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Iraq Needs Self Reliance and Political Will

The devastation in Iraq was wrought by years of war but it became much more acute with the rise of ISIS and the ensuing vicious sectarian conflict involving regular Iraqi forces Iran and Iranian proxy militias.

It was a cruel and vicious war. Now that the conflict has subsided into a frayed and imperfect peace it can often seem that the eyes of the world have shifted its gaze from Iraq’s predicament. Yet Iraq’s predicament is not forgotten and two developments this week illustrate this. 

The first signal comes from Amnesty International who condemned ISIS’s depredations to Iraq’s rural infrastructure as a war crime. Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International Richard Pearshouse stated that ‘The damage to Iraq’s countryside is as far-reaching as the urban destruction, but the consequences of the conflict on Iraq’s rural residents are being largely forgotten.’

In an article for Newsweek Pearshouse elaborated further on this subject, ‘when ISIS was forced to retreat, its fighters took to eviscerating the landscape in ways that gave no immediate military advantage.’ He added that ‘Destruction of an adversary’s property not required by military necessity constitutes a war crime.’

Such is the strategic and historical significance of Iraq that the country has long been prey to invasion. The latest ruin areas of Iraq’s agricultural landscape echoes the destruction wrought by the Mongol invasion in 1258. Then, as now, irrigation was a key target.

Amnesty International says that ‘Water engineers told Amnesty International they had no doubt the destruction was deliberate. This happened on a broad scale – no comprehensive assessment has been undertaken, but local officials estimate that in the area near Sinune alone, IS put 400 out of 450 irrigation wells out of use.’ It appears that history is chiming gain in Iraq and it is certain that the restoration of Iraq’s crucial infrastructure, both urban and rural will take many years to remedy. 

The second international development this week came from the US. On Tuesday President Trump signed into law the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018. In the Iraqi context the act will provide support for the ancient Yezidi and Christian communities. On signing the act President Trump announced ‘This bill continues my administration’s efforts to direct US assistance toward persecuted communities, through faith-based programs,” and it “also authorizes US government efforts” to help bring the “perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice” and to do so “very swiftly.’ The intention is that persecuted communities will receive aid with which to rebuild their lives.

Both of these international developments signal specific articulations of the national tragedy that has been inflicted on Iraq. As such they are important. However, the fact remains that Iraq’s governments, such as it is, is weak. Indeed, while many Iraqis are foundering in poverty and the trauma of the last few years, Al-Mahdi’s administration is still tied up with horse trading over various permutations of forming a government based of quotas, sectarian and religious interests. 

It is also certain that progress towards reconstruction and reconciliation will never be achieved until a strong Iraqi government can get up off its knees and manage the affairs of state for itself. International aid is welcome and necessary, but Iraq was riven by more than the rampage of ISIS. Iran still has, what many see, as a malignant stranglehold over Iraq. Iran’s proxy militias also committed atrocities. Iran continues to advance its vision of a submissive and dependent Iraq. And successive Iraqi governments collude in this vision.

In terms of natural resources there is no reason why Iraq cannot rebuild and thrive. In a number of ways it is the will and ability the Iraqi political class that is lacking.

There is a twofold irony here; reconstruction will only be effectively completed for all Iraqis, and religious minorities will only ever be secure and safe in Iraq, if it becomes a complete self-reliant and secular state.   

Last Modified: Wednesday، 19 December 2018 03:15 AM