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Romania's De-Communization Experience:
Lessons for Iraqi De-Ba'thification?

Emily Francona

August 2003

Executive Summary

Romania’s transition from five decades of communist repression was initiated by an internal revolution and the Ba’th Party regime in Iraq was ended by external intervention, but the two countries share some similar legacies and transition challenges: 

· In both countries, regime change ended a long period of repression characterized by a pervasive internal security apparatus and extensive informant network.  Romanian national security organizations have yet to be purged completely of personnel associated with the abuses of the former communist regime, just as most Ba’th personnel in Iraq will have to be excluded from future Iraqi government positions.  The final disposition of Romania’s extensive Securitate’s files remains an issue even today, and in Iraq the handling of the records on Iraqi citizens created by numerous internal security organizations has not been addressed.

· Both countries inherited a legacy of government corruption, lack of personal freedom and civil liberties, a controlled media, and general public mistrust of authorities. 
· Romania’s communist dictator Ceausescu had dynastic ambitions, just as Iraq’s Saddam Husayn sought to perpetuate through his sons the Ba’th Party legacy he had established in Iraq.

· Both countries enjoy a relatively high literacy rate, have a largely secular history, but face internal ethnic tensions – more significant for Iraq’s multiple religious and ethnic groups than Romania’s Hungarian, German, Roma and other smaller minorities. 

· Both countries have significant natural resources – extensive oil reserves in Iraq and agricultural resources in Romania, but with underdeveloped economies and the absence of a free market system. 

· The military forces of both countries were largely saddled with antiquated Soviet-supplied military equipment, hindering necessary modernization efforts.  The issue of weapons of mass destruction is critical to Iraq’s transition.

However, Iraq has additional transition challenges that were not faced by Romania:

· Religion is less of an issue in Romania than in Iraq.  The Romanian Communist Party strongly discouraged the practice of religion, leaving several generations unaccustomed to the regular and open practice of religion.  While the predominantly Orthodox Romanians have relatively minor religious disagreements with the Catholic Hungarian and Protestant German minorities, Iraq’s majority Shia and minority Sunni factions face considerable internal tensions over their respective roles in a new Iraq, not to mention Kurdish aspirations for a separate state.  Although Iraq was a secular state in the socialist Ba’th tradition, religion continued to be practiced and was later used by Saddam Husayn as a political tool.  Additionally, Iraq’s Shia majority continues to receive considerable external support from Iran. 
· While Romania has some minor unresolved border disputes with Hungary, Moldova and Ukraine, Iraq has tense relations with Iran and Kuwait over longstanding border disputes as well as significant water rights issues with Syria and Turkey concerning the flows of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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