Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Iraq Has No Reconstruction Plan For War Torn Areas

Rubble in Mosul (AFP/Getty Images)

The war against the Islamic State ended two years ago and some areas were liberated five years ago, yet the Iraqi government has not come up with a reconstruction plan. This is delaying foreign assistance as many countries and groups are waiting for Baghdad to take the lead, but it has not stepped forward.

The European Union ambassador to Iraq told the Christian Science Monitor that Iraq had no rebuilding policy. He said that Western countries have not donated a lot as a result. He went on to say that the EU had plans for Mosul and other areas, but Baghdad hadn’t provided any leadership, so they haven’t been implemented. Instead, the EU and others have given money to the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration, the premier group working with the displaced, instead.

This is counter to the official line coming from Baghdad. For example, President Barham Salah asked the international community for help with rebuilding the country in February. Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim claimed he was creating a committee to oversee the $30 billion that was pledged at the Kuwait conference, but the committee has done nothing. Much of the money that has been donated is stuck in red tape. For example, France gave a grant to rebuild the University of Mosul while the United Arab Emirates gave money to reconstruct the al-Nuri Mosque and Hadbaa minaret in Mosul. Neither has moved forward because of the slow pace of the Iraqi bureaucracy.

The result of these two events, the lack of a plan and red tape is that rebuilding is slow, uneven and haphazard across the country. West Mosul for example, was completely flattened in the war. Locals, the provincial government, the U.N. and NGOs have been left to do most of the work. The United Nations just announced a plan to fix 15,000 homes in the district in March. In other areas such as the southern Sinjar district in Ninewa there is massive property damage, no services, and unexploded ordinance. The area is almost completely empty of people as a result. In contrast, in Fallujah and Ramadi, much has been repaired in part because they were liberated early on in the war compared to Ninewa that wasn’t freed until 2017. With no government strategy there is no prioritization of what areas should be worked on first. There is little coordination between restoring housing, services, and the return of displaced people. Finally, there is not enough money, and the bureaucracy is holding up some major projects as well. That will leave many areas of northern Iraq destroyed and neglected for the foreseeable future limiting the return of displaced and disrupting everyday lives for Iraqis. It will also cost the government standing with the public in these areas and provide an opportunity for the Islamic State to recruit disaffected citizens.


Peterson, Scott, “In Mosul’s enduring rubble, fertile soil for an ISIS revival?” Christian Science Monitor, 3/14/19

Tarzi, Nazli, “A year after Kuwait conference, Iraq is no closer to reconstruction,” Arab Weekly, 2/17/19

Xinhua, “Iraqi president calls on int’l community to support reconstruction of Iraq,” 2/19/19

Zaya, Gevera, “Is Mosul Headed for a Second Fall?” Fikra Forum, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2/11/19

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