Letting Iraq’s oil flow to fund death and destruction

Iraqi protesters were wise enough not to take up arms and, by not doing so, they’ve taken the high moral ground.
Monday 24/02/2020
A policeman is seen at West Qurna-1 oilfield, which is operated by ExxonMobil, in Basra, Iraq January 9, 2020. (Reuters)
A policeman is seen at West Qurna-1 oilfield, which is operated by ExxonMobil, in Basra, Iraq January 9, 2020. (Reuters)

The corrupt regime in Iraq and its supporters are being financed by the country's oil revenues, while the Iraqi people struggle with poverty and unemployment. That is the unfair division of fortunes imposed by the power of the militias and that is why the question that will haunt each of the millions of victims who pay the price of this systematic plunder is: Why does the oil continue to flow?

Data shows that trillions of dollars in Iraqi oil revenues have been looted and siphoned since the US-led invasion of Iraq. In the meantime, Iraqi citizens have been denied access to clean water, electricity and health services. The country’s education system is in shambles and its infrastructure is collapsing.

There is no need to ask where all that money has gone because the answer is well known. So why does the oil continue to flow?

As Iraqis protest against the crimes that they and their children are exposed to every day, they know that the criminals they’re decrying are financing their crimes with the wealth that Iraqis and their children rightfully deserve. All know these funds did not come from the revenues of a foundering agriculture sector or from a dying industry or from honest trade. They come from oil sales and nothing else. Oil that is flowing in the veins of a corrupt regime. So why does oil continue to flow in those veins?

World Bank statistics indicate the poverty index in Iraq reached 41.2% and that nearly one-quarter of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly half of the population in Iraq is younger than 18 years old, of whom 23% are poor and 50% of poor children live in the southern governorates, the World Bank said. Through all of this tragic reality, the oil is still flowing in the veins of corruption.

The invasion of Iraq, coupled with the hegemony of Iranian militias and sectarian discrimination, resulted in the displacement of 4 million Iraqis. Even more Iraqis have been abused taking the war on the Islamic State as an excuse. UNICEF data show that children make up about half of the 2.6 million people displaced in Iraq over the past three years. Naturally, this tragedy has been funded by oil.

The Committee on Economy and Investment of the Iraqi parliament stated that the unemployment rate for university graduates is more than 42% in all provinces of the country and that there may be as many as 5 million unemployed graduates. If oil revenues are insufficient to provide a basis for investment in the economy, how is it permissible that they are allowed to be “invested” in the militias?

The Iraqi government said the number of state and public employees has reached 5 million and that they consume half of the country's budget. Assuming that those figures are correct, it should be possible for those 5 million wage earners to support another 20 million individuals out of the country’s population of 35 million, taking into account the average size of Iraqi families. However, we don’t see that happening. Why? Because a huge number of those employees are fake numbers and identities used to siphon oil revenues.

The protesters were wise enough not to take up arms and, by doing so, they’ve taken the higher ground of morality and turned their protests into a conscience movement. As they did that, they exposed the treachery of the power behind the militias.

They even treated opportunists from the sectarian groups with the same wisdom, saying they might spare more bloodshed or more misery. They’ve gone through unprecedented protest experiences and devised new ways to continue their struggle, as if they were a collective mind that weighed initiatives and presented the militia government with possibilities that it could not comprehend. To confuse the security “mobs” and undermine their repressive power, the protests spread to many cities and towns and dispersed in neighbourhoods and streets.

Be that as it may, the original question is still begging an answer: Why does Iraq’s oil continue to flow, funding death and destruction?