Excerpts from the lecture delivered by Bakhtyar Aljaf, Director of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), at the Slovenian International Relations Association (SDMO) in Ljubljana on May 5, 2004:
After thirteen months of occupation, the situation in Iraq is difficult. The state is in the process of transition from the totalitarian to a democratic system. The situation is still under control, but it is deteriorating and power of control is weakening, especially with July 1 approaching when the power is to be handed over to the Iraqis.
The problems stem from the implementation of democracy. However, it would be wrong to claim that Iraq and the Arabic world in general are not ready for changes. The experience of Iraqi Kurdistan in spite of some imperfections confirms that changes are possible in Iraq, too. The problems in Iraq can be divided into five segments:
THE FIRST SEGMENT
This segment encompasses the confusion in American politics and constant conflicts in the Administration between the Pentagon, which is controlled by the neo-conservative Republicans, and the State Department, controlled by the moderate Republicans. Nevertheless, on the eve of American elections, the conflict is about to be concluded. Today, the National Security Council administers Iraq while Robert Blackwell, chief deputy of the National Security Advisor, is staying in Iraq, and together they directly implement the American politics in this state.
American mistakes and the confusion in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) are the main reason for the increase of terrorism in Iraq. At the beginning, the Americans disbanded the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security machine and established the Supreme Commission for deBaathization of the state and eradication of the Baath party form the life in Iraq. Today, after the events in Falujja, the Americans decided to grant amnesty to high members of the Republican Guard and to appoint them to the leading positions in the future army. The appointment of general Mohammed Latif as commander of the Falujja brigade caused exasperation among all political structures in the state except for the Arab Sunnites and Iraqi rebels who are celebrating the victory over the Americans. This is a wrong signal to the terrorists in Iraq and Ambassador Bremer is responsible for the consequences of such decision.
The appointment of Ambassador Negroponte, though an expert in Latin America and the United Nations Organisation (UN), to the position of the Ambassador in Iraq is, in my opinion, a mistake similar to the appointment of Bremer to the position of General Jay Garner in May 2003.
THE SECOND SEGMENT - SECURITY
Security problems represent the most pressing problems in this segment, which have caused the stagnation of the whole economy. Terrorism is increasing, the Islamic terrorists chose the territory of Iraq to deal with the USA, the boundaries between rebellion, terrorism and crime are blurred. In some cases, terrorists and criminals have formed an alliance. For example, the kidnapping of foreigners is a popular methods among terrorists, criminals and rebels as well as among competitive foreign companies (such as the assassination of two Finnish engineers in front of the Ministry of Electricity in the centre of Baghdad in March this year).
Nevertheless, the rebels can be classified into 4 groups:
Followers of the former regime, who are deprived of all privileges.
Islamic terrorists, who have chosen to get even with the USA in the territory of Iraq.
The fanatics, who are ready to die for their ideals.
The mercenaries, who regard terrorism as profitable business and profession.
Ordinary criminals and prisoners amnestied by Saddam Hussein 3 months before his regime was overthrown, who are engaged in kidnappings and among others responsible for the assassination of two Finnish engineers in front of the Ministry of Electricity at the end of March this year by the competitors, etc.
Revolted and dissatisfied individuals, who want to revenge for the mistakes of the alliance.
The dissatisfaction of Iraqis stems from the real situation in the society:
Lack of security;
Lack of electricity, water, municipal services, health services;
Corruption in every segment of the society from American civil administration to the lowest ranks of officials;
Unemployment exceeding 70%.
American mistakes stem from:
Ignorance of the mentality of the Iraqi people;
Arrogance of American soldiers;
Unprofessional approach of the officials in the CPA.
The rebels have already achieved some of the set goals. Thus, foreign companies such as Siemens, General Electric, Foster Wellerare and others are leaving Iraq.
THE THIRD SEGMENT - ECONOMY
Iraq is facing internal and external blockade. The South motorway towards Basra and Kuwait and the West motorway towards Jordan are dangerous and constantly closed down for traffic. The only operating Iraqi border crossing is Khabur on the border with Turkey which is controlled by the Kurds. Thousands of trucks and road tankers cross this border crossing every day. The procedures are lengthy and bureaucratic both at the Turkish and Kurdish side, and there are also procedures at the administrative border between Kurdistan and Iraq (borders as established on March 19, 2003).
Iraq is running short of electricity and water. Refineries and thermal power plants are not operating. Unemployment has inflicted more than 70% of the population and corruption is blossoming from the lowest ranks of officials to the top of Iraqi political elite and American administration, as the Hallibourton affair proved. The pensioners are most severely inflicted by the situation. Instead of pensions they receive rewards, but they have received only two rewards since April 2003. However, this is not the case in Kurdistan and in the cities of Kirkuk in Mosul which are under temporary Kurdish control.
After the diplomatic mission of James Backer and write-off of the main part of foreign debt, the latter still amounts to over $ 50 billion. The economy is devastated. The provisional administrative council has adopted the law on privatisation of state-owned enterprises which enables investors to hire factories. Still, except for the oil industry, there is no interest in the vital industry. The reconstruction of the state is very slow. Foreign companies do not have the courage to send workers and equipment to a state which lacks security.
THE FOURTH SEGMENT - POLITICAL AND ETHNIC ISSUES
This segment includes political and ethnic issues. The country is burdened by conflicts between the Shiites, i.e. between the religious school of Al Sistany and Muqtad Al-Sadr. It is also troubled by the Shiitic-Sunnite conflicts. The Arabs in general (Shiites and Sunnites) are exasperated at American indulgence towards the Kurds. The border determined by the Americans on March 19, 2003 is the actual border of the Kurdistan region. The Kurds enforced the new Iraqi flag which is similar to the Israeli colours. The Arab League has already declared that it would never hang out the new flag at its headquarters in Cairo.
The status of Kirkuk and Mosul, which are actually under Kurdish control, additionally aggravates the ethnic intolerance between the Kurds on one side and the Arabs and Turkmen on the other side.
However, we can commend on the constructive role of the Turkish Government which stopped using the language of intimidation towards the Kurds and abandoned its threats to occupy the oil sites in Kirkuk and Mosul.
Today, the Government of Prime Minister Erdogan closely co-operates with the Kurds and Arab Sunnites. In my opinion, Turkey can play a decisive role in the stabilisation and establishment of a secular and democratic state. Commendatory words are expected to be delivered by NATO in Istanbul regarding this role. Furthermore, Turkey will play the leading role in the Great Middle East Project which will be presented at the Summit of the Eight.
The process of deBaathization of the state has been stopped which additionally burdens the relations within the political structures in Iraq.
THE FIFTH SEGMENT - CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES
The last segment of problems in Iraq comprises constitutional issues. The provisional constitution adopted on November 15, 2003 ensures full independence of the Kurdistan region. Article 60.c of the constitution vests the Kurds with the right to veto on any decision of the federal government and the parliament relating to Iraq as a whole.
July 1 is approaching. With the new elections coming near, the Americans want to get rid of the Iraqi issue as soon as possible. For the time being they have no alternative as to whom to hand over the power. When the occupation ends, the provisional administrative council will be dissolved. In looking for the right alternative and international legitimacy, the USA chose (the UN) and the controversial pro-French oriented representative Lakdar Brahimi. As the representative of the Arab League, Brahimi allowed the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, and he was closely connected with the former Iraqi regime. The appointment of Brahimi was the act undertaken by the National Security Council and President Bush with the aim to get rid of the influence of the Pentagon neo-conservatives who provided him with false information on Iraqi weapons.
The first reactions to his appointment came from Ahmed Chalabi and his followers and from neo-conservatives in Pentagon who accuse the UN for stealing and accepting bribe in the framework of the »Oil for Food« Programme. Those accusations have reached General Secretary Kofi Anan who has established the commission to look into those allegations.
In this dirty media war Brahimi announced his programme in which he envisages the appointment of a technocratic government and exclusion of all political parties from the new government. Brahimi also proposed the return of the former Baath party to the political life of Iraq.
His statement that Israel is poisoning the region was addressed against the Kurds and Ahmed Chalabi. Brahimi alone has prepared no plan nor mechanism to hand over the power to the Iraqis which he confirmed by stating he was going to Baghdad without any plans and instructions. In any case, Brahimi needs a new UN Security Council resolution which would replace the two preceding Resolutions which legalised the occupation of Iraq, namely the Resolutions 1483 and 1511.
The USA are engaged in secret talks with France, Russia and Germany in relation to the composing of the UN multinational forces. The only reaction is coming from Moscow. Duma Vice President L. Slutski declared that Russia does not intend to send soldiers to Iraq to fight various fractions.
In any case, the UN does not want its forces to be services which would support American forces which are most likely to remain permanently in Iraq on the basis of an agreement to be concluded between the provisional administrative council and the USA just before the dissolution of the council on June 30.
The whole process of constitutional changes has been halted. The British want to incorporate the Arab Sunnites, united in the Iraqi Tribal National Council, in the political life. Clearly, they were the ones who were in favour of the regime and their territory is known for the most severe rebellion and attacks on the Americans. The attempts of Ambassador Greenstock were unsuccessful.
The Iraqi Tribal National Council unites 120 tribes, i.e. 3 million Arab Sunnites who want to co-operate with EU and to involve Europe in the political process. To this end they have authorised the IFIMES International Institute to represent them in the EU bodies. This authorisation is related to the Iraqi Tribal National Council as well as its political parties and non-government organisations.