Skip to main content

World Bank links financial support for Iraq to reconciliation

De-mining Mosul alone could cost $50m, with another $50m needed to clear the rest of Iraq, the UN said this week
An Iraqi man wearing protective gear searches for landmines west of Basra on the border between Iraq and Iran, on 10 June, 2015 (AFP)

The World Bank plans to offer Iraq financial support in parallel with projects to foster reconciliation after the Islamic State group's defeat, its regional director said on Monday, to ensure that reconstruction after years of conflict is sustainable.

US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces have dislodged IS from most cities that the militants captured in 2014 in Iraq, and they are now fighting them in their last major stronghold, Mosul, in the north.

While mainstream Shia, Sunni and Kurdish forces are taking part or supporting the battle to dislodge IS from Mosul, their politicians are yet to heal rifts that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"The Mosul battle is keeping all these forces together," World Bank director for the Middle East, Ferid Belhaj, told Reuters by telephone. "When the fight is over, we don't know what kind of pressures... will be in place; that's why it is very important for the Iraqis to start this exercise right now."

"We will try as much as we can to make sure that the incentives... for reconciliation would be more appealing than the incentives for each of these factions... to go it alone."

The World Bank approved in December a new loan of $1.485 billion to help Iraq lessen the impact of low oil prices on its economy and shoulder the cost of the war on IS, bringing its total support to the nation to nearly $3.4 billion.

Mosul mines leave Iraq with £50m bill

A programme to remove mines, explosives and booby traps left by Islamic State forces in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul could cost $50m, United Nations officials said this week.

The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) had previously estimated costs for Iraq as a whole at $50m this year, but said this could double because of Mosul.

"Looking at the contamination in Mosul we will need $50m and $50m for the rest of the country," Paul Heslop, chief of UNMAS programme planning and management section, told Reuters.

"Clearing IEDs and building clearances is a lot more dangerous than minefields. You need a higher level of technical skill and complex equipment and it's slower. As areas are liberated, you get a better idea of the level of contamination," he said.

"I could see Iraq needing an Afghanistan-style (demining) operation, which at its peak was 15,000 people about five years ago. You could put 5,000 on the ground in Iraq and they would be gainfully employed," said Heslop, a veteran of conflicts from Afghanistan to Angola.

From sectarianism to sustainability

The Iraqi government’s revenue comes almost exclusively from exports of crude oil. It fell sharply when world oil prices tumbled three years ago.

In addition to planned financial support "we will bring people who have had experience in rebuilding social ties from a number of countries around the world," said Belhaj, the World Bank director for the Middle East, mentioning the experiences of South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda.

"This is going to be a parallel track. We will make sure that money will flow... towards reconstruction and rebuilding, but at the same to make reconstruction and rebuilding sustainable, we will need to make sure the social contract is being drawn in a way that would allow for the infrastructure to remain solid."

The World Bank has also offered advice to the government about maintaining the Mosul dam, said Belhaj, although it was not involved in financing or arranging the contract with Italian company Trevi which was selected last year to carry out badly needed repair.

A US government briefing paper released a year ago said 500,000 to 1.47 million Iraqis living in the highest-risk areas along the Tigris River "probably would not survive" the impact of a flood that would be caused by the collapse of the dam located north of Mosul.

Iraqi authorities have played down the threat, estimating only a one in 1,000 chance of failure.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.