Publisher Center for Strategic International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, U.N. Foundation
Release Date July 17, 2003
Rebuilding Iraq is an enormous task. Iraq is a large country with historic divisions, exacerbated by a brutal and corrupt regime. The country's twenty-four million people and its infrastructure and service delivery mechanisms have suffered decades of severe degradation and under- investment. Elements of the old regime engage in a campaign of sabotage and ongoing resistance, greatly magnifying the "natural" challenges of rebuilding Iraq. Given the daunting array of needs and challenges, and the national security imperative for the United States to succeed in this endeavor, the United States needs to be prepared to stay the course in Iraq for several years. The next twelve months will be decisive; the next three months are crucial to turning around the securitysituation, which is volatile in key parts of the country. All players are watching closely to see how resolutely the coalition will handle this challenge. The Iraqi population has exceedingly high expectations, and the window for cooperation may close rapidly if they do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity. The "hearts and minds" of key segments of the Sunni and Shi'a communities are in play and can be won, but only if the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and new Iraqi authorities deliver in short order. To do so, the CPA will have to dramatically and expeditiously augment its operational capacity throughout the country, so that civilian- led rebuilding can proceed while there are still significant numbers of coalition forces in Iraq to provide maximum leverage over those who seek to thwart the process. To succeed, the United States and its allies will need to pursue a strategy over the next twelve months that: recognizes the unique challenges in different parts of the country; consolidates gains in those areas where things are going well; and wins hearts and minds even as it decisively confronts spoilers.