home | about | documents | news | postings | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

New State Department Releases on the "Future of Iraq" Project

New Documents Provide Details on Budgets, Interagency Coordination and Working Group Progress

Posting Includes State's 13-Volume Study Previously Released Under FOIA

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 198

Introduced by Farrah Hassen

For more information contact:
Farrah Hassen or Malcolm Byrne
626/347-8214, 202/994-7000

Posted - September 1, 2006

Cover page from Future of Iraq Project working group recommendations

Related postings

Saddam's Iron Grip
Intelligence Reports on Saddam Hussein's Reign

State Department experts warned CENTCOM before Iraq war about lack of plans for post-war Iraq security
Planning for post-Saddam regime change began as early as October 2001

CIA Whites Out Controversial Estimate on Iraq Weapons
Main Subject of Today's Senate Intelligence Report Remains Largely Secret

The Saddam Hussein Sourcebook
Declassified secrets from the U.S.-Iraq relationship

Eyes on Saddam
U.S. overhead imagery of Iraq

Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein
The U.S. tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984

Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Operation Desert Storm: Ten Years After
Documents shed light on role of intelligence, stealth technology and space systems in the Gulf War

"Iraq is not Afghanistan; U.S. should make commitment to Iraq like Japan and Germany. Note military government idea did not go down well."
- Overview, Future of Iraq Project

"The period immediately after regime change might offer…criminals an opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder, looting, etc."
- Working Group on Transitional Justice in Iraq

"The people of Iraq are being promised a new future and they will expect immediate results. The credibility of the new regime and the United States will depend on how quickly these promises are translated to reality."
- Working Group on Transparency and Anti-corruption


Note: The documents cited in this Electronic Briefing Book are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.


Washington, DC, September 1, 2006 - The National Security Archive is today posting 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. "The Future of Iraq Project" was one of the most comprehensive U.S. government planning efforts for raising that country out of the ashes of combat and establishing a functioning democracy. The new materials complement previous postings on the Archive's site relating to the United States' complex relationship with Iraq during the years leading up to the 2003 invasion.


Background on the Future of Iraq Project

Less than one month after the September 11 attacks, the State Department in October 2001 began planning the post-Saddam Hussein transition in Iraq. Under the direction of former State official Thomas S. Warrick, the Department organized over 200 Iraqi engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, doctors and other experts into 17 working groups to strategize on topics including the following: public health and humanitarian needs, transparency and anti-corruption, oil and energy, defense policy and institutions, transitional justice, democratic principles and procedures, local government, civil society capacity building, education, free media, water, agriculture and environment and economy and infrastructure.

Thirty-three total meetings were held primarily in Washington from July 2002 through early April 2003. As part of the internal bureaucratic battle for control over Iraq policy within the Bush administration, the Department of Defense's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), itself replaced by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in May 2003, would ultimately assume responsibility for post-war planning in accordance with National Security Presidential Directive 24 signed on January 20, 2003. According to some press accounts, the Defense Department largely ignored the report, although DOD officials deny that.

The result of the project was a 1,200-page 13-volume report that contains a multitude of facts, strategies, predictions and warnings about a diverse range of complex and potentially explosive issues, some of which have since developed as the report's authors anticipated, and have contributed to miring the U.S.-led nation-building experiment in disaster. The study's existence has been known, and versions have leaked to the press in the past. (Note 1) The report was marked "For Official Use Only," a category reserved for information that is deemed "sensitive but unclassified," which means that it is not covered by any statute or regulation but can still be withheld if government officials decide its disclosure could "adversely impact" certain private or national interests.


PART I - The New Documents Cover Early Stages of the Future of Iraq Project

The sample documents posted today were culled from 124 documents released in full and 77 with excisions from State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. These materials provide a behind-the-scenes look at the formation of 17 working groups consisting of "free" Iraqis and experts, 14 of which met throughout 2002 and early 2003 to plan for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

In March 2002, the State Department sent a Congressional Notification of $5 million to support the Future of Iraq Project. The first planning meeting with Iraqis took place at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. from April 9-10, 2002. At the meeting, five "priority" working groups were identified: Public Health and Humanitarian Needs, Water, Agriculture and Environment, Public Finance and Accounts, Transitional Justice and Public Outreach. (See 20020410) Concurrently, a provisional list of 15 working groups with descriptions dated April 30, 2002 was produced, including the Defense Policy and Institutions Working Group, with the recommendation to "develop plans for restructuring the Iraqi armed forces into playing a depoliticized, positive and unifying role to share in rebuilding Iraqi society." (See 20020430) Approximately one year later, as one of his initial decisions as Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator in Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer would completely disband the Iraqi army.

Also among the new documents is an undated sample letter addressed to an "Iraqi Opposition Group" from Ryan C. Crocker, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. In it, Crocker writes, "The United States Government seeks your advice regarding the names of Iraqi and international experts who can participate in a series of working groups that will focus on planning now for a better and more democratic future for the Iraqi people." (See 20020000) The boilerplate text gives some insight into how the Department went about identifying who to seek out for inside expertise on the reconstruction effort.

Two documents in particular detail requirements for putting on conferences and meetings of working groups, suggesting a total outlay of $1,533,900 for setting up five initial working groups and for convening a "mini-conference" in Europe with about "40-50 Iraqis and 10 or so international experts to report on the progress of the working reports." (See 20020500 and 20020501)

Regarding the politically delicate issue of compensation for Iraqis taking part in the exercise, another undated Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs/Near Gulf Affairs memorandum with the subject, "Payment to Participants of Iraq Working Groups," emphasizes the importance of avoiding "the perception that participants are receiving generous payments from the USG, which might have negative consequences both for the participants and for the interests of the US government in post-Saddam Iraq." (See 20020001) Instead, the memo proposes an "expert fee" to "certain non-USG working group participants not associated with a funded NGO (such as the Iraq Foundation)."

While the State Department -- temporarily at least -- took the lead in the project, State officials naturally looked to other departments for specialized help, although in hindsight they displayed a highly optimistic view of the time commitment required. A letter dated December 24, 2002 from Deputy Assistant Secretary Crocker to former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, for example, requests that the EPA's International Services Division provide "assistance and expertise to the Water, Agriculture and Environment working group, on a non-reimbursable basis, for the next three to six months." (See 20021224) The letter also asks that Iraqi-Americans working for the EPA and willing to participate in the "Future of Iraq Project" be "allowed to devote a significant portion of their professional time to this project over the next three to six months."

The released background materials refer repeatedly to "Iraqis" participating in the various working group sessions -- but without specifying Sunni, Sh'ite or Kurd, thus testifying to the Administration's hope for the emergence of a united, post-Iraq war identity, which has proven to be a lingering challenge. What remains unavailable are records of all the names and backgrounds of the more than 200 participants, along with State's criteria for selecting those Iraqis. In a majority of the documents, the names are excised, under the b(6) exemption (personal privacy). One exception is the "Iraqi Spokespersons" document (also included in the "Future of Iraq Project" Study Overview section), which mentions 88 spokespersons for 12 of the working groups, including Mr. Laith Kubba, a prominent Iraqi exile at Washington's National Endowment for Democracy, who participated in the Democratic Principles and Procedures Working Group. (See 20020002) External experts like Dr. Peter Galbraith (formerly of the National Defense University), Roberta Cohen (Brookings Institute) and Marianne Leach (CARE USA) also assisted the Project (See 20020003 and 20020004).

Summaries and progress reports from the respective group meetings reveal recommendations that would later be incorporated into the "Future of Iraq" study. For example, according to a summary of the Transitional Justice Working Group's first meeting from July 9-10, 2002 in Washington, which included ten Iraqi jurists and four international experts (names redacted), "one Iraqi intellectual stated the question of the Ba'ath Party is at the heart of the transition," and that "it is not possible to equate party membership with criminalization." (See 20020709) In their final report, the Democratic Principles Working Group would warn against a policy of total de-Ba'athification without the reintegration of former Ba'athists into society. Additionally, after the first session of this working group from September 4-5, 2002, with 30 Iraqis present, "Many participants sent the message that the USG needs to prepare for a stay of five to ten years." (See 20020904)

Another undated document, entitled "The Future of Iraq: the Iraqi Component," discusses options for the post-war government in Iraq, including a proposed 3-5 person "Sovereignty Council," whose primary mission would be overseeing the "transition to democracy" and would consist of members of "the highest integrity, widely respected inside Iraq." (See 20020005) In the same document, what appears crossed out are suggested names of the "best candidates" to sit on the Sovereignty Council, like Adnan Pachachi, an Iraqi Sunni and former foreign minister, as well as the line, "someone agreeable to both Barzani and Talabani," referring to Massoud Barzani, the current President of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, and Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq. Below the aforementioned line, the document concludes, "too soon to start naming candidates" and suggests a timeframe of 26-36 months for "a new Iraqi government" to take office. Ultimately, Bremer would appoint a 25-member Governing Council on July 13, 2003, which included Pachachi, Barzani and Talabani as members, along with Ahmed Chalabi from the Iraqi National Congress and Iyad Allawi, who served as prime minister of Iraq's interim government following the dissolution of the CPA on June 30, 2004.

These new details begin to fill some of the many blank spots that remain in the American public's understanding of the framework, concepts and methodologies employed by State Department officials in the daunting task of reconstructing post-conflict Iraq. In the coming months, the National Security Archive will continue to post new materials on the subject as they are released by State and other agencies that played roles in this undertaking.


PART II - The Future of Iraq Project Report: Working Group Recommendations

Future of Iraq Project Working Group Recommendations

Cover Page


Water, Agriculture and Environment Working Group

Public Health and Humanitarian Needs

Defense Policy and Institutions

Economy and Infrastructure

Transparency and Anti-Corruption Measures


Transitional Justice

Democratic Principles and Procedures

Local Government

Civil Society Capacity Building

Free Media

Oil and Energy


For now, the Future of Iraq study, released earlier this year to the National Security Archive and other requesters under the FOIA, remains the single most important documentary record for understanding U.S. reconstruction planning. Along with posting the report, a number of pertinent points are worth raising as part of an analysis of its contents.

Immediately apparent in the final study are the glaring differences in content length (6 pages devoted to education and 44 on local government, versus over 200 on transitional justice) and organization, characterized by the uneven balance between detailed, short, medium and long-term policy recommendations featured more prominently in the transitional justice, economy and infrastructure and democratic principles groups, and less so in the groups on public health and humanitarian assistance (which only met from October 16-17, 2002), education, free media and local government. In another instance, the working group tackling refugees and internally displaced persons never even met, only holding preliminary discussions on a lingering dilemma that has concurrently embroiled neighboring countries including Jordan and Syria.

In this vein, also absent are strategies on engaging Iraq's neighbors during the early and long-term phases of the post-war reconstruction, with the exception of the bleak warning, "Medium-term problems of declining water quality in the Euphrates - real political problems with Turkey and Syria coming." (Overview) As a long-term project, the Water, Agriculture and Environment group thus suggested that the sharing of the Euphrates and Tigris headwaters resources "be negotiated with Turkey and Syria." More directly, the ORHA "Rock Drill" briefing by Colonel Tom Gross and Colonel Paul Hughes, prepared after the February 21-22, 2003 post-war game exercise (including officials from Pentagon, State and CENTCOM, among others) organized by Jay Garner at the National Defense University, recommended engaging "Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to develop policy and plans for use of available water, power, medical and other goods and services." (Note 2)

Notwithstanding these shortcomings, State's year-long project predicted several of the ongoing challenges facing the U.S.-led occupation.

  • Law and Order - The first working group, on Transitional Justice, met in July 2002, consisting of over forty Iraqi judges, law professors and legal experts. In addition to drafting laws to try Saddam Hussein and his top associates for war crimes by an Iraqi court, they warned in their March 2003 report, "The period immediately after regime change might offer…criminals an opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder, looting, etc." ("The Road to Re-establishing Rule of Law and Restoring Civil Society") Security threats of this nature have since proven to be one of the more destabilizing elements in Iraq today.
  • Police Reform and Anti-corruption - Anticipating the security vacuum in post-Saddam Iraq, the Transparency and Anti-corruption working group called for the "rapid reform and training of a new police force to deal with both the normal routine preservation of law and order and…the exceptional circumstances of popular acts of vengeance as well as to combat the further development of criminal syndicates." More specifically, the authors had suggested that "ex military personnel, not associated with torture and corruption in police activities," could play a part in recruiting and training new police members. The issue has indeed become a serious one. According to the May 22, 2006 New York Times, "A 2006 internal police survey conducted northeast of Baghdad found that 75 percent of Iraqis did not trust the police enough to tip them off to insurgent activity." Earlier, the "Future of Iraq" authors had asserted, "Restoring the faith of the Iraqi populace in all government institutions, and particularly the police, will be an important part of changing a climate of fear, corruption, and avarice." ("Building a New Iraq: Towards a Civil Society," Transparency and Anti-corruption working group)
  • De-Ba'athification - The Democratic Principles working group overwhelmingly endorsed de-Ba'athification "of all facets of Iraqi life," with the caveat that such a program "would not consist of the total abolition of the current administration, since, in addition to its role of social control, that structure does provide a framework for social order." Those former Ba'athists who are not reintegrated into society, most notably members of the Iraqi army, the group foreshadowed, "may…present a destabilizing element, especially if they are left without work or ability to get work." (4.3.1, Democratic Principles working group) Ultimately, CPA Order 1, issued by Administrator L. Paul Bremer on May 16, 2003, eliminated in its entirety the Ba'ath Party's structures and removed former members from positions of authority in the "new" Iraq. This decision has since faced intense scrutiny and considerable criticism from outside observers.
  • Vital Infrastructure - The Economy and Infrastructure working group emphasized the importance of restoring and running Iraq's electrical grid immediately as a "key to water systems, jobs" asserting that this could "go a long way to determining Iraqis' attitudes towards Coalition forces" (Overview, Economy and Infrastructure). It proposed that Iraq's state of electricity undergo a "complete restructuring in terms of adding new generation capacity, … transmission line capacity, … modern substations, and adding [a] new communication system." According to the media, the Pentagon made much rosier assumptions about the condition of this sphere of Iraqi life. Three years after the invasion, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has inherited the unfulfilled task of improving the operation of Iraq's electricity, water treatment and sewage which remain "at or below prewar levels." As one Iraqi explained, "I want the government to give me a generator so I can have electricity during the summer heat." (Note 3)
  • Effects of UN Sanctions - A less publicized feature of the "Future of Iraq" project is the recurring theme of the detrimental, long-term effects of the multilateral UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990, challenging even the study's authors in devising plans to rebuild the country's infrastructure following the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Inadvertently, they make a compelling case against the future implementation of comparable, comprehensive sanctions. The Transparency and Anti-corruption group noted: "The international sanctions of the last decade have had the effect of expanding endemic corruption and black market activities into every sector of the economic life. Survival has been the only engine of the Iraqi economy beyond direct government expenditures for the past decade. The rules of expediency that dominate and characterize economic life and the methodology of corruption are difficult to remove and replace." Concomitantly, the Economy and Infrastructure working group referred to the sanctions' impact on the collapse of Iraq's domestic economy by drastically limiting "the use of fiscal and monetary measures as economic policy instruments. When sanctions allow export for oil only in return for a list of humanitarian goods in a country whose economic well being depends largely on its exports of oil, the scope of independent economic policy making in every area is seriously constricted." Thus, the authors concluded that "rebuilding domestic markets in a post-sanctions environment will require both patience and ingenuity." Concerning the humanitarian consequences of the sanctions, the same working group added, "…women are bearing the brunt of years of war and sanctions in Iraq. The past decade had seen a decline in educational opportunities for women, a jump in female illiteracy and rising poverty."
  • Oil - On a note of optimism, the study understood that Iraq's oil reserves represented "a tremendous asset which can be used to benefit every last citizen of the country, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation." "Thus, the most promising policy for the day after is oil policy." (Economy and Infrastructure working group) This enthusiasm was echoed by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who told the House Appropriations Committee on March 27, 2003, "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Iraqis would not embrace the idea of having the Coalition run the country's oil industry, the report underscored, because "nationalism in Iraqi oil industry is very strong." (Overview, Oil and Energy) Anchoring the Oil and Energy group's recommendations, the authors called for the decentralization of the oil industry in order to "resolve the economic impoverishment of the country." (Oil and Energy Working Group) Contrary to post-war expectations, the country's oil industry has maintained its lowest level of output since the invasion, pumping an average of 2 million bpd, exacerbated by insurgent attacks on maintenance crews, corruption and mismanagement, according to the Washington Post. (Note 4)
  • Foreign Investment - Departing from the former regime's centrally planned economy, the study advised "encouraging economic growth by creating a favorable investment climate for foreign investors" and "restoring the use of fiscal and monetary policy instruments by creating its preconditions--a diversified market economy, an up-to-date tax system, and sound banks." (Economy and Infrastructure working group) It also urged that Iraq join the World Trade Organization as "an essential part of [its] development strategy." (Oil and Energy working group) On September 19, 2003, Bremer signed CPA Order 39, which stipulated that "foreign investment may take place in all parts of Iraq" (Section 6.2) and that the "amount of foreign participation in newly formed or existing business entities in Iraq shall not be limited" (Section 4.2), resulting in the privatization of 200 state companies. In conjunction, a majority of reconstruction contracts were awarded to major US companies, including KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, which in 2003 received a $2.4 billion no-bid reconstruction contract from the Army.
  • Religion and Statehood - Without delving into the vexing issue of religion in the formerly secular Iraq, the Democratic Principles working group raised the question, "What, if any, is the relationship which ought to exist between the new Iraqi state and religion, specifically the religion of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, Islam? Rather than responding, the authors essentially acknowledged the intractability of the issue, declaring simply: "This is an important question which ultimately only the people of Iraq can decide upon in the course of their deliberations during the transitional period." (8.3.2, Democratic Principles working group) Today, many observers regard the largely unresolved religious factor in the country's governing structures to be central to the question of Iraq's political viability in the long-term.

The "Future of Iraq" project was not universally embraced as a blueprint for the reconstruction of Iraq. Among its critics, David Kay, the former Chief Inspector of the Iraq Survey Group, said, "It was not a plan to hand to a task force and say 'go implement.'" (Note 5) Retired Colonel Paul Hughes, who had served as chief of the Special Initiatives Office for ORHA and as the director of the Strategic Policy Office for the CPA, concurred, adding that while "it produced some useful background information it had no chance of really influencing the post-Saddam phase of the war." (Note 6) In the October 13, 2003 New York Times, one senior defense official conceded that the project was "mostly ignored." He added, "State has good ideas and a feel for the political landscape, but they're bad at implementing anything. Defense, on the other hand, is excellent at logistical stuff, but has blinders when it comes to policy. We needed to blend these two together." But the State Department's efforts did receive closer scrutiny and win some adherents following the Iraqi invasion. After the fall of Baghdad, one senior CPA official remarked, "It's our bible coming out here." (Note 7



1. See, for example, Eric Schmitt and Joel Brinkley, New York Times, October 13, 2003.

2. Briefing in possession of authors Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II, 2006: 529.

3. Omar al-Ibadi, Reuters, May 21, 2006.

4. Jim Krane, "Iraq Oil Output Lowest Since Invasion," Washington Post, April 28, 2006.

5. Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II, 2006: 159.

6. Ibid.

7. Eric Schmitt and Joel Brinkley, New York Times, October 13, 2003.

home | about | documents | news | postings | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

Contents of this website Copyright 1995-2017 National Security Archive. All rights reserved.
Terms and conditions for use of materials found on this website.