Iraq's Turmoil and Imploding Imposition

Lucas Jackson  /  AP

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updated 12/18/2011 12:04:42 PM ET 2011-12-18T17:04:42

A member of the Iraqi Army waves an Iraqi flag after a ceremony signing over Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah in Iraq, the last United States base in the country, to the Iraqi Air Force, on Dec. 16. The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border to neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday, Dec. 18, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief.BAGHDAD —

Even as Iraqis celebrated the departure of the last American troops Sunday, the dangers left behind after nearly nine years of war were on full display. Politicians feuded along the country's potentially explosive sectarian lines and the drumbeat of deadly violence went on.

The last U.S. convoy rumbled out of Iraq across the border into Kuwait around sunrise under a shroud of secrecy to prevent attacks on the departing troops. When news reached a waking Iraqi public, there was joy at the end of a presence that many Iraqis resented as a foreign occupation.

In the northern city of Mosul, pastry shop owner Muhannad Adnan said he had a swell of orders for cakes — up to 110 from the usual 70 or so a day — as families threw parties at home. Some asked him to ice the cakes with inscriptions of "congratulations for the end of occupation," he said.

But the happiness was shot through with worries over the future.

"Nobody here wants occupation. This withdrawal marks a new stage in Iraq's history," said Karim al-Rubaie, a Shiite shopowner in the southern city of Basra. But, he said, "the politicians who are running this country are just a group of thieves."

"These politicians will lead the country into sedition and civil war. Iraq now is like a weak prey among neighboring beasts."

In the morning, a bomb hidden under a pile of trash exploded on a street of spare car parts stores in a mainly Shiite district of eastern Baghdad, killing two people and wounding four others. It was the latest in the near daily shootings and bombings — low-level but still deadly — that continue to bleed the country and that many fear will increase with the Americans gone.

Violence is far lower than it was at the worst of the Iraq War, in 2006 and 2007, when Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias preyed on Iraqis around the country in a vicious sectarian conflict that nearly turned into complete civil war. But those armed groups still remain, and there are deep concerns whether Iraqi security forces are capable of keeping them in check without the help of U.S. troops.

Iraq's military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari said Sunday that his troops were up to the task of uprooting militant groups.

"There are only scattered terrorists hiding here and there and we are seeking intelligence information to eliminate them," Zebari said. "We are confident that there will be no danger."

Equally worrying, the resentments and bitterness between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority in this country of 31 million remain unhealed. The fear is that without the hand of American forces, the fragile attempts to get the two sides to work together could collapse and even turn to greater violence.

In an escalation of the rivalry, the main Sunni-backed political bloc on Sunday announced it was boycotting parliament to protest what they called Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attempts to monopolize government positions — particularly those overseeing the powerful security forces. The bloc has complained of security forces' recent arrests of Sunnis that it says are "unjustified."

The Iraqiya bloc warned that it could take the further step of pulling its seven ministers out of al-Maliki's coalition government.

Story: 'Iraq War Ledger': The conflict by the numbers

"We are against the concentration of security powers in the hands of one person, that is the prime minister," said Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq, a member of the bloc.

Sunnis have long feared domination by the country's Shiites, who vaulted to power after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein at the hands of the Americans. The rivalry was exacerbated by the years of sectarian killing.

The Iraqiya bloc narrowly won the most seats in last year's parliamentary election. But its leader Ayad Allawi was unable to become prime minister, outmaneuvered by al-Maliki, who kept the premier's post after cobbling together key support from Shiite parties.

That has left al-Maliki beholden to Shiite factions, including those led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militiamen were blamed for sectarian killings during the worst of Iraq's violence. Since forming his new government, al-Maliki has effectively controlled the Interior and Defense Ministries, which oversee the police and military, while conflicts between Sunni and Shiite politicians have delayed the appointment of permanent ministers.

Many on both sides of the sectarian divide also worry that neighboring Shiite-led powerhouse Iran will now increase its influence in their country. Al-Maliki's party and other Shiite blocs have close ties to Tehran. But even some in the Shiite public resent the idea of Iranian domination.

"I am afraid that this occupation will be replaced by indirect occupation by some neighboring countries," said Ali Rahim, a 40-year-old Shiite who works for the Electricity Ministry.

Omar Waadalla Younis, a senior at Mosul University, said at first he was happy to hear the last Americans were gone and thought the city government should hold celebrations in the streets. Then he thought of the possible threat from Iran.

"Now that the Americans have left, Iraq is more vulnerable than before."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45715184/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/


Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government

Posted on 29 September 2011

Failing Oversight: Iraq’s Unchecked Government

The following report was published on 26th September 2011 by the International Crisis Group. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

To download the full report, please click here. The full report is attached at the bottom of this page in PDF format!

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

After years of uncertainty, conflict and instability, the Iraqi state appears to be consolidating by reducing violence sufficiently to allow for a semblance of normalcy. Yet in the meantime, it has allowed corruption to become entrenched and spread throughout its institutions. This, in turn, has contributed to a severe decay in public services. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has exacerbated the problem by interfering in anti-corruption cases, manipulating investigations for political advantage and intimidating critics to prevent a replication of the type of popular movements that already have brought down three regimes in the region. The government’s credibility in the fight against corruption has eroded as a result, and this, together with troubling authoritarian tendencies, is giving ammunition to the prime minister’s critics. To bolster its faltering legitimacy, Maliki’s government will have to launch a vigorous anti-corruption campaign, improve service delivery and create checks and balances in the state system.

As violence spread following the 2003 U.S. invasion, the state suffered in equal measure to the general population. In an environment of escalating kidnappings, explosions and assassinations, public services were thoroughly devastated. In the wake of the dramatic February 2006 Samarra bombing, entire ministries were empty, as officials dared not travel to work. Longstanding projects were abandoned overnight. Judges and parliamentarians found they had become targets. Oversight agencies, which should have been less exposed to risk because of their lack of direct contact with the general population, were forced to roll back their operations, leaving state institutions without effective safeguards against corruption or abuse. As a result, state output declined dramatically for a number of years, even as the annual budget steadily increased due to elevated oil prices. The state’s paralysis contributed to the proliferation of criminal elements and vested interests throughout the bureaucracy.

By 2009, a combination of factors allowed the state to reassert itself. The U.S. surge (2007-2009) was an important initial factor in improving security, but insofar as institutions were concerned, the rebuilt security forces sufficiently enhanced safety to enable officials to go back to work without protection or assistance from the U.S. military. Today judges are protected by interior ministry forces. The Council of Representatives (parliament) is reliant solely on local police and private contractors for its security. The state has resumed most of its functions.

Despite this improved environment, public services continue to be plagued by severe deficiencies, notably widespread corruption, which spread like a virus throughout state institutions during the years of lawlessness that prevailed until 2008. One of the major causes of this depressing state of affairs is the state’s failing oversight framework, which has allowed successive governments to operate unchecked. The 2005 constitution and the existing legal framework require a number of institutions – the Board of Supreme Audit, the Integrity Commission, the Inspectors General, parliament and the courts – to monitor government operations. Yet, none of these institutions has been able to assert itself in the face of government interference, intransigence and manipulation, a deficient legal framework and ongoing threats of violence.

These factors have caused senior officials to resign, including most notably the head of the Integrity Commission on 9 September 2011. Even civil society organisations – confronted by government intimidation in the form of anonymous threats, arrests of political activists and violence, including police brutality – have proved incapable of placing a check on government. Although the perpetrators have yet to be found, the killing on 9 September 2011 of a prominent journalist and leading organiser of weekly protests against government corruption has contributed to rising fears of the Maliki government’s authoritarian streak.

The current oversight framework was established by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2004. The CPA enacted a number of ill-considered reforms from the start. It stripped the Board of Supreme Audit, previously Iraq’s only such institution, of significant powers, including the exclusive authority to oversee public procurement and refer suspected corruption cases to the courts. The CPA transferred that authority to the Integrity Commission, an institution established in 2004 to act as the focal point for all anti-corruption activities. Despite having overcome serious threats to its existence in its early years, the Commission to this day cannot carry out its investigations independently, as a result of staffing problems and restricted access to certain government departments. It has, therefore, been dependent on the Inspectors General, another CPA-established institution that has placed auditors and investigators in all ministries and other state institutions. However, due to a seriously deficient legal and administrative framework, that institution has been incapable of organising its work and remains one of the most underperforming state entities.

The Council of Representatives, the most important body in the new oversight framework as it holds the key to reform in all areas of governance, is perhaps the most ineffective of all. Its inner workings are hopelessly sectarian, and its bylaws are so cumbersome and deficient that it has been incapable of enacting long-overdue legislation designed to repair the damage caused to state institutions since 2003. Moreover, as a result of the delicate political balances struck following both the December 2005 and March 2010 elections, which saw the rise of broad coalition governments deprived of a real parliamentary opposition, the Council has been unable to exercise effective oversight on government, for fear it might upset the political alliances that undergird it.

Meanwhile, the judicial system (in particular the Federal Supreme Court, supposedly the arbiter of all constitutional disputes) has been highly vulnerable to political pressure. It decided a number of high-profile disputes in a way that gave the Maliki government a freer hand to govern as it pleases, unrestrained by institutional checks.

The impact is palpable: billions of dollars have been embezzled from state coffers, owing mostly to gaps in public procurement; parties treat ministries like private bank accounts; and nepotism, bribery and embezzlement thrive. Partly as a result, living standards languish, even paling in comparison with the country’s own recent past. This applies to practically all aspects of life, including the health, education and electricity sectors, all of which underperform despite marked budget increases. Also of great concern has been the deterioration in environmental conditions, especially an alarming increase in dust storms and desertification. Pervasive corruption has impeded the state’s capacity to deal with these problems.

If corruption has taken root, it is not because of a lack of opportunities for reform. Technical experts have excelled in presenting workable proposals, but almost none have been adopted. Because of its deficient framework, and also because of government obstruction, parliament has been unable to pass any of the legislative reforms that have been on the table since at least 2007. These include, among others, a law that would force political parties to disclose their financial interests; rules that would improve the oversight institution’s performance; and a law that would protect the Supreme Court’s independence. The few reforms that have been adopted restate the existing framework’s deficiencies and will not significantly improve the state’s performance. Until these, as well as other, actions are taken, the government will continue to operate unchecked, bringing with it the type of chronic abuse, rampant corruption and growing authoritarianism that is the inevitable result of failing oversight.

source : Iraqi Business News at http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2011/09/29/failing-oversight-iraq%E2%80%99s-unchecked-government/

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Mark Aldrich,
Jul 26, 2016, 1:13 AM
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