Sunday,15 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Sunday,15 July, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Iraq on the brink

Eleven years after the US handover of power to an interim Iraqi government, Iraq remains in crisis and the country as a whole on the brink, reports Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

On 28 June 2004 former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi was all smiles. “In a few days, Iraq will radiate with stability and security,” he promised when he was made prime minister, according to the UK journalist Patrick Cockburn months after Allawi was chosen as prime minister of the Iraqi interim government.

But on 5 June 2015, Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, was quoted as saying aid operations in the country were at severe risk without urgent funds, while the UN has launched a new $500 million appeal to address worsening humanitarian conditions in Iraq.

Between these two Junes, on 6 June 2014 Mosul, the second-largest province in Iraq, was also announced as having come under the control of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Does Allawi remember his promises when he hears Grande say that “there are 77 health clinics and facilities in areas that are servicing the hardest-hit people. They’re starting to close right now. By the end of June, they’ll all be closed. Already we are facing a stock out of emergency kits. These are the kits we give families when they are running for their lives. It’s a kit that includes drinking water, sanitation supplies and food”?

“We are about to stock out of these kits. That’s why we need support right now. Iraq is on the brink. The people are in a lot of trouble,” she added, at a time when the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Selim Jubouri, was also in Brussels urging the international community to support the UN campaign for $500 million.

“Allawi’s promises were already worthless when Iraq was announced during his term in office to be the frontline of the US war against terror,” said one displaced teacher from Ramadi speaking on condition of anonymity. “The ongoing war in Iraq and the daily bloodbaths are the results of that frontline.”

One year after IS took control of Mosul 400km north of Baghdad, a couple of months after Iraqi military forces and popular mobilisation forces (al-hashd al-shaabi) liberated Tikrit 140km north-west of Baghdad occupied by IS in June 2014, and a month after Ramadi 110km west of Baghdad fell under IS control, Saleh Mutlaq, the country’s deputy prime minister and the head of the parliament’s relief committee, said in a TV interview that the number of displaced Iraqis was around three million.

“Who can help us,” asked Sukaina Ali, a displaced widow with five children from Mosul. “I lost my husband to sickness as we wandered from place to place,” she added.

Young activists have launched a campaign through Facebook to raise funds to provide drinking water and milk to displaced families from Ramadi stuck at Bizibiz Bridge 28km south of Falluja, the only passage to Baghdad.

The Ministry of Transportation is also continuing to transport displaced families from Baghdad airport to the north of Iraq free of charge. Tens of thousands of displaced families are settled in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, some managing to rent houses and others staying in camps. The same situation obtains in Kirkuk, Baghdad, Kerbala, Hilla and other cities in central and southern Iraq.

Almost 11 years after the handover of power to Allawi, Iraq is still facing daily hardship, even as Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi tries his best to gain international support for the country.

“In June 2014, we heard the US was going to train volunteers from the Sunni tribes,” said Ahmed Khalaf, a young displaced father from Ramadi. “But we have seen nothing since.”

“Despite all this hardship in Iraq, the country’s parliament has just gone on holiday as if the country were stable,” commented Essam Mohie, a university student. “The parliament should stay working to find solutions,” he added.

While Iraqi military forces, popular mobilisation forces and volunteers from the tribes prepare to liberate Ramadi, it seems that the international community from US President Barack Obama down is still waiting for political reforms before it will support Iraq.

Until then, as Grande was quoted as saying, the country will remain on the brink.

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