This is part 1 of a three-part series.

In the last couple of weeks, much ink has been spilt and plenty of warm air produced on the interim Iraq benchmark report of July 15th.  Before going into the July report itself, it’s worthwhile to look at those benchmarks without results and see what they are supposed to do.  To do this, I examine how these benchmarks should relate to Iraq’s domestic government, the Iraq Study Group Report, and each other.  Whatever sound and fury we’ve had this month in D.C. will be nothing compared to September’s crashing tidal wall of the ink and hot winds blowing, when the first official report and testimony comes forth.  Anyone who reads this primer will be in much better shape to understand what all the sound and fury is either amplifying, or masking, when September rolls around. 

The first six benchmarks all focus to a great degree on the legislative process.  Number 2 and number 6 are important to reconciliation of the old regime to the new; thus they strike at the heart of insurgent and inter-ethnic conflict.  Benchmark number 3 is the oil law controversy, which continues to be stalled.  As the primary indicator of income for Iraq’s future, it is also extremely important and tied to all other regional and provincial power-sharing.  It thus partakes of any regional agreements, which is why also that regional and provincial arrangements are not resolved.

At benchmarks 4 and 6, a distinction must be made between “regional” and “provincial” governance. An autonomous region is given a special status due to geographic differences, such as Nakhichevan in Azerbaijan, which is not contiguous with the rest of Azerbaijan, or, for ethnic or cultural factors, such as Iraqi Kurdistan.  Autonomous regions have special self-administering and self-governing powers within a state.  By contrast, a province has some provincial administration, but national/federal government has more direct governing power over the province.  Example: For the U.S., the Marianas Islands is an autonomous region, and Wyoming is a province.

Benchmark No. 1The Constitutional Review
Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review.
♦ Sphere: Political: legislature and executive branch.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 26

♦ Why is this a benchmark?  Because in 2005, a significant Sunni minority in the legislature, the Iraqi Islamic Party, had determined not to allow the original referendum without securing the possibility of future constitutional amendment.  In 2005, the government was composed of largely Shi’a members, and the Iraqi Islamic Party might justly be seen as trying to ensure the rights of an embattled and unpopular minority.  In order to get the original constitution to the point of referendum by the people in 2005, the Constitutional Review Committee was proposed as a compromise.   
♦ Supporting documents:
Iraq’s Constitution at UNESCO site, pdf: approved on October 15, 2005; or,
Wikipedia, Iraq’s Constitution, with electoral history
Wikipedia, Iraq’s Constitutional Amendments

Benchmark No. 2: De-Ba’athification and reconciliation
Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform.
♦ Sphere: Political; political-economic.  Executive, legislature, citizenry at large.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: Recommendation 27

Why is this a benchmark?  The Sunni Ba’ath party regime supported former President Saddam Hussein during his draconian regime, and thus authored many of the atrocities committed upon Sh’ia, Kurdish, and other minority factions in Iraq during his reign.  Upon the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Ba’ath party tumbled from power, and in June 2003 were forbidden to power.  In 2003, however, the Coalition Provisional Authority took the step of removing each member of the Ba’ath Party regime from any office whatsoever, (a step also taken during post-Nazi Germany’s reconstruction, which was quickly amended).  In effect, this meant that those with institutional knowledge of how government facilities and infrastructure was run were also out of work.  The quick disintegration of government services followed, along with a rise in Sunni insurgency, which caused physical depredation of that infrastructure as well as human casualties, fueling the cycle of violence and state failure. 
♦ Supporting documents: 
Wikipedia, Iraq’s Ba’ath Party
CPA De-Ba’athification order, May 16, 2003

Benchmark No. 3: Hydrocarbon law
Two parts:
a. Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and
b. enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
♦ Sphere: Political-economic
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 23 (for U.S.); 28.

Why is this a benchmark?  Since oil will be the most important employer in Iraq, its primary and most lucrative export, and the locus of most foreign direct investment and foreign interest, oil is exceedingly important. 
Concern A: This law will essentially be a budget law, that dictates the income and therefore the relative prosperity of each region.  At present, one could divide Iraq’s area into three broad categories: with a lot of lucrative new finds (Kurdistan) a lot of technically damaged/disinvested oilfields of some age (South) and places with no oil (West).  Some equitable distribution will allow all to participate in profits in order to unify the state and give power to the federal government.  However, areas with oil do suffer inconveniences and hazards that non-oil areas do not.  They also have opportunities to do business with prosperous oil investors.  A lot of factors obtrude in order to weight regional claims against national ones.
Furthermore, the experienced labor force comes from the Ba-athist party and was unionized in the past, so on top of income, one must add labor law as well.  As hydrocarbons provide state income, they also provide illicit income (in fact, they still are) and so hydrocarbon law also touches upon financial arrangements such as banking, corruption, transparency, social funding, the environment, and many other issues. 
Concern B: Not just income, but also utility service and fuel must be equitably distributed Domestically.  Otherwise, non-resource rich regions will forever be poor and underserved, become sources of instability/pockets of failure, and the nation itself will fall apart.  Economic opportunity might not be equal across Iraq, but it has to have a minimum level everywhere, for the social contract and for economic self-help.
♦ Supporting documents:  Proposed Oil Law: Draft of February 15, 2007

Benchmark No. 4: Semi-autonomous regions
Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions. (Primarily Kurdistan, but could eventually extend to some other minority groups in concentrated locations such as Assyrian Christians).
♦ Sphere: Political.  Executive, legislative, ethnic, and regional actors.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: part of 32, but not directly

Why is this a benchmark?  This law will define the authority between state and region.  Too many regions means that national unity will be harder to achieve.  Also, if the distribution of power is not correct, it will also fail to facilitate national unity.  For Kurdistan, this is complicated by the hydrocarbon law (Benchmark 3).  For outlying states such as Turkey, Kurdish independence is complicated by issues of terrorism.
♦ Supporting documents: see Constitution, at Benchmark No. 1.
Iraqi Kurdistan at Wikipedia
Assyrian Independence at Wikipedia

Benchmark No. 5: Regimes for Free and fair elections
This is actually four different benchmarks:  Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an
a. Independent High Electoral Commission,
b. provincial elections law, c. provincial council authorities, and
d. a date for provincial elections. 
♦ Sphere: Political.  Executive, legislative, and provincial actors.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 29

Why is this a benchmark?  Well, free and fair elections have to be trustworthy, so that their results are accepted.  The next two facets depend upon negotiations for other divisions of power–this time, between the national government and its provinces.  Aspects b. and c., having to do with provincial authority, help demarcate the extent to which Iraq remains unified.  Aspect d., a date for provincial elections, is contingent of course on their being a government structure over which to have elections.  Delaying this settlement unfortunately sends a message to locals that provincial structures will be weak–and local concerns unaddressed.
♦ Supporting documents: none at present

Benchmark No. 6: Amnesty & reconciliation
Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty.
♦ Sphere: Political, between executive and legislative lawmakers, concerning in many degrees judicial conduct; and popular, in that it involves the emotions and memories and future prospects of almost everyone in the state.
♦ Relationship to Iraq Study Group Report: 31; 37 & 38 (for U.S.)

Why is this a benchmark?  Because until reconciliation is achieved, the language of grievance remains a paramount language in political discourse.  Grievance cannot fund a conflict, but it can obstruct its settlement.  Likewise, until the extent of grievance measures, such as tribunals and assignments of legal responsibility, are assigned, former officials and other citizens cannot trust their status in a newly-arranged Iraq.
♦ Supporting documents: none at present.

I will update this page if necessary.  By Wednesday I should have the next 6 benchmarks (Nos. 7-12) up in the same format.