Overview | Government

This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.


Overview: In the years following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, governance of Iraq passed through several stages. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), established by the United States to govern the country immediately following the occupation, officially transferred sovereignty to an Interim Iraqi Government in June 2004. This was a first step in building a new, indigenous government structure in Iraq. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), functioning as an interim constitution until the end of 2005, called for Iraq to have a permanent republican, federal government system; power was to be shared among the central government, 18 governorates (provinces), and local and municipal governments. The autonomy of one region, Kurdistan, was specifically recognized. In January 2005, national elections to seat an interim parliament were a second step in establishing a permanent government. That parliament built the framework for the writing of a new constitution and the election of a permanent legislature.

After some delay, in October 2005 a two-thirds majority of voters ratified a new constitution, which had been created to replace the TAL by a 55-member panel representing the three main factions: Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Although some elements remained in dispute, the new charter embodied the same fundamental elements as the TAL, describing Iraq as a “multiethnic, multi-religious, and multi-sect country.”

In early 2006, a dispute among the factions over the post of prime minister delayed the formation of a permanent government. After the Shiite prime minister-designate, Ibrahim al Jafari, was unable to form a government, Nouri al Maliki, another leader of Jafari’s party, was chosen to replace him in May 2006. A full permanent government, with ministries divided among the major factions, was in place in June, avoiding a major crisis but still facing bitter divisions among the populace.

Aside from an enormous economic restoration process, major issues face the first permanent government. They include improving its own tenuous legitimacy in the view of the country’s factions, tightening porous borders, sharing oil revenues between the central government and the provinces (particularly those dominated by the Kurds), balancing strong central government with demands for regional sovereignty, and determining the role of Islamic law in government and jurisprudence.

Executive Branch: The constitution of 2005 calls for the executive branch to consist of a president and vice president; a prime minister; and a governing body, the Council of Ministers, that has an unspecified number of positions. The president has mainly ceremonial duties, and his decisions require the approval of the prime minister. The prime minister, who is selected by the president from the majority party of the parliament and with the parliament’s approval, presides over the Council of Ministers, exercises executive responsibility for the running of the government, and acts as commander in chief of the armed forces. The Council of Ministers, whose members are nominated by the prime minister, is to plan and administer the general policies of the state, propose laws and budgets, negotiate treaties, and oversee the national security agencies.

In April 2005, the following individuals were chosen to lead the interim government through the approval of a constitution and election of permanent national officials: a Shia, Ibrahim al Jafari, as prime minister; a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, as president; and a Sunni, Hachim Hasani, as president of the National Assembly. Following approval of the constitution in October and parliamentary elections in December 2005, formation of a permanent government began. For a transitional period of one session of the legislature, executive power remained with a three-person Presidential Council consisting of the president and two vice presidents. The council’s actions required unanimity among its three members. Talabani remained president; his vice presidents were the Shia Adil Abdul Mahdi and the Sunni Tariq al Hashimi. In the spring of 2006, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who had replaced Jafari, was able to end months of political deadlock by gaining parliamentary approval of a full slate of 36 ministers, who constituted the first permanent government since 2003. Four ministers were women. In an attempt to broaden support for his government, in mid-2006 Maliki established the Supreme Committee for Reconciliation and National Dialogue, which included members from a wide cross-section of social groups.

Legislative Branch: The constitution of 2005 gives legislative power to two bodies, the Council of Representatives and the Council of Union. The Council of Union, whose form and role were yet to be determined in 2006, is to act as an appointive upper house representing the 18 governorates (provinces) of Iraq. The Council of Representatives, the working legislative body, consists of 275 members elected for four-year terms. The council is to pass laws; elect the president and generally oversee the executive branch; ratify treaties; and approve nominations of the prime minister, cabinet ministers, and other officials. The presidential election requires a two-thirds vote of the Council of Representatives; approval of the heads of ministries requires a simple majority.

The Council of Representatives convened for the first time under the new constitution in March 2006. Prior to that, in 2005 a unicameral, 275-member parliament, the National Assembly, had been elected as a transitional legislature to take the place of the 100-member Interim National Council, which the Coalition Provisional Authority had named in mid-2004. In the elections of January 2005 that chose the assembly, the Shia United Iraqi Alliance won 140 seats, the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (a coalition of the two major Kurdish parties) won 75 seats, and a secular bloc, Iraqi National Accord, won 40 seats. Having largely boycotted the election, the substantial Sunni minority gained only 17 seats, but the Sunnis were allotted the position of speaker of parliament in a power-sharing compromise.

Upon ratification of the 2005 constitution, the parliament organized a new round of parliamentary elections leading to the formation of a permanent government. The elections of December 2005 revised somewhat the power balance among the major factions, adding substantially to Sunni representation. The United Iraqi Alliance won 128 seats (eight seats short of a majority), and the newly formed Sunni Iraqi Accord Front won 44. The Kurdish party won 53 seats, a loss of 22, and Iraqi National Accord won 25, a loss of 15. Mahmud Mashhadani, a Sunni, was elected president of the Council of Representatives in April 2006.

Judicial Branch: The constitution of 2005 calls for Iraq’s judicial authority at the federal level to consist of the Supreme Federal Court and the Federal Court of Cassation (appeal). The Supreme Federal Court is to rule on the constitutionality of laws, on conflicts between federal and sub-federal authorities, and on cases involving federal law. The constitution calls for the court to include experts on Islamic law, but the composition and appointment authority of the court are left to legislation. Appointments to the Supreme Federal Court and the Federal Court of Cassation are made by recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council. The members of that council are the chief appellate judge of each of the 17 appellate districts and some judges from the Federal Court of Cassation. The council’s presiding officer is a judge from the Supreme Federal Court. The council bears ultimate responsibility for all matters in the judicial branch. On several occasions in the early 2000s, it challenged the practices of Ministry of Interior police agencies. In 2006 the two-chamber Central Criminal Court of Iraq, established in 2003 by the Coalition Provisional Authority, retained authority to investigate and try crimes of national significance such as smuggling and insurgency. For military cases, civilian judges are named to a specially convened military court.

Administrative Divisions: Iraq has 18 governorates (provinces), which are divided into a total of 102 districts.

Provincial and Local Government: From Iraq’s independence in 1932 until approval of the 2005 constitution, provincial and local governments were completely subordinate to the central government. The constitution of 2005 allots wide powers to the federal government but explicitly stipulates shared powers in customs, health, education, and environmental and natural resource policy and relegates all nonstipulated authority to the subnational jurisdictions. An article of the constitution still under discussion in mid-2006 provides for a new level of subnational jurisdiction, the region, which could include one or more governorates (provinces). Each region would elect its own government and have its own constitution. Governorates would have the option to remain independent of any region and to retain their own executive, legislative, and judicial institutions. As of mid-2006, Shiite and Kurdish leaders had endorsed the concept of regions as a basis of federalism, but no jurisdictional modifications had occurred. Governorates are subdivided into districts, which also are administered by elected councils. At the lowest level of subnational governance are municipalities and townships. In 2006 councils were in place in all 18 governorates, 90 districts, and 427 municipalities and townships. The governorate legislative councils each had 41 seats except for Baghdad’s, which had 51.

In 1992 the Kurdish Iraqi Front organized elections in which the three Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq elected the autonomous Kurdistan National Assembly. According to the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) and the constitution of 2005, the 111-member Kurdish Parliament elected in January 2005 has jurisdiction on all matters except foreign policy, diplomatic representation, security, defense, and fiscal matters including currency. Those matters are the responsibility of Iraq’s national government. The seats of the Kurdish Parliament are divided between the two major Kurdish parties, with designated seats for the Assyrian Christian minority. Massoud Barzani was elected president of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in 2005.

Judicial and Legal System: Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the judicial system was fully controlled by the executive branch. One aim of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) was to restore an independent judiciary. However, chronically poor security conditions have prevented that system from functioning on a regular basis. In 2004 a British program began identifying and retraining Iraqi judges and legal personnel to replenish the court system. The legal system in place, pending comprehensive renovation under a permanent government, combines elements of Iraq’s pre-Baathist laws and international law. In that system, which was influenced by French, Egyptian, and Ottoman law and is considered seriously outdated, judges rather than lawyers dominate court proceedings. Decisions are made by a three-judge panel; there are no juries. Since 2003 Iraq’s court system has been moved from the Ministry of Justice to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Judicial Council, removing the influence of the executive branch that marked the Hussein regime.

The system is divided into civil and criminal courts and courts of personal status (for matters to be tried under Islamic law). Criminal courts are of two types, misdemeanor and felony. The hierarchy begins with courts of first instance, then district appeals courts (existing in 17 districts), courts of cassation, and the Federal Court of Cassation, which normally is the final appeal stage. Extraordinary cases go to the highest level, the Supreme Federal Court.

In an effort to curb violent crime, the interim government reinstated the death penalty in 2004 for crimes including drug trafficking and kidnapping. In 2005 Iraqi criminal courts sentenced several men to death for building terrorist bombs. On several occasions in the early 2000s, judges and lawyers suffered violence and intimidation. Reportedly, some 800 judges were active in 2006.

The interim government assigned an Iraq Special Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity, including about 50 judges, to try top members of Saddam Hussein’s regime, including Saddam Hussein himself, for war crimes as defined by the International Criminal Court. After the replacement of some judges caused substantial delays, the trial of Hussein began in October 2005 and continued intermittently through the summer of 2006. The composition, expertise, and scope of the special tribunal remained controversial in Iraq and among international authorities.

Electoral System: The minimum voting age is 18. Elections are supervised by the Independent Electoral Commission, a federal agency under the supervision of the Council of Representatives. Under the permanent government, the Supreme Federal Court has final approval authority for election results. Following approval of a national constitution in October 2005, new parliamentary elections chose a permanent Council of Representatives. Of the 275 seats filled, 230 were distributed in proportion to population among the 18 governorates (provinces). As the most populous, the Baghdad Governorate was allotted 59 seats. The remaining 45 seats were distributed as “compensation” to parties whose vote totals exceeded their proportional representation among the first 230 seats. The electoral system stipulates that at least one-quarter of National Assembly deputies must be women; the first permanent parliament had 69 women. All of Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities also must be represented. The official turnout for the parliamentary elections of December 2005 was 79.6 percent, compared with 58 percent in the elections for the transitional parliament 11 months earlier. The disparity was partly the result of a substantial boycott by Sunnis of the first election.

Politics and Political Parties: Although Shia leader Ayatollah Sistani had opposed the formation of political organizations, he approved the formation of a Shia-dominated coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, to contest the parliamentary elections of January 2005. In the early post–Saddam Hussein years, the two major formal Shia parties were the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) and Islamic Dawa (known as Dawa). SCIRI maintains close ties in Iran, commands a militia force of 10,000, and seeks a strong political role for the Islamic clergy. Since its return from exile in Iran in 2003, SCIRI has projected a more pluralistic image in a successful effort to broaden its support. It has supported the U.S. presence in Iraq and the 2005 parliamentary elections. Dawa began in 1958 as an Islamic revolutionary party, existed in exile during the Hussein regime, and emerged as an advocate of Islamic reform and modernization of religious institutions. In the parliamentary elections of January 2005, the United Iraqi Alliance gained 140 of the 275 seats contested, and Dawa leader Ibrahim al Jafari was named prime minister of the transitional government. In the parliamentary elections of December 2005, influential radical Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr brought his faction into the United Iraqi Alliance, which meanwhile lost the backing of Sistani and the participation of an important third party, the Iraqi National Congress. In those elections, the alliance lost 12 seats compared with January 2005. Of the alliance’s constituent parties, in 2006 SCIRI held 36 seats in the Council of Representatives; the Sadr Party, 28; the Islamic Virtue Party, 15; and Dawa, 13. Nevertheless, Dawa leader Nouri al Maliki was a compromise appointment as prime minister of the first permanent government.

Iraq’s Kurds are represented by two major parties, which since 2003 have cooperated in the government of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Both parties have supported the U.S. presence in Iraq and played important roles in interim governments. The secular, nationalist Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the larger of the two parties and held one of two vice presidencies in the Interim Iraqi Government. Founded by the main Kurdish tribe, the Barzanis, the KDP has established good relations with the Turkish government. The Popular Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani, also has a secular nationalist agenda and represents Kurds closest to the Iran border. In the parliamentary elections of January 2005, the Kurdish alliance of the two parties gained 75 seats, second to the United Iraqi Alliance. In the elections of December 2005, the alliance lost 22 seats but still held the second largest block in the Council of Representatives.

Several nonsectarian parties have played important roles in Iraqi politics since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmed Chalabi, is a coalition with a large militia and strong ties in the southern Shia community, although Chalabi’s influence in the government waned significantly after 2003. The INC, which advocates economic privatization and a secular government, held 13 seats in the transitional parliament as part of the United Iraqi Alliance. Iraqi National Accord (al Wilfaq) is led by Ayad Allawi, who was prime minister of the Interim Iraqi Government and remained an influential opposition figure in the permanent government. Despite Allawi’s prominence and U.S. backing, the party fared poorly in the December 2005 elections. The Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) had its greatest influence in the 1960s, then substantially changed its agenda during the 1990s. Since 2003 the ICP has been represented in interim governments and maintains some support among secular Shias and Sunnis.

The largest official Sunni party is the Iraqi Islamic Party, whose leader Tariq al Hashimi was elected vice president in the first permanent government. That party is the foundation of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, which gained 44 seats in the parliamentary elections of December 2005. The Muslim Scholars’ Association, formed in 2004, represents the senior Islamic scholars who set religious policy for the Sunni community. The association has strongly opposed the U.S. presence in Iraq and successfully called for a boycott of the January 2005 parliamentary elections. Although the association also worked with Shia organizations for reconciliation of individual issues, on overall policy it diverged from the position of the Iraqi Accord Front, which participated actively in reconciliation talks in 2005 and 2006. In mid-2006, the kidnapping of a Sunni member of parliament incited a boycott of sessions by representatives of the front. The senior Sunni politician in Iraq, former foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, endorsed the new government and urged Sunni participation. Several smaller parties represent the Assyrian and Turkmen ethnic minorities.

Mass Media: After the end of full state control in 2003, a period of considerable growth occurred in Iraq’s broadcast media. In 2005 about 80 radio stations and 25 television stations were broadcasting in Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, and Assyrian. The most popular television stations were the independent al Sharqiya and state-owned al Iraqiya. Arabic-language satellite broadcasts from neighboring countries were increasingly popular. The broadcast media, most of which were owned by political factions, presented both positive and negative positions on participation in the national elections of 2005. As of 2006, conditions did not make the operation of commercial media outlets profitable. Since the end of media oppression in 2003, newspapers in Iraq have presented a wide variety of views on critical issues. Nevertheless, in 2005 the Iraqi Association of Journalists reported some incidents of censorship by U.S. occupation forces, which also were accused of manipulating reports in nominally independent newspapers. The daily papers with the largest circulation, all published in Baghdad, are al Mada, al Mutamar, al Sabah, and al Zaman (also published in London). Al Mutamar is the official organ of the Iraqi National Congress, and al Sabah often reflects the positions of the government. An offshoot of al Sabah, called al Sabah al Jadeed, has taken a more independent position. Al Mada is a well-respected independent daily. The Iraqi News Agency is the main domestic news agency; major foreign news agencies with offices in Iraq are the Anadolu Ajansı of Turkey, the Associated Press of the United States, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur of Germany, the Informatsionnoye Telegrafnoye Agenstvo Rossii–Telegrafnoye Agenstvo Suverennykh Stran (ITAR—TASS) of the Russian Federation, Reuters of Britain, and Tsinhua of the People’s Republic of China.

Foreign Relations: Because of the primary roles taken by the United States and Britain in deposing Saddam Hussein and establishing interim governments to replace his regime, Iraq’s relationships with those countries, particularly the United States, are expected to remain paramount for the foreseeable future. Government and nongovernmental aid from the United States will continue as a crucial support in reconstruction. In 2006 formulation of more precise foreign policy priorities awaits the firm establishment of the permanent government. In the short term, Iraq’s relations with Western and Far Eastern economic powers are determined by debt forgiveness and reconstruction assistance, which have come from many quarters. Relations with the United States were strained in mid-2006 when Iraq criticized Israeli attacks on Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

Relations with Iraq’s Sunni Arab neighbors have been conditioned by the degree of support for the 2003 regime change that empowered Iraq’s Shia majority and by the need to curb the movement of insurgents from neighbors Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Jordan’s ambivalent role in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein cooled Iraq’s normally close relations with that country. In 2005 relations with Jordan worsened when an ostensibly Jordanian suicide bomber killed 125 Iraqis. Traditional territorial disputes with Kuwait remained quiet in the early 2000s, and Iraq retained important commercial agreements with both Jordan and Kuwait. Since 2003, relations with neighboring Syria and Saudi Arabia have been harmed by what is seen as those countries’ poor border security, which has allowed insurgents to move into and out of Iraq.

Iraq’s relations with Iran, always complex, have depended on the approach taken by Iran’s Shia government toward factional politics in Iraq. Since 2003 Iran’s aims have been to prevent the resurrection of a strong, threatening Iraq while at the same time avoiding a collapse of Iraq into a civil war that might spread eastward. The optimal outcome for Iran would be establishment of a Shia-dominated government with at least some Islamic principles. As of mid-2006, Iran had not overtly used its extensive Shia connections within Iraq to destabilize governments, although that strategy remained available, and Iran has supported a Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, in Iraqi politics. An important regional issue is water sharing with Syria and Turkey, who have restricted the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates into Iraq by building upstream dams. In 2006 resolution of that issue awaited policy decisions by the new permanent government in Iraq. In 2006 Iraq approved construction of an oil pipeline connecting neighbors Iran and Syria across Iraq’s territory.

Membership in International Organizations: In 2006 Iraq was a member of the following international organizations: Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Monetary Fund, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Group of 77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Development Association, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Olympic Committee, International Standards Organization, International Telecommunication Union, Islamic Development Bank, League of Arab States, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, United Nations, United Nations Committee on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Universal Postal Union, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Tourism Organisation, and World Trade Organization (observer status).

Major International Treaties: Among the multilateral treaties to which Iraq is a signatory are the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention; Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (signed but not ratified); Geneva Conventions; Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


Armed Forces Overview: In May 2003, the armed forces of Iraq were disbanded by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that took control after Saddam Hussein was toppled. This process included the destruction of large amounts of military equipment. With training from forces and agencies of the United States, Britain, and other members of the CPA, new security forces underwent organization and training in the early 2000s. Occupation forces screened and organized former military and police personnel as the near-term basis for security forces, following reversal of a 2003 decision to disband all Iraqi forces. The predominance of Shias and Kurds in the new army and national guard has caused resentment in the Sunni population. Despite high unemployment, terrorist acts against the Iraqi military and police have depressed recruitment. In March 2005, the minister of interior predicted that Iraq’s security forces would be fully staffed and competent in 18 months. As of mid-2006, some 254,000 security troops had been trained; the goal was to train 325,000 by the end of 2006. However, the reliability of those forces remained dubious, according to Western sources.

Foreign Military Relations: Beginning in 2003, the coalition forces in Iraq, particularly U.S. and British, performed the bulk of security operations and provided all military training for Iraqi units; the United States was the source of Iraq’s military budget. Notably lacking in the coalition were France, Germany, and Russia, which opposed the 2003 military action against Saddam Hussein and provided little support in the two years that followed. Of 21 countries with troops in Iraq in mid-2006, three besides the United States (Britain, South Korea, and Italy) had more than 1,000 troops; Italy announced plans for full withdrawal of its 2,900 troops by the end of 2006. Ukraine, which had had 1,650 troops in Iraq, completed its withdrawal in 2005; Poland, which had 900 troops remaining in 2006, postponed full withdrawal in midyear.

External Threat: In 2005 and 2006, unknown numbers of insurgents crossed the borders of Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria in order to mount terrorist attacks inside the country. This situation accelerated the training of border police and the construction of new border installations. Three training facilities were established in 2005, with the aim of preparing 11,000 border troops. Technology at existing points of entry was to be upgraded in 2006. Iraq was not the target of conventional attack from any outside force.

Defense Budget: The interim government of Iraq budgeted US$2 billion for military expenditures in 2004.

Major Military Units: The ground forces will account for the majority of the personnel envisioned in the Iraqi Armed Forces. The New Iraqi Army, which had about 100,000 troops in 2006, including National Guard forces, will be purely defensive and represent all the major factions in Iraq’s population. The initial organizational structure includes light infantry brigades (possibly one division), rapid intervention forces, and special forces. The light infantry units will not have the firepower or logistical capability to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations.

Plans call for a small naval force. In 2005 an estimated 700 naval personnel were active. In 2003 British Royal Navy units began training a small Iraqi Riverine Patrol Service, which eventually is to have 400 personnel and 22 patrol boats to regulate trafficking and illegal entry into the country via the Shatt al Arab. In 2005 Iraq deployed a Coastal Defense Force trained by the British Royal Navy and stationed at Umm Qasr with 10 patrol boats for use in the northern Persian Gulf.

Plans call for a small air force whose main function will be reconnaissance of borders and potential targets of terrorist attack. In 2005 three squadrons, totaling about 200 personnel, performed domestic transport and reconnaissance operations.

Major Military Equipment: Iraqi equipment remaining intact after the war of 2003 and suitable for future use is to be absorbed into the new armed forces. The nature and numbers of that equipment are not known. In 2004 the air force had two Seeker reconnaissance aircraft; plans call for purchasing eight more.

Military Service: In 2006 Iraq had no conscription system, although a draft system could be established by the permanent government. Recruitment centers were located in Arbil, Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul.

Paramilitary Forces: The number of personnel in Iraq’s paramilitary organizations has fluctuated frequently, decreasing when violence against such units has intensified. In 2006 the Ministry of Interior security organizations, aside from the police, had an estimated 32,900 active personnel divided into four main functions: border enforcement, civil intervention, emergency response, and dignitary protection. The border enforcement personnel, 21,600 strong in 2006, included border police, a Bureau of Civil Customs Inspection, and a Bureau of Immigration Inspection. Plans called for 32,000 border personnel and 254 border installations. The Iraqi National Guard, formerly called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, had about 40,000 active personnel in 2005, when it was absorbed nominally into the regular ground forces. Nevertheless, in 2006 National Guard units still reportedly were conducting independent missions and were linked with antigovernment militia activity. The Facilities Protection Service (FPS), staffed mainly by former military and security personnel, was nominally under the Ministry of Interior but by 2005 had become an independent for-hire force, paid by private security companies to protect oil industry and government installations. In response to reports linking the FPS with death squad activities, the Ministry of Interior attempted in 2006 to limit the operations of the FPS, whose size reportedly had grown to 145,000.

Foreign Military Forces: In mid-2006, an estimated 127,000 U.S. troops and 19,000 non-U.S. coalition troops from 20 countries were in Iraq. Another 17 countries had fully withdrawn military personnel from Iraq by mid-2006 after participating in the occupation. An additional 20,000 private military contractors were in place.

Police: During the regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s law enforcement system was marked by corruption and inhumane practices. After the previous police force was completely disbanded, in 2003 a new Iraqi Police Service was established to act as a municipal law enforcement agency under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. The Police Service does not conduct investigative operations, but it has been assigned to support some operations of coalition military forces. In 2006 a nominal total of 135,000 police personnel had undergone training, but the training level and reliability of this force were in question. The number of police personnel actually on duty has fluctuated significantly; in 2004 the number dropped from 85,000 to 44,000 in response to attacks on police units. Officially, some 28 police battalions were on duty in 2006. Plans call for a highway patrol element to be added in the future.

The police have been accused of politically motivated attacks on non-Shia Iraqis. Two Shia militia groups, the Badr Organization (the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) party) and the Army of the Mahdi, have substantially infiltrated police forces in some regions. Police operations in the Kurdish Autonomous Region, where the Ministry of Interior officially lacks jurisdiction, are controlled by Kurdish militias. From the beginning of the occupation in 2003, the new Iraqi police force has been the target of attacks, kidnappings, and murders. The government estimated that 280 police were killed between 2003 and January 2006.

Experts consider reform of the police system a long and difficult process. In 2004 starting pay for police personnel was US$60 per month plus a hazardous duty allowance of an additional US$87 per month. As under the Hussein regime, police corruption, extortion, and theft have continued to be problematic. In the elections of 2005, the National Guard and police provided polling place security that monitors characterized as adequate, under threats of large-scale insurgent disruption.

The Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) was established in 2004 in cooperation with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to gather information on groups threatening national security. The president is to appoint the director of the INIS, which is to serve as an information agency for the Council of Ministers and have no law enforcement authority.

Internal Threat: In 2005 estimates of the number of insurgents in Iraq varied widely from 30,000 to 200,000. According to one 2005 report, 90 percent of the 30,000 insurgents present were Iraqis, and most foreign insurgents came from Algeria, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Insurgent forces, concentrated in Sunni-dominated central Iraq, were organized by surviving leaders of the Baathist establishment. An organization central to this threat is Tanzim Qaidat al Jihad fi Bilad al Rafidayn (TQJBR), which was led by the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al Zarqawi until his death in May 2006. TQJBR’s objectives are to expel the multinational coalition forces from Iraq and establish a state under Islamic law, and to this end it has allied itself with the global anti-Western jihad of al Qaeda. The level of violence in Iraq increased in the months following Zarqawi’s death.

Many independent militia groups also are believed responsible for attacks. Following the formation of a permanent government, sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni militias escalated sharply in the spring and summer of 2006, increasing fears of a full-scale civil war. The United Nations estimated that such violence killed more than 4,300 civilians in the first half of 2006. In 2006 the Shia leader Moqtada al Sadr emerged as the strongest militia leader. Headquartered in An Najaf, al Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army, had tens of thousands of fighters in mid-2006. Its power was magnified by the dominant position in the parliament of al Sadr’s political party, the United Iraqi Alliance.

In the absence of effective security, conventional crime also increased significantly beginning in 2003. Kidnapping for ransom and the trafficking of women and workers continued to increase in 2005 and 2006. The trafficking activity took advantage of Iraq’s loose border controls.

Terrorism: Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in May 2003, coalition military forces, Iraqis involved with reconstruction, and the general public have been endangered by a variety of bombings, kidnappings, and executions conducted by insurgent forces believed to be primarily Sunni and of both domestic and foreign origin. Their particular targets have been Iraqi police and military personnel and trainees, but in 2006 civilians increasingly were targeted. Many terrorist acts have been unattributed, and many apparently independent militias are known to have participated in them.

Human Rights: In the early post–Saddam Hussein era, some forms of human rights abuses continued to exist in Iraq, aside from those implicit in a society racked by terrorist acts. A national state of emergency, first declared in 2004 and ongoing in 2006, authorized the federal government to restrict public gatherings, monitor communications, and detain suspects in ways conflicting with normal human rights protections. The Iraqi Corrections Service, which continued to run the official prison system, met most international prison standards in 2005 after making significant improvement. Nevertheless, reports still cited instances of prisoner abuse and torture, overcrowding, and substandard medical care. Conditions in unofficial detention centers known to exist were unverified. The Iraqi National Guard, responsible for domestic security, was charged with abuse of detainees and the coercion of confessions, as were local police and security agencies of the Ministry of Interior. Specialized agencies such as the National Intelligence Service were charged with violating pretrial procedures. In a society whose mores reportedly became more conservative in the early 2000s, women’s rights suffered, and crimes against women increased. A Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs existed but remained unfunded in 2005.

Under the Transitional Administrative Law and in the first year of the 2005 constitution, the judicial system generally has functioned fairly, given its inherent limitations. Backlogs in the system have led to long pretrial detention, and in some cases detainees have not been notified of their status. Some illegal detentions were documented. The government has not impeded the work of foreign journalists, although several have been kidnapped or murdered, and access to especially dangerous locations has been restricted.

Index for Iraq:
Overview | Government


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