Iraq Defense and Security

By | December 19, 2021

One of the main elements of the national politics of the post-Saddam era is represented by defense policies. After the fall of the old regime, the country had to face a difficult transition also from a military point of view, linked not only to the defeat suffered in 2003, but also to the dissolution of the armed forces sanctioned by Governor Bremer. In the 2003-09 period, Washington took direct responsibility for internal security and initiated recruitment and training programs for the new military forces. All this, combined with the outlawing of the Baath, Saddam Hussein’s party, in which the Sunnis mainly militated, ended up creating a largely Shiite national army which, also due to the de facto independence of Kurdistan – strengthened by its own militias of the Peshmerga -, he ended up identifying first of all with the instances of his own group. At the same time, several paramilitary groups affiliated with various political factions have formed since 2003. The fragmentation of the new armed forces and the problem of ‘multiple loyalties’ has undermined the already precarious internal stability, bringing out the Sunni jihadism and leading in 2006 to the explosion of ainter-sectarian civil conflict. Between 2008 and 2010 there was a decline in attacks, thanks to the capture of al-Qaida leaders in Iraq and the collaboration of many Sunni tribal groups. As foreseen by the Security Agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad at the end of 2008, the US troopsthey completed their withdrawal in December 2011. At that date, the management of Iraqi security was completely entrusted to the federal government, which resumed favoring the Shiite component in the armed forces. The latter, in the perception of the Sunni communities, have become little more than one of the Shiite paramilitary militias, which in turn have increased their power, strengthening ties with Tehran. All this combined with the re-emergence of radical Sunni terrorism (never completely dormant), favored by the spillover of the Syrian conflict. During 2013, internal conflict returned to levels similar to those of 2008, with over 1000 civilian victims per month, but it was in the second half of 2014 that the situation degenerated, with the rise of IS and the consequent new split of the country on ethno-sectarian lines. For Iraq defense and foreign policy, please check

Internal political fragmentation

The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime created the space in Iraq for the emergence of political forces linked to the communities hitherto discriminated against: Arab-Shiites and Kurds in the first place. Saddam Hussein, while formally adopting a secular and nationalist agenda, based his power on a network of patron patron alliances that had its epicenter in the area of ​​Tikrit, a true Sunni Arab fiefdom. This choice had imposed the supremacy of part of the Sunni Arab community over the rest of the population, in line with what has already happened in the past. The fall of Saddam in 2003 upset the equilibrium consolidated since the birth of modern Iraq, favoring the reintegration of the communities that had hitherto been discriminated against. In particular, the Shiites, with a relative majority in the country (concentrated in the central-southern provinces), have progressively taken the place of the Arab-Sunnis, whose community has been marginalized. Nevertheless, even within the same Arab-Shia bloc, ruptures gradually arose, leading to the split between the party of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (Dawa) and a wide range of groups, including the group of religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr, supporters of the young Ammar al-Hakim (leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq) and other minor movements. In the Kurdish context, however, the historic diarchy between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) led by the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Upk), led, to the point of illness, by the president of Iraq Jalal Talabani, seems to have given way to a more flexible system, as confirmed by the rise of the Goran movement. Al-Maliki has continuously ruled the country since 2006, and since the American withdrawal in 2011 he has further increased his power, engaging in a very tough battle with Sunni politicians, which led to the escape and death sentence in absentia of the former deputy. President of the Republic Tariq al-Hashimi, the resignation of former finance minister Rafi al-Issawi and the arrest in December 2013 of the parliamentarian Ahmed al-Alwani, sentenced to death in November 2014. All this has increased tensions with the Sunni community, causing sectarian clashes,Sol), in the legislative elections of April 2014, al-Maliki was unable to resolve an already compromised situation, and following the progressive worsening of the crisis – under strong international pressure – he was forced to resign in August of the same year, assuming however the office of vice president. On 8 September 2014 it was formed a new government of national unity to face the threat of ‘ Is, headed by Haider al-Abadi, also of the Shiite-based Dawa party.

The Kurdistan Regional Government

Iraqi Kurdistan, thanks to the relative ethnic homogeneity of the north of the country, is the region of Iraq that has suffered the least repercussions in the difficult phase the country went through between 2003 and 2009. Moreover, following the harsh persecutions perpetrated by Saddam’s regime Hussein in the eighties (for which the dictator was later convicted of genocide), Kurdistan enjoyed autonomy in fact since 1991, when following the first Gulf war was created a no-fly zone mandated U n, to prevent the regime from intervening in the area. While remaining formally integrated into the Iraqi state, the region was under the control of an autonomous government (elected in 1992), and its territory was already in 2003 firmly in the hands of the armed Peshmerga militia – a veritable semi-autonomous army. The stability shown by Iraqi Kurdistan (despite episodes of violence in peripheral and ethnically mixed cities such as Kirkuk) has attracted huge foreign investments, which have further strengthened the energy system, since about 20% of the country’s total resources are found in these areas. ‘area. All this, combined with the ethnic differences that divide Kurds from the rest of Iraqis, have complicated relations with the central government in Baghdad.Krg). However, the oil issues have not been resolved: the central government has never recognized the extraction and export agreements that the Krghe entered into both with foreign companies and with the Turkish government – gradually becoming his ally, from being a major opponent of Kurdish autonomy until the 2000s. With Ankara in particular, a project was started for the construction of an oil pipeline of 250,0000 barrels per day. The 2013 elections changed the regional political landscape after twenty years: immediately behind Masud Barzani’s traditional Kurdish Democratic Party, the new liberal-reform movement of the Party for Change has established itself. The new crisis that broke out in the summer of 2014 saw Iraqi Kurdistan on the front line: the Islamic State has engaged in a dramatic fight with the Peshmerga of the Krg, advancing dangerously within the Kurdish region and coming to threaten the capital Erbil itself. Only thanks to the prompt intervention of an international coalition with targeted support air operations (plus some American strategic advisers in the field and trainers from various European countries including Italy), the Kurds were able to stop and progressively push back the Sunni jihadists, including August and September 2014. The situation remains extremely unstable, although the Peshmerga seem to have re-established a certain strategic advantage over the IS.

The tensions between ethnic geography and oil geography

Iraqi hydrocarbon reserves are concentrated for almost 20% in the north of the country, with a Kurdish majority, and for about 70-80% in the south-eastern regions, with an Arab-Shiite majority. In the central regions, on the other hand, where a large part of the Arab-Sunni community is concentrated, no significant deposits have so far been discovered, although in-depth explorations have not yet been completed. Due to the uneven distribution of reserves, the regional equalization of the revenues from the sale of oil has become the main object of contention between the federal government, the regions and the provinces. Together with the instances of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, other provinces have expressed their intolerance towards the control exercised by Baghdad. In particular, the governorate of Basra has requested greater autonomy and initiated a process of transformation into an autonomous region which, if successful, could completely alter the political-economic dynamics of the entire country. Given the level of inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, it is no coincidence that the draft of the new hydrocarbon law, approved by the government in 2007, ran aground in parliament, and that the autonomous region of Kurdistan approved in the same year its own oil law, which gives the right to directly stipulate contracts with foreign companies. Although the 2005 Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the entire Iraqi people own the hydrocarbon resources, there is a lack of a unitary legal framework at the federal level that defines in an organic and precise way which resources must be administered by Baghdad and which by the provinces and regions. The controversial constitutional provisions leave room for multiple interpretations, which lead to a continuous tug of war between regions, provinces and the federal government. To reduce the friction between the autonomous region of Kurdistan and the central government, pending a census that establishes the population of the various Iraqi administrative units, a compromise has been reached that provides for the transfer of about 17% of oil revenues to budget in Erbil.

Iraq defense