Letter from Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann to U.S. Senator Joe Biden on the bipartisan vote promoting a Federal Structure for Iraq

Posted in United States , Iraq | 01-Oct-07 | Author: Hubertus Hoffmann

Hon. Senator Joseph R. Biden jr.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Senate
201 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

New York, October 2nd, 2007

Dear Senator Biden,

On behalf of the independent and international World Security Network Foundation, we would like to congratulate you and the 17 sponsors of the bipartisan amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill promoting a federal structure for Iraq. We were very pleased at the 75-23 vote in favor of it.

Once again, the Senators on the Hill have shown their leadership in shaping a better world not only for U.S. citizens but also for the Iraqi people, friends and allies in a critical vacuum, with innovative strategic thinking and planning. It shows the world the strength of democracy in America and represents the best traditions of the U.S. Senate, something I had the privilege to experience first hand working in the offices of Sen. Sam Nunn and Sen. Gary Hart writing a Bundestag report on Euromissiles and SALT in 1979.

When Albert Einstein said "the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them" and "imagination is more important than knowledge" he was pointing to the necessity of a fresh look and approach - something we need in critical foreign affairs situations. You and Leslie Gelb have fulfilled that need with the proposal of a fresh federal structure for Iraq. This is something our WSN foundation also supports and promotes. I enclose our newsletters about it.

Let me add some additional thoughts and recommendations what should be done in Iraq based on several meetings with politicians and high ranking generals:

Erbil in Kurdistan-Iraq should become a Ramstein-like U.S. Military Base and aircraft carrier in Iraq

The only region in Iraq where U.S. troops are welcomed, not perceived as occupation forces, and can be well protected against suicide bombers, is Kurdistan-Iraq. This is by far the safest region of the country.

The main U.S. military base should be built around the old airfield in Erbil, and up to 50,000 troops stationed there. They would be effectively protected by five million Kurds who see them as liberators from Saddam, and who would enjoy a military guarantee against their aggressive neighbours Iran, Syria, Turkey and destabilizing Iraq.

Phased reduction of U.S. troops starting in 2008 - providing a military backbone within Iraqi forces

The U.S. military strategy should be radically changed to focus on a strong U.S. backbone for the weak Iraqi troops. U.S. troops embedded in Iraqi units are still too weak and should be four times stronger. Each Iraqi batallion of approximately 600 fresh and inexperienced soldiers should get 40-50 experienced U.S. soldiers. Iraqi battalion commanders, as Lt Cols, should be supported by a U.S. Major as advisor. At the company level, the Iraqi Majors should have a U.S. Captain as advisor and each platoon several U.S. sergeants. The Achilles’ heel of the Iraqi army is the lack of experienced officers and sergeants, of cohesion and self-confidence. To counter this would need approximately 20,000 U.S. soldiers in action and a strong reserve. The U.S. should guarantee air support, helicopters, intelligence, engineer and medical support, with specialists in Iraq. The 20,000 U.S. advisors will be much more effective with their Iraqi allies than 20,000 U.S. troops in action. Embedded U.S. soldiers should work to glue mixed Shiite and Sunni units together. This new backbone strategy will need 2008 and 2009.

The U.S. government has to define the desired end state of the peace enforcement operations. Well-defined criteria for success will be the yardstick for any progress and determine any political decision on possible force reductions. Based upon these progress milestones, the U.S. could trigger the following reductions step by step from the current 160,000 troops: reduce by 5,000 until March 2008, by 10,000 more until June, 15,000 further until September, and 20,000 more by December 2008 for a total reduction of 50,000 in 2008.

Even further force reductions could follow in 2008 and 2009 if and when stability and security have reached a certain level. These force reductions should not decrease the security and protection of American forces. All proposals for a massive and ad hoc withdrawal of the U.S. troops would reduce stability and security in Iraq and harm the credibility of the U.S. in the Broader Middle East as "Provocative Weakness" (Fritz Kramer). Including all other measures, the U.S. troop casualty rate could be dramatically reduced and Iraq could avoid a sectarian bloodbath.

Baghdad as a U.N. Federal neutral zone with real Safe Areas

The mixed capital Baghdad with around seven million inhabitants should become a special neutral federal zone like the District of Columbia where Washington is situated, split into smaller independent cantons of Sunnis and Shiites under U.N. administration like in Bosnia. Inside, 20-30 smaller Safe Areas with checkpoints and tight security could be created as already discussed in the White House in 2005. For this purpose, U.N. forces supported by private security companies should receive robust rules of engagement. This way the slaughter in the capital could be cooled down and minimized. The expulsion of the Sunnis would be stopped.

Oil Income under Swiss Accounting

The new Iraqi oil law comes late but heads in the right direction: splitting the main income of oil and gas between the three ethnical groups Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds according to their percentage of the population. But it is still Baghdad-controlled and thus by a Shiite-dominated government suspicious to the Sunni population. The income should therefore be neutrally accounted for with international guarantees by Switzerland. Best practice so far in Iraq is the perfect accounting by JP Morgan of the oil income in the past.

Counter Terrorist Actions

From their base in Erbil, U.S. Special Forces should operate with Iraqi security forces against al-Qaeda and other terrorists case by case within a new U.N. mandate. Most al-Qaeda branded terrorists are foreigners. Many come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, and Indonesia. Most travel via a rat line from Syria and are well protected in safe houses - mainly by the Sunni population.

The Baghdad judiciary has failed to convict and convincingly punish, as an example, the terrorists they have caught; something needed to show authority in such an Arab country, instead of allowing lawlessness. Most Iraqis are not convinced that these foreign terrorists are not acting in the interests of the Iraqi people. This can be done, as shown by U.S. troops in the city of Ramadi in the Sunni Triangle. Within only one year, hundreds of al-Qaeda who had arrived in Ramadi two years earlier were expelled in a textbook co-operation with local Sheiks, who persuaded thousands of their tribesman to join the Iraqi police in a city of 400,000 terrified inhabitants. The locals, supported by U.S. Special Forces, guarantee the city’s security with seven thousand policemen, up from only 200 a year ago. They have 12 district councils and one city council, and have created 19,000 labouring jobs. The city council and the U.S. military broadcast daily progress reports from giant loudspeakers above 19 police stations. U.S. forces are now perceived as friendly forces within the city.

New Elite in Iraq

The old guard of politicians is burned out and has lost its credibility over the last 4 years. The international community should focus on a transfer of power to a fresh generation: men like Masrour Barzani, son of the Kurdish President and now intelligence chief, and the sons of the Sunni and Shiite sheiks as well. An Iraqi Elite program should look for the intelligent new generation.

Stop the brain drain: bring back the refugees

The two million refugees who have fled Iraq must be invited back starting 2009 after the civil war has cooled down. Iraq needs that elite more than ever and has lost many of the most intelligent people to a giant brain drain.

Real national reconciliation

Iraq needs a clear and strong Reconciliation Plan that includes an amnesty for former non-senior Ba’ath party members. This could include: establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission like in South Africa after Apartheid, a Special Minister for National Reconciliation with large budget and staff, and a yearly report to Parliament. Until now, the Baghdad government has failed even to organize reconciliation. It is only looking to integrate a few Sunnis into the cabinet; not nearly enough. It must now show hundreds of credible deeds of reconciliation of the Shiites towards the Sunnis.

Economic Build-up

The fundament of stability is a better present and future for the people, simple like day long water, electricity, and jobs. Even after four years there is little electricity in Bagdad. There has been too much focus on security first, over reconstruction. Both should be pursued in parallel. Militant and suicide attacks result from aggression and frustration, and thrive amongst people without water, light, or hope.

"Tit for Tat" strategy towards Syria and Iran

To try and convince the dictators in Teheran and Damascus not to use the unstable situation in Iraq is naïve. They love it. Better to act tit for tat and equip opposition forces there with the same troublemaking tools to destabilize their unstable regimes. This will force them to respect the Iraqi government as it will be in their national interest not to support terrorists there. There is no strong and credible U.S. policy yet which clearly demonstrates to tiny, isolated Syria and to Iran that interventions in Iraqi affairs can no longer be tolerated and will have a high price for their governments.

Senator, thank you again for your courage and leadership!

Best wishes

Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann

President and Founder
World Security Network Foundation

945 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10021