Refugees from the War in Iraq: What Happened in 1991 and What May Happen in 2003
This policy brief reviews what happened in the 1991 Gulf War and presents possible scenarios and factors affecting the movements of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. Focusing primarily on four potential scenarios, the author evaluates the relative likelihood of each scenario and the implications each would have for refugees and IDPs.
The report finds that a number of factors will affect refugee and IDP movements in Iraq. These factors include: the intensity of the fighting; the willingness of neighboring states to accept refugees; a potential revolution in the South; an escalation of conflict in Kirkuk, Mosul and/or Diyala; further persecution of Christians; mounting sectarian conflict; U.S. protection of the Kurdish enclave; and the Iraqi regime’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Considering these factors, the report presents four potential scenarios: a quick Iraqi surrender; a chaotic Iraqi collapse; a prolonged Iraqi resistance in urban area; a catastrophic use of weapons of mass destruction. The author finds that the most likely of these scenarios, having a 50 percent probability of occurring, is the chaotic collapse of the Iraqi regime which he estimates would result in the displacement of 50,000 refugees and 1,000,000 IDPs.
The report offers six policy recommendations: that humanitarian supplies be directed to Kurdistan preemptively to prepare for a possible influx of Iraqis from government-controlled territory; that prophylactic and curative supplies be stockpiled in preparation for the possible use of biological and chemical weapons; that the U.S. (and its allies) initiate discussions with Kurdish and Turkoman leaders regarding the return of displaced persons; that the U.S. and allied military forces establish procedures for displaced Iraqis to find sanctuary behind allied lines; that a broad amnesty be considered for all those but top leadership in the current regime; and that arrangements be made to enable the surrender of the Mojahideen-i-Khalq, the PKK, and other non-Iraqi armed groups.