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Review

By Lauren Williamson

Next year's final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq could pose a serious security threat to the burgeoning democracy. In Middle East Report No. 99, released in October 2010, the International Crisis Group deconstructs the country's complex security framework, outlining ambiguities in protocol and inefficiencies in coordination. Arguing that the country's most significant threat is now internal, the report recommends the Iraqi government act quickly to unify its people and fill any gaps created by the withdrawal of US forces.

The 2008 Status-of-Forces Agreement requires all US forces to fully withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. With just over a year before deadline, there is much work ahead to ensure Iraq can operate solo. In a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), the think tank deconstructs the country's security framework, outlining ambiguities in protocol and inefficiencies in coordination. The ICG argues that Iraq's future success depends on: 1) unifying and integrating the security forces, and 2) implementing stronger government oversight and accountability measures. But these recommendations are premature, as the March elections have left Iraq's government in political paralysis. The parliamentary tensions must first be addressed before Iraqi leaders shift focus to the country's security forces.

Since the March elections, Iraq's parliament has remained deadlocked in choosing a new leader. Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trailed only slightly behind secular Shi'ite candidate Ayad Allawi. US-supported plans for creating a power-sharing government between the groups have not been well-received. Maliki's attempt to secure reappointment has led him to align with Moktada al-Sadr's anti-American Shi'ite Islamist bloc, which analysts say indicates Iran's expanding influence over Iraq. This political environment is sure to stymie any attempt by Iraqi leaders to pursue the ICG's recommendations, as constructive as they may be.

In the report, the ICG carefully details the security framework explaining the various armed entities and six separate intelligence agencies operating within Iraq. A daunting point made by the ICG is that "who controls these various agencies is unclear." Although each agency was individually created to handle differentiated tasks, there exists much overlap which leads to inconsistencies and inefficiencies. Additionally, rivalry has developed between the groups. Such problems link to the US's initial response to the insurgency. To quickly quell the violent upsurge during the civil war years 2005-2007, the US increased quantity not quality of security forces. There were no background checks or assurances in loyalties. The ICG argues reversing that trend by focusing on quality of forces, should be the course of action over the next year.

But such efforts would be hampered by the existing inner tensions and public mistrust of the government, particularly amidst Maliki's power grab since 2008. Many Iraqis feel he has exploited the weaknesses in the country's 2005 constitution and that he manipulates security forces to further his own autocratic tendencies and harass political opponents. The ICG suggests the government enforce a hierarchy among the security bodies and set consistent protocol while limiting the political power of any one individual. Yet, if Maliki does secure reappointment, it is doubtful his government would readily support such measures.

Beyond this, the corruption in the country must be addressed. Iraq must therefore combat the problem of ghost soldiers, or soldiers who do not work but take in pay. They must thwart the increase in bribery through which jailed criminals are easily freed and insurgent attackers bypass security checkpoints. The ICG's report does not specifically make recommendations to solve these issues, but it is clear that the government must create an incentive structure that will yield liberal behaviour from citizens. Iraqi quality of life and available economic opportunities must be fruitful enough and legal consequences intimidating enough to make corrupt activities less appealing.

Paternalistic US support may have inadvertently contributed toward stunting the progress of Iraq's internal security. The fear is that when US forces leave in 2011 taking funding, logistics and equipment with them it will kick away the crutches too soon. The ICG's report labels the US military as Iraq's "primary bonding agent," but says US military support provides the perfect incentive to offer in return for the Iraqi government adopting a stronger regulatory framework. But this enticement does little to help Iraq create its own bonding agent, and a squabbling parliament is unlikely to easily agree on new regulations which need to be in place before the end of 2011.

Achieving comprehensive security requires a more holistic approach than the one provided by the ICG. One in seven Iraqi men is armed, and the report recommends continued integration of former insurgents into existing forces or public sector employment. However, there are profound ramifications of handling such a surplus of fighters. If quality, not quantity is the way forward, as the ICG suggests, Iraq is facing a significant challenge in reabsorbing former fighters into civilian life. Not only does the country need to offer appealing employment opportunities, but to achieve successful reintegration it must also emphasize re-education. The archetypal grandeur experienced during warfare does not lose its attraction when a war ends, and this psychological desire is hard to quench through the non-combatant roles civilian life offers. It is possible that these individuals will seek fighting elsewhere, becoming liabilities to Iraq's internal security.

The report states "no external threat appears on the horizon" for Iraq. The ICG maintains that insurgent groups are not strong enough to topple the government. Such statements may be harmful if they contribute to a false sense of confidence about the capabilities of the deeply divided government. Iraq's internal tensions might make the country more vulnerable to external threats.

While the report offers a solid analysis of Iraq's security workings and provides recommendations for reviving the regulatory architecture that governs them, it is insufficient in setting a path for achieving total security for the burgeoning democracy. Solving the political deadlock and attaining inner cohesion should be the top priority. In fact, the Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008, which roughly outlines the longer-term Iraqi-US relationship, may need to be amended as troops depart, to allow for a more comprehensive approach in achieving
security for the country.

This article was originally written for and published by The Majalla.

The International Crisis Group report can be accessed here.

 

An Analysis of the Chief of Staff of the United States' Air Force Speech to the 2010 RAF Air Power Conference, 18 June 2010

I E Shields, Cambridge University

The United Kingdom Government's Strategic Defence and Security review ("SDSR") is nearly upon us, and although rightly the Review will be mostly inward-looking, we no longer operate in isolation but in coalitions, primarily with the United States. What might this most important ally be looking for from us? In terms of the RAF we might have some clues. At this year's RAF Air Power Conference, held in London on 17 18 June 2010 under the overall heading "Meeting the Challenge", General "Norty" Schwartz, the present Chief of Staff of the United States' Air Force (CSAF), gave the keynote address under the title "Adaptable Air and Space Power for the 21st Century" . A review of his speech, looking for pointers as to what the USAF might be looking for from the RAF in the future is instructive.

The General's speech contained, in my analysis, three core themes: the character of the present conflict; the need for coalitions; and the roles of Air and Space Power. Before considering each in turn and what it might mean for the RAF, it is worth examining his opening comments. He started by drawing a distinction between what is effectively the nature of Air Power, that which is unchanging ("speed, range, flexibility and versatility") and its present employment, which is subject to the vagaries of the nature of the conflict and the technology of the day ("tailorable, timely and precise effects"). This, Schwartz suggests, requires military strategists to always be attuned to current realities and trends. Herein lies, I suggest, a hint that the view presented of the conflict in Afghanistan will set the template for some time; if that is indeed his intent then this has marked implications for the USAF and (potentially) hence for the RAF. The CSAF then highlighted the present fiscal constraint and suggests that all air forces face a particular challenge at present due to the confluence of complexity, uncertainty and austerity an analysis with which few would disagree.

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An RCDS paper by James Gray MP dated July 2003

As reviewed by Roger Green

In his paper James Gray gives a parliamentarian's view of the history, role and legitimacy of the Royal Prerogative in respect of committing the country to war. It is possible that a constitutional expert may be at variance with some of the analyses that Gray suggests concerning parliamentary proceedings and Prime Ministerial positions in the lead up to recent wars.

The Royal Prerogative has its origins in the 17th Century and is the outcome of an attempt by the Parliament of the day to control the power of Charles I. It is neither detailed nor enshrined in any legal document and has evolved to reserve certain functions to the Crown's ministers. Of these functions the most important is undoubtedly the decision to go to war. Whilst this power might be regarded as undemocratic and thwarting the will of Parliament, Gray provides substantial justifications in providing the Prime Minister with the authority to act in the national interest by making strategic decisions without full parliamentary disclosure and without political risk.

As Gray points out there is significant historical precedent for exercise of the Royal Prerogative by Prime Ministers. In these instances the Prime Minister chose to inform Parliament rather than seek its approval through a vote and the use of the Royal Prerogative was widely accepted other than by a small minority. In this context there is advantage in the fact that the UK has an unwritten constitution whilst in the US with its War Powers Act the President has little room for manoeuvre in such matters and needs to seek Congressional consent to go to war.

As the UK was being committed to war more frequently since 1997, there was increasing interest and inquiry into the repeated use of the Royal Prerogative and in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003 the Prime Minister was faced with a serious challenge. In late 2002 the government came under increasing pressure whilst it tried to hold the line over the use of the Royal Prerogative and there were attempts to obfuscate the situation by debating whether Parliament should vote on 'supporting policy' or 'implementing policy'. However, the Government eventually had to give way and there followed a series of votes that the Government only won with the support of the Opposition. The underlying reason for this situation was that for the first time there no consensus on the question of war and as a result a parliamentary precedent was established. Gray addresses the constitutional consequences of that decision in some detail and concludes with his Gray's Paradox that 'the inverse proportionality of the controversiality of war against Parliamentary debate about it dictates that only universally popular wars should be allowed a Parliamentary vote'. A slightly cynical but possibly true summation.

Gray alludes to the question of national sovereignty over the commitment to war but he only poses the question without pursuing it. If a Parliamentary vote is at odds either way with the will of the UN Security Council how should the dilemma be resolved? At least the use of the Royal Prerogative is a valuable procedure that can avoid the UK being left to stand alone or left behind on issues of a wider importance.

There are other factors beyond the purely parliamentary perspective that Gray does not address. The modern day difficulty over the legitimate use of the Royal Prerogative is bedevilled by public access to vast amounts of information, media positions taken by both informed and uninformed commentators, and by the increasing number of contemporary politicians who are prepared to challenge the perceived wisdom and established convention. The fact that the circumstances that lead up to a war are always unique as is invariably the political environment at the time, together further complicate the situation and weaken the argument of precedent. National unity is always of paramount importance and in such situations there is no place for attempts at party political advantage. The Prime Minister is charged with acting in the nation's best interest and should not have to take account of the consequences of losing a vote in the House when considering the gravity of his decisions.

In his paper Gray has revealed an insight into a little known area of government that is of great importance in the run up to war that will doubtless cause readers to consider further its role in 21st century politics. In the future, the success or otherwise of the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in a war context may ultimately be a measure of the Prime Minister's strength of character, the level of trust he engenders, his leadership qualities and his oratory skills to persuade both Parliament and the nation to support him.

 
 

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