Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
Ten years after the March 19, 2003, U.S. military intervention to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, accelerating violence and growing political schisms call into question whether the fragile stability left in place after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will collapse. Iraq’s stability is increasingly threatened by a revolt—with both peaceful and violent components—by Sunni Arab Muslims who resent Shiite political domination. Sunni Arabs, always fearful that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would seek unchallenged power, accuse him of attempting to marginalize them politically in part by arresting or attempting to remove key Sunni leaders. Sunni demonstrations have grown since late December 2012 and some have led to protester deaths. Iraq’s Kurds are increasingly aligned with the Sunnis, based on their own disputes with Maliki over territorial, political, and economic issues. The Shiite faction of Moqtada Al Sadr has been leaning to the Sunnis and Kurds, and could hold the key to Maliki’s political survival. Adding to the schisms is the physical incapacity of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has served as a key mediator, who suffered a stroke in mid-December 2012 and remains outside Iraq. The rifts have impinged on provincial elections on April 20, 2013, and will likely affect national elections for a new parliament and government in 2014. Maliki is expected to seek to retain his post in that vote.
The violent component of Sunni unrest is spearheaded by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I). The group, apparently emboldened by the Sunni-led uprising in Syria, is conducting attacks against Shiite neighborhoods and Iraqi Security Force (ISF) members with increasing frequency and lethality. The attacks are intended to reignite all-out sectarian conflict, and some fear that goal might be realized. Should the violence escalate further, there are concerns whether the ISF—which numbers nearly 700,000 members—can counter it now that U.S. troops are no longer in Iraq.
U.S. forces left in December 2011 in line with a November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. Iraq refused to extend the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, seeking to put behind it the period of U.S. political and military tutelage and arguing that the ISF could handle violence on its own. Since the U.S. pullout, many observers assert that U.S. influence over Iraq has ebbed significantly. Cornerstone programs of what were to be enduring, close security relations—U.S. training for Iraq’s security forces through an Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (OSC-I) and a State Department police development program—have languished. The U.S. civilian presence in Iraq has declined from about 17,000 to about 10,500 as of March 2013, and might fall to 5,500 by the end of 2013. However, the Administration—with increasing Iraqi concurrence—has asserted that the escalating violence necessitates that Iraq rededicate itself to military cooperation with and assistance from the United States. In December 2012 signed a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States.
Although recognizing that Iraq wants to rebuild its relations in its immediate neighborhood, the United States is seeking to prevent Iraq from falling under the sway of Iran. The Maliki government has built close relations with the Islamic Republic. Apparently fearing that a change of regime in Syria will further embolden the Iraqi Sunni opposition, Maliki has joined Iran in supporting Bashar Al Assad’s regime. However, the legacy of Iran-Iraq hostilities, and Arab and Persian differences, limit Iranian influence among the Iraqi population. Another limitation on Iranian influence is Iraq’s effort to reestablish its historic role as a major player in the Arab world. Iraq took a large step toward returning to the Arab fold by hosting an Arab League summit on March 27-29, 2012.
Country Analysis Brief: Iraq
Source: Energy Information Administration
Iraq was the world’s eighth largest producer of total petroleum liquids in 2012, and it has the world’s fifth largest proven petroleum reserves after Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, and Iran. Just a fraction of Iraq’s known fields are in development, and Iraq may be one of the few places left where much of its known hydrocarbon resources has not been fully exploited. Iraq’s energy sector is heavily based on oil. Over 90 percent of its energy needs are met with petroleum (2010 estimate), with the rest supplied by natural gas and hydropower.
Iraq has begun to develop its oil and natural gas reserves after years of sanctions and wars, but it will need to develop its infrastructure in order to reach its production potential. According to estimates by Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, capital expenditures of $30 billion per year in Iraqi energy infrastructure are required to meet Iraq’s production targets. Progress has been hampered by political disputes and the lack of a law to govern development of Iraq’s oil and gas. The proposed Hydrocarbon Law, which would govern contracting and regulation, has been under review in the Council of Ministers since October 26, 2008, but has not received final passage.
Source: The Lancet
The adverse health consequences of the Iraq War (2003—11) were profound. We conclude that at least 116 903 Iraqi non-combatants and more than 4800 coalition military personnel died over the 8-year course. Many Iraqi civilians were injured or became ill because of damage to the health-supporting infrastructure of the country, and about 5 million were displaced. More than 31 000 US military personnel were injured and a substantial percentage of those deployed suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other neuropsychological disorders and their concomitant psychosocial problems. Many family members of military personnel had psychological problems. Further review of the adverse health consequences of this war could help to minimise the adverse health consequences of, and help to prevent, future wars.
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Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Office)
The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.
The boycott has three tiers. The primary boycott prohibits citizens of an Arab League member from buying from, selling to, or entering into a business contract with either the Israeli government or an Israeli citizen. The secondary boycott extends the primary boycott to any entity world-wide that does business in Israel. A blacklist of global firms that engage in business with Israel is maintained by the Central Boycott Office, and disseminated to Arab League members. The tertiary boycott prohibits an Arab League member and its nationals from doing business with a company that deals with companies that have been blacklisted by the Arab League.
Since the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, its impact, measured by capital or revenue denied to Israel by companies adhering to the boycott, is difficult to measure. The effect of the primary boycott appears limited since intra-regional trade and investment are small. Enforcement of the secondary and tertiary boycotts has decreased over time, reducing their effect. Thus, it appears that since intra-regional trade is small, and that the secondary and tertiary boycotts are not aggressively enforced, the boycott may not currently have an extensive effect on the Israeli economy.
Despite the lack of economic impact on either Israeli or Arab economies, the boycott remains of strong symbolic importance to all parties. The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end the boycott and its enforcement. Despite U.S. efforts, however, many Arab League countries continue to support the boycott’s enforcement. U.S. legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance legislation. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. U.S. companies are required to report to the Department of Commerce any requests to comply with the Arab League Boycott.
The current list of countries that request U.S. companies to participate or agree to participate in boycotts prohibited under U.S. law includes Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
This report provides background information on the boycott and U.S. efforts to end its enforcement. More information on Israel is contained in CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.
Learning From Iraq: A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
Source: Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction culminates SIGIR’s nine-year mission overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction. It serves as a follow-up to our previous comprehensive review of the rebuilding effort, Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience.
This study provides much more than a recapitulation of what the reconstruction program accomplished and what my office found in the interstices. While examining both of these issues and many more, Learning From Iraq importantly captures the effects of the rebuilding program as derived from 44 interviews with the recipients (the Iraqi leadership), the executors (U.S. senior leaders), and the providers (congressional members). These interviews piece together an instructive picture of what was the largest stabilization and reconstruction operation ever undertaken by the United States (until recently overtaken by Afghanistan).
The body of this report reveals countless details about the use of more than $60 billion in taxpayer dollars to support programs and projects in Iraq. It articulates numerous lessons derived from SIGIR’s 220 audits and 170 inspections, and it lists the varying consequences meted out from the 82 convictions achieved through our investigations. It urges and substantiates necessary reforms that could improve stabilization and reconstruction operations, and it highlights the financial benefits accomplished by SIGIR’s work: more than $1.61 billion from audits and over $191 million from investigations.
Source: RAND Corporation
The Demands Placed Upon the Army by Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
- The Army has provided the bulk of U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan: over 1.5 million troop-years as of December 2011, and 54 percent of all active component troop-year deployments within the area of operations.
- Since 2008, the cumulative amount of time that a soldier has spent deployed has increased (on average) by 28 percent. In contrast, the percentage "not yet deployed" and the Army’s unutilized capacity to deploy have both decreased.
- As of December 2011, roughly 73 percent of active component soldiers had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, an increase of 6 percentage points since December 2008. Most of these soldiers were working on their second, third, or fourth year of cumulative deployed duty.
- Most of the remaining 27 percent are not yet deployed, since they are recent recruits, are forward-stationed in other overseas locations, or have contributed to Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn without deploying.
- The Army retains very little unutilized capacity to deploy additional active component soldiers without increasing the burden on those who have already deployed.
CRS — U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (February 5, 2013)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
This report presents statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in the active Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), as well as operations that have ended: Operation New Dawn (OND, Iraq) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, Iraq). This report includes statistics on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, evacuations, and the demographics of casualties. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) website, whereas others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD.
This report will be updated as needed.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Airport Noise Grants: FAA Needs to Better Ensure Project Eligibility and Improve Strategic Goal and Performance Measures. GAO-12-890, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648149.pdf
2. Asset Forfeiture Programs: Justice and Treasury Should Determine Costs and Benefits of Potential Consolidation. GAO-12-972, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648097.pdf
4. Bureau of Prisons: Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure. GAO-12-743, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648124.pdf
5. Critical Infrastructure: DHS Needs to Refocus Its Efforts to Lead the Government Facilities Sector. GAO-12-852, August 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593580.pdf
6. Department of Homeland Security: Oversight and Coordination of Research and Development Should Be Strengthened. GAO-12-837, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648153.pdf
7. Federal Disaster Assistance: Improved Criteria Needed to Assess a Jurisdiction’s Capability to Respond and Recover on Its Own. GAO-12-838, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648163.pdf
8. Iraq and Afghanistan: Agencies Are Taking Steps to Improve Data on Contracting but Need to Standardize Reporting. GAO-12-977R, September 12.
9. Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report. GAO-12-879R, September 12.
10. Millennium Challenge Corporation: Results of Transportation Infrastructure Projects in Seven Countries. GAO-12-631, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648093.pdf
11. Nonproliferation: Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Exports. GAO-12-536, July 30.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593132.pdf
1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management, by Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-12-912T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592773.pdf
2. Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-1011T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648121.pdf
3. Operational Contract Support: Sustained DOD Leadership Needed to Better Prepare for Future Contingencies, by Timothy J. DiNapoli, acting director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-1026T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648106.pdf
New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Federal Buildings Fund: Improved Transparency and Long-term Plan Needed to Clarify Capital Funding Priorities. GAO-12-646, July 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592378.pdf
2. Medicaid: Providers in Three States with Unpaid Federal Taxes Received Over $6 Billion in Medicaid Reimbursements. GAO-12-857, July 27.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593096.pdf
3. Ownership by Minority, Female, and Disadvantaged Firms in the Pipeline Industry. GAO-12-896R, August 2.
4. Federal Fleets: Overall Increase in Number of Vehicles Masks That Some Agencies Decreased Their Fleets. GAO-12-780, August 2.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593248.pdf
5. Cancellation of the Army’s Autonomous Navigation System. GAO-12-851R, August 2.
6. Iraq and Afghanistan: State and DOD Should Ensure Interagency Acquisitions Are Effectively Managed and Comply with Fiscal Law. GAO-12-750, August 2.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593262.pdf
7. Secure Communities: Criminal Alien Removals Increased, but Technology Planning Improvements Needed. GAO-12-708, July 13.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592416.pdf
1. Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program: Vulnerability to Fraud and Abuse Remains, by Richard J. Hillman, managing director, forensic audits and investigative service, before the Subcommittees on Economic Opportunity and Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-12-967T, August 2.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Freedom of Information Act: Key Website Is Generally Reliable, but Action Is Needed to Ensure Completeness of Its Reports. GAO-12-754, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592011.pdf
2. Defense Management: Steps Taken to Better Manage Fuel Demand but Additional Information Sharing Mechanisms Are Needed. GAO-12-619, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592023.pdf
3. Internal Revenue Service: Status of GAO Financial Audit and Related Financial Management Recommendations. GAO-12-695, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592016.pdf
1. Mission Iraq: State and DOD Face Challenges in Finalizing Support and Security Capabilities, by Michael J. Courts, acting director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-856T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591998.pdf
2. Residential Appraisals: Regulators Should Take Actions to Strengthen Appraisal Oversight, by William B. Shear, director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-12-840T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592001.pdf
3. Information Security: Cyber Threats Facilitate Ability to Commit Economic Espionage, by Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-12-876T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592009.pdf
4. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the Organization and Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration, by Gene Aloise, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-867T, June 27.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591975.pdf
Presentation by the Comptroller General
1. Partnership and Collaboration: Meeting the Challenges Across All Levels of Government, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the 19th Biennial Forum of Government Auditors, Alexandria Virginia. GAO-12-882CG, June 27.
Introduction:Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.Method:We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.Results:Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).Conclusion:The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.
October 2011: Quarterly Report To Congress
Source: Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
Sixty days from now, the mission of the U.S. Forces-Iraq will come to an end. his historic moment will close the books on nearly nine years of U.S. military engagement in Iraq. his moment also inaugurates a new phase in the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. Substantial U.S. inancial assistance will continue, albeit at levels lower than in previous years. But a more cooperative and collaborative aspect will eventually embrace this crucially important relationship as the State Department’s plans and programs develop.
The Iraq that the U.S. military leaves is fundamentally changed from the foundering state that existed in the spring of 2003. Iraq’s economy, then at a stand-still, is expected to grow at a robust 9.6% this year; inlation is low; the national budget is 40% larger than it was three years ago; and oil production in 2011 will almost certainly set a post-2003 record. But Iraq still sufers from daily attacks, with Iraqi Security Forces personnel and senior Government of Iraq leaders regularly subject to assassination attempts. his painful reality underscores the continuing need for Iraq to strengthen its military, police, and rule-of-law institutions. Section 1 of this Report features detailed perspectives on the security situation drawn from recent interviews with top oicials at the Ministries of Interior and Defense.
There were political clashes within the GOI this quarter over competing versions of the long-awaited new hydrocarbon law, a contentious issue that fundamentally divides the GOI and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). his Report’s Focus on the Kurdistan Region provides details on what has been a largely successful reconstruction program in that part of northern Iraq, notwithstanding the unsettling issues that currently daunt relations between the GOI and KRG.
Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan
Source: Institute of Medicine
From press release:
Insufficient data on service members’ exposures to emissions from open-air burn pits for trash on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan is one of the reasons why it is not possible to say whether these emissions could cause long-term health effects, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. High background levels of ambient pollution from other sources and lack of information on the quantities and composition of wastes burned in the pits also complicate interpretation of the data.
During deployment to a war zone, military personnel can be exposed to a variety of environmental hazards, many of which have been associated with long-term adverse health outcomes such as cancer and respiratory disease. Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have health problems that they worry are related to their exposure to burn pits on military bases. Special attention has been focused on the burn pit at Joint Base Balad (JBB), one of the largest U.S. military bases in Iraq and a central logistics hub.
Based on its analysis of raw data from air monitoring efforts at JBB conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, the committee that wrote the report concluded that levels of most pollutants of concern at the base were not higher than levels measured at other polluted sites worldwide. Moreover, research on other populations exposed to complex mixtures of pollutants, primarily firefighters and workers at municipal waste incineration plants, has not indicated increased risk for long-term health consequences such as cancer, heart disease, and most respiratory illnesses among these groups.
Even so, the committee pointed out shortcomings in research and gaps in evidence that prevented them from drawing firm conclusions, and it recommended a path to overcome some of these limitations. Lack of information on the specific quantities and types of wastes burned and on other sources of background pollution when air samples were being collected meant it was difficult to correlate pit emissions, including smoke events, with potential health outcomes. Different types of wastes produce different combinations of chemical emissions with the possibility of different health outcomes in those exposed. Moreover, it is hard to determine whether surrogate populations such as firefighters experience exposures to pollutants and durations of exposures similar to those of service members stationed at JBB.
Travel Warning: Iraq
Source: U.S. Department of State
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq given the dangerous security situation. Civilian air and road travel within Iraq remains dangerous. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated April 12, 2011, to update information and to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns for U.S. citizens in Iraq, including kidnapping and terrorist violence.
The United States has reduced the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq and ended the combat mission there on August 31, 2010. Consistent with agreements between the two countries, the United States is scheduled to complete its withdrawal of military forces from Iraq by December 31, 2011.
Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). However, violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist and no region should be considered safe from dangerous conditions. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or “Green”) Zone (IZ). Methods of attack have included magnetic bombs placed on vehicles; roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs); mortars and rockets; human- and vehicle-borne IEDs, including Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs); mines placed on or concealed near roads; suicide attacks; and shootings. Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations against these groups continue, attacks against the ISF and U.S. forces persist in many areas of the country. U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at a high risk for kidnapping.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. DOD Financial Management: Marine Corps Statement of Budgetary Resources Audit Results and Lessons Learned. GAO-11-830, September 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11830high.pdf
2. DOD Financial Management: Improvement Needed in DOD Components’ Implementation of Audit Readiness Effort. GAO-11-851, September 13.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11851high.pdf
3. Chesapeake Bay: Restoration Effort Needs Common Federal and State Goals and Assessment Approach. GAO-11-802, September 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11802high.pdf
4. Iraq and Afghanistan: DOD, State, and USAID Cannot Fully Account for Contracts, Assistance Instruments, and Associated Personnel. GAO-11-886, September 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11886high.pdf
1. Disaster Recovery: Federal Contracting in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, by William T. Woods, acquisition and sourcing management before the Senate Committee On Small Business and Entrepreneurship. GAO-11-942T, September 15.
2. Small Business Contracting: Opportunities to Improve the Effectiveness of Agency and SBA Advocates and Mentor-Protege Programs, by William B. Shear, financial markets and community investment before the Contracting And Workforce Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee. GAO-11-844T, September 15.
3. DOD Financial Management: Ongoing Challenges in Implementing the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan by Asif Khan, financial management and assurance before the Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs Committee. GAO-11-932T, September 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11932thigh.pdf
Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)
Iraq’s political system is increasingly characterized by peaceful competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances, but ethnic and sectarian political infighting continues, often involving violence or the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This infighting is based on the belief that holding political power may mean the difference between poverty and prosperity, or even life and death, for the various political communities. The schisms delayed agreement on a new government following the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament). With U.S. diplomatic help, on November 10, 2010, major ethnic and sectarian factions finally agreed on a framework (“Irbil Agreement”) for a new government under which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is serving a second term.
In recent months, and with a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq looming at the end of 2011, the optimism of that agreement has faded and relations among major factions have frayed. Sunni Arabs still fear that Maliki and his Shiite allies will try to monopolize power. The Kurds are wary that Maliki will not honor pledges to resolve Kurd-Arab territorial and financial disputes. Sunni Arabs and the Kurds dispute territory and governance in parts of northern Iraq, particularly Nineveh Province. Some Iraqi communities, including Christians in northern Iraq, are not necessarily at odds with the government but are often caught in the crossfire between the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds. These splits have created conditions under which the insurgency that hampered U.S. policy during 2004-2008 continues to succeed in conducting occasional high casualty attacks, and in which Shiite militias are rearming and conducting attacks on U.S. forces still in Iraq.
These political disputes and ongoing violence—coupled with U.S. concerns about the effectiveness of Iraq’s 650,000 member security forces—have created momentum for the United States and Iraq to modify the firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011. That deadline is enshrined in a 2008 U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. With the formal end of the U.S. combat mission on August 31, 2010, U.S. forces have dropped to a current level of about 47,000, from a 2008 high of 170,000. In several high-level visits and statements during 2011, senior U.S. officials have said that Iraq should request a continuing, but likely sharply reduced, presence of U.S. forces after 2011. An Iraqi decision on such a request was long hampered by all the same political schisms discussed above, as well as the Sadr threats to rearm his followers if U.S. forces remain after 2011. However, Maliki obtained sufficient consensus in July 2011 to announce the start of negotiations with the United States on extension of the U.S. military presence. The retention of some U.S. troops leave might reduce some of the concerns about the ability of the U.S. State Department to secure its facilities and personnel and to carry out its mission on its own.
The Administration is hopeful that, no matter the outcome of discussions on the U.S. military presence, all factions will cooperate to act on key outstanding legislation crucial to attracting foreign investment, such as national hydrocarbon laws. The new government took action on some long-stalled initiatives, including year-long tensions over Kurdish exports of oil. However, the lack of a broader and sustained focus on governance, or on improving key services, such as electricity, created popular frustration that manifested as protests since February 2011. The demonstrations were partly inspired by the wave of unrest that has broken out in many other Middle Eastern countries, but were not centered on overthrowing the regime or wholesale political change.