EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The success or failure of Iraq's post-war transition will chiefly depend on
whether domestic realities and dynamics are accurately understood and can be translated into a form of
governance that is accepted as legitimate by core Iraqi constituencies. Ultimately, the international
community's task will be to navigate competing claims to power and influence, ensuring a level playing
field and not anointing any pretender until a process can be constructed to give voice to the mass of
Iraqis who have been disenfranchised by three decades of authoritarian Baathist rule.
The key is to set up as soon as possible (notwithstanding the reluctance of the UN
Secretariat to take on so extensive a role, and the U.S. to give it up) a UN transitional civil
authority with full executive and legislative powers. This authority would use, to the maximum extent
possible, local professionals and civil servants, as well as experts from the diaspora; and during
the transitional phase, municipal, regional and functional elections would help designate those Iraqis
who, together with the diaspora, can establish the rules by which a pluralistic, democratic and stable
Iraq can be governed. This authority would operate alongside a U.S.-led security presence, optimally
itself endorsed as a multinational force by the UN Security Council.
The United States and the international community are not entering a vacuum.
"Day after" does not mean day one. Iraq cannot nor should it be treated as a tabula rasa.
Baathist rule for 30 years and twelve years of international sanctions have profoundly transformed
Iraq's social make-up. New social classes have emerged – a sprawling bureaucracy and civil service;
a once potent, now pauperised middle class; resilient entrepreneurs; an impoverished and volatile
urban underclass. Tribal and kinship loyalties, at one time vociferously denounced by the Baath,
have since been instrumentalised by the regime. Nationalist feelings remain potent, despite the
regime's attempts to hijack them. Even religious sentiment has flourished of late as this once
secular state has desperately sought to bolster its legitimacy in the face of growing internal
discontent. Many of the forces that sustained the Baathist polity for years should not be expected
to collapse simultaneously with the regime.
Given that, who should run Iraq once hostilities have ceased? The first option,
assumption of full authority by the United States, has been roundly criticised by members both
of the Iraqi opposition and of the international community. Even many U.S. policy-makers acknowledge
that it risks alienating Iraqis, exposing Washington to accusations that it nurtures imperial designs
and further undermining its posture in the region.
An alternative proposal, based on the rapid establishment of an interim Iraqi
authority to which the U.S. would transfer power and with which it would jointly govern, has
received more support, as necessary for domestic legitimacy. This interim authority would give way to
a permanent Iraqi authority once political conditions (e.g., agreement on a constitution, national
elections) permit. But this proposal, too, is flawed. The fundamental problem is that no
pre-identifiable, optimal Iraqi candidates exist whom either the United States or the international
community can handpick to run an interim authority. Socio-political dynamics in Iraq are complex and
too little is known of the actual preferences or aspirations of those inside the country.
Members of the exiled opposition have staked their claim. But their limited contacts
with and current knowledge of the Iraqi people cast serious doubt on the degree to which they are
genuinely representative. Inside Iraq, numerous forces – among them tribes, religious institutions and
business elites – will come forward as well and claim privileged status. But they are likely to be
dominated by those who gained prominence during the years of Baath Party rule and compromised with it.
It would be a mistake to short circuit the domestic political contest by prematurely picking a winner.
Under either of these two scenarios, the bulk of Iraqis inside Iraq – Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Kurd,
Turkoman and others who have been brutally disenfranchised for over three decades – would remain
The best road for Iraq and for the international community, therefore, is to set up
a United Nations transitional civil authority with full executive and legislative powers to
run the country until a legitimate, democratic, permanent Iraqi authority can be established. This
authority would not have security responsibilities, relying instead on a U.S.-led multinational force
(MNF) presence throughout Iraq, which itself would optimally, though not necessarily, be endorsed by
the Security Council.
The UN civil authority, while exercising overall supervisory authority, would rely
for day-to-day administrative tasks not on UN personnel but, as much and and as early as possible, on
vetted bureaucrats, civil servants and qualified members of the diaspora: this will be important to
maximise the Iraqi people's sense of ownership in the transition process.
The present report does not purport to provide a comprehensive blueprint for the
work of such an authority: further ICG reporting will address in more detail some of the issues, like
transitional justice, with which it will have to deal. Our present purpose is simply to argue that,
given the internal dynamics at play in Iraq, an approach along these lines offers a far better chance
of maintaining stability through the transition period.
Establishing such an authority is not an easy challenge. Even if the US were
prepared to grant it, the UN is not eager to play this far-reaching role; it has not planned for it;
it will have to coordinate with a very significant U.S. military presence on the ground; and the
longer it is there, the more Iraqis will chafe at not being in charge. To remain in charge too long
risks undermining the international community's legitimacy; to withdraw prematurely risks
transferring power to individuals who lack any legitimacy to begin with. While elections are sometimes
too glib a solution in post-conflict environments – as ICG has itself argued in other contexts – the
key here is in fact to work hard and fast on organising local and functional elections that
will begin the process of providing the Iraqi people with genuinely representative leaders.
It may seem inappropriate to talk about the day after the war when the war rages
on, its duration uncertain, its precise outcome still unclear. But especially given how poorly the
international community managed the situation that led to war, it is important that it do its utmost
to properly manage the one that will follow it.
To the United States and the United Nations:
1. Establish as soon as possible after hostilities have ceased a United Nations
transitional civil authority in Iraq, vested by the Security Council with complete legislative and
executive power over the territory and people (other than in relation to security matters), whose
primary objective would be to create conditions for a legitimate, representative Iraqi leadership to
be chosen through a free and fair electoral process.
2. Ensure to the maximum extent possible and as early as possible that the
Iraqi people are responsible for the day-to-day administration of their country, keeping the Iraqi
civil service basically intact.
3. Institute, through the transitional authority, an initial process of selecting
leadership through local (regional and municipal) elections, and 'functional' elections for trade
unions and business and professional associations, after proper screening of candidates for past
human rights abuses.
4. Ensure, through the transitional authority, that the Iraqi people are kept
informed, through the proper and timely dissemination of information, of relevant decisions and
developments that affect their future.
5. Involve regional players in decisions concerning Iraq while cautioning them
against unilateral interventions – whether directly or by proxy – during the transition process.
6. Establish as soon as possible after hostilities have ceased a U.S.-led
multinational force, optimally endorsed by the Security Council, reinforced by international civilian
police and thoroughly vetted Iraqi police and military, and whose mission would include:
(a) ensuring law and order;
(b) helping distribute humanitarian assistance;
(c) promoting disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration;
(d) implementing the separation of the police from the military;
(e) training Iraqi police and security services
(f) disarming the Kurdish and SCIRI militias and supporting their
(g) providing security to displaced persons and returning refugees; and
(h) deterring outside intervention and maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity.
7. Acting through the transitional civil authority or the multinational force
as appropriate, remove the following categories of persons from positions of responsibility and
prohibit them from participating in public life until security and stability have been restored and
they have been thoroughly vetted for war crimes or other serious crimes:
(a) members of the senior echelons of the Baath Party;
(b) senior members of the ruling Baijat clan, and particularly its Albu Ghafur
lineage, that are closely tied to the regime;
(c) members of tribal factions that have contributed personnel to the inner
circle of the Baathist political system; and
(d) senior members of the security and intelligence agencies.
Amman/Brussels, 25 March 2003