Earlier this week, the US announced it would double the sum of reconstruction aid to the Iraqi government in 2018 to $150 million, but this is just a fraction of what is needed. Steele, a veteran British journalist and author, said that was not enough and that an international effort would be required to rebuild the Middle Eastern country.
“There is always an argument that if you broke it, you have responsibility to fix it. And clearly the Americans broke Iraq by the initial invasion in 2003. But there is also another course of argument, which is if you broke it and have made a mess of rebuilding it, then get somebody else to do the rebuilding. So it would be better if there was an international consortium that was helping out and the UN took the lead in all the reconstruction programs,” Steele said.
“The UN of course doesn’t have very much money and it too is relying very much on US funding and [US President Donald] Trump has cut back some of the funding because of other issues like the Palestinian question. So we really need more help to the UN from some of the rich countries of the world in addition to the US, like Japan, the Gulf Arab states, China, Russia – they should all be helping put more money behind the UN.”
While the foreign money would help, Baghdad should pull its weight too, both financially and morally, Steele believes.
“It is their own country. It’s also their own fault that [Islamic State/IS, formerly ISIS] came into the country in a big way and destroyed cities like Mosul, took over Tikrit, Fallujah and Ramadi. The Iraqi government does have oil revenues, so they should be putting money in as well, not just the US. But the US should certainly put in more,” he said.
Steele added Baghdad should be careful to prevent a comeback of insurgents capitalizing on problems of alienated groups in Iraq. After all, the Sunni jihadist group saw little resistance from the Sunni population in northern Iraq, which “felt neglected and alienated and even under a sort of occupation by Shia administrators from Baghdad.”
“[IS] has been driven out, but unless those problems are solved, they can make a comeback, so it is important that the Iraqi Army is strong to resist them in a better way than they did three years ago, when ISIS first turned up in Mosul and the Iraqi Army just laid down their weapons and fled,” he said.
“It’s important to strengthen Iraqi Army, but not just by giving them more machinery and weaponry, but by getting more Sunnis into the army so that it isn’t perceived anymore as a Shia force and therefore subjected to all kinds of sectarian suspicions.”
Steele added that a fair distribution of the aid money would be just as crucial to avoid the kind of alienation he was talking about. “It’s really important that the money goes into the Sunni communities and that new political programs are developed to make the Sunnis see Baghdad as their ally and not their enemy,” he explained.