Could Law 21 Save Iraq?

The amended version of Law 21 would have seen local governments choosing their own judiciary and their own heads of security. The law also gave them the power to deploy the Iraqi army inside and outside major cities; Baghdad is also obligated to consult with the local governor, should they wish to deploy the army in the province.

In fact the amendment, Article 14, says “the governor shall have direct authority over all the apparatuses operating in the province which are tasked with security and with maintaining public order”.

Law 21 would also have given the provinces more control over their own money and would have made some of them a lot richer. Law 21 would increase the percentage of money those provinces producing oil get. Article 44 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that, besides part of the federal budget, fees or fines and tax revenues, each province gets a percentage from any barrel of oil that is either produced or refined there; a similar stipulation exists regarding the production of natural gas. And Law 21 increases that amount significantly. For an oil-producing province like Basra with much poverty and lack of other resources like water, this would have been very important.

“Conflicts between the provincial council and the federal government continue,” says Ahmad al-Sulaiti, the Basra council‘s vice-chairman, and a senior cleric from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, another Shiite Muslim party that has allied itself with al-Maliki’s own mostly Shiite Muslim bloc in the past. “The government hasn’t given Basra any more financial powers even though we produce two thirds of Iraq’s oil. This is despite the passage of Law 21 which gave us more powers.”

“The federal government hasn’t given the governor any powers over local security,” complains Ghazwan Hamed al-Daoudi, a representative of the local Shabak people on Ninawa’s provincial council; Mosul is the capital of the province. “For example, the law says that the governor is the one who is supposed to select the police chief here. But the federal government wouldn’t let him. The fall of Mosul to members of [Sunni Muslim extremist group] the Islamic State is partially due to the fact that security in Mosul was run by the Iraqi army, who managed things badly and who didn’t know how to deal with the local people. The provincial council would have done a far better job as they know the local people.”

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