International donors pledged USD 30 billion to help rebuild Iraq after the war against the Islamic State group, Kuwait announced today, overcoming Western doubts and donor fatigue over Mideast crises to help the battle-ravaged nation.
While falling short of an estimated USD 88.2 billion needed to rebuild Iraq, it easily surpassed the USD 20 billion Iraqi officials initially said they needed to begin their difficult work.
The pledges, if followed through with funding, could give Iraq a chance to dig itself out of the rubble left by the Islamic State group and the chaos that followed the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Still, much remains uncertain for Iraq and the greater Middle East.
The Islamic State group, while dislodged from the third of Iraq it once held, remains a threat. Meanwhile, regional tensions could even be seen at a conference heralded by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as an "enormous success." "Iraq has known too many hardships and we hope these hardships are now behind us," Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said.
"Investments are the only way for us to move forward. We must learn from the past and move forward." Officials offered no breakdown of the pledges, though some countries announced them on the floor of a meeting held Thursday at Kuwait Citys Bayan Palace.
The biggest single pledge came from Turkey, which announced USD 5 billion in credit to Iraq, while Kuwait's ruling emir said his oil-rich nation will give USD 1 billion in loans and USD 1 billion in direct investments.
The donation by Kuwait's emir, the 88-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, showed the deep interest his nation has in making sure Iraq becomes a peaceful, stable country. Iraq also still owes Kuwait reparations from Saddam's 1990 invasion that sparked the 1991 US-led Gulf War.
"This large assembly of international communities that are here today is reflective of the large loss that Iraq withstood in facing terrorism," Sheikh Sabah said. "Iraq cannot commence the mission of rebuilding itself without support, which is why we are all here today from all around the world, to stand by Iraq's side."
Other major donations included both Saudi Arabia and the Kuwait-based Arab Fund each pledging USD 1.5 billion. Qatar pledged USD 1 billion in financing and donations, while Britain pledged USD 1 billion in export credits over 10 years.
The United Arab Emirates pledged USD 500 million, as did the Islamic Development Bank. The UAEs Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also tweeted there would be USD 5.5 billion in private investments from his country home to Dubai and oil-rich Abu Dhabi, without elaborating. The European Union also pledged 400 million euros (USD 494 million).
The US, while not offering direct donations, did agree to providing over USD 3 billion in loans and financing to American firms wanting to invest in Iraq.
Officials acknowledged a feeling of fatigue from international donors, especially after the wars in Iraq and Syria sparked the biggest mass migration since World War II. Even in Kuwait, some questioned donating cash while its own country needs investment.
Iraq is OPECs second-largest crude producer and home to the worlds fifth-largest known reserves, though It has struggled to pay international firms running them. That's even after the US alone spent USD 60 billion over nine years, some USD 15 million a day, to rebuild Iraq after overthrowing Saddam in 2003.
Around USD 25 billion went to Iraqs military, which disintegrated during the lightning 2014 offensive of the Islamic State group, an outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq. US government auditors also found massive waste and corruption, fueling suspicions of Western politicians like President Donald Trump who want to scale back foreign aid.
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