Mistakes made since 2003 should not be repeated in Mosul

Sunday 18/09/2016

Other than the invasion of Iraq, two key decisions in the aftermath of the 2003 war have shaped the state of the country today. Unelected and inexperienced administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Paul Bremer enforced CPA Orders 1 and 2; the de-Ba’athification process of Iraq barring Ba’athists from a role in the new Iraq and the disbanding of the Iraqi Army.

In a country where the only political party that existed was the Ba’ath Party, these decisions alienated thousands of otherwise peaceful individuals.

The concept of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) rose in popularity in the early 1990s as a means to estab­lish a lasting peace. Mats Berdal, a professor of Security and Devel­opment at King’s College London, explained how DDR needs to be considered as a sequential process involving a systematic collection of weapons from combatants, the disbanding of warring parties and the provision of alternative sustainable livelihoods.

Not only have unsuccessful DDR programmes proven to be detrimental to countries they are implemented in but they have severe ramifications in the region, highlighted by the Liberian civil war.


Today, 13 years after the inva­sion of Iraq, the mistakes by the CPA not only destabilised Iraq but the unrest has spread across the region.

Following approximately two decades of experience in DDR programmes prior to the oust­ing of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was not considered a unique case by the United States.

In March 2003, plans for reintegrating the Iraqi Army were finalised and more than $70 million were pledged by the Pentagon for Iraq’s DDR process. This money was never spent on the project and remains unaccounted for. By May 2003, a mere one week into Bremer’s au­thoritarian rule of Iraq, the leader of the CPA reversed any plans for reintegration.

Order 1, the de-Ba’athification of Iraq, affected up to 100,000 Iraqis, including 40,000 teachers who joined the Ba’ath Party since no alternative was available under the iron-fisted rule of Saddam. This decision prevented many Iraqis from being able to support themselves or their families.

With the rising insecurity in Iraq, grievances turned into anger and the formation of insurgency groups initially against the oc­cupying US forces and eventually giving rise to the Islamic State (ISIS). At the time, the Baghdad CIA station chief warned Bremer, regarding Order 1: “By nightfall, you’ll have driven 30,000 to 50,000 Ba’athists underground and in six months, you’ll really regret this.”

Zahraa Ghandour, an Iraqi film-maker, described how her neigh­bours — a former schoolteacher and the teacher’s husband who worked as a manager of a factory belonging to Saddam’s govern­ment — were both prevented from returning to work in the new Iraq. Ghandour said: “They were a very, very peaceful family. The husband was only part of the Ba’ath Party by name. After years of going through financial hardships, star­vation for him and his family and repeatedly trying but being pre­vented from seeking employment due to his prior affiliation with the Ba’ath Party, he joined al-Qaeda to the approval of his whole family.”

The Iraqi Army was disbanded with the signing of Order 2, driving hundreds of thousands armed and experienced military personnel underground. This left a massive security gap, which was exploited by looters and later filled by non-state actors. Many frustrated ex-soldiers eventually took up arms and created insur­gency groups.

Douglas Feith, US undersecre­tary of Defense for policy, said the de-Ba’athification process was partially a marketing strategy as rolling back the process would “undermine the entire moral jus­tification for the war”, especially considering the weapons of mass destruction claim turned out to be false.

In 2011, Nuri al-Maliki repeated the mistakes of Bremer. Iraq passed through years of heavy sectarian violence and war. In a movement known as the “Awak­ening”, tribal leaders were prom­ised that, after ending the sectar­ian war, they would have a role in the future of Iraq.

The success of the Awakening was met with the disarmament of the tribes by the Maliki regime with no reintegration. A further broken promise by the govern­ment resulted in some of those fighters, up to 90,000 according to US Department of Defense, pledg­ing allegiance to ISIS.

As Iraq steps to liberate Mosul from ISIS, provisions must be taken to ensure mistakes are not repeated. A full DDR programme must be formulated for the 1 mil­lion-plus citizens of Mosul, many of whom have had no option other than being forced to interact with ISIS. As shown before, without reintegration, the resulting aliena­tion will lead to the formation of new terrorist organisations.

In the last month, Iraqi forces have prevented families from re­turning to Tikrit due to allegations of affiliations with ISIS, families whose alienation is likely to push them to support other terrorist organisations. In the post-ISIS world, to maintain peace, the mistakes of the US occupying forces and Iraqi government must be avoided and transitional justice coupled with DDR must be imple­mented.

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