The official proclamation of the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) was loudly celebrated throughout Iraq and in western countries but a place untouched by such optimism is Mosul and its surrounding cities, which are now mountains of post-war rubble. Despite the celebrations following the so called liberation of ISIS controlled areas and international community promises to support the country’s reconstruction little can be seen in the most affected areas.
Pledges at the International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq, last February in Kuwait, have fallen short of delivering the turnaround or urban renewal of neighborhoods, green spaces and mosques as existed prior to ISIS’s capture of Iraq’s second largest city. The government has allocated money and established commissions for people to file for assistance but there is little sign of that money being used for reconstruction after years of war that devastated the country.
Funding mobilized by the World Bank reconstruction project in 2015 has contributed only modestly to small projects in war-devastated territories, mainly the rebuilding of bridges (which are still to be rebuild), basic infrastructure and connectivity. Mosul’s airport, residential districts, market squares and hospitals were all crushed under the weight of the war on ISIS but few allocations within the Iraqi budget for this year offer safeguards that these areas receive the attention they desperately need.
Foreign firms are positioning themselves for contracts and tenders but these are sealed with colossal kickbacks and bribes, fueling the political and business elite but leaving most Iraqis with little hope.
Another concern arising for most companies is the feasibility of conducting business in a context where no local authority exists and where security is not guaranteed, as shown by insurgents who carry out sporadic attacks in nearby Kirkuk (Hawija).
The economic role of the Popular Mobilization Units (or forces) is also a growing concerns for reconstruction actors as these units, which played a critical role in the fight against ISIS are cashing-in on their military achievements to acquire political legitimacy and sustainability. Their growing political clout is one indicator, as are their expanding economic networks. While their role in defeating IS was important to the government’s ability to take back and hold territory, their behavior since then has been subject to mounting criticism (read more on this here: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/05/iraq-economy-mosul-pmu.html#ixzz5pPkVcAIF )
New sources of instability are also emerging linked to rising poverty rates, delays in community reconciliation, lack of livelihood opportunities, and political and social tensions which cause small-scale new displacement. Iraq is now at a cross-roads, all elements are there to plunge the country in a new cycle of violence but reconstruction is still possible if Iraqi authorities are willing to fight the corruption system, reform the security sector and promote reconciliation between communities.