Coalition Provisional Authority

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.
For more information, see: Iraq War.

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was the first U.S.-controlled non-military government of Iraq, after the end of the major combat phase of the Iraq War. It was headed by L. Paul Bremer, whose authority derived from U.S. authority and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 (2003), and the laws and usages of war. The latter refers, in part, to the obligations of an Occupying Power under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions. It was created on 16 May 2003, and was dissolved on 30 June 2004, with the transition to an Iraqi government with Coalition oversight. Interim steps to its completion were the July 13, 2003 establishment of a Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), and the June 1, 2004 of an Interim Iraqi Government.[1]

Bremer's initial order stated:

The CPA shall exercise powers of government temporarily in order to provide for

the effective administration of Iraq during the period of transitional administration, to restore conditions of security and stability, to create conditions in which the Iraqi people can freely determine their own political future, including by advancing efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative governance and facilitating economic recovery and sustainable

reconstruction and development.[2]

While the CPA originally was under the U.S. Department of Defense, Bremer had Presidential authority.


Bremer, before leaving with Iraq, met with Rumsfeld's staff, specifically being sent to Douglas Feith to draft the de-Ba'athification order. Feith said his staff had briefed Bremer extensively about the interagency work on de-Ba'athification, which had been approved, in draft form, by the President on March 10. Bremer asked for a delay, wanting to make he announcement himself. Walter Slocombe, who had drafted Orders 1 and 2 with Bremer, showed them to Feith on May 9. [3]

Bremer did have some concerns about conflicting advice from James Dobbins, now a RAND Corporation researcher and a former State Department expert on nation-building. While Dobbins did not want to join CPA, he did point Bremer to a recent study that, among other things, suggested large peacekeeping forces were better than small ones. [4] Dobbins was concerned that the Administration was dangerously ignoring lessons from the Balkans. While Rumsfeld had given a February speech "Beyond Nation-Building" that emphasized NATO's errors, Dobbins thought it taught much. In particular, using the same force levels as NATO had used would have called for 450,000 occupation troops. [5]

As the senior official, Garner was replaced in a month, on May 7, by L. Paul Bremer of the U.S. Department of State, although Bremer took control 9 days later. [6] Bremer established the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was not well coordinated with the military. Garner had assumed a quick transition to Iraqi provisional rule.

Bremer reversed Garner’s plans for an early turnover of political power and announced the indefinite postponement of the formation of an Interim Iraqi Government. Instead of a temporary Iraqi sovereign body, the CPA would continue to serve as the chief political authority and the Coalition armed forces as the military arm of that authority. This decision, in the eyes of many Iraqis, transformed the intent of United Nations (UN) Resolution 1483, which recognized the United States and Great Britain as “occupying powers” and urged the two powers to promote the welfare of Iraqis and to administer the country until Iraqis were capable of self-governance. The resolution appeared to formalize the sense that the Coalition powers were acting like occupiers rather than liberators, and this perception fueled the disaffection of some in Iraq.[7]

Bremer believed he reported directly to the President, and, in his book, said that some called him the “American viceroy” in Iraq.[8] At first, he was subordinate to the Secretary of Defense on paper, but had his reporting changed to the National Security Council in November 2003.


The Coalition Provisional Authority took control on 16 May 2003, effectively taking over from ORHA. [2] Its Regulation Number 1 designated CENTCOM for military support. “As the Commander of Coalition Forces, the Commander of US Central Command shall directly support the CPA by deterring hostilities; maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and security; searching for, securing and destroying weapons of mass destruction; and assisting in carrying out Coalition policy generally.”

Order No. 1

CPA Order Number 1 set up de-Ba'athification. [9]

In the Arabic documents from the CPA, the word used for de-Ba'athification was ijtithaath. Literally, that means "uproot by root and branch", but the connotation was closer to "annihilation or eradication". According to John Maguire, it reminded Iraqis of the Final Solution. When he told Bremer it was a "heinous word...he blew it off." Maguire said the CIA station was cut out of CPA planning. [10]

Order No. 2

The second order would dissolve the Iraqi Army.

Bremer wrote that he had told Rumsfeld, on May 19, that the proposal to dissolve the army would "generate a good deal of public support, despite its impact." Bremer said tha Feith had reviewed the proposal in detail on May 22, and asked for clarification of wording, which was done between Bremer's press officer, Dan Senor, and Rumsfeld's chief of staff, Larry di Rita. Bremer said Rumsfeld authorized him to proceed, and Bremer told the President in a videoconference.[11] Feith, however, said he did not know Rumsfeld's reaction, although he assumed approval; he said that CENTCOM and the CPA had separate, uncoordinated plans for developing Iraqi security capability.[12]

The implementation of Order #1, however, started crisis, by:[9]

  1. Abolishing the Army, Defense Ministry, and intelligence agency
  2. Creating a "New Iraqi Corps". Feith discreetly suggested that the pronunciation of abbreviation, the proposed name for a security organization, the New Iraqi Corps, would be equivalent to an American organization called the Federal United Corps; the name was quickly changed to New Iraqi Army. [13]

While Rumsfeld was aware of it, Rice and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN Peter Pace were unaware it was coming. Abizaid and McKiernan thought it was a major change affecting their plans.

Indeed, it differed from what Feith had briefed to the President in March, but was written by Bremer and a colleague, Walter Slocombe. Bremer's thinking that keeping a Sunni-dominated army would outrage the Kurds and Shi'ites, and also put a substantial financial obligation on the U.S. Feith did not object, since the Army had dissolved and he did not think it advisable to recall. Chalabi had been arguing for such an action, as had the Kurds.

Franks, Abizaid, and McKiernan were in the awkward position of trying to change a decision that had been made and announced. They had been meeting with a former officer, Faris Naima, in a meeting set up by the CIA. Naima was not considered a supporter of Saddam and was seen as the head of a new general staff.[14]

In Mosul, the order led to rioting by unemployed Iraqi soldiers. Eventually, Bremer paid the soldiers, but got nothing in return. He also discovered that the Army, as opposed to the Republican Guard and other parts of the security organization of Saddam Hussein, had relatively few Ba'athists; that is why the Army units were kept far from Baghdad. [15]

In May, John Sawers, the British Ambassador to Egypt, was designated as the chief British authority for Iraq. Four days after his arrival, he cabled his government to say that ORHA had been ineffective and the Coalition was losing support. In Basra, the British had been using frozen Iraqi funds to rebuild infrastructure, but Washington had not released them for Baghdad and the capital was both a public health and security nightmare. He thought the 3rd ID was worn out, and suggested sending the 16 British Air Assault Brigade to Baghdad to train police and help in security. MG Albert Whitley, the senior British officer, and another British general agreed, but London refused. [16] Sawers regarded cutting US troops as the greatest problem, followed by Franks' lack of interest in Phase IV, heavyhanded operation by 3ID, de-Ba'athification of infrastructure workers, and failure to restore electricity, water, and sewage treatment. Sawers did have confidence in Bremer and met frequently with him.

CPA and the Military

According to some parties present, the first thing Bremer said at V Corps headquarters in Baghdad was, “You all work for me.”[17] Lieutenant General Sanchez recalls this from some of the after-action reports and comments from V Corps staff officers who were present at the meeting. Sanchez, though not present at the time, heard credible accounts of this blunt statement and believed it set a particular tone, “So it started out fairly rough and it didn’t help that he completely cut out McKiernan and Wallace when he said, ‘I don’t want to deal with you guys. I want to deal with Sanchez.’”[18]

Iraqi leaders and the CPA

There was a self-appointed Iraqi Leadership Council (ILC), which Iraqi exiles in London had created in December 2002, and entered Iraq in late April 2003. Bremer was not willing to let the ILC be "the presumptive nucleus of a new representative government" would have both the problems characteristic of a government in exile being distrusted by those that had suffered under the regime. Bremer also observed the ILC lacked a proper balance between Sunni and Shia, had an overrepresentation of Kurds, and no Christians, Turkmen or Women.

It was replaced, in mid-July 2003, by the CPA-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), a body solely advisory in nature, as a quasi-partner. The transition to a sovereign Iraqi Government would take another 11 months,when the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) assumed political authority from the CPA. While the IIG would be sovereign, although to be replaced by an elected government, there still would be a major and dominant US troop presence that would not withdraw fully from the cities until 2009.

Bremer published, on September 8, 2003, a seven-step document, "Iraq's Path to Sovereignty", which noted the first three steps were complete:[19]

  1. Creation of the IGC, to be broadly representative of Iraqi society.
  2. Establishing an IGC committee to plan the writing of a constitution
  3. Transfer of day-to-day operations, when the IGC named 25 Iraqis as ministers, reporting to the IGC. They are preparing the 2004 budget and must operate their ministries according to those budgets. The coalition wants them to exercise real power and will thrust authority at them.
  4. Beginning the writing of the constitution
  5. Popular ratification of the constitution
  6. Election of a government to fill the elective offices specified in the constitution, with universal adult suffrage
  7. Dissolving the CPA, which will hand over its authority to the sovereign Iraqi government

According to Feith, this was not a schedule for the Administration's plan for early transition, but to the original State Department schedule, which was an occupation. Rumsfeld, Feith and Wolfowitz were unaware Bremer opposed the Defense Department concept. Feith saw Bremer's concern as the Governing Council having no mandate, being insufficiently representative and lacking public support. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld did not see keeping the U.S. in control as a better alternative, and he moved to overrule Bremer, leading to the President's decision to shut down the CPA in June 2004 and recognize the interim government.[20]

Bremer met, on 27 October, with Defense Department staff, and told Rumsfeld

I don't think it would be responsible to turn over sovereignty to a nonelected Iraqi body with no constitution in place. There'd be no checks and balances on the entity we'd handed power to. We'd risk Iraq falling into civil war, with no constitution to shape Iraq's political structure and to guarantee individual and minority rights. I can't support such an outcome.

Bremer continued by questioning that a body "appointed by the Governing Council would somehow be more legitimate than the GC itself."[21] In the context of this discussion, Feith said that when he or Rumsfeld said "end the occupation", Bremer would reply that Iraqis thought that they were under occupation so long as large numbers of American troops were in Iraq. Feith said he had a point, but the Defense officials thought it made a difference if the Iraqi government were run by Americans or Iraqis. While Feith said "there was a difference between occupation as an accusation and occupation as a legal fact",[22] customary international law, such as the Fourth Geneva Convention, would still consider the U.S. to have the obligation of Occupying Power, a term of art, until a Status of Forces Agreement was executed.

Bremer met with the council and returned with a plan for an interim constitution and the creation of an elected interim government. In January 2004, a Principals meeting said that the U.S. did not want to seem opposed to elections, but Bremer pointed out that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, had insisted the government be elected. [23] Sistani had issued a fatwa to this effect in June 2003; Feith asks if Bremer considered this before issuing a plan in September. [24]


Next to Bremer, Daniel Senor, the spokesman, may have been the most visible staffer.


  1. An Historic Review of CPA Accomplishments, Coalition Provisional Authority, pp. 2-3
  2. 2.0 2.1 L. Paul Bremer (16 May 2003), Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation Number 1, Coalition Provisional Authority Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "CPAReg1" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Douglas J. Feith (2008), War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, Harper, ISBN 9780060899738, , War and Decision, p. 428
  4. James Dobbins, et al. (2003), America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, RAND Corporation
  5. Donald Rumsfeld (February 14, 2003), "Beyond Nation Building", DefenseLink
  6. Michael DeLong with Noah Lukeman (2009), Inside CENTCOM: the Unvarnished Truth about the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Regnery, ISBN 0895260204, pp. 124-125
  7. Donald P. Wright, Timothy R. Reese with the Contemporary Operations Study Team, Part I. Setting the Stage. Chapter 1, Overview of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: May 2003 to January 2005, ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign; The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005
  8. L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer with Malcolm McDonnell (2006), My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9780743273893, p. 11
  9. 9.0 9.1 L. Paul Bremer (16 May 2003), De-Ba'athification of Iraqi Society, Coalition Provisional Authority Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "CPA-Ord-1" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Isakoff, Michael & David Corn (2006), Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, ISBN 0307346811, p. 225
  11. Bremer, My Year in Iraq, p. 57
  12. Feith, War and Decision, pp. 433-435
  13. Feith, War and Decision, p. 434
  14. Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor (2006), COBRA II: the inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Pantheon, ISBN 0375422625, , pp. 480-481
  15. COBRA II, pp. 482-485
  16. Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor (14 March 2006), "US postwar Iraq strategy a mess, Blair was told", The Guardian
  17. Sanchez interview with ON POINT II team, 14 August 2006
  18. Sanchez interview with ON POINT II team, 14 August 2006; Wallace interview 22 May 2006
  19. L. Paul Bremer (8 September 2003), Bremer Describes a 7-Step Process of Political Evolution in Iraq (Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority administrator op-ed in Washington Post)
  20. Feith, War and Decision, pp. 453-455
  21. Bremer, My Year in Iraq, p. 205
  22. Feith, War and Decision, p. 463
  23. Sharon Otterman (1 September 2004), Backgrounder: IRAQ: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Council on Foreign Relations
  24. Feith, War and Decision, p. 466