al-Sadr’s August 2007 freeze on JAM activity is still in effect and has been extended through August 2008, some elements continue to attack Coalition and Iraqi forces with Iranian weapons.

Syrian Influence

Terrorists and foreign fighters continue to find safe haven, border transit opportunities and logistical support in Syria, despite increasing Syrian counterterrorism efforts. Estimates suggest that Syria is the entry point for 90% of all known foreign terrorists in Iraq. Former Iraqi regime elements opposed to the GoI also find sanctuary in Syria. The Syrian Government participates in the Expanded Neighbors Process, having hosted the inaugural Border Security Working group in August 2007 and attended the follow-up Border Security Technical Experts conference in Kuwait in November 2007. Syria also attended the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference on November 27, 2007, in Annapolis, Maryland. Although these are positive diplomatic and security steps, it is not clear that Syria has made a strategic decision to deal with foreign terrorists using Syria as a transit point into Iraq.

Tensions on the Border with Turkey

Turkey conducted multiple military air strikes and limited ground operations against Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq during this reporting period. While GoI and KRG leaders have condemned some of the earlier attacks by Turkey, Iraqi leaders are continuing to implement measures to isolate and contain PKK elements in Iraq. More importantly, Iraqi President Talabani, KRG President Barzani and KRG Prime Minister Barzani all condemned the January 4, 2008 bombing in Diyarbakir, Turkey, indicating that they are still committed to playing a constructive role in addressing the PKK problem.

Internally Displaced Persons

While data are unreliable, there is some evidence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees returning to their homes, particularly in Baghdad. The GoI is responsible for assistance to IDPs, and MNF-I supports the GoI and international agencies as necessary by working closely with its U.S. Mission counterpart and USAID. Coalition and Iraqi forces also patrol local neighborhoods and the countryside daily, providing protection from terrorist and extremist threats. These units inform the U.S. Mission of any displaced civilians they encounter and provide humanitarian assistance when required.

USAID is the lead agency for tracking and coordinating U.S. Government assistance to IDPs. It uses UN standard reports to report statistics on IDPs and returnees. The January 2008 UN High Commissioner for Refugees report quoted the Iraqi Red Crescent figure of 46,000 refugees returning from Syria in the period of September to December 2007, with the majority returning to Baghdad. The primary stated reasons for returning are depletion of savings, expiration of visas, insecurity about residency status and improved security in Iraq. UN reports also indicate that the rate of displacement within Iraq is slowing. According to these reports, an average of 76,100 Iraqis were displaced each month from March to June 2007. In June and July of 2007, the rate decreased to an average 37,800 Iraqis per month and from August through November of 2007, that rate slowed further to 29,900 per month.

United Nations Assistance Mission - Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission - Iraq (UNAMI) operates under the authority of UNSCR 1770. This resolution expanded UNAMI's mandate. It now includes, at the request of the GoI, assisting in political dialogue and national reconciliation (including in the fields of elections and constitutional review), developing processes to resolve disputed internal boundaries and facilitating regional dialogue. Promoting, supporting and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance; the safe, orderly and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons; and implementing programs to improve Iraq’s capacity to provide essential services are also part of the mandate.

With improving security conditions and the leadership of the UN Special Representative, UNAMI continues to assume a larger and more active role. UNAMI also played an important role in the coordination of the Expanded Neighbors of Iraq Ministerial in Istanbul in November 2007 and the development of an ad hoc office in Baghdad to support the Neighbors process. UNAMI’s commitment to provide technical assistance and personnel for the office is essential to its success and in facilitating the continued multilateral engagement of stakeholders in the region. UNAMI is expected to be closely involved in the upcoming Expanded Neighbors Ministerial in Kuwait.

International Compact with Iraq

The International Compact with Iraq (ICI) is the key international document that sets forth Iraqi commitments and pledges on economic, commercial and other internal reforms and provides a vehicle for the commitment of support from the private and public sectors of neighboring countries and the international community. Since the last report, Iraq has made progress in implementing some of the economic initiatives in the ICI, such as holding regular meetings of the Joint Anti-Corruption Commission and resuming implementation of the Financial Management Information System. The European Commission is funding a UNadministered contract to provide experts and consultants to assist with setting up and supporting the ICI. UNAMI, the World Bank, the U.S., the U.K. and Italy are also providing advisors to the ICI Secretariat. The Secretariat will present a progress report on the status of ICI reforms in the spring of 2008.


Signs of progress this reporting period point toward national reconciliation. The CoR accelerated its legislative agenda and its progress in passing several pieces of key legislation is encouraging. The Executive Council promises to be an effective organization to help the Maliki government manage its activities. However, competing political and ethno-sectarian interests still constrain progress. Slow movement on the package of hydrocarbon laws and constitutional review are examples of how competing interests and lack of compromise continue to impede progress. On the other hand, the recognition by senior Iraqi officials of the efficacy of the Sons of Iraq programs illustrates that progress at the local level can serve as a positive stimulus for action at the national level. Passage and enactment of the Amnesty Law, resolution of the constitutional issues raised by the Provincial Powers Law (paving the way for provincial elections), release and processing of pre-trial detainees and reform of the Iraqi criminal justice system could also encourage further reconciliation at both local and national levels.

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