Is there evidence of regular, active public debate on issues of defence? If yes, does the government participate in this debate?
6a. Public debate
Iraq score: 50/100
Outside government, there is no or extremely limited public debate among academia, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues.
Outside government, there is occasional public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. Debate also addresses issues superficially, rather than persisting through in-depth and regular discussion.
Outside government, there is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. However, debate often addresses issues superficially, rather than persisting through in-depth and regular discussion.
Outside government, there is occasional public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. However, when debate occurs, it addresses high priority issues with intensity and in-depth discussion.
Outside government, there is regular public debate among academics, journalists, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues. Debate persists on high priority issues over a period of time, rather than being superficially addressed.
Outside government, we find evidence of public debate that engages with defence affairs and pertinent issues in the form of media reports, exposé and radio programmes (1). Defence matters are openly discussed in press circles, online and offline. Iraqis post on their pages or anonymously, the preferred option, to freely respond to official commentary. Blogs and forums remain popular options too. What can be gleaned from news reports, social media feeds and local television (Al Hura, Sabah al Jadeed, Al Zaman) is that public debate has been heavily focused on issues of SSR, most notably, the restructuring of the Iraqi army (2) and the influence of Iraq’s foreign patrons on that process (3), (4). Evidence of polling conducted by local think tanks and research centres is easy to find online (5), (6). The state and its respective organs maintain distance from these discussions, opting for public platforms, where the public’s ability to participate is curtailed.
It was stated by a source (7) that, “TV appearances are used for political point-scoring”, rather than to alleviate people’s security/defence concerns (7). The most debated and contentious debates were prompted by ISG’s conquest of Mosul and the mobilization of young men that heeded Sistani’s call to arms; marking the birth of Iraq’s PMF. The group’s negotiated legal status and the shape of Iraq’s post-ISG security architecture never fail to generate lively public debate (8). The origin, transformation, ideological and political underpinnings, are among the discussion points. Khaled al Obeidi’s parliamentary hearing (9) before his impeachment, in which he was asked to defend himself against charges of corruption, inspired wide-reaching debates, however, public commentary of this was confined to online spaces.
The coverage the hearing received and publicity, has been viewed by some as a media ploy to further tarnish the ex-MoD, which backfired due to his popularity. In light of Iraqi state control of media, it is not surprising that public debates that tackle defence matters are not incentivized more. As the highest-ranking Ayatollah, Sistani is an important figure in political life, whose interventions within the realm of defence matters, is also debated in press circuits (10), (11). Sistani’s criticism of Iraq’s incumbent elite receives ample press attention (10). To echo TI’s 2015 assessment, there is no official forum where defence matters are debated transparently between state and civil society.
1. “Parliament will not debate Zebari’s vote of no-confidence,” Radio Sawa, September 6, 2016, https://www.radiosawa.com/a/iraq-parliament/321914.html.
2. “Will Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces and the army be merged or restructured,” DW.
3. “Iran’s contribution to the restructuring of the Iraqi army,” Elaph, April 18, 2018.
4. “What happens after the restructuring of the PMF,” MC Doualiya, July 2, 2019.
5. “Poll measuring the impact of Iraq’s 2018 Parliamentary Elections,” Al Hurra, July 28, 2018.
6. “The UK is funding the Independent Public Opinion Poll in Iraq,” UK Government, July 18, 2018, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-funds-independent-opinion-research-in-iraq.ar.
7. Interview with a senior researcher at think tank, September 29, 2018.
8. “Iraq’s Paramilitary Groups: Challenge of rebuilding a functioning states,” International Crisis Group, July 30, 2018.
9. “Khaled al Obeidi full hearing,” Youtube Video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S629TIBdIzw August 2, 2016
10. “Sistani’s State; Sistani’s State; the Growing Power of Iraq’s Shia Authorities,” Pulitzer Center, Jan 14, 2018.
6b. Government engagement in public discourse
Iraq score: 25/100
There is no government engagement in public discourse about defence issues or official communications contain no meaningful information.
Where communication does occur, it is likely to be one-way: officials may provide some information but may not answer public questions.
The government engages in discussion with the public about defence issues through open forums, an active website, or at media briefings. However this does not happen regularly, or may exclude very important issues that the government chooses to avoid.
The government engages in regular discussion with the public about defence issues through open forums, an active website, or at media briefings.
The government engages in regular debate with academia, opinion-formers, and CSOs about defence issues in collaborative ways. The government co-organises discussions with independent think tanks or civil society organisations, or through joint media briefings.
Government officials, representatives and security actors engage in regular debate, largely with the media, and some academic circles, on issues of defence (1), (2), (3), (4), (5). This is more likely during times of crises or in the run-up to an election; however, there are very few public forums. What’s more, there are limits to free speech, as various observers have documented, and criticism of powerful militias remains a red line. Abadi is not media-shy, appearing in TV interviews and writing op-eds that have featured in the WSJ and NYT. This itself does not constitute a direct engagement with the public of Iraq. In instances where protesters have taken to the streets, Abadi has travelled to the province in question to address protesters demands. In one instance, Abadi was greeted by angry protesters at Basra’s Sheraton hotel, screaming ‘come out you coward’. Soon after, Abadi was snuck out of the backdoor to safety (6). This implies a total break down of trust between Abadi and the citizens of Basra, in spite of his efforts to create dialogue.
1. “Civil Society Dialogue Network Discussion Paper No. 12 Civil society peacebuilding actors in Iraq,” European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, 2017.
2. “Al Arabiya TV discusses corruption allegations in Iraq civil society bodies,” BBC Monitoring Middle East, July 28, 2008.
3. “EUAM Iraq introduced civil society strategy to local Iraqi organizations,” European External Action Service, April 17, 2019.
4. “The civil and nonviolent initiative to the current military response to Daesh,” Iraqi Civil Society Initiative, Paper presented in ICSSI Sixth Conference, Sulaymaniyah, 2017.
5. “In Iraq IOM engages government, community actors to tackle human trafficking,” International Organization for Migration, August 2, 2019.
6. “Demonstrators gather outside hotel where Abadi is staying, chanting: “come out you coward”,” Shafaq News, July 31, 2018, http://www.shafaaq.com/ar/Ar_NewsReader/d67e36c5-9d16-4e34-85fd-f16c76963e73.
Compare scores by country
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|Country||6a. Public debate||6b. Government engagement in public discourse|
|Albania||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Algeria||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Angola||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Argentina||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Armenia||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Australia||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Azerbaijan||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Bahrain||25 / 100||0 / 100|
|Bangladesh||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Belgium||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Botswana||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Brazil||75 / 100||25 / 100|
|Burkina Faso||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Cameroon||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Canada||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Chile||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|China||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Colombia||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Cote d'Ivoire||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Denmark||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Egypt||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Estonia||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Finland||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|France||75 / 100||25 / 100|
|Germany||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Ghana||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|Greece||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Hungary||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|India||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Indonesia||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Iran||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Iraq||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Israel||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Italy||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Japan||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Jordan||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Kenya||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Kosovo||75 / 100||25 / 100|
|Kuwait||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Latvia||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Lebanon||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Lithuania||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Malaysia||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Mali||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Mexico||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Montenegro||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|Morocco||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Myanmar||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Netherlands||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|New Zealand||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Niger||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Nigeria||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|North Macedonia||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Norway||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Oman||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Palestine||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Philippines||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Poland||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Portugal||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Qatar||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Russia||100 / 100||25 / 100|
|Saudi Arabia||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Serbia||75 / 100||25 / 100|
|Singapore||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|South Africa||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|South Korea||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|South Sudan||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Spain||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Sudan||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Sweden||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|Switzerland||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Taiwan||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Tanzania||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Thailand||0 / 100||25 / 100|
|Tunisia||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|Turkey||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|Uganda||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Ukraine||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|United Arab Emirates||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|United Kingdom||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|United States||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Venezuela||25 / 100||0 / 100|
|Zimbabwe||100 / 100||0 / 100|