Iraq in Transition: Governance, Politics, Economics, and Petroleum

The war in Iraq remains a critical aspect of US national security, and involves more vital US strategic interests than the conflict in Afghanistan.  Estimates by the Energy Information Agency of the Department of Energy indicate that the US and global economy will not reduces their strategic dependence on the Gulf petroleum exports through 2035, and Iraq’s future alignments with the US will be critical to determining our ability to contain Iran and ensure the security of our Arab allies and Israel.

It is also clear that Iraq still has an uncertain capability to deal with its extremist and terrorist threats, deter any foreign threats and pressure, and limit the risk of new outbreaks of ethnic and sectarian violence without US aid. The fact that Iraq’s leadership has agreed to ask some US forces to stay is only one indication of the issues involved, and the problems that have been highlighted by other research centers like RAND and the ICG. Iraq still has broad needs for US aid and assistance, and it will be years before rises in its petroleum revenues will allow it to fully fund its internal security and development, and create military forces strong enough to ensure its security against neighbors like Iran.

The Burke Chair has developed a new series of summary briefings on on Iraq that highlight recent developments in the war, as well as trends in Iraq’s security, its politics and governance, its economy, and its security forces.

The three briefings in this series also provide an overview of developments in the Iraqi energy sector and the current capabilities and size of Iraqi security forces (ISF), and their dependence on aid. They summarize the cost of the war to date to the US, the patterns in the withdrawal of US forces, and current plans for the US military withdrawal from Iraq. They also provide a summary of plans for a US State Department-led effort to create a strategic partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement.

The briefs include the following documents:

It should be noted that these briefs are largely in the form of graphics and maps that draw heavily on reporting by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR), and that the SIGIR quarterly report for July 2011 provides far more narrative detail on development in Iraq and US plans for the future.

They also, however, draw on other reporting by the Department of Defense, the State Department, Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office, CIA, and the Energy Information Agency of the US Department of Energy. All provide additional unclassified and declassified data on current developments in Iraq that can only be summarized in these briefs.

Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy