Over the last few weeks, everything stood still in Iraq. Even the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took leave of absence from the many front lines and watched headlines to see the leaders in Baghdad try to sort this mess out.
With extreme heat and no electrical power, Iraqis flooded the streets in many provinces asking for a resolution. And now they want an end to corruption.
12 years since liberation from Saddam and 4 years after the total U.S. troops withdrawal from the country - and after billions of dollars allegedly spent on fictional power grid projects - the country is still in the dark.
Fingers were pointed, and the government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi – who has only been one year in power - was swift to respond. He announced the sacking of all vice presidents and deputy-premiers, as well as promising to rid the country of corruption.
Among those friends and foes such as ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki and ex-interim PM Ayad Allawi.
However, Abadi’s quick fix, aimed at deflecting the issue and control the anger in the street, was meant as a sign of promising wide-ranging reforms. But Iraq, it seems, is not a country ready for quick fixes.
The iceberg of corruption
Abadi is seen as sincere in his efforts to reform his country. He is unlikely to do so unless he undoes his government, replaces Iraq’s fragile institutions, rewrites the constitution, reforms Iraq's political parties, reinvents the political class many times over prior. And he would have to do all of this before even starting to even scrape the tip of the iceberg of corruption.
Abadi is seen as sincere in his efforts to reform his countryMohamed Chebarro
Post-Saddam Iraq ranks among the top ten most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International.
The current government inherited a balance sheet that is billions in arrears. Despite Saddam Hussein’s toxic legacy, shortcomings of this government and previous ones in post Saddam-Iraq are to be blamed most for the current failures. And Abadi was a main partner to ex-PM al-Maliki in their Islamic Dawa party.
In post-Saddam Iraq , the country scored a failure on most if not all stress tests. The government repeatedly failed its people. Iraq’s only income is from oil, yet one fifth of Iraqis live below the poverty line.
Security is non-existent, despite billions spent to build an army and a security service that does not seem to serve.
Funds marked to renew Iraq’s ailing infrastructure quickly vanished.
ISIS after al-Qaeda resurged and now control one third of the country. And the other parts control is split between religious militias loyal to Iran and an emerging Kurdish Iraqi force bent on consolidating its grip on the north of the country as an autonomous region.
A power-sharing failure left inhabitants of the western province of Anbar - who are mainly Sunni inhabitants of the middle of Iraq stuck between a sectarian government bent on oppressing them and ISIS - trying to re build the lost Caliphate using them as its fuel.
In the middle of infighting and bad governance and foreign interference mainly from Iran, national identity has been eroded further and is slowly disappearing.
Rule of law
Sectarianism, nepotism and clientelism became rife and substituted the rule of law.
With Abadi’s Iraq, and al-Maliki before him, political power-sharing is a mosaic reflecting the interests of religious parties, sectarian and ethnic reparation as well as a clear and present regional power controlling Iraq directly through its militias and indirectly through its many Iraqi loyal agents making Iran the shadow of the state interfering in every big and small in Iraq.
The people from all the regions of Iraq have called for change and they are right to demand services from the state and are fed up with corruption. But this is unlikely to come soon.
As it was found out, the state money has been funneled on armed protection for members of parliament, ministers and other high-ranking employees of the state.
The size of private armies funded by the state is bigger and better funded than many of Iraq’s reformed armed forces, according to officials in Baghdad.
Many in Iraq say that the leadership that took power in 2003 was in it simply for revenge and or for the quick spoils and profit - or for both. Many officials are dual nationals, others have spent years in exile in Syria and Iran and to whom they remain loyal.
Most of them are more busy building business portfolios rather than learning the ropes of government. Hence corruption in Iraq is likely to remain part of the fabric of business as usual in Iraq rather than the exception.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.