Future of Iraq Project

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The Future of Iraq Project was a project of the U.S. Department of State, commenced in October 2001. The 13-volume final study of the Project, along with early planning documents, has been posted online. [1]

Media Reports on the Project

"The principal vehicle for organizing the planning for a new Iraqi government will be a series of meetings in the coming months and a conference this summer in Europe comprised of about 50 to 60 Iraqis and 10 to 20 international experts on Iraq. According to a State Department summary of the plans for this conference titled, Future of Iraq Project, the U.S. government will sponsor smaller meetings in either London or Washington for five working groups on the following issues: public health and humanitarian needs; water, agriculture and the environment; public finance and accounts; transitional justice; and public outreach. ...
"The initial momentum for these working groups stemmed from a conference at the Middle East Institute [at Columbia University] last fall that brought together several former Iraqi military officers to discuss the future of Iraq's military. Initially the State Department had wanted MEI to organize the conference, but the contract was cancelled after members of the Bush administration took offense to remarks from the institute's executive director, Edward Walker, critical of the President's Middle East policy.
"The Future of Iraq project will also likely spawn more committees to deal with issues central to a post-Saddam government in Baghdad. Under the heading of potential working groups, the summary of the project includes such issues as oil and energy, education, foreign and national security policy, and defense institutions and policy."
"Deep in the bowels of the US state department, not far from the cafeteria, there is a small office identified only by a handwritten sign on the door reading: The Future of Iraq Project."
"Two US-sponsored meetings aimed at bringing members of the Iraqi opposition together have been put off indefinitely. One was to have been a seminar in Washington for Iraqi ex-officers in exile. It was to have taken place under the auspices of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the backing of the Pentagon and members of Congress who view the INC, a London-based umbrella organisation, as the rightful vanguard of the opposition.
"However, the state department, convinced that the INC is corrupt and unreliable, dragged its feet on issuing visas to the Iraqi generals in Europe, who were themselves sceptical about the role of the INC and its leading figure, Ahmed Chalabi. Ultimately Congress grew impatient and suspended the funding."
"On July 9 and 10, 2002, a group of Iraqi jurists joined Iraqi-Americans and international experts at the State Department to discuss how to promote the rule of law in Iraq, and how to initiate judicial reform ... one of several working groups that are considering topics ranging from the environment and agriculture to education, public health, the economy, and civil society. The topics were selected at an April meeting during which Iraqis expatriates joined area experts to draw up a list of the most pressing issues that would face a post-Saddam Iraq."
"'We are building and establishing a very strong ground for tomorrow,' said Judge Fouad Ridha, on of the participants in the Transitional Justice meeting.
"Judge Tariq Al-Saleh, the president of the London-based Iraqi Jurists Association, said that the interests of the world community and of the Iraqi people coincide when it comes to lifting the tyranny. ...
"An Iraqi-American lawyer who participated in the group, Faisal Istrabadi, said that it was very appropriate to be talking about restoring legitimate government and the rule of law in Iraq, the country which gave the concept of rule of law to the world in ancient times. Istrabadi saw the working group as an encouraging demonstration of the U.S. commitment to democracy in Iraq.
"Istrabadi said that the fear that Iraq will descend into chaos if the present regime should fall is unfounded, based on the example of northern Iraq, which has a functioning government. The working group, Istrabadi said, 'is a wonderful first step.'"
"On September 4 - 5 a group of more than 25 Iraqi oppositionists, intellectuals, and independents convened in Surrey, England, U.K. For the first meeting of the Democratic Principles working group. This was the fourth working group convened as part of the first six Future of Iraq Project working groups.
"Representatives of various opposition groups attended and contributed, including the Iraqi National Front, the Iraqi National Accord, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Constitutional Monarchy Movement, Iraq Turkoman Front, Iraqi National Movement, Alliance of Iraqi Tribes, Iraqi Forum for Democracy, Iraqi National Coalition, Representatives of the Assyrian Community, and the Iraqi National Congress.
Boucher: "The Department -- US Government has been working with Iraqi academics, opposition figures, independent Iraqis outside the country, since about April on planning for the Future of Iraq project. We're convening one of the five -- one of the six working groups is beginning today, and through the weekend, more than a dozen Iraqi engineers, scientists and technical experts convened in Washington for the first meeting of the Future of Iraq project's working group on water, agriculture and the environment. It's the fifth such working group that we've held since the April 2002 planning committee meeting.
"Discussions focused on challenged faced by a post-Saddam Hussein government of Iraq and a number of areas that are of vital importance to the lives, health and prosperity of all Iraqis. There is a prominent Iraqi-American engineer report on his study about whether southern marshes can be revitalized, for example, so there's some pretty big issues there. And there will be US experts from the Departments of State, Interior, Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Reclamation, who participate. So we're looking forward to those discussions. ...
Q: "This Future of Iraq and these working groups, do they include a financial component on how it would be funded and talks about whether that would be something that the US would fund or the donor community?"
"Boucher: I'm sure as they face each of these challenges they have to talk about the financing challenges, and obviously in some areas it's more likely that Iraq would be able to finance reconstruction or development itself, given its oil revenue; in some areas, there might be needs. But they've looked -- the working groups that have met so far include a working group on public finance and accounting and various other things like that. The democratic principles working group also sort of covers the whole scope of government questions, and they'll meet for a second time next week. So some of these activities are ongoing."
"The working groups are comprised of a spectrum of Iraqis, including Assyrians, Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans. The Public and Media outreach group has 15 members, 3 of which are Assyrian. The Democratic Principles group has 32 members, 2 of which are Assyrian. The Water, Agriculture and Environment working group has 13 members, 5 of which are Assyrian. The strong Assyrian presence reflects the demographics of the Iraqi community in the U.S., nearly 90% of which is Assyrian. There are 400,000 Assyrians in the U.S, with large concentrations in Chicago (85,000), Detroit (100,000), the Bay Area (40,000), Los Angeles and San Diego (50,000), Phoenix (8,000), New York (15,000) and Boston (5,000). In Iraq there are 1.5 million Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs).
"The Water, Agriculture and Environment working group (WAE) met on October 5th and 6th in Washington DC. The roundtable included 13 Iraqis and 15 U.S. officials from various government agencies, including the State Department, USAID, USACE, USGS and USEPA. Of the 13 Iraqis, 5 were Assyrian. The WAE group developed plans for short and long term projects in a post-Saddam Iraq. Short-term projects address the immediate aftermath of regime change, and focus on insuring the continuation of public utilities and services, such as water, electricity and sewage and garbage disposal. Long-term projects focus on the gradual rebuilding of Iraq, with a return to normalcy. ...
"We expect to be making preparations soon to proceed with our second phase of working groups to include six to nine sessions focusing on other issues like education, economy and infrastructure, refugees and internally displaced persons, and migration policy, foreign and national security policy, defense institutions and policy, media, civil society, anticorruption measures, oil and energy.
"Certainly there are differences between the groups in the Iraqi opposition as there are between political parties everywhere. I think the base of the point is they are all united in their opposition to the current regime and they are focusing on their strengths rather than their differences.
"The meeting of the Democratic Principles working group, which is one of the working groups under this project -- in early September was a case in point. There were about 30 Iraqia, Suni and Shi'a, Kurds and Arab, Turkman and Assyrians, secular and Islamist, as well as prominent Iraqi writers, academics and intellectuals who all came together to discuss fundamental issues affecting their common vision for the future of Iraq.
"We would also note that the Transitional Justice working group, which met initially in early July, met for a second working group meeting in Siracusa, Italy on September 27th to October 1st. It was a very constructive session that focused on the specific issues that post-Saddam Iraq will face as it moves from dictatorship to democracy and the rule of law.
"I think the only other thing to note is we've also worked with the opposition groups who've organized themselves to deal with some of the constitutional issues, the issues of federalism and government and who are planning further meetings themselves, I think, in Europe later this month."
"During the first week of December, Iraqi experts, free from the control of Saddam Hussein's regime, convened in Washington for a second round of discussions aimed at developing the future infrastructure and economy of Iraq.
"The December session 'was really marked by mature discussion,' Nasreen Sideek, a member of the Economic and Infrastructure Working Group, told the Washington File December 7.
"'I think the most important thing to come out of the December meeting was our unanimous support for the idea of establishing an Iraq Development and Reconstruction Council (IDRC),' said Sideek, who is currently serving as Minister of Reconstruction and Development [in] Erbil.
"'Following our last meeting [Nov. 8], there was a vigorous email exchange of drafts and commentary among the sub-working groups. The information we shared, focusing on the priority issues - electricity, communications, future of Oil-for-Food, economic policy and the establishment of the IDRC-really enabled the group, in this second session, to come up with some strong joint drafts,' Sideek said.
"'For some of the issues, particularly the specific services like electricity and communications, we know we will need more data before solid planning can begin...but we agreed on the immediate actions to be taken...We all agreed it would be very important for the day after to have a council in place to set sound development policy and promote public understanding of issues of national and international importance to the people of Iraq,' she said.
"The Iraq Development and Reconstruction Council, as the working group sees it, would be set up as an independent, non-political body to advise an Iraqi transitional authority.
"At this session, the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs will host approximately 15 Free Iraqis who have expressed an interest in how local and regional governments function. Specifically, interactions with a central government; an examination of the separation of powers; and how private institutions, community organizers, and businesses can work with local governments to provide more effective services to the Iraqi people."
At this session, the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs hosted approximately 15 Free Iraqis for discussions regarding the current state of Iraq's oil and energy sectors, scenarios for the restoration and modernization of Iraq's oil fields and other essential energy infrastructure; and management of the energy sector to meet the needs of the Iraqi people in the post-Saddam era.
On January 24-25, 2003, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs hosted approximately fifteen "Free Iraqis" for discussions on primary, secondary and university education in Iraq as part of the first session of the Future of Iraq Project Working Group on Education. These fifteen Iraqi expatriates were scheduled to discuss ways to make the education system more effective in providing Iraqis the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a democratic society, including curriculum reform, the integration of civics and multicultural studies into the Iraqi curriculum, and establishment of teacher training programs.
"About 70 Iraqis are part of a new program with the U.S. State Department called the Future of Iraq Project that's working out the complex details of a post-Hussein Iraq if he is ousted. At the Pentagon, defense officials are recruiting thousands of Iraqi exiles, some from Detroit and Dearborn, to assist U.S. military commanders in war and serve as prisoner guards."
  • A hearing on the U.S. Department of State's Future of Iraq Project was held by Senate Commmittee on Foreign Relations on February 11, 2003, with Senator Dick Lugar presiding.
Two witness panels at the hearing included: (Panel 1) Marc I. Grossman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and Douglas Jay Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and (Panel 2) Colonel Scott R. Feil (Ret.), Executive Director, Role of American Military Power; General Anthony C. Zinni, (Ret.) (a fellow of the Center for Defense Information), Former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command; and Professor Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair for Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The second session of the Future of Iraq project working group on Local Government convened on February 12-13, 2003 in Washington, D.C.
At this session, about 15 free Iraqis were to continue to discuss issues relating to local government in Iraq, including separation of local, regional, and central government powers, local governmental accountability, and how private institutions, community organizers, and businesses can work with local governments to provide more effective services to the Iraqi people.
"Seventeen Iraqi-born scholars and educators met at the Department of State January 24-26 to discuss ways to make Iraq's education system more effective in preparing citizens to succeed in the democratic society they hope will follow the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.
"The session was the first meeting of the Education Working Group, one of over a dozen groups of free Iraqis meeting under the auspices of the State Department's Future of Iraq Project to consider issues that will face the post-Saddam Hussein society. Participants in this education panel included university professors, primary school teachers, and several young people with recent experience in the Iraqi education system.
"The educators believe strongly that group's mission is not to impose change on the people of Iraq but rather to support and advise them as they seek to reform their education system and right the wrongs that have been done, according to two members of the group, Hind Rassam and Zainab Al-Suwaij. Rassam is associate chair of the Social Sciences Division at Mercy College in suburban New York City; Al-Suwaij is executive director of the American Islamic Congress in Boston and a former professor of Arabic at Yale University."
"In the event of military conflict, participants agreed that all necessary measures should be taken to re-open schools as soon as possible. ...
"The goal is to create a more open classroom, where students participate freely and students and teachers respect each other's rights. Involving families and community leaders in the schools is a critical step toward revamping Iraq's educational system, the conferees agreed. Traditionally, parents' roles have been confined to hiring tutors in preparations for nationwide exams. Rassam explained, 'You do not see parents in the schools, and there are no parent-teacher conferences.' She added that parental involvement has, of course, been discouraged by the Saddam regime, whose 'main mission in the schools is brainwashing and asking the children to spy on their parents.'
"Space Imaging today announced that the U.S. State Department has selected its Geobook geographic information systems (GIS) product for use by the Department's Future of Iraq project. The working groups will use Geobook for planning for a better future for the Iraqi people in fields such as local government, repair of infrastructure, economic development, and environmental studies. Geobook is an unclassified Space Imaging geospatial product that provides a simple-to-use software program with a map-like interface that makes it intuitive to browse and store information on features such as facilities, pipelines, bridges, roads and other key civilian infrastructures. This infrastructure information is overlaid on Space Imaging's commercial one-meter color map-accurate IKONOS satellite imagery."
"The Defense Department requested further information, and the petitioners supplied a list of the locations of over 5,000 known sites. The State Department has indicated that it would establish a working group on antiquities and heritage as part of its "Future of Iraq" project."
Iraqi jurists in exile have outlined their vision of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq governed under the rule of law, and say they stand ready and eager to help implement the required changes.
For the process to succeed, they say, it is vital for Iraqis themselves to take the lead, with international help provided where needed.
Four of the lawyers involved in preparing a detailed 700-page draft of their proposals -- a joint effort by the London-based Iraqi Jurist Association and the Working Group on Transitional Justice affiliated with the State Department's Future of Iraq Project -- presented their views at a press briefing April 4, [2003].
The "Future of Iraq" project, which involved dozens of exiled Iraqi professionals and 17 U.S. agencies, including the Pentagon, prepared strategies for everything from drawing up a new Iraqi judicial code to restoring the unique ecosystem of Iraq's southern marshes, which Saddam's regime had drained.
Virtually none of the "Future of Iraq" project's work was used once Saddam fell.
The first U.S. administrator in Iraq, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, wanted the Future of Iraq project director, Tom Warrick, to join his staff in Baghdad. Warrick had begun packing his bags, but Pentagon civilians vetoed his appointment, said one current and one former official.
Meanwhile, postwar planning documents from the State Department, CIA and elsewhere were "simply disappearing down the black hole" at the Pentagon, said a former U.S. official with long Middle East experience who recently returned from Iraq.
Archaeological experts who were worried about protecting Iraq's immense cultural treasures were rebuffed in their requests for meetings before the war. After the war, Iraq's museum treasures were looted.
Responsibility for preparing for post-Saddam Iraq lay with senior officials who supervised the Office of Special Plans, a highly secretive group of analysts and consultants in the Pentagon's Near East/South Asia bureau. The office was physically isolated from the rest of the bureau.
The broad outlines of the work, called the Future of Iraq Project, have been widely known, but new details emerged this week after the State Department sent Congress the project's 13 volumes of reports and supporting documents, which several House and Senate committees had requested weeks ago.
The documents are unclassified but labeled "official use only," and were not intended for public distribution, officials said. But Congressional officials from both parties allowed The New York Times to review the volumes, totaling more than 2,000 pages, revealing previously unknown details behind the planning.

Future of Iraq Project Reports

The Memory Hole has posted links to all 1,200 pages of "Previously Unavailable Reports From State Dept Planning for Post-Saddam Iraq, Warnings and Recommendations by Experts and Iraqi Exiles Ignored by Administration."

In September 2006, the National Security Archive posted online "State Department documents from 2002 tracing the inception of the "Future of Iraq Project," alongside the final, mammoth 13-volume study, previously obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."

Contact Information

Future of Iraq Project
Gregg Sullivan
Deputy Director for Press Affairs
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Phone: 202-647-5150

Following the December 2002 meeting with the Free Iraqis, all Future of Iraq working group meetings were closed to the press. [2]

SourceWatch Resources

External links