Over 50 degrees and mafias
Uber 50 degrees and mafiamilias

Screenshot Video al-Jazeera/YouTube

Iraq: The legacy of the US occupation

On Thursday, 51 degrees Celsius was reported as the highest temperature in Baghdad, last week record temperatures of 54 degrees were reported. This is nothing new. There have been such reports regularly for years (for example: "The most yeasty city in the world", NBC 2015).

Bitterly, for many years, anger has also remained: over daily, hour-long power outages that render air conditioners useless, over exposure, overpriced bills that must be paid to private generator operators, over desolate conditions in an oil-rich country that only continue to worsen.

The poverty rate has risen from 20 percent to 34 percent as a result of the Corona virus pandemic, and the Iraqi Ministry of Planning expects a further increase of 50 to 60 percentage points by the end of the year. Where to get the money for a "Stimulus package" come to stimulate the economy?, ask observers in suits and ties.

At the blog 1001IraqiThoughts the program manager of the International Energy Agency (IEA) for the Middle East and North Africa makes a calculation – with the thesis: It doesn’t have to be like this after all. The chronic shortage of electricity does not have to be so bad. Yet since 2012, he said, the country has injected $20 billion in capital investment into the sector … According to the plan, the capacity should be increased by 13 GW, said Ali Al-Saffar. Then he does the math:

Only 8 gigawatts pay as "Effective capacity", 5 gigawatts are lost because the power plants are poorly maintained and have low efficiency levels. Of the remaining 8 GW that is actually produced, only 4 GW reaches the consumer, since 40 to 50 percent of the electricity that is produced is lost in the transmission and distribution grid. This is one of the highest loss rates in the world. (…) If these rates of loss are reduced to a regional(?) average, Iraq’s electricity supply would reach 125 terawatt-hours, producing enough to meet demand throughout the country.

Ali Al-Saffar, IEA

Demand in Iraq is increasing by about 7 to 10 percentage points a year, Saffar said. The population grows by about 1 million per year (currently it is 40.3 million according to Worldometers). Demand for cooling increases in hot months.

At present, however, it does not appear possible to improve electricity supply in a way that can keep pace with increased demand and at the same time compensate for the losses in the transmission network.

"This means that if decisions are not made quickly, the situation will continue to worsen. Time is running out in Iraq."

Demonstrations and protests are connected with the shortage of electricity, they also happened regularly every year, mostly in the south of the country. But last October, protests in Iraq took on a cruder dimension, and there was a brutal, deadly backlash against them from security forces and other actors.

Corruption is a huge problem in Iraq.

That’s a conclusion reached 17 years after U.S. troops invaded Iraq and poured untold billions of dollars into the country to improve conditions after ousting dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. dollars in cash are still being shipped into Iraq by the ton, the 1001 stories of suitcases full of U.S. banknotes brought into the country at the time of the U.S. occupation have yet to be disbursed:

Dangerously every month, a truck (at the Federal Reserve’s East Rutherford Operations Center (EROC), Anm. d.A.) loaded with more than 10 tons of plastic-wrapped U.S. banknotes worth $1 to $2 billion. The money is taken to an air force base and flown to Baghdad. It is owned by the Iraqi government, which conducts its oil sales through a New York Federal Reserve account. This unusual arrangement is a legacy of the U.S. occupation, when America directly controlled the Iraqi government and its finances. It was kept because it suits both sides: The Iraqis get quick and preferential access to dollars and the United States retains tremendous influence over the Iraqi economy.

New York Times

Annually, $10 billion is said to be delivered to Iraq in this way, according to a report by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert F. Worth. Attentive readers may notice the inaccuracy. It is roughly calculated. If $1 billion to $2 billion worth of U.S. banknotes are delivered to Baghdad each month, that adds up to a slightly higher sum.


"Shrinkage" is the rough subject of the report, a very similar phenomenon as described above for the power supply. Worth has a headline for this "Kleptocracy". Meant corruption, which is demanded by coarse sums in coarse style and has helped to build a mafia-like structure in Iraq. On kleptocracy, Worth provides many zoom pictures; for example, how a Shiite militia, the notorious Kataib Hezbollah, has taken business control of Baghdad airport, how many millions are left in construction projects or in the sale of medicines to managers or in the chain of official decision-makers and participants.

Between 125 billion and 150 billion U.S. dollars are said to have been transferred abroad by Iraqis who held the appropriate position at the "Dollar watering hole" had been brought abroad, "most of it ‘illegitimately acquired’" (obtained illegitimately), some treasuries even put the figure at $300 billion, at least $10 billion of which is said to have gone into real estate in London, Worth quotes a "elder statesman" from Iraq with experience in finance. The information is for the think tank Atlantic Council has been collected.

With the mention of the Atlantic Council doubts are reinforced that concern a political agenda. Could it be that Worth’s report on the kleptocracy in Iraq reinforced anti-Iran sentiment?? The answer is simple: Yes, it is so. The militia Kataib Hezbollah, which is said to be roughly close to Iran’s leadership, especially the Revolutionary Guards, is in Worth’s report a militia that operates with mafia methods. In terms of war policy, the conflict between U.S. troops in Iraq and Kataib Hezbollah earlier this year was the lead-up to the deadly U.S. attack on Iranian General Soleimani.

There were many inaccuracies involved in the dissemination of information, in short: propaganda and power interests. The suspicion that the New York Times report also fits well with the anti-Iranian agenda is preserved by it.

However, there is another perspective besides geopolitical strategy: It starts from the situation of the population. And the NYT report provides convincing, researched illustrative material for how much money is being taken from the population in the form of investment capital or basic survival supplies through a shrinkage system in Iraq.

The USA does not come off well, because it has raised kleptocracy and corruption to a new level with the invasion and the loads of money that were supposed to conquer heads and hearts. This is an unpredictable consequence. Now the effects of the Corona pandemic are added to the mix.

Children and adolescents face the highest increases in poverty. Before the pandemic broke out, one out of five children or adolescents was poor. This percentage has now doubled to 2 out of 5, and represents 37.9 percent of all children.

UNICEF, 8. July 2020

The question "What kind of generation is growing up, what conditions and opportunities does it have??" has so far been easier to brush aside – it has been dismissed as being just as stubborn and naive in the register as the offsetting of what better could be done with the arms and military budget – but the view is changing. If children are the majority of the 4.5 million Iraqis who are now falling into poverty, this is a catastrophe that also has repercussions for Europe.

Not only in Iraq: According to the NGO Save The Children are in the Beirut area 910.000 people, more than half of them children, are threatened by hunger. In Lebanon, too, one can speak of a kleptocracy.