A Marshall Plan for Iraq?

Christian Chesnot

Published: Updated:

A few days ago, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called for a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of his country. “The world owes it to us,” he insisted.

After the military victory over ISIS, Iraq undoubtedly needs massive international aid — especially to rebuild Mosul and other cities devastated by the war. It is high time that this historical country, cradle of so many civilizations, catches breath and revives. For 40 years, Iraqis have endured one tragedy after another.

From the war against Iran in 1980, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, a decade of UN embargo, followed by the Anglo-American invasion of 2003 and then the recent on the war against ISIS, the people of Iraq have suffered a lot of misfortune and misery.

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What is missing is a political, social and economic roadmap approved by all sides in Iraq. To borrow Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s expression: ‘the world owes us this Marshall Plan,’ but Iraqi leaders also owe it to their people

Christian Chesnot

Rebuilding Iraq: A ‘moral obligation’

How could we not be sensitive to the fate of Iraq? Yes, it is necessary to help Iraq rebuild itself and the international community has a "moral obligation" to respond to the enormous sacrifices and suffering of the population. However, one needs not be naïve in this respect. Mere financial aid will not be enough for foreign countries — especially the United States, Europe, China, the Gulf countries, etc. — to help heal the wounds of Iraq.

Just look at Afghanistan, where hundreds of billions of dollars were poured in since 2001. However, the Taliban are still there, sense of insecurity still lingers, the economy is in shambles and there is a revival in poppy cultivation.

Many obstacles stand in the way of Iraq’s reconstruction. First, the security issue is critical as it is the sine qua non for any recovery. The disarmament of the militias remains one of the most intractable issues. The other black spot is corruption, which is a massive and endemic problem. In the latest ranking by Transparency International, Iraq ranks 166 out of 174 countries.

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It will be necessary that one day leaders of the country target the root of the evil or Iraq will continue to scare foreign investors, especially as oil revenue is no longer a panacea for economic ills. Last but not least, the world can only help Iraq if Iraqis themselves make the effort to come together. No community should feel excluded. Iraqi Sunnis must feel part of the national mainstream.

Otherwise, other revolts might erupt in the future. And then there is the Kurdish question, revived after the referendum fiasco of self-determination.

Roadmap for the future

However, everything is possible provided that certain framework for negotiations is laid out respecting the territorial integrity of Iraq.

This process would obviously require patience and dialogue. Thus, there is a lot to be done before Iraq is put back on track and this would allow the international community to start investing financially for rebuilding Iraq. The money exists, the question is how to put it to use.

Therefore, what is missing is a political, social and economic road map approved by all sides in Iraq, a joint action plan that leaves no one behind. To borrow the expression of Ibrahim al-Jaafari: “the world owes us this Marshall Plan,” but the Iraqi leaders also owe it to their people; an Iraqi people who cannot stand the negligence of the elite and the political exploitation of various fissures in Iraqi society.


Christian Chesnot is grand reporter at Radio France in Paris in charge of the Middle East affairs. He has been based as correspondent in Cairo and Amman. He has written several books on Palestine, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf. Chesnot tweets @cchesnot.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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