Economic Development, Security, Governance and Engagment Are All Vital Elements of Stability

StabilizingConflictBringing stability to areas of conflict provides is challenging because of the many elements of power and diplomacy that are traditionally used.  But BGen David Reist (USMC, Ret.) says combining economics with governance and engagement is the best solution. 

BGen Reist asked an Iraqi Army general if he needed security for economic development, or economic development for security.  The general’s response:  “One hand alone cannot clap.”  This reinforces that integrating all the elements of national power is the best path toward success, BGen Reist emphasized.

Hosting a discussion on stabilization efforts in Iraq, BGen Reist and Iraqi businessman Namir Jumaili spoke to the audience at Potomac Institute on the unique aspects of tribal relations, the recent history of U.S. military involvement, and the many economic-related conferences that brought together tribal and business leaders to build stability.

BGen Reist is Potomac Institute’s Vice President of Strategy and Planning and spent several tours in Iraq’s Anbar province. Mr. Jumaili moved to the United States in 1979.

While Iraq has many provinces, the Anbar province is the largest, making up more than 30% of Iraq and with many major cities – Fallujah and Ramadi.  In addition, the northern area has a huge wealth of resources in the form of underground liquid gas.   Besides political tension between different parts of Iraq, friction between Anbar and Baghdad existed over the access to and development of that natural resource, and economic development slowed because of that disagreement. As Mr. Jumaili said, the tribal society is very strong in Anbar, which never really got settled.

Walking through the timeline of U.S. military activity and involvement in Iraq, starting with 2004, BGen Reist also highlighted the many conferences and association meetings held to bring together the sheikhs of various standings to discuss business and development.

“The initiative was to build relationships, and the conferences grew bigger with more people attending,” said Mr. Jumaili. “We linked the inner leaders – inside the province – with leaders from the outside.  It was an influential group.”

As the Awakening movement grew, to counter Al Qa’ida, the stakes grew for leaders and sheikhs who were more obvious about liaison with the U.S. Government.

“We wanted to show there is an alternative to kinetic action,” said BGen Reist.  Tribal influence and businessmen were a big factor in the awakening, he said.

Integrating all the elements of national power is the only way to overcome conflict, but even when building that plan, adjustments must be made because of unexpected events.  Both BGen Reist and Mr. Jumaili emphasized the complexity of the Middle East region; the influence of Iran; the need for moderate business leaders; and building a strong process but focusing on getting the right results.

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