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Thursday | July 17, 2003

Fixing Iraq

By Steve Gilliard

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has issued a report on the steps that the Coalition Provisional Authority needs to take to get Iraq working again.

Seven major areas need immediate attention.

1. The coalition must establish public safety in all parts of the country. In addition to ongoing efforts, this will involve: reviewing force composition and structure, as well as composite force levels (U.S., coalition, and Iraqi) so as to be able to address the need for increased street- level presence in key conflictive areas; quickly hiring private security to help stand up and supervise a rapid expansion of the Iraqi Facility Protection Service, thereby freeing thousands of U.S. troops from this duty; ratcheting up efforts to recruit sufficient levels of international civilian police through all available channels; and, launc hing a major initiative to reintegrate “selfdemobilized”
Iraqi soldiers and local militias.

The problem with arming large numbers of Iraqis is that it may well be arming guerrillas and militias. The Shia clerics have the ability to end much of the security problem by simply ordering their young men to be available to serve in the police.

Until that happens, the Iraqi police will remain isolated.

2. Iraqi ownership of the rebuilding process must be expanded at national, provincial, and local levels. At the national level ensuring success of the newly formed Iraqi Governing Council is crucial. This will require avoiding overloading it with too many controversial issues too soon. The natural desire to draw anger away from the coalition by putting an Iraqi face on the most difficult decisions must be balanced with a realistic assessment of what the council can successfully manage. At the provincial and local levels, coalition forces and the CPA have made great progress in establishing political councils throughout the country, but they need direction and the ability to respond to local needs and demands. To achieve this, local and provincial political councils need to have access to resources and be linked to the national Iraqi
Governing Council and the constitutional process.

Again, the effectiveness of the process has varied with the support of local mullahs and their deputies. In some areas, services are returning, in others, there is a lot of tension between the locals and the CPA, and not just in the Sunni belt. Only the intervention of Ayatollah Sistani has prevented violence from exploding in Najaf, because the Americans appointed a former Sunni general to run the city until they arrested him.

3. Idle hands must be put to work and basic economic and social services provided immediately to avoid exacerbating political and security problems. A model economy will not be created overnight out of Iraq’s failed statist economic structures. Short-term public works projects are needed on a large scale to soak up sizable amounts of the available labor pool. Simultaneously, the CPA must get a large number of formerly state-owned enterprises up and running. Even if many of them are not competitive and may need to be privatized and downsized eventually, now is the time to get as many people back to work as possible. A massive micro-credit program in all provinces would help to spur wide-ranging economic activity, and help to empower key agents of change such as women. The CPA must also do whatever is necessary to immediately refurbish basic services, especially electricity, water, and sanitation.

This is obvious, but our reluctance to work with religious leaders hampers the ability to deliver basic services. The clerics are the social workers. Bolstering their work, in the short term, would do far more to stablize Iraq than anything short of large influxes of foreign troops. Ideology can wait.

4. Decentralization is essential. The job facing occupation and Iraqi authorities is too big to be handled exclusively by the central occupying authority and national Iraqi Governing Council. Implementation is lagging far behind needs and expectations in key areas, at least to some extent because of severely constrained CPA human resources at the provincial and local levels.
This situation must be addressed immediately by decentralizing key functions of the CPA to the provincial level, thereby enhancing operational speed and effectiveness and allowing maximum empowerment of Iraqis. The CPA must rapidly recruit and field a much greater number of civilian experts to guide key governance, economic, social, justice, and also some security components of the occupation.

The security problem makes this worse. As this report notes, civilian workers, both USG and Iraqi, come under daily fire. No one is going to volunteer to get ambushed in the boondocks of Iraq. Without security and local support, reconstruction is going to be difficult, if not impossible

5. The coalition must facilitate a profound change in the Iraqi national frame of mind –from centralized authority to significant freedoms, from suspicion to trust, from skepticism to hope . This will require an intense and effective communications and marketing campaign, not the status quo. The CPA needs to win the confidence and support of the Iraqi people. Communication – between the CPA and the Iraqi people, and within the CPA itself – is insufficient so far. Drastic changes must be made to immediately improve the daily flow of practical information to the Iraqi people, principally through enhanced radio and TV programming. Iraqis need to hear about difficulties and successes from authoritative sources. Secondly, the CPA needs to gather information from Iraqis much more effectively – through a
more robust civilian ground presence, “walk-in” centers for Iraqis staffed by Iraqis, and hiring a large number of Iraqi “animators” to carry and receive messages. Thirdly, information flow must be improved within the CPA itself through an integrated operations center that would extend across both the civilian and military sides of the CPA, and by enhancing cell-phone
coverage and a system-wide email system that could ease the timely dissemination of information to all CPA personnel

Unless you get the approval of the clerics, Iraqis will not risk working for the CPA. Those that do risk being killed as it stands. Until the clerics invest in supporting the CPA, there is little chance of this working on the scale it needs to. Which is massive. The US needs to deal with Iraqi leaders as they stand, not with a handpicked council. Which is rigged, in my opinion, to allow the Shia clerics to storm off at the moment of their choosing, claiming failure and demanding elections or a national uprising.

6. The United States needs to quickly mobilize a new reconstruction coalition that is significantly broader than the coalition that successfully waged the war. The scope of the challenges, the financial requirements, and rising anti-Americanism in parts of the country make necessary a new coalition that involves various international actors (including from countries and organizations that took no part in the original war coalition). The Council for International Cooperation at the CPA is a welcome innovation, but it must be dramatically expanded and supercharged if a new and inclusive coalition is to be built.

However, any new coalition hangs on a new UN Mandate and Arab cooperation, both of which is highly unlikely given the Bush Administration's conduct in the spring.

7. Money must be significantly more forthcoming and more flexible. Iraq will require significant outside support over the short to medium term. In addition to broadening the financial coalition to include a wider range of international actors, this means the President and Iraq Congress will need to budget and fully fund reconstruction costs through 2004. The CPA must be given rapid and flexible funding. “Business as usual” is not an option for operations in Iraq, nor can it be for their funding. The enormity of the task ahead cannot be underestimated. It requires that the entire effort be immediately turbo-charged – by aking it more agile and flexible, and providing it with greater funding and personnel.

Which is hampered by Washington's own budgetary issues and questions about the cost of the mission. There is no widespread support for billions to rebuild Iraq while states end school years early, teenagers spending the summer unemployed, and adults looking to replace their once high paying jobs and struggling with health insurance bills. Congress balked at a far more modest request for AIDS funding and is skittish about an intervention in Liberia.

There are real questions, when demands for US troops to return from Iraq grow, if the Congress will fully fund the CPA, given other budgetary demands and a near blanket refusal of other countries to contribute either men or money.

This is a question which will be revisited again, very quickly, by Congress and the White House, with no clear answers.

Posted July 17, 2003 07:32 PM


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