WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Kuwait next week where he will address a ministerial meeting of the “Defeat ISIS coalition,” as well as a conference on Iraqi Reconstruction.
“About 2,300 members of the private sector will also be joining,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert explained, to “talk about ways that they can help facilitate the large-scale reconstruction taking place in Iraq.”
However, it appears that although Tillerson will address the conference, the US will not be offering any new financial contributions to reconstruction in Iraq.
Responding to a question from Kurdistan 24, Nauert said, “I’m not aware of any announcements that we will be making,” before detailing the considerable contributions that the US has already made in Iraq, including $1.7 billion in humanitarian aid—the biggest such funding from any country.
She also explained that the US had spent $190 million on stabilization efforts in Iraq and $112 million to clear IEDs.
“Our policy position has changed since previous administrations,” Nauert stated. “We used to support nation-building, but the US is not doing that anymore.”
“We are providing basic stabilization”—essentials like electricity, water, and demining, she stressed.
Al-Monitor, a Washington based media site focused on the Middle East, emphasized the Saudi role in the conference. “Riyadh is working to return Iraq to a higher standing in the Arab world and reduce Tehran’s influence,” it reported on Monday.
The notion that Saudi Arabia will make a major financial contribution to Iraqi reconstruction would appeal to the Trump administration and help explain its strong commitment to a “one-Iraq” policy, which has so disadvantaged Kurds in Iraq. However, it is questionable whether Riyadh will be able to outmaneuver Tehran in Iraq’s intricate politics.
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, will also attend the conference.
Other knowledgeable individuals believe that the US’ unwillingness to contribute to Iraqi reconstruction will weaken the international effort as a whole.
Jeremy Konyndyk, head of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance within the US Agency for International Development, told Reuters, “If the US doesn’t put money into reconstruction,” it “could help set the stage for a new insurgency”
James Jeffrey, the former US ambassador to Iraq, noted that the US has already “poured billions and billions of dollars into Iraq,” but “the fact that we’re not putting any money up will weaken our case.”
Entifadh Qanbar, an Iraqi-American and President of the Future Foundation in Washington DC, highlighted the problem of corruption that is invariably tied to large contracts in Iraq.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Index, Iraq ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world: 166 out of 176.
Qanbar noted that a significant number of major figures from the Dawa party, “cronies” of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, would be attending the Kuwait conference.
When US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan visited Erbil last month, he encouraged the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to participate in the meeting. An informed source told Kurdistan 24 that the US embassy was, indeed, prodding Baghdad to include KRG representatives, but nothing has yet been finalized.
To a considerable extent, the future of Iraq depends on whether the Shia government in Baghdad will provide adequate support to Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, hit hard by the onslaught from the Islamic State (IS) and the aftermath of the war against it.
The most devastated cities appear to be IS’ former capitals in Iraq and Syria.
Qanbar described Mosul as a “huge mess,” while earlier this week, the UN characterized Raqqa’s devastation as “unparalleled,” with civilians attempting to return home being killed or injured by IEDs left behind by IS and aid workers unable to operate in the unsafe conditions.
Editing by Nadia Riva