Why ‘post-ISIS’ reconstruction in Iraq is doomed to fail
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in December grandiosely declared victory over the Islamic State (ISIS), exclaiming that it was Iraq’s “unity” that eventually defeated the extremists.
Less than a month later, his words are being exposed as vacuous lies as his allies in the Iraqi parliament attempt to suffocate Sunni Arab-inhabited governorates in northern and central Iraq that were devastated in the war against ISIS.
Senior members of the ruling Shia Islamist coalition, which includes Abadi’s religious fundamentalist Dawa Party, tabled motions in parliament to impose stringent restrictions on reconstruction funds allocated to devastated governorates as part of the annual budget for 2018. Islamist politicians claim northern and central governorates should not receive reconstruction funds unless similar amounts are provided for Shia-dominated southern governorates, saying that they were “indirectly affected” by ISIS terrorism.
Khalaf Abdul Samad, the parliamentary leader for the virulently sectarian Dawa Party, blamed ISIS for southern Shia men dying in Sunni-dominated governorates, attempting to use their deaths as an emotional draw for his argument that southern governorates deserved a piece of the pie. Predictably, his argument involved Iraq’s former Ba’athist rulers: “Basra governorate… continues to suffer much from war, [US-led] sanctions and the scorched earth policy of the Ba’athist regime.”
Another Shia Islamist, National Alliance deputy Abdul Hadi al-Hakim, said all governorates should be included in the reconstruction budget “whether they are the governorates that were liberated from ISIS or the liberating [southern] governorates who sacrificed martyrs.”
Hakim added that the Iraqi government should not “discriminate” against Shia-dominated governorates and demanded a similar proportion of the funds.
These deputies — all of whom are directly allied to Abadi — are attempting to continue an enterprise that has long been profitable for them: the plundering of Iraq’s treasury. Last August, Basra Governor Majid al-Nasrawi escaped to Iran after being accused of accepting kickbacks on bogus reconstruction and development contracts. Apparently, he was not greasing the right palms, so the inherently corrupt system decided to replace him with someone who was more amenable to sharing loot.
Further, pro-Iran Shia Islamists have been in a Ba’athist-free Iraq for almost 15 years. It is amazing that Dawa Party deputies such as Abdul Samad would still blame the Ba’athists for the poor state that Basra finds itself in today when they have had a decade-and-a-half to develop it, enrich it and prove to the world that the Ba’athists were behind its lack of development.
In reality, these Shia Islamists are more corrupt by several orders of magnitude than anything Iraq has seen before.
Also, ISIS terrorism almost never managed to attack the Shia south, apart from a few notable incidents.
Meanwhile, the capital of Anbar governorate, Ramadi, was recaptured by government forces around two years ago. At the time, the city was 80% destroyed. Years later, reports indicate that very little reconstruction has occurred with more than 70% of the city still damaged. Most of western Mosul is rubble and eastern Mosul is a shamble. Sectarian parliamentarians are trying to keep Sunni Arab areas destroyed, destitute and desperate.
Desperation breeds dangerous foes, however, and it seems that the Iraqi government and its corrupt political class have still not learnt that marginalisation, sectarian policies and religious-based hatred fuel strife, death and devastation.
While they are busy trying to enrich themselves, normal Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds suffer. This can only lead to further radicalisation, further extremism and a resurgence and rebirth of terror. When that happens, we will all know who to blame.