Standler's Essays on
Dysfunctional Government in Iraq
U.S. Government Response to ISIL in Iraq

Copyright 2014-2017 by Ronald B. Standler

Introduction

By way of introduction, I was educated as a physicist (Ph.D. 1977), was a professor of electrical engineering for ten years, and I have been an attorney in Massachusetts since 1998. I have been interested in science and public policy since the 1960s, and I sometimes post at my website essays that preserve historical details on some topic.

On 10 June 2014, the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. That event jolted politicians in the USA and Western Europe into realizing that there was a debacle in Iraq.

Beginning in Sep 2013, I have been writing essays to preserve historical details of the removal of chemical weapons from Syria and the futile peace negotiations in Syria. In June 2014, I began including in my contemporaneous essay on Syria historical details about (1) the Iraqi dysfunctional government and (2) the U.S. Government response to ISIL in Iraq.

There are several items about Iraq that I include in this webpage below, instead of repeating in each of my monthly essays:
  1. terse discussion of delay by Iraqi Parliament during July-October 2014, including a table of meetings of Parliament;
  2. tables of monthly death tolls in Iraq during 2013-2015; and
  3. a list of the escalation of the U.S. military role in Iraq and Syria, beginning in June 2014.

My Essays on Iraq
Beginning June 2014

See my separate webpage for links to each of my essays on Syria/Iraq, together with a list of contents of each essay. Here I provide only the contents relevant to Iraq:
  1. My eighth essay on Syria covers June 2014, and chronicled the history of:
  2. My essay for July 2014 chronicled the history of:
  3. My essay for August 2014 chronicled the history of:
  4. My essay for September 2014 chronicled the history of:
  5. My essay for October 2014 on Syria chronicled the history of:
  6. My essay for Nov 2014 chronicled the history of:
  7. My essay for Dec 2014 chronicled the history of:
  8. My essay for Jan 2015 chronicled the history of:
  9. My essay for Feb 2015 chronicled the history of:
  10. My essay for March 2015 chronicled the history of:
  11. My essay for April 2015 chronicled the history of:
  12. My essay for May 2015 chronicled the history of:
  13. My essay for June 2015 chronicled the history of:
  14. My essay for July 2015 chronicled the history of:
  15. My essay for August 2015 chronicled the history of:
  16. My essay for September 2015 chronicled the history of:
  17. My essay for October 2015 chronicles the same topics as my essay for September 2015, except that I deleted the section on the new office in Baghdad, and I added two new sections on Iraq: Most of the relevant news in October 2015 involved Syria.

  18. My essay for November 2015 chronicles the same topics as my essay for October 2015, except that I deleted the section on a 22 Oct Kurdish/U.S. raid on an ISIL prison. I continue to chronicle that Iraq is a failed nation, and the lack of progress in liberating Iraqi cities from ISIL. Most of the relevant news in November 2015 involved Syria.

  19. My essay for December 2015 chronicles the same topics as my essay for November 2015, except: Most of the relevant news in December 2015 involved Syria.

  20. My essay for January 2016 chronicles the same topics as my essay for December 2015, except: Most of the relevant news in January 2016 involved Syria.

  21. My essay for February 2016 chronicles the same topics as my essay for January 2016, except: Most of the relevant news in February 2016 involved Syria.

  22. My essay for March 2016 chronicles: Most of the relevant news in March 2016 involved Syria.

  23. My essay for April 2016 chronicled the same topics as my essay for March, plus Fallujah was besieged by Iraqi forces since January, the town of Hit was liberated from ISIL on 20 April, the liberation of Mosul stalled on 6 April, and the dysfunctional Iraqi parliament refused to vote on Abadi's proposed reforms.

  24. My essay for May 2016 chronicled the same topics as my essay for March, plus Ramadi is liberated and uninhabitable, the liberation of Fallujah began on 30 May, and the dysfunctional Iraqi parliament failed to meet during May.

  25. My essay for June 2016 chronicled the same topics as my essay for March, plus the liberation of Fallujah, and the dysfunctional Iraqi parliament failed to meet during May and June. I deleted the section on Ramadi. I added a new concluding section at the end of my essay that explains why the U.S. War on Terror may have decreased security in Europe and the USA.

  26. My essay for July 2016 chronicled the same topics as my essay for March. I deleted the section on Fallujah.

  27. My essays for August 2016 and September 2016 mostly chronicled the debacle in Syria. But those two essays reported on atrocities in Iraq, dismissal of the Iraqi defense and finance ministers, the cost of the U.S. war against ISIL, and continued to report the daily airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by the U.S.-led coalition.
  1. My essay for October 2016 mentions the beginning of the liberation of Mosul, which finally began on 17 October. My October essay deletes the sections on the failure of the Iraqi government to prosecute corrupt army officers who hired "ghost soldiers", and the failure to prosecute army officers who fled from Mosul and Ramadi. (Those sections appeared in my essays for September 2014 through September 2016.)

  2. My essay for November 2016 mentions the continuing slow progress in liberating eastern Mosul, atrocities in Iraq, the cost of the U.S. war against ISIL, and continued to report the daily airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by the U.S.-led coalition.

  3. My essay for December 2016 mentions the continuing slow progress in liberating eastern Mosul, and continued to report the daily airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by the U.S.-led coalition.

  4. My essay for January 2017 mentions the liberation of all of eastern Mosul, and continuing terrorist attacks by ISIL in Iraq.

  5. My essay for February 2017 mentions the beginning of the liberation of western Mosul, and continuing terrorist attacks by ISIL in Iraq.

Short History of Iraq: 2003-2014

On 19 March 2003, a coalition led by the USA invaded Iraq to capture Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (e.g., chemical weapons). The chemical weapons were never located, and may have been a fictional boast by Hussein. The Iraqi government collapsed and disappeared at the beginning of the invasion, allowing Iraqis to loot government offices and museums, and leaving Iraq in anarchy. The USA created a provisional government for Iraq, but avoided appointing people who had been employed in Hussein's government — a decision which avoided using the most experienced and best-qualified people.

At the risk of oversimplification of a complex problem, let me tersely describe the sectarian problem in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, and his government was composed mostly from the Sunni minority in Iraq — discriminating against the Shiite majority and Kurds. The new Iraqi government in 2006 was elected, but because about 62% of Iraqis are Shiite Muslims, the democratic government was mostly composed of Shiites. Many Shiites in the new Iraqi government discriminated against Sunnis, to get revenge for discrimination against Shiites during the Hussein-era.

Deposing Saddam Hussein created anarchy in Iraq, which (together with sectarianism) allowed terrorism to become common in Iraq, and allowed the creation of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor of ISIL) in 2004. We saw something similar in Libya — after Gaddafi was deposed, anarchy occurred, and terrorism became common in Libya. The lesson here is do not overthrow a strong leader, even if he is a tyrant, because terrorism will flourish in the anarchy following the removal of a strong leader. Specifically, as explained in my essays, we should cooperate with Assad in fighting terrorism in Syria, despite the fact that Assad is a tyrant who may have committed crimes against humanity.

After the U.S. Military departed from Iraq in December 2011, the Iraqi government began increasing corruption and sectarianism. The Iraqi army became ineffective.

ISIL entered Syria in May 2013, where it captured some of northern and eastern Syria and committed numerous atrocities. In Jan 2014, part of ISIL invaded Iraq. The Iraqi army was unable or unwilling to stop ISIL. ISIL captured Fallujah on 4 Jan 2014, the first in a long string of ISIL victories. On 10 June 2014, instead of defending Mosul from about 1000 ISIL terrorists, 30,000 Iraqi army soldiers simply fled, abandoning equipment and munitions for ISIL to steal. By the end of June 2014, ISIL had captured approximately 1/3 of Iraq.

Delay by Iraqi Parliament during June-Oct 2014

On 30 April 2014, the third national election was held in Iraq. The results were certified on 17 June 2014. The Iraqi Parliament could meet anytime after the results were certified. On 19 June, Obama told the Iraqi Parliament to convene "as soon as possible" and select government leaders with an "inclusive agenda". The Iraqi response was to wait until 1 July, the last possible day under their constitution, to have a first meeting of Parliament. On the morning of 27 June, the head Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the new Parliament to decide on the parliament speaker, president, and prime minister before the first session of Parliament on 1 July. The Parliament also ignored Sistani.

The Iraqi constitution, Article 76, requires a prime minister be nominated not more than 15 days after the president is selected. That 15 day deadline expired on 8 Aug, except that Parliament arguably had an extra two days because of a religious holiday on 29 July. On 11 Aug 2014 — one day after the deadline including the two-day extension — the new Iraqi president nominated a new prime minister.

The Iraqi Parliament confirmed prime minister Abadi and most of his new ministers on 8 Sep, just two days before the thirty day deadline, and 69 days after the first meeting of the new Parliament. The key posts of Defense Minister and Interior Minister were filled on 18 Oct, 38 days after the 10 Sep deadline established by the constitution.

Not only did the Parliament delay, but their meetings were infrequent and a significant number of 328 members were absent, as shown in the table below.

Meetings of Iraqi Parliament in July-Oct 2014

Date Attendance Duration or
Accomplishment
1 July 78% 2 hours
13 July 71% half-hour
15 July 83% Speaker elected
24 July 82% President elected
5 Aug 75% 4 hours
7 Aug ? ?
10 Aug 70% 6 hours
19 Aug 66% 5 hours
21 Aug 63% 5 hours
23 Aug 74% 5 hours
25 Aug 58% 7 hours
2 Sep ? interrupted by mob
3 Sep 56% discuss massacre at Speicher AFB
6 Sep 55% 5 hours
8 Sep 62% approved members of committees
8 Sep 88% approved new government
16 Sep 73% 3 of 4 nominees rejected
18 Sep 67% 5 hours
20 Sep 65% 5 hours
22 Sep 68% 2 hours
24 Sep >61% 2 hours
14 Oct >64% ?
16 Oct 66% 7 hours
18 Oct 79% 8 ministers approved
20 Oct 62% ?
28 Oct 56% 5 hours
30 Oct 52% 4 hours

Source of information: news reports at All Iraq News, as summarized in my essays on Syria/Iraq for July, August, September, October 2014.

Criminal Justice System in Iraq has Failed

Not only is the Iraqi Parliament dysfunctional, but also the criminal justice system in Iraq has failed. For example, the Iraqi government is:
  1. apparently unable to prosecute army officers for desertion at Mosul on 10 June 2014,
  2. unable to arrest and prosecute terrorists who conduct almost daily bombings and murders in Iraq (especially Baghdad),
  3. unable to prosecute corrupt army officers who kept "ghost soldiers" on the payroll, and then pocketed the salaries of these fictitious soldiers,
  4. unable to prosecute army officers for desertion at Ramadi on 17 May 2015,
  5. and unable to prosecute government officials for corruption.
In reading English-language news websites in Iraq, I rarely see any mention of judicial decisions, including punishment of criminals.

Death Toll from Terrorism & Violence in Iraq

There are no reliable data for the number of casualties during the early years after the invasion of Iraq during 2003, owing to the collapse of the Iraqi government and subsequent anarchy. Frequently cited numbers are available from the Iraq Body Count website.   Brookings has a graph of the number of civilian deaths per month from May 2003 until June 2012.   The BBC has a bar graph of the number of civilian deaths in Iraq during each month in 2008-2013. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has a two-page PDF table of civilian casualties in Iraq during 2008-2012.

All of the sources agree that, after the U.S. combat troops departed in Dec 2011, there has been an increasing number of civilians killed in Iraq by terrorism and sectarian violence. Amongst other contributions, the U.S. military was suppressing Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now called ISIL or the "Islamic State" caliphate.


Death Toll in 2013 from "Terrorism & Violence" in Iraq
including Anbar Province


Month Dead/Month
Including Anbar
Cumulative
Total
Dead
Citation
Jan 2013
Feb 2013
Mar 2013 456 456 UNAMI
Apr 2013 712 1168 UNAMI
May 2013 1045 2213 UNAMI
June 2013 761 2974 UNAMI
July 2013 1057 4031 UNAMI
Aug 2013 804 4835 UNAMI
Sep 2013 979 5814 UNAMI
Oct 2013 979 6793 UNAMI
Nov 2013 659 7452 UNAMI
Dec 2013 821 8273 UNAMI

On 8 April 2013, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) began posting at its website monthly reports of casualties, which I used to make the above table. These monthly data from UNAMI include both civilian and Iraqi security forces. Beginning in Dec 2013, when at least 62 people died Anbar province, Anbar is considered separately by UNAMI. The 821 dead for Dec 2013 in the above table includes the 62.

During 2013, according to UNAMI, the annual death toll in Iraq — including civilians and Iraqi security forces — was 8868/year. Associated Press, 1 Jan 2014. The population of Iraq in 2013 was approximately 33 million, which gives a homicide rate of at least 27 deaths per 100,000 people and per year.


Death Toll in 2014 from "Terrorism & Violence" in Iraq
including Anbar Province


Month
Ending
Dead/Month
Excluding Anbar
Dead/Month
Anbar
Cumulative
Total
Dead
Citation
31 Jan 2014 733 138 871 UNAMI
28 Feb 2014 703 298 1872 UNAMI
31 Mar 2014 592 156 2620 UNAMI
30 Apr 2014 750 135 3505 UNAMI
31 May 2014 799 195 4499 UNAMI
30 June 2014 2417 244 7160 UNAMI
31 July 2014 1737 198 9095 UNAMI
31 Aug 2014 1420 268 10,783 UNAMI
30 Sep 2014 1119 ? 11,902 UNAMI
31 Oct 2014 1273 233 13,408 UNAMI
30 Nov 2014 1232 402 15,042 UNAMI
31 Dec 2014 937 164 16,143 UNAMI

These monthly data from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) include both civilians and Iraqi security forces. Beginning in December 2013, Anbar province (e.g., Fallujah and Ramadi) is considered separately by UNAMI, because of a lack of reporting from small towns in Anbar province. In September 2014, ISIL began to overrun the remainder of Anbar province, and there were no casualty data from Anbar. And — of course — there are no casualty data from areas controlled by ISIL.   If the links in the right-hand column of the above tables do not function, then go to the UNAMI website and search for "UN casualty figures"


Death Toll in 2015 from "Terrorism & Violence" in Iraq
including Anbar Province


Month
Ending
Dead/Month Cumulative
Total
Dead
Citation
31 Jan 2015 1375 1375 UNAMI
28 Feb 2015 1103 2478 UNAMI
31 Mar 2015 >997 3475 UNAMI
30 Apr 2015 812 4287 UNAMI
31 May 2015 >1031 5318 UNAMI
30 June 2015 1466 6784 UNAMI
31 July 2015 1332 8116 UNAMI
31 Aug 2015 1325 9441 UNAMI
30 Sep 2015 717 10,158 UNAMI
31 Oct 2015 714 10,872 UNAMI
30 Nov 2015 888 11,760 UNAMI
31 Dec 2015 980 12,740 UNAMI

These monthly data from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) include both civilian and Iraqi security forces. During 2015, UNAMI included the available data from Anbar Province in the total for Iraq. The death toll for March 2015 is implausibly small, given the fighting to liberate Tikrit. The death toll for May 2015 does not include Iraqi security forces in Ramadi, and includes only 29 civilians killed in Ramadi — when my essay for May 2015 cites at least 500 people killed in Ramadi during 15-16 May. The death tolls for June through December do not include Iraqi security forces and militias in Anbar province, including Ramadi. For these reasons, the above UNAMI death tolls are a serious underestimate of the true death toll in Iraq. The UNAMI totals may be worthless because of this undercounting of actual deaths.

On 19 January 2016, the United Nations released a report on the 18,802 civilian deaths in Iraq from 1 Jan 2014 to 31 Oct 2015. The United Nations characterizes this 22 month death toll as "staggering". But I calculate an average of 854/month, which should be compared with the average in Syria of 5468/month during 2014-2015. The death rate in Syria is approximately 6 times that in Iraq.

Expansion of U.S. Military Role in Iraq & Syria

U.S. President Obama made what I regard as a serious error in refusing during Jan-June 2014 to help the Iraqi government expel ISIL. On 19 June 2014, Obama declared that he would wait for Iraq to form a new, inclusive (i.e. nonsectarian) government before the U.S. Military would assist Iraq (e.g., with airstrikes against ISIL). Despite that incentive, the dysfunctional Iraqi Parliament moved with glacial slowness in forming a new government, during an existential crisis in Iraq. On 7 Aug 2014 — with a threatened genocide of Yazidis by ISIL — Obama began a program of airdrops of humanitarian aid to besieged people in Iraq and a program of limited U.S. airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.

“mission creep”

I wrote this terse history of U.S. Military involvement in Iraq and Syria, to show the continuing escalation, also known as “mission creep”:
  1. 14 June 2014: U.S.S. George H.W. Bush and two other Navy ships ordered to Persian Gulf.

  2. 19 June 2014: Obama declared that the USA will wait for the Iraqi Parliament to appoint a new, inclusive government, before the U.S. begins any U.S. military action in Iraq.

  3. 24 June 2014: the U.S. military began to deploy "up to 300" personnel to advise the Iraqi army and to assess/evaluate the situation in Iraq.

  4. 30 June 2014: Obama orders an additional 200 U.S. military personnel to Iraq, "to reinforce security at the U.S. Embassy, its support facilities, and the Baghdad International Airport."

  5. 7 August 2014: Obama orders two actions: (1) U.S. airstrikes in Iraq to protect U.S. citizens in Erbil;   (2) airdrops of humanitarian aid to prevent genocide of Yazidis in mountains near Sinjar.

  6. 16 August 2014: U.S. begins airstrikes on ISIL near Mosul Dam. On 18 Aug, peshmerga recapture Mosul Dam from ISIL. But these airstrikes near Mosul Dam are "mission creep" for the USA. During 17-30 Aug the press releases from the U.S. Central Command added "protect critical infrastructure" to the list of criteria for airstrikes in Iraq.

  7. 25 August 2014: Obama approves surveillance flights over Syria.

  8. 2 Sep 2014: Obama sends "approximately 350 additional U.S. military personnel to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad". This brings the total to 550.

  9. 10 Sep 2014:
  10. 23 Sep 2014: aircraft from the USA, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates bombed — plus 47 Tomahawk missiles from two U.S. Navy ships — and hit 16 terrorist targets (i.e., ISIL, Nusra Front, and Khorasan Group) in Syria.   On 10 Sep, Obama only mentioned attacking ISIL in Syria, but on 23 Sep airstrikes were also against the Khorasan Group (Al-Qaeda) west of Aleppo, and Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda).

  11. 19 Oct 2014: U.S. aircraft airdrop weapons and ammunition to Syrian Kurdish rebels who are defending Kobani from attacks by ISIL. This is significant because the Turkish government — U.S. allies in NATO — considers the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists.

  12. 7 Nov 2014: Obama authorizes another 1500 U.S. troops to Iraq, which more than doubles the U.S. military in Iraq. Also Obama will ask Congress to authorize an additional US$ 5.6 billion for the fight against ISIL.

  13. 15 May 2015: Obama authorizes U.S. Military raid in eastern Syria, which killed Abu Sayyaf (an ISIL leader) and kidnapped his wife.

  14. 10 June 2015: Obama authorizes another 450 U.S. troops to Iraq.

  15. 31 July 2015: U.S. airstrikes will defend U.S.-trained Syrian rebels inside Syria, including defending them from attack by the Syrian military and its allies. (This new policy was publicly announced on the night of 2 August 2015.) This new policy was aborted by canceling the train-and-equip program on 9 Oct 2015.

  16. On 22 October 2015, 30 U.S. Army personnel in 5 helicopters accompanied Kurdish forces in rescuing 69 hostages from an ISIL prison in Iraq. One U.S. soldier was killed in the attack. Apparently, U.S. Military personnel are now engaged in ground combat operations in Iraq.

  17. On 30 October 2015, Obama ordered fewer than 50 U.S. Military personnel into Syria, to "advise and assist" fighters who will attack ISIL.

  18. On 1 December 2015, the U.S. Government announced that approximately 100 to 200 U.S. special operations personnel and supporting personnel would be sent to Iraq "to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders".

  19. On 18 April 2016, it was announced that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq would be increased by 217, and also that 8 Apache helicopters operated by the U.S. Army would be available to support the Iraqi army.

  20. On 25 April 2016, Obama authorized up to 250 additional U.S. Military personnel into Syria, to add to the 50 authorized on 30 Oct 2015.

  21. On 11 July 2016, the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced that an additional 560 U.S. troops would be sent to Iraq. The additional 560 soldiers makes a total of 4647 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

  22. On 28 September 2016, the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced that an additional 615 U.S. troops would be sent to Iraq, to assist Iraqis with the assault on Mosul. The additional 615 soldiers makes a total of 5262 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

  23. On 10 December 2016, the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced the deployment of an additional 200 U.S. Military personnel to Syria, to assist in the liberation of Raqqa from ISIL. This makes a total of 500 U.S. personnel in Syria.

  24. On 8 March 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense "temporarily" assigned approximately 400 U.S. Marines to aid in the liberation of Raqqa. Additionally, fewer than 1000 U.S. military personnel were assigned to "temporary" duty in Kuwait, where they could be quickly moved to Syria or Iraq. The "temporary" assignments evade the limit of 503 personnel in Syria that was established by Obama in December 2016.

Sources of information are cited in my essays on Syria/Iraq, beginning with my essay for June 2014.

Conclusion

I conclude that the government of Iraq during 2003-2016 is dysfunctional and unworthy of assistance. But the Iraqi people do not deserve to suffer at the hands of the barbaric ISIL terrorists. Furthermore, ISIL in Iraq and Syria must be annihilated to protect neighboring nations from future invasion by ISIL terrorists, as ISIL expands their caliphate.

In my opinion, the death tolls from violence and terrorism in Iraq clearly show the collapse of civilization in Iraq.

Opinion polls show that that most Americans now regard the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a mistake. All U.S. military combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq in Dec 2011. But in Aug 2014, the USA became involved in airstrikes in Iraq that will probably persist for many years.


Copyright 2014-2017 by Ronald B. Standler
this document is at   http://www.rbs0.com/iraq.htm
first posted 4 Sep 2014, revised 11 March 2017

The annotated list of my essays on Syria and Iraq.

return to my homepage