Saturday, September 17, 2011

More Money - and Trouble - for Iraq?

AFP reports that the Iraqi government has recovered more than $100 million in funds from overseas bank accounts held by former Saddam Huseein-era officials.  It would be interesting to track that money from this point, to see if it goes down Iraq's huge corruption hole, or if it is applied to creating jobs and restoring services - something for which thousands of Iraqis marched a few days ago, having been called into the streets by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Another potential source of jobs in Iraq - again, for the predominantly Shia south - is the new Faw port that the Baghdad government is pushing.  The rub?  The Kuwaiti government is pushing its own new Persian Gulf port - the Mubarak port - and threatens to complete it ahead of Iraq's planned port, which will draw lots of expected commerce from Iraq.  Iraqi pols are furious, and have been railing against the Kuwaitis for months.  As the WaPo notes:

The rival ports have caused a major feud between the neighbors. Baghdad has tried to play down concerns that the Kuwaiti facility will disrupt Iraqi shipping.

But on Saturday, Mansour al-Timimi, a Shiite from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s political bloc, said Kuwait’s Mubarak port will have a “destructive” impact on Iraq’s economy and waterways.

Al-Timimi is urging Baghdad to finish up the construction of its own Faw port, which stalled after it started two years ago. He also says Iraq should boycott companies involved in building the Kuwait port.

This is, of course, not simply about jobs and revenues - as important as they surely are, especially for an Iraq that struggles to regain its economic footing.  The prime beneficiaries of the Faw port would be the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, as well as the local Shia-dominated provincial governments and people of Iraq's south.  Ranged against them - and leading the charge to complete the Mubarak port - is a Sunni Kuwaiti government, which can count on the support of the staunchly Sunni Saudi monarchy - which, of course, sees the al-Maliki government in Baghdad as stooges for the Shia-Islamist regime in Tehran.

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