Reconstruction in Iraq cannot be achieved without universal reconciliation, economic and education reform, and equitable application of the rule of law
The deterioration of Iraqi infrastructure predates the U.S. invasion of 2003. The Iran–Iraq War (1980–88) forced the regime to divert most available resources to military-related spending and cut back on new projects. As a result, Iraq emerged from the war a crumbling nation with massive debt. The saturation of global oil markets in the late 1980s drove down prices to levels that made Iraq’s recovery highly improbable.
Instead of dealing with the Iraqi economic crisis creatively, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein decided to double down on his aggressive behavior and invade Kuwait in August 1990, claiming it as Iraq’s “19th Province”. His miscalculation led to a military confrontation with a coalition of thirty nations led by the United States. The war to liberate Kuwait in 1991 involved severe bombardment that reached all Iraqi infrastructure: power plants, factories, bridges, roads, and many other vital structures. The economic sanctions the United Nations Security Council imposed on Iraq in 1990—the harshest imposed on any nation in history—to force Saddam Hussein’s withdrawal from Kuwait banned Baghdad from importing any materials to rebuild its ruined infrastructure or maintain the deteriorating structures. By 2003, Iraq was a skeleton of a nation.
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Abbas Kadhim is head of the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative. Between 2014 and 2018, he served as senior foreign policy fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Before that, he taught at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and at Stanford University, and was senior advisor to the UNESCO chair at Kufa University Iraq. He also previously held the post of senior advisor for research government affairs at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Reclaiming Iraq: The 1920 Revolution and the Founding of the Modern State; Governance in the Middle East and North Africa; and The Hawza Under Siege: Studies in the Ba’th Party Archive.
Source: The Cairo Review of Global Affairs