Iraq After US Withdrawal: US Policy and the Iraqi Search for Security and Stability
July 18, 2012
The Burke Chair has prepared a draft analysis of the situation in Iraq that covers both the internal pressures in Iraq and the impact of the competition between Iran and the US and Gulf Cooperation Council states. This analysis in entitled "Iraq After US Withdrawal: The Search for Security and Stability". This report is available on the CSIS web site at https://csis.org/files/publication/120718_Iraq_US_Withdrawal_Search_SecStab.pdf
This analysis highlights the fact that despite the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, the struggle to secure Iraq moving forward is as crucial for US policymakers as ever before. The Burke Chair report also underscores the fact that Iraq remains a far more important US strategic interest than Afghanistan – a point emphasized in the new Department of Defense strategy introduced earlier this year. As tensions between the US and Iran over Western sanctions, Iran’s nuclear program, and military activity in the Gulf, Syria, and further region increase, the task of creating an effective strategic relationship with Iraq becomes all the more significant.
While the US has withdrawn from Iraq, this analysis demonstrates that US withdrawal did not leave a legacy of security and stability. In fact, the presence of US forces may have artificially suppressed the severity of Iraq’s internal political, military, and economic challenges. Since the US withdrawal, Iraq has faced an unsettling rise in civil unrest, and is experiencing a political power struggle that threats to undermine its ability to develop into a functioning democracy. Perhaps most troubling, these minor skirmishes and political crises could spiral into new rounds of sectarian and ethnic conflict which has plagued Iraq in the past.
Moreover, Iraq has so far failed to develop politically and economically to levels that will allow the country to overcome the crippling impact of thirty years of war, invasion, occupation, and crisis. It must deal with massive demographic pressures, youth unemployment, shortfalls in health and education, and revitalize its financial, agricultural, and industrial sectors.
In the process, Iraq must also rebuild its conventional forces to the point where they can deter and defend against Iraq’s neighbors. It must find a way to balance its ties to the US and Iran, while rebuilding its links to the Arab world. It must do so a time of regional turmoil, and cope with both the civil conflict in Syria and the risk of a major conflict or confrontation between Iran and the US and GCC states.
This requires a strong US country team with the funding and policy support necessary to be effective. Even with such support, the US will face major challenges in coping with Iraq’s serious internal problems, as well as deterring Iranian influence and interference.
This analysis will be regularly updated, and any comments or corrections will be most useful. Please address them to Anthony H. Cordesman at email@example.com.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ii
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 1
The Aftermath of the Invasion 5
2007-2011: A Shift to More Realistic Goals 6
The Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) and the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement 6
The Steadily More Dominant Impact of Iraq's Internal Political Divisions 8
IRAQ'S CONTINUING LEVELS OF INTERNAL VIOLENCE 9
IRAQ'S CRISIS IN LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE 35
POLITICAL COMPETITION BY KEY FACTION 49
ECONOMIC PROBLEMS AND THE SEARCH FOR STABILITY 63
IRAQ'S PETROLEUM CHALLENGES 71
THE REGIONAL RESPONSE TO DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ 82
US POLICY TOWARD IRAQ: AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE BASE FOR COMPETITION WITH IRAN 85
US AND IRANIAN COMPETITION IN IRAQ'S ECONOMY 95
COMPETITION FOR INFLUENCE IN IRAQ'S SECURITY FORCES 100
COMPETITION OVER "AXIS" OF INFLUENCE IN IRAQ, SYRIA, AND LEBANON 119
IMPLICATIONS FOR US POLICY 122