Text of U.S. Security Adviser’s Iraq Memo

Following is the text of a Nov. 8 memorandum prepared for cabinet-level officials by Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and his aides on the National Security Council. The five-page document, classified secret, was read and transcribed by The New York Times.

11/19/06 "New York Times" -- -- We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.

Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.

While there does seem to be an aggressive push to consolidate Shia power and influence, it is less clear whether Maliki is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

Steps Maliki Could Take

There is a range of actions that Maliki could take to improve the information he receives, demonstrate his intentions to build an Iraq for all Iraqis and increase his capabilities. The actions listed below are in order of escalating difficulty and, at some point, may require additional political and security resources to execute, as described on Page 3 of this memo. Maliki should:

¶Compel his ministers to take small steps — such as providing health services and opening bank branches in Sunni neighborhoods — to demonstrate that his government serves all ethnic communities;

¶Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;

¶Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries;

¶Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that “it reflects the face of Iraq”;

¶Demand that all government workers (in ministries, the Council of Representatives and his own offices) publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions;

¶Declare that Iraq will support the renewal of the U.N. mandate for multinational forces and will seek, as appropriate, to address bilateral issues with the United States through a SOFA [status of forces agreement] to be negotiated over the next year;

¶Take one or more immediate steps to inject momentum back into the reconciliation process, such as a suspension of de-Baathification measures and the submission to the Parliament or “Council of Representatives” of a draft piece of legislation for a more judicial approach;

¶Announce plans to expand the Iraqi Army over the next nine months; and

¶Declare the immediate suspension of suspect Iraqi police units and a robust program of embedding coalition forces into MOI [Ministry of the Interior] units while the MOI is revetted and retrained.

What We Can Do to Help Maliki

If Maliki is willing to move decisively on the actions above, we can help him in a variety of ways. We should be willing to:

¶Continue to target Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the JAM to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner;

¶Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);

¶Continue our diplomatic efforts to keep the Sunnis in the political process by pushing for the negotiation of a national compact and by talking up provincial council elections next spring/summer as a mechanism for Sunni empowerment;

¶Support his announcement to expand the Iraqi Army and reform the MOI more aggressively;

¶Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraqi forces, although we must recognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces;

¶Continue to pressure Iran and Syria to end their interference in Iraq, in part by hitting back at Iranian proxies in Iraq and by Secretary Rice holding an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December; and

¶Step up our efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq by using its influence to move Sunni populations in Iraq out of violence into politics, to cut off any public or private funding provided to the insurgents or death squads from the region and to lean on Syria to terminate its support for Baathists and insurgent leaders.

Augmenting Maliki’s Political and Security Capabilities

The above approach may prove difficult to execute even if Maliki has the right intentions. He may simply not have the political or security capabilities to take such steps, which risk alienating his narrow Sadrist political base and require a greater number of more reliable forces. Pushing Maliki to take these steps without augmenting his capabilities could force him to failure — if the Parliament removes him from office with a majority vote or if action against the Mahdi militia (JAM) causes elements of the Iraqi Security Forces to fracture and leads to major Shia disturbances in southern Iraq. We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule. Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole.

If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament). In its creation, Maliki would need to be willing to risk alienating some of his Shia political base and may need to get the approval of Ayatollah Sistani for actions that could split the Shia politically. Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.

This approach would require that we take steps beyond those laid out above, to include:

¶Actively support Maliki in helping him develop an alternative political base. We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc;

¶Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as to support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of his bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists; and

¶Provide Maliki with more resources to help build a nonsectarian national movement.

• If we expect him to adopt a nonsectarian security agenda, we must ensure he has reasonably nonsectarian security institutions to execute it — such as through a more robust embedding program.

• We might also need to fill the current four-brigade gap in Baghdad with coalition forces if reliable Iraqi forces are not identified.

Moving Ahead

We should waste no time in our efforts to determine Maliki’s intentions and, if necessary, to augment his capabilities. We might take the following steps immediately:

¶Convince Maliki to deliver on key actions that might reassure Sunnis (open banks and direct electricity rebuilding in Sunni areas, depoliticize hospitals);

¶Tell Maliki that we understand that he is working his own strategy for dealing with the Sadrists and that:

• you have asked General Casey to support Maliki in this effort

• it is important that we see some tangible results in this strategy soon;

¶Send your personal representative to Baghdad to discuss this strategy with Maliki and to press other leaders to work with him, especially if he determines that he must build an alternative political base;

¶Ask Casey to develop a plan to empower Maliki, including:

• Formation of National Strike Forces

• Dramatic increase in National Police embedding

• More forces under Maliki command and control

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to make a recommendation about whether more forces are need in Baghdad;

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to devise a more robust embedding plan and a plan to resource it;

¶Direct your cabinet to begin an intensive press on Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq, connecting this role with other areas in which Saudi Arabia wants to see U.S. action;

¶If Maliki seeks to build an alternative political base:

• Press Sunni and other Iraqi leaders (especially Hakim) [Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Maliki rival] to support Maliki

• Engage Sistani to reassure and seek his support for a new nonsectarian political movement.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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