CONFERENCE ON "THE STATUS OF ARMED FORCES AND GROUPS IN IRAQ"

Dokan (Kurdistan, Iraq), 9-10 November 2008

Concept note
 
Summary
No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the International Alliance for Justice (IAJ) organised a Conference for Iraqi political leaders, senior security officials, and representatives of relevant militias and armed groups, civil society and other relevant actors to discuss the integration of militias, armed groups and regional corps within a composite Iraqi Army. Senior non-Iraqi experts brought into the debate their respective experiences on integration and reform of separate military forces and the different mechanisms of integration and demobilisation of militias and armed groups, and presented possible choices and options from other demobilisation and military mergers.
 
The objective of this project was to facilitate an in-depth debate between major Iraqi political actors on options and conditions for the demobilisation of militias and private armies and/or their absorption or integration in a composite Iraqi Army, including the Regional Corps, as a pluralistic and inclusive force, loyal to the Iraqi Federal Constitution and respectful of the diversity of citizens with different backgrounds, while remaining the expression of a single national identity, with both the officers  and the troops reflecting the variety of Iraqi society.
 
Background
The protection of citizens, groups and political interests through democratic means is a necessary component of any sustainable answer to the problems of political instability and sectarian violence. The forthcoming provincial elections will be a crucial test for the implementation of the Iraqi Federal Constitution. 
 
The direct election of local representatives will strengthen further the devolved character of Iraq political structures, and will hopefully lead to a progressively more effective distribution of responsibilities between central and local authorities. Local elections are also an important moment for the ownership by the Iraqi population of the process of transition to democracy and the rule of law, as direct input in local decision-making is often the most visible and effective expression of democracy, leading to a more complete sense of citizenship and of accountability of public institutions. 
 
The dominance of armed groups aligned with political and local leaders is in many ways a consequence of, but also a reason for, widespread political instability and internal insecurity, and constitutes a threat to the democratic process and the holding of free and fair elections, as well as providing potential inroads for external threats.  
 
The division of armed groups along political lines is a legacy of the past regime, when several militias, paramilitary and irregular forces were established under the authority of Saddam Hussein, his two sons and closest allies or of the Ba’ath Party so to ensure direct loyalty to Saddam and his inner circle. The command positions of the regular Army were also occupied by Ba’ath members, making it in effect a private militia of the Ba’ath leadership.  
 
The resistance to the regime was also organised along political, ethnical and regional lines: Governing Council Order 91 recognises the struggle and sacrifice of those who fought against the previous regime in resistance forces and establishes that they should receive recognition for their service to their people and for their integration within the Iraqi armed forces or civilian administration or benefits as military veterans. 
 
In a context of insecurity and political instability, in addition to the pre-existing armed groups, dozens of militias and other armed groups have risen to establish control in local areas or further the interests of specific groups. These armed forces have very diverse natures, capacities, organisation and structures, ranging from well-organised military corps to groups of armed people with various degrees of allegiances to the national or local political forces. While some of those groups have contributed significantly to the ongoing struggle against terrorism, the multiplication of armed groups and the militarisation of society presents a real challenge to the political stability and security of the country, and even when various armed groups may have already integrated -or partially integrated- they may  retain previous loyalties, which may re-emerge in time of conflict or dispute.
 
The de-Baathification process and the dissolution of the previous security apparatus have led to mixed and complex consequences, which continue to have a profound and diverse impact on the development of Iraq and its entire political and democratic process in the post-Saddam Hussein era.  Discussion about these matters is ongoing and, as the situation continues to evolve and its complexity increases, concrete and workable solutions remain elusive.
 
Objectives
The purposes of the conference were to examine the perspectives and challenges on the allocation competences and confidence building in the integration of Militias, Regional Corps, Awakening groups and other armed groups, and the international experiences of federal armed forces and post-conflict security sector reform. The conference was part of the series of events organized by IAJ and NPWJ with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where senior Iraqi policy-makers discuss the allocation of competences between federal, regional and provincial administrations, with the aim of facilitating an in-depth debate between participants in order to promote an open space of dialogue which benefits from the experiences of other federal countries and post-conflict and post-authoritarian transitions.
 
The Constitution of Iraq, adopted by Referendum in 2005, establishes in Article 9(1)(a) that:
“The Iraqi Armed Forces and Security Services will be composed of the components of the Iraqi people, with due consideration given to its balance and its similarity without discrimination or exclusion, and shall be subject to the control of the civilian authority.”
 
While the constitutional provision is agreed in principle, its implementation in line with a pluralistic approach to governance and with the realities on the ground needs to overcome a persistent lack of trust among the Iraqi political actors and the widely different nature and historical and social contexts at the origin of the various armed groups and emerging internal and external threats.
 
The Activity
Senior non-Iraqi experts brought into the debate their respective experiences on integration and reform of separate military forces and the different mechanisms of integration and demobilisation of militias and armed groups. Given the level of participants from Iraq, the Seminar was not held in the format of lectures, but of workshop discussions among participants on the basis of a set of policy topics agreed in advance. The role of non-Iraqi participants was to present choices and options examined or realised in other demobilisation and military mergers.
 
The conference did not aim to advocate any particular model, but rather to address each of the thematic issues in turn, considering solutions that have worked and failed elsewhere. At the centre remained always the objective of assisting Iraqi participants in their own evaluation of what might work best and what is feasible in practice for Iraq. The debate was organised in different sessions in order to analyse the social, political and financial aspects of future composite Iraqi military force.
 
In order to set the basis of a productive discussion, the Conference begun with an assessment of the current progress of reintegration and cooperation between different groups, both from the legislative/administrative prospective, and –most importantly– from the perspective of what happens on the ground. A specific evaluation was also conducted on the current situation of the Iraqi Army in terms of integration of the different components of Iraqi society. The debate was directed at a series of issues, which have been explored along five broad and overlapping categories:
 
1 Methods and options for integration and coordination of diverse military units, including issues such as:

  • In which circumstances do units need to be disbanded or merged for integration, and when can they integrate with their existing structures?
  • How can individual personnel and/or units integrate effectively within a combined military structure?
  • How can chains of command be integrated for the effective functioning of a combined military structure?
  • How can roles and tasks be attributed to the existing or new units to ensure complementarity of functions and effective coordination?

 
2 Territorial elements, including issues such as:

  • What is the possible role of regional and territorial military in the defence and security of their areas?  
  • What should be the mandate and preconditions of deployment of federal forces across provinces and region(s);
  • What should be the mandate and preconditions of deployment of regional and territorial corps outside their areas?
  • What are or could be the implications the federal constitution on the character of the military?

 
3 Promoting and maintaining diversity in the military, including issues such as:

  • How to reflect the diversity of Iraqi society within the Iraqi armed forces?
  • Challenges in guaranteeing equal access and opportunities to a military career and recruitment?
  • The impact of de-Baathification on the armed forces, and the prospects of reintegration

 
4 Resources, including issues related to:

  • Sources of funding (federal regional and provincial budgets)
  • Distribution of resources: personnel, funds, equipment and facilities
  • How to integrate rank, salaries and pensions scales across the army, regional corps, militias and other armed groups

 
5 Perspective for new composite forces, including issues such as:

  • What is the role for the new Iraqi military forces?
  • Possible principles for enlistment or conscription for military service
  • What skills and vocational training can the military provide to former militia members and/or new recruits?

 
6 Identification of future steps, including issues such as:

  • What are the specific issues of disagreement?
  • Is there consensus on any principles/issues?
  • How should the negotiation process proceed?
  • What sort of external assistance or support can be useful to the process?