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Iraq: Many states build while Iran destroys

Iraq this week raised pledges of $30 billion from the rest of the world for its reconstruction. But the truth is there is not much enthusiasm for the idea, partly because of the difficult economic conditions experienced by all countries in the region and their costly war bills.

However, what is even worse than the lack of money is the mismanagement of Iraq itself. Who would ever want to invest in a country where militias are rife and corruption is rampant? The government is weak, sectarianism is explicit, terrorism has not been eliminated — despite Daesh being defeated in Mosul and other areas — and foreign interference, especially Iranian, is evidently increasing. These are serious challenges that cannot be ignored, despite US and UN pressure to provide aid and support.

The problem of Iraq is not the lack of financial resources, but rather the many misfortunes that I have just mentioned, and from which it still suffers. Iraq, as a country, is rich; it ranks fifth in the world in terms of proven reserves of oil, and sits on a treasure of gas, as well as its two rivers: The Euphrates and Tigris. Had it been stable, and its political authority in full control of the administration of the state, no one would have hesitated to support its reconstruction through grants, loans and investment.

The Iraqis should not be fooled by international conferences and commitments, because most of these were announced commitments that may not materialize, as was the case with the promises of reconstruction in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Gaza and Lebanon.

Had it not been for the intervention of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iraqis would have lived better under their country’s political institutions and with the support of the international community.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

The commitments were not paid because these countries did not emerge from the cycle of violence and chaos, and the experience of Gaza, in particular, is a bad model. After each round of aid and support was received, Gaza was destroyed again because of the mismanagement of its "government" and the violent reaction of its enemy. Lebanon was also embroiled in repeated destructive wars caused by Hezbollah, and yet the Lebanese expect the Gulf states and the West to rebuild bridges, ports and the army.

Iraq has paid dearly for its mistakes. It paid Kuwait compensation for its 1990 invasion amounting to $46 billion, with $4 billion still outstanding. Today, Iraq is promised $30 billion for reconstruction. Turkey has committed $5 billion, the United States $3 billion, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait $1.5 billion each, Qatar $500 million, and the European Union has promised to offer less than half a billion dollars.

One country seems to be missing from the list of donors and reconstruction of Iraq — and that is Iran. Iran is missing despite being the country most responsible for the destruction of Iraq and the failure of its central authority. The regime in Tehran has dismantled the Iraqi state institutions in order to control the Iraqi state, and established a parallel army called the Popular Mobilization Forces, which resembles Hezbollah in Lebanon and plays the same role. The regime of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has supported Iraqi religious groups at the expense of the civilian state and sent Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani to instruct the Iraqi leadership on how to run the military institutions, lead wars, use Iraqi resources to fund its operations, and use it as a passageway to Syria and Lebanon. Had it not been for the intervention of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iraqis would have lived better under their country’s political institutions with the support of the international community. Iraq would have also succeeded in taking advantage of its oil, water and youth resources to build a truly great state.

Thus, the question remains: How can the Iraqis rebuild their country while it is controlled by armed religious militias run by the IRGC?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
Twitter: @aalrashed