Iraq was a British construct after the fall of the Ottoman Empire
at the end of World War II. In less than a century
after its formation the British along with their American allies
are in the forefront for the deconstruction of Iraq. The trifurcation
of Iraq, should it come about, will not be very different from
the three original Ottoman provinces that were amalgamated in
1922 and placed under a Hashemite King. While Iraq itself may
have been unified comparatively recently by the British, Baghdad,
its capital, has a much longer history that has been woven into
the myths and legends of the Middle East for over a millennium.
In fact, no other city of the Arab world embodies so distinctly
the Arabian flavour than Baghdad. From AD 786-809, under fabled
Haroon al-Rashid - who established relations with China’s
Tang Dynasty and the emperor Charlemagne - Baghdad gave the world
astronomy, alchemy, hydraulics, diplomacy, fiscal administration
and the postal service. Up to the early 12th century it remained
the most important intellectual center in the world. Baghdad
had been under siege by the Assyrians and later by Cyrus the
Great from Persia. However, it was only in 1258 that Baghdad
was sacked for the first time by the Mongols riding under the
command of Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Khan. Legend has it
that he erected a pyramid of 700,000 skulls out of his victims.
In 1401, another foreign invader, the Turco-Mongol Tamerlane
("Timur the Lame"), devastated Baghdad yet again. Then
for six centuries Baghdad managed to survive relatively peacefully
till the “shock and awe” visited upon its inhabitants
by the 2003 invasion of the Anglo-American combine.
In the most recent invasion a figure of over half a million deaths
is already being mentioned for the Iraqis since the March 2003
invasion. This figure could go up considerably if the deaths of
young children caused due to malnutrition and lack of medicines
were to be taken into account since the 1991 invasion of Iraq.
In the latter case one or two million deaths had been reported.
During the shock and awe bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities,
most notably Fallujah, Depleted Uranium (DU) was freely used. The
use of DU could lead to very large number of casualties for the
coming generations exposed to it either directly or indirectly.
That is not all. The manner in which Iraq is sought to be vacated
by the occupying forces could lead to further sectarian killings
on a much larger scale than is presently the case. Iraq and the
Iraqis have suffered enough. Surely, a way can be found to prevent
Iraq from descending into a condition of semi-permanent chaos.
In the ensuing paragraphs a plan of action for preventing a cataclysmic
break up of Iraq is spelled out.
The Action Plan
The Action Plan comprises three distinct components as under:
- Status of the city of Baghdad
- Restructuring Iraqi Armed Forces
- Functioning of the Federal Structure
Each of these aspects is amplified below.
Status Of The City Of Baghdad
The key to the stabilization of Iraq is the stabilization of the
city of Baghdad; the key to the re-development of Iraq is the
redevelopment of Baghdad.
First the outline plan:
Baghdad to be declared a separate city-state.
Security of Baghdad
Law and order in Baghdad
Administering Baghdad city-state
Infrastructure development of Baghdad
Restoring Civic Services in Baghdad
Turning Baghdad into the cultural and education center of the Arab
Baghdad to be Declared Separate City-State
Baghdad should be declared a separate city-state with a clearly
delineated perimeter. Its status could be akin to the Vatican
Status in concert with the pattern of administration followed
for Chandigarh, the city design by the French architect, Le Corbusier
in the early 1950s. After the trifurcation of Punjab shortly
after the Independence of India, both the States of Punjab and
Haryana laid claim to Chandigarh as the capital of their respective
states. Without going into details the present status of Chandigarh
is that it is centrally administered as a Union Territory with
both the Punjab and Haryana state governments locating their
governing complexes in the city. As of now the model functions
satisfactorily with the people of Chandigarh happy to be administered
under a central government dispensation. Neither Punjab nor Haryana
have had any difficulty in carrying out the governing functions
of their respective states from Chandigarh.
Security of Baghdad
The security of Baghdad should be handed over for an initial ten-year
period to a military force provided by the Egyptian government.
The Government of Egypt would designate an Egyptian Army Corps
for exclusive deployment in the city of Baghdad. To cater for
expenses associated with the task Egypt would be paid US $ 2
billion per annum for all expenses related to the security functions
performed by the Corps in Baghdad. Every two years a review could
be undertaken for assessing the operating expenses involved and
the amount augmented if necessary. Similarly, the Corps could
be beefed up by the Egyptian Government based on ground conditions.
Payment to the latter would initially be dispensed by the US
The Corps Commander, whose credentials would be vetted by the US and the Iraq
government would be given total freedom to restore law and order for the first
two years. The Egyptian Corps would function in a manner similar to the SOFA
(Status of Forces Agreement) that the US government negotiates for its troops
deployed on overseas duties.
The Egyptian Corps Commander would be supervised by a Supervisory Committee
comprising designated representatives from the following: The US ambassador
in Iraq; Head of the UK Forces in Iraq; Representative of the Iraqi Government;
Representative of the UN Secretary General; Representative of the World Health
Organisation. Under clear guidelines framed by the Supervisory Council the
Egyptian Force Commander would have a free hand to restore normalcy in Baghdad.
For carrying out this task he could impose martial law in designated segments
of the city for given periods of time in order to rid the city of weapons of
all types held by individuals, militias or organizations operating outside
the law or against the rules for holding or carrying of weapons promulgated
by the Egyptian Force Commander. The Egyptian Forces deployed for the purpose
would have the freedom to launch any type of operations for ridding the city
of clandestine weapons or individuals or groupings attempting to take the law
into their own hands. For security and restoration of law and order in Baghdad
the Egyptian Force would be the sole force deployed for the purpose. The Iraqi
Army would be based in camps situated outside the periphery of the city in
designated areas. The Army Headquarters would remain in Baghdad. The US Army
would be responsible for providing security cordon around the periphery of
Baghdad city-state and for manning all entry and exit points along designated
routes. All entities, including the US Government locations, the Iraq Government
complexes, foreign embassies, Iraq armed forces headquarters and the like would
be permitted to deploy security elements for protection of their respective
complexes in situ as well as for protection of VVIPs, designated dignitaries
or individuals. All other protection within the city would be provided by the
Egyptian forces. The latter would have the authority to shoot or apprehend
elements carrying weapons or causing disorder. All militias would be given
notice by the Egyptian force commander to exit the capital within a given time
frame, after which they would be liable to be summarily apprehended and incarcerated
or executed. Zero tolerance in this regard would be the order of the day. In
executing his task the Egyptian force commander will not be hampered by any
of the other entities holding power in Iraq.
of Law and Order & Administration
in Baghdad City-State
Security and day-to-day law and order are complementary functions. To begin
with security as well as law and order would be handled by the Egyptian forces.
They would take help from the existing police forces. Suspect elements would
be weeded out and replaced by carefully selected personnel. The local police
could be supplemented by the military police personnel of both the US and
Egyptian forces. Once a semblance of security for the citizens of Baghdad
has been ensured the strengthened local police, augmented by carefully selected
fresh inductees, would gradually assume routine law and order functions.
Stringent selection procedures would be established for recruiting local
magistrates, superior judiciary for the city-state and other administrative
elements. All persons selected would remain secular and function as per international
norms prevalent in well-established democracies. Where necessary civil servants
and magistrates could be hired internationally for fixed tenures with Baghdadi
understudies. Gradually the citizens of Baghdad would assume all responsibilities
for self-governance, including local elections under neutral supervisory
authorities. Here again, persons showing signs of sectarianism would be excluded.
For the first three years the costs of running the administration of Baghdad
would be borne by the Central government and international donors. Thereafter,
as trade, commerce and services pick up local taxes would be levied till the
time Baghdad becomes financially self-sustaining.
Development & Restoring Civic Services in Baghdad
Going by the size of the population affected, the people of Baghdad have suffered
the most since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. For the average Iraqi living
conditions, which were appalling in the earlier stages have remained abysmal
in spite of the billions of dollars that have been sunk in. To put it mildly
the money was misspent. Along with the stabilization of the security situation
in the city the immediate priorities would be: restoration of electricity,
water supplies and health and hygiene. Other development projects would be
taken up for turning the city into a modern metropolis with first-rate transportation.
International tenders could be floated under the aegis of a neutral body
with impeccable credentials. Many of these services could be built on BOT
(Build, Operate, Transfer) basis. They would provide employment to local
Iraqis from the city. Middle class and wealthy Iraqis who have moved out
to other countries would be invited back to help in the re-building and re-vitalization
of the Baghdad city-state, which, in less than ten years could become one
of the finest cities of the Middle East - a modern day version of the fabled
dream city of the great Caliph Haroun-Al-Rashid.
Baghdad into the Cultural & Education Centre of the
Universities and entities from around the world would be invited to set up
modern educational, cultural and recreational facilities. Initially these would
be developed for the Baghdadis. Later on they would be thrown open to all Iraqis
and students selected from the rest of the Arab World. It would be the endeavour
of all concerned to ensure that the education provided remains modern and secular.
Friendly governments could also chip in to set up high tech facilities in the
city. At the end of the day the aim would be to develop Baghdad into the most
admired and vibrant capital in the Arab World.
Restructuring Iraqi Armed Forces
The broad outlines for restructuring of the Iraqi Armed Forces
include, inter alia:
- The army to be divided into three commands: The Southern Command
comprising Shiite divisions formed into one or two corps; Central
Command comprising Sunni troops for the Sunni dominated central
region; The Northern Command for deployment exclusively in the
Kurdish region consisting of Kurdish troops.
- Simultaneously a composite command could be envisaged of carefully
selected troops from all denominations. After suitable training
they would become the nucleus of specialist units.
-The army headquarters located in Baghdad would comprise senior
officers and personnel selected for their national and secular
outlook and proven competence.
-In the first phase the three Commands would be responsible for
security in their respective geographic commands. They would also
be responsible for guarding the borders of Iraq in their designated
- Academies and officers’ training schools would be set up
for joint training in facilities set up in Baghdad. All officers
selected for training, basic as well as advanced, would be carefully
-Training facilities for non-commissioned officers and other ranks
would be set up under respective regional commands.
- Medical, nursing and other specialized services would operate directly
under Army headquarters and allocated to commands on as required
Other details for professionalising the army have not been included
in this short paper. These can be spelt out a later stage.
Functioning Of The Federal Structure
The broad parameters of the proposed trifurcation of Iraq along
federal lines have been discussed in various forums. Much of the
mayhem has resulted from
irresoluteness that has crept in because of the vacillation in Washington,
much of it brought about due to the run up to the November 2006 elections in
the USA. Now that these are behind them, both parties – Republicans and
Democrats - can get together purposefully to move forward to retrieve the situation
in Iraq. There can hardly be two opinions at this point in time that the US
policies in Iraq have generally failed. However, notwithstanding the many wrong
turns that were taken earlier on, the US Army in Iraq is not an army that has
been defeated or severely mauled. When a foreign country is invaded the casualties
are expected to run into the tens of thousands in the first phase of capture
itself. The American Army was lucky. Iraq was not seriously contested. Therefore,
some years down the line a few thousand US casualties do not represent a critical
situation from the military point of view. The greater problem is the demoralization
resulting from the wrangling in Washington – irrespective of whether
it is justified or not. The moment a clear, unmistakable plan of action is
decided in Washington and conveyed to Iraq and the world the fog of uncertainty
would lift and a situation considered hopeless to many would reveal facets
that indicate brighter possibilities for stabilizing the situation.
One possibility would be to go along with the practically non-functioning present
dispensation and improve its functioning by quelling sectarian conflict in
Baghdad after declaring it a city-state and thereafter bringing about normalization
by curtailing sectarian strife, and then spreading it outward in concentric
circles. With persistence and clear enunciation of intent, regardless of opposition
from various sectarian and extra-territorial interests in the region, a degree
of normalization would automatically ensue. The present state of uncertainty
would be dispelled after the plan, so adopted, is given bi-partisan support
Before going into other aspects there has to be a consensus in Washington that
the type of re-construction projects entrusted to firms like Halliburton would
be a closed chapter. Hereafter, all funds allocated for Iraq would have to
be overseen by a respected oversight committee comprising members from both
parties. The reconstruction activity would require to be monitored all the
way down the line to the execution of the projects on the ground – in
good condition and without cost and time overruns. Half the unrest in Iraq
and the anti-American feeling stems from mismanaged projects, diversion of
funds and not meeting expectations made with great fanfare in Washington and
Baghdad after an easy victory.
It should not be too difficult to ensure pipeline security and greater output
from production sites once the revised plans are announced and implementation
undertaken with quiet purposefulness and professionalism. A development tax
should be levied at the wellhead on each barrel of oil. Its utilization and
distribution between the federating units has to be clearly spelled out. Here
again, if funds are properly utilized and results begin to appear on the ground
sectarian strife would automatically come down and the animus against the US
troops gradually simmer down.
The American government has to firmly indicate its stance on the question of
US troops in Iraq. Naturally several factors having a regional bearing would
impinge on a decision of this nature. A suggested framework could be as under:
- In the longer-term the US is committed to a complete withdrawal once
normalcy is restored. A caveat relating to the Kurdish region could be put in.
- It would withdraw approximately 50,000 military personnel within 18
months of the revised plan taking off on the ground.
- Thereafter, further reduction every six months to a year depending upon
the competence achieved by the restructured Iraq Army.
It is important that the revised plan is circulated in-house in the Pentagon,
the State Department, the Defence Department (the Pentagon should be free to
give its own comments that may be at variance), the CIA and other selected
committees and entities. Once a general consensus is obtained the plan should
be communicated to all concerned and faithfully executed down the line. The
sniping in Washington should then come down, if not cease.
The USA has messed up things in Iraq. It was a wrong decision that was taken
for all the wrong reasons. There was a large element of deception that has
eroded the credibility of the US Administration – internally among the
American people and externally among the allies. The start point for retrieving
the situation in Iraq is to acknowledge the mistakes and then forget the past.
Witch hunting and recrimination will not serve any purpose. Lessons would have
been learned in Washington to ensure that such deception is never again allowed
to influence major commitment of US forces abroad. The situation in Iraq is
certainly grim. It is, however, far from being irretrievable. Fresh initiatives
along the lines indicated, with sensible modifications and mid-term corrections,
whenever required, should allow Iraq to get up on its feet again.
November 17, 2006
© Vinod Saighal