Corrupt politicians and terrorism directly linked in Iraq, say officials

Iraqi men hold a banner as they take part in a demonstration against corruption and poor services in regard to power cuts and water shortages, at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad. (Reuters/file)
Updated 06 January 2018
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Corrupt politicians and terrorism directly linked in Iraq, say officials

BAGHDAD: Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday.
They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets.
Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.
Almost a third of Iraqi territories in the north and west fell into the hands of Daesh militants in June 2014 after the dramatic collapse of the Iraqi Army. That was the result of financial and administrative corruption which undermined the security establishment at the time.
The results of an eight-month-long investigation by the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee for Security and Defense in August 2015 showed that financial and administrative corruption played a key role in widening the gap between the residents and the security services of Mosul, Iraq’s second most populated city.
Corruption led to the fall of the city and its suburbs into the hands of the militants in 2014. The report states that Nuri Al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, tops the list of officials responsible for the fall of Mosul as he was in charge of “the appointment of incompetent leaders … and the lack of accountability of corrupt security officials.”
Late in November, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi established a campaign to combat corruption.
“The corrupt (officials and politicians) and those who seized state funds are the ones who caused these disasters (the fall of Mosul and other cities into the hands of militants),” Abadi tweeted last week.
“Daesh was only able to occupy cities because of corruption,” he said.
Iraqi lawmakers involved in the fight against corruption told Arab News that financial and administrative corruption had provided cover for the armed groups, and not vice versa.
“Before the emergence of Daesh, there was a great deal of evidence that the governors of these provinces (the three seized by Daesh) were involved in many thefts of state funds,” Talal Al-Zubaie, the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Integrity, told Arab News.
“The armed groups emerged as a result of this corruption, which aimed to undermine the authority of the state so no one could discover the thefts by some governors, which would make it seem as if Daesh was responsible,” Al-Zubaie said.
“The corruption provided cover for armed groups to ensure that chaos continued to serve the corrupt officials,” he said.
Mossa Faraj, the former head of the Integrity Committee, a governmental body established in 2004 to combat corruption and supervise the government’s performance, agrees with Abadi and Al-Zubaie.
“The relationship between politicians and terrorism in Iraq is direct and cannot be denied. It (the corruption) aims to seize power, not to accumulate money or wealth,” Faraj said.
“Seizing power requires headquarters, weapons, cars, militiamen, TV channels, and thousands of followers. All of these require a lot of money every month,” he said.
“Because of this, all Iraqi political parties have been involved in corruption since 2003,” according to Faraj.


Iraq online shutdown cost ‘$40m a day'

Updated 6 min 8 sec ago
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Iraq online shutdown cost ‘$40m a day'

  • The banking sector, airlines, businesses and mobile phone companies faced severe disruptions
  • Internet partially restored but social media sites remain blocked

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi government ban on online access to curb growing protests is costing the country tens of millions of dollars a day and ramping up anger toward the authorities.

Internet access was blocked in much of Iraq from Friday as protests in southern provinces spread from the main oil hub of Basra. 

The government hopes to limit communication between thousands of demonstrators protesting at a lack of basic services and official corruption. The tactic is similar to that used by regimes during Arab Spring protests in 2011.

On Monday, the government partially reactivated Internet services, but kept restrictions on prominent social media platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

The banking sector, airlines, businesses and mobile phone companies faced severe disruptions because of the shutdown, online experts said. 

The restrictions left hundreds of international and local media outlets paralyzed, banking transactions all but halted, and airlines facing flight cancelations and passenger chaos for at least three days.

Government departments relying on the Internet, including security services, and those dealing with residency, passports and intelligence were disrupted, security officials told Arab News.

A study by NetBlocks, an independent group monitoring online shutdowns, suggested that the restrictions could cost Iraq’s struggling economy $40 million per day in “lost business, sales and opportunities.”

“The Iraqi government has made a big mistake. A lot of business transactions are conducted via the Internet,” Bassim Antwan, an Iraqi economic expert, said.

“The blocking of sites… has caused great losses (for Iraq). While the government believes that it has succeeded in something, it has lost much of its revenues and the revenues of the private sector.”

Massive demonstrations engulfed Iraq’s southern provinces in protest at electricity cuts, a shortage of drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty. Protests began in Basra on July 8 with the blocking of roads to the oil fields.

Iraqi security forces were placed on high alert after public facilities, including local government buildings, Najaf airport and oil sites were stormed by demonstrators.

The block on social media sites has prompted Iraqis to sign up to applications and programs that use VPNs to break the ban.

Iraq’s government has previously used Internet restrictions as part of security measures to prevent protests. It has also resorted to the tactic to prevent students from circulating exam questions and to reduce the circulation of security information.

But the latest block is the longest and most comprehensive of the past decade. 

Most Iraqis view the shutdown as an attempt to suppress the protests and avoid scrutiny of the security services’ response.

Ahmed Saadawi, an internationally renowned Iraqi novelist, said he was using a proxy Internet server to avoid the ban and communicate with those outside Iraq.

“We are imprisoned because of government measures that have blocked social media sites, disrupted people’s interests, deprived protesters of the right to express opinions, and denied others the right to get information,” Saadawi wrote on hisFacebook page.

“I condemned the arbitrary measures being taken by the corrupt parties that want to continue to share power and profits without any objection to their work.”

Eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded in demonstrations which entered their 10th day on Tuesday.

Major campaigns were launched by security services in the past three days to arrest the organizers, advocates and journalists in Baghdad and the south “on charges of inciting people to sabotage the public institutions,” lawyers and security officials said. 

Dozens of Iraqis who live abroad and in unaffected provinces have shared instructions on how to break the social media block and use applications to publish news, pictures and videos of the demonstrations.

Iraqis have also resorted to their well-tested humor in times of crisis by poking fun at the authorities.

“Thanks to the government Internet ban, I found out that my kid’s age is 6 not 4,” Hisham Ali wrote on Facebook. “Not just this, I found out that my family members are nice people and can be tolerated. I am happy.”