Rebuilding Iraq Is Expensive. Are Donors Willing to Pay the Price?

    Daniel R. DePetris

    Security, Middle East

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq, in Bayan, Kuwait, February 14, 2018. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/via REUTERS

    Iraqi leaders must realize that the West, particularly the United States, is tired of sending money to their country.

    July 10 of last year was very likely one of the best days of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s premiership. Surrounded by generals from the Iraqi army and dressed in fatigues himself, Abadi announced Mosul’s liberation to the nation after approximately nine months of house-to-house, block-to-block combat against the Islamic State. It was a day all Iraqis could be thankful for, even if many of them understood in the back of their minds that Iraq had a long, long way to go before it could return to the status of a semi-normal country.

    During an international donor and investment conference in Kuwait last week, Iraqi officials had the opportunity to make their case. It is a fact of life that Iraq won’t be able rebuild without international financial assistance: although the Iraqis are fortunate enough to sit on a pool of crude oil primed and ready for export, the extent of the devastation owing to the war and the fluctuation of the oil market means that somebody will have to be generous to make up for some of Baghdad’s shortfall in revenue. That’s precisely why the Kuwait conference was scheduled in the first place—to bring donors from the Middle East, Europe and the United States into the same ballroom so Iraq and its allies can squeeze cash out of countries that are less fiscally challenged.

    Iraq estimated that it required $ 88 billion to rebuild what was destroyed, down from the $ 100 billion that Iraq’s planning minister cited after the battle for Mosul was complete. The conference ended with $ 30 billion in pledges, a fraction of what Iraqi leaders were hoping to raise. You could pick up on the sense of disappointment in Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s voice, even as he thanked the donors who did contribute for their generosity.

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