Iraq - United States Policy Toward Iraq: a Dossier
What is a Dossier?Via the dossiers, we try to highlight the priorities of the US Government with regard to specific foreign policy policy issues. We provide statements by U.S. public officials, but also reports, hearings, and journal articles.
The United States has important national interests in the greater Middle East. These include the unity and security of Iraq as well as continued development of its democratic institutions and its reintegration into the region. U.S. national interests related to Iraq are: regional nonproliferation; counterterrorism cooperation; access to energy; and integration of the region into global markets. TESTIMONY OF AMBASSADOR JAMES F. JEFFREY AND GENERAL LLOYD AUSTIN BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES UNITED STATES SENATE FEBRUARY 3, 2011
Major US Government Statements
A select list of major statements with policy value.
Latest US Government Statements
The most recent statements in reverse chronological order.
Learning From Iraq A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. March 2013. 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.
-01/15/13 Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights Source: CRS report for Congress
SIGIR Quarterly Report. October 2012.
Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience January 2009. Since the March 2003 invasion, the Congress appropriated about $50 billion in taxpayer dollars for Iraq's relief and reconstruction. This generous provision funded a continuously evolving rebuilding program that sought, among other things, to restore Iraq's essential services, establish new security forces, create a free-market economy, and put the country on the path to achieving an effective democracy. Some of the initiatives succeeded but others did not.
Hard Lessons, the first comprehensive account of the Iraq reconstruction effort, reviews in detail the United States' rebuilding program, shedding light on why certain programs worked while others fell short of goals.
The Iraq War: 10 Years Later: Was the war worth the cost in money and lives? Peter Katel, The CQ Researcher, March 1, 2013, pp. 205-232. "As the world marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the war is fast fading from the memories of many Americans. After more than eight years of combat, the U.S. and Iraqi governments couldn't come to terms on keeping U.S. combat troops in the country. They were withdrawn at the end of 2011 except for a small contingent involved in training Iraqi forces. But Iraq remains mired in sectarian and religious conflict. In the United States, debates about the justification for the invasion have given way to arguments about whether Iraq is a budding democracy — an objective of the George W. Bush administration — or a new dictatorship. That dispute intersects with the question of whether U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will spur the country to solve its own problems or push it into friendlier relations with its anti-American neighbor, Iran." READ MORE
The Long and Short of It: Cognitive Constraints on Leaders' Assessments of "Postwar" Iraq. Aaron Rapport, International Security, Winter 2012/13, pp. 133-171. "The George W. Bush administration's assessments of challenges that might come after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq were wide of the mark, but it is unclear why this was the case. Along with the difficulty of anticipating the future, perhaps the opportunity costs of allocating resources to postconflict considerations were simply too high. Institutional biases and civil-military friction may have also led actors to privilege certain information and plans over others. Although plausible, these hypotheses do not sufficiently explain strategic assessment prior to the 2003 invasion. They cannot account for the substance of most senior policymakers' assessments, especially those of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which was optimistic when late-stage operations were considered but not when combat plans were deliberated. An established psychological theory that describes how people mentally represent distant future actions—as opposed to those that are seen as impending—explains the nature of strategic assessment in the Iraq case. As individuals think about actions at the end of a sequence of events, the desirability of their goals becomes increasingly salient relative to the feasibility of achieving them. This makes decisionmakers more prone to underestimate the costs and risks of future actions." READ MORE
Ends and Means. Foreign Policy, March 15, 2013, var. pages. "A decade later, what lessons haven't we learned from the war in Iraq that we should? On March 19, it will have been 10 years since the United States invaded Iraq. Foreign Policy and the RAND Corporation teamed up to bring together many of the key players who launched, fought, analyzed, and executed the war, including everyone from Bush national security advisor Stephen Hadley and Gen. John Allen to Doug Feith, the controversial Bush Pentagon aide who advocated for the war in 2003, and Paul Pillar, the CIA analyst who later went public with his doubts. It quickly became clear that, even a decade later, every aspect of the war -- from its rationale through each phase of its execution -- remains hotly contested. We hope this unique conversation adds to the record of how we understand that war -- and in particular, what its consequences will be, and already are, for future American national security debates. We present here edited excerpts from the first part of discussion, on "Ends and Means," moderated by RAND's James Dobbins." READ MORE
The End of the Age of Petraeus. Fred Kaplan, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb. 2013, pp.75-90. "The United States' approach to counterinsurgency, championed by General David Petraeus, helped produce stunning results in parts of Iraq and Afghanistan. In retrospect, however, the fuss over the doctrine seems overblown. It achieved mere tactical successes and only in combination with other, non-military factors." READ MORE
Al Qaeda’s Post–9/11 Organizational Structure and Strategy: The Role of Islamist Regional Affiliates. Anthony N. Celso, Mediterranean Quarterly, Spring 2012, pp. 30-41. "The political transformations under way in the Arab world and the killing of Osama bin Laden raise serious questions about al Qaeda’s long-term viability. The secular-liberal Arab Spring protest movement appears to be winning the war of ideas over al Qaeda’s violent religious fundamentalism. Civil disobedience campaigns in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in forcing regime change in ways that a decade of al Qaeda terror attacks failed to accomplish. While it is too soon to write al Qaeda’s obituary, its erosion came well before the death of its historic leader. This essay examines al Qaeda’s post–9/11 evolution, its strategy, and its steady fragmentation. Since the destruction of its Taliban Afghan sanctuary, al Qaeda has been through many mutations, none of which, over time, has been successful. This essay argues that al Qaeda’s failures in Iraq contributed substantially to the organization’s decline." READ MORE
Iraq's Road Back to Dictatorship. Toby Dodge, Survival, June/July 2012, pp. 147-168. "Nuri al-Maliki’s dominance of the security forces gives him control, but his attempts to centralise power in his own hands and marginalise his rivals could destabilise Iraqi politics or reignite civil war." READ MORE
The New Imperialism: Stabilization and Reconstruction or the Responsibility to Fix? Anthony C. E. Quainton, Mediterranean Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 5-13. “As a result of the wars undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan by the George W. Bush administration, the United States has taken on a responsibility to reconstruct the political and economic institutions of these countries. This responsibility has been carried out through provincial reconstruction teams that operate at the local level to rebuild the societies shattered by war. In conceptual terms, the responsibility increasingly reflects the new emphasis on reconstruction and stabilization operations laid out in the State Department’s 2011 Quadrennial Defense and Development Review, which sets the groundwork for future interventions both to prevent states from failing and to rebuild states devastated by war or natural disaster. The ambitious nature of this strategy suggests a new age of American imperialism under which the “responsibility to protect” of the 1990s may become the “responsibility to fix” of the twenty-first century.” READ MORE
The Iraq We Left Behind. Ned Parker, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2012, var. pages. “Weeks after the last U.S. soldier finally left the country, Iraq is on the road to becoming a failed state, with a deadlocked political system, an authoritarian leader, and a looming threat of disintegration. Baghdad can still pull itself together, but only if Washington starts applying the right kind of democratic pressure -- and fast.” READ MORE
Iran’s Declining Influence in Iraq. Babak Rahimi, The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 25-40. “Iran’s influence over Iraq has less to do with the formation of a Shi‘a alliance than with Tehran’s ability to manage Iraq’s internal divisions. In part because of post-2009 Iranian and post-2010 Iraqi politics, Tehran has to date failed to orchestrate these intricacies in its favor.” READ MORE
After Iraq: The Trigger Doctrine. David McKean, Survival, February-March 2012, pp. 159-174. “An unfounded rush to war is often precipitated by events. The president, Congress, the press and the public would benefit from a benchmark against which to measure the advisability of a military response.” READ MORE
The Right to Be Right: Civil-Military Relations and the Iraq Surge Decision. Peter D. Feaver, International Security, Spring 2011, pp. 87-125. "President George W. Bush's Iraq surge decision in late 2006 is an interesting case for civil-military relations theory, in particular, the debate between professional supremacists and civilian supremacists over how much to defer to the military on decisions during war. The professional supremacists argue that the primary problem for civil-military relations during war is ensuring the military an adequate voice and keeping civilians from micromanaging and mismanaging matters. Civilian supremacists, in contrast, argue that the primary problem is ensuring that well-informed civilian strategic guidance is authoritatively directing key decisions, even when the military disagrees with that direction. A close reading of the available evidence—both in published accounts and in new, not-for-attribution interviews with the key players—shows that the surge decision vindicates neither camp. If President Bush had followed the professional supremacists, there would have been no surge because his key military commanders were recommending against that option. If Bush had followed the civilian supremacists to the letter, however, there might have been a revolt of the generals, causing the domestic political props under the surge to collapse. Instead, Bush's hybrid approach worked better than either ideal type would have." READ MORE
Was Iraq an unjust war? A debate on the Iraq war and reflections on Libya. David Fisher and Nigel Biggar, International Affairs, May 2011, pp. 687–707. "David Fisher argues that the war fully failed to meet any of the just war criteria. By contrast, current coalition operations in Libya are, so far, just. This is a humanitarian operation undertaken to halt a humanitarian catastrophe that is taking place, with wide international support, including authorization by the UN Security Council. Nigel Biggar argues that the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq suffered from grave errors, some of them morally culpable, does not yet establish its overall injustice. All wars are morally flawed, even just ones. Further, even if the invasion were illegal, that need not make it immoral. Regarding Libya, Biggar notes the recurrence of conflict over the interpretation of international law. He wonders how those who distinguish sharply between protecting civilians and regime change imagine that dissident civilians are to be 'kept' safe while Qadhafi remains in power. Against those who clamour for a clear exitstrategy, he counsels agility, while urging sensitivity to the limits of our power. What was right to begin may become imprudent to continue." READ MORE
Iraq, From Surge to Sovereignty. Emma Sky, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011, var. pages. "The surge of U.S. troops into Iraq helped decrease violence and set the stage for the eventual U.S. withdrawal. But the country still has a long way to go before it becomes sovereign and self-reliant. To stabilize itself and realize its democratic aspirations, Iraq needs Washington's continued support." READ MORE
The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad. Thomas Hegghammer, International Security, Winter 2010/2011, pp. 53-94. "A salient feature of armed conflict in the Muslim world since 1980 is the involvement of so-called foreign fighters, that is, unpaid combatants with no apparent link to the conflict other than religious affinity with the Muslim side. Since 1980 between 10,000 and 30,000 such fighters have inserted themselves into conflicts from Bosnia in the west to the Philippines in the east. Foreign fighters matter because they can affect the conflicts they join, as they did in post-2003 Iraq by promoting sectarian violence and indiscriminate tactics. Perhaps more important, foreign fighter mobilizations empower transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, because volunteering for war is the principal stepping-stone for individual involvement in more extreme forms of militancy. For example, when Muslims in the West radicalize, they usually do not plot attacks in their home country right away, but travel to a war zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan first. Indeed, a majority of al-Qaida operatives began their militant careers as war volunteers, and most transnational jihadi groups today are by-products of foreign fighter mobilizations. Foreign fighters are therefore key to understanding transnational Islamist militancy." READ MORE
Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad, Journal of Democracy, July 2010, pp. 41-49. "After almost ten years of complex and costly efforts to build democracy in these two countries, where do things stand? What lay behind the critical choices that shaped events in these places, and what are their current prospects for success?" READ MORE
‘Phase IV’ Operations in the War on Terror: Comparing Iraq and Afghanistan. Anthony N. Celso, Orbis, Spring 2010, pp. 185-198. "This article identifies the obstacles and prospects of implementing President Obama's surge strategy in Afghanistan by examining four issues: (1) the origins and implementation of the Iraq surge policy; (2) U.S. counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan; (3) a comparative examination of Afghan and Iraqi tribal insurgent structures; and (4) suggestions for a counter insurgency policy more in sync with regional social and tribal structures." READ MORE
Imagining Iraq, Defining Its Future. Missy Ryan, World Policy Journal, Spring 2010, pp. 65–73. "Today, the legacy of the American adventure in Iraq is slowly coming into focus. As U.S. soldiers prepare to withdraw after a seven-year occupation, the new Iraqi state takes unsteady steps toward an uncertain future. At the heart of that assessment, which will shape America’s standing across the Middle East for years to come, is the nature and performance of the nation the United States leaves behind—its ability to contain a still-tenacious insurgency, the success of its elections, the brand of government it chooses, the role it allots to women and minorities. Even after parliamentary polls in March, when voters defied insurgent attacks to cast ballots, the dangers are many. Iraq has not yet settled major questions about the balance of power between central and regional authorities, how a newly empowered majority will treat minorities, and how to achieve national reconciliation. Still, in some respects, Iraq may present a more favorable portrait than anyone could have expected in 2006 and 2007." READ MORE
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN: PERILS OF PREMATURE EVACUATION FROM IRAQ. Kenneth M. Pollack and Irena L. Sargsyan, The Washington Quarterly, April 2010, pp. 33-47."The United States is leaving Iraq, but how it leaves is tremendously important. The authors draw lessons from recent history around the world to foresee the risks, namely civil war resuming or problems between the Iraqi military and civilian government arising, and how to minimize them." READ MORE
THE US AND IRAQ: TIME TO GO HOME. Toby Dodge, Survival, April/May 2010, pp. 129–140. "Given the record of the US occupation and the profound limitations of America's present stature, the Barack Obama administration is right to continue to draw down the American presence in Iraq. But in remembering the egregious mistakes of its predecessor the administration should not claim victory as it exits. It should not, as Vice President Joe Biden did in the midst of the de-Ba'athification crisis, claim all is well in Baghdad. A more honest and realistic approach would recognise the impossible legacy left by the Bush administration. The damage the previous administration did so much to encourage would then be minimised with the help of US allies and multilateral organisations. In short, after seven years of American occupation, it is time to go home." READ MORE
IRAQ: WATER, WATER NOWHERE. Martin Chulov, World Policy Journal, Winter 2009/2010, var. pages. "In Baghdad, the lack of water has been an inconvenience, an eyesore, and a health hazard. Raw sewage and refuse pumped into the Tigris is not flushed downstream as rapidly as it once was. The Tigris is Baghdad's main artery, but it is also still a working river, long traversed by small commuter ferries, industrial barges, and, in the city's halcyon days, even pleasure boats. Giant mud islands now protrude from the once wide, blue expanse of the river, making it unnavigable for larger vessels. Further downstream, and especially along the Euphrates--which runs roughly on a parallel track west though Iraq's bread basket--the effects of the shortage are far worse. Here, Chulov looks at the water shortage in Iraq and discusses how it affected the country." READ MORE
REFUGEE WARRIORS OR WAR REFUGEES? IRAQI REFUGEES' PREDICAMENT IN SYRIA, JORDAN AND LEBANON. Reinoud Leenders, Mediterranean Politics, November 2009, pp. 343-363."This essay attempts to disentangle a debate within the study of refugee crises and their security implications involving 'refugee warriors'. It situates the debate in the context of the Iraqi refugee crisis and its purported and real manifestations in three main host countries: Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The research's findings show a serious divergence between theorizing on refugee warriors and the important case of Iraq's war refugees. In the light of this and given the comparative literature's own contradictory evidence, the essay argues that the generalized application of the refugee warrior label and the overstated prominence given to it by some scholars and by practitioners within the international refugee regime need to be critically examined. In reference to Iraqi refugees' abandonment in terms of protection and given strenuous efforts to contain them to the region, it is suggested that the label appears to have gained currency with the effect of helping to impose an 'in-region solution' for refugees and drastically curbing refugees' access to direct asylum procedures in North America and Western Europe." READ MORE
WHEN AND HOW PARLIAMENTS INFLUENCE FOREIGN POLICY: THE CASE OF TURKEY'S IRAQ DECISION. Baris Kesgin, Juliet Kaarbo, International Studies Perspectives, Feb 2010, pp. 19-36. "Turkey's decision on its role in the Iraq war in 2003 illustrates the power--and limits--of parliaments as actors in foreign policy. Traditionally, assemblies are not seen as important players in the foreign policies of parliamentary democracies. Instead, cabinets are generally considered the chief policymaking authorities. If the government enjoys a parliamentary majority, legislatures typically support the cabinet, if they are brought into the process at all. The March 1, 2003 vote by the Turkish parliament to not allow the United States to use Turkey as a base for the Iraq invasion challenges this conventional wisdom on parliamentary influence (in addition to many interest-based explanations of foreign policy). This paper examines this decision in the context of the role of parliaments in foreign policies and explores the relationships between parliamentary influence, leadership, intraparty politics, and public opinion." READ MORE
PRUDENCE AND PRESIDENTIAL ETHICS: THE DECISIONS ON IRAQ OF THE TWO PRESIDENTS BUSH. J Patrick Dobel, Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010, pp. 57-75. "A very exacting type of prudence is demanded of ethical and effective political leaders. It requires critical self-awareness, diligence in obtaining information and modifying one's conduct in light of it, and attentiveness to the fit and proportionality of means and ends. Although there are counterparts in personal life to these attributes, the prudence of political leaders has a further dimension because of their responsibility for the welfare of the polity, whether a city or an entire nation. The importance of political prudence in the U.S. presidency is illustrated by a comparative analysis of the decision-making processes regarding Iraq in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. The sharp contrasts between them suggest that prudence and other political virtues may be substantially independent of ideology, class, and social background." READ MORE
Iraq: Meeting the Challenges of 2010. Source: Cordesman, Anthony H, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 11, 2010
Transnational Insurgencies and the Escalation of Regional Conflict: Lessons for Iraq and Afghanistan
Source: Salehyan, Idean, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, March 4, 2010
Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Preliminary Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families
Source: National Academy of Sciences, 2010
CBO's Analysis of Scenarios for Funding the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Source: The Congressional Budget Office, January 21, 2010