Inside the Iraqi Kleptocracy
August 7, 2020 6:48 PM   Subscribe

The coronavirus pandemic has now pushed Iraq to the brink of an existential crisis. The global collapse of demand for oil has brought prices to historic lows, delivering a terrible shock to a country whose economy depends almost entirely on oil revenue. But it could also offer the new Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, an extraordinary opportunity to face his country’s most intractable problem. Corruption can now be framed as a life-or-death issue: Iraq must choose between feeding its people and enriching its kleptocrats. Kadhimi has promised to take up this challenge. He is not likely to succeed unless the United States seizes this chance to undo some of the damage it has done in Iraq, and to make common cause with the protesters who are hoping to re-establish their country on a new footing.
posted by blue shadows (21 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kleptocracy? I was assured that Iraq was fully sovereign, democratic, and independent.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:05 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Doubt the US is going to get involved in rooting out corruption anywhere...
posted by Windopaene at 7:33 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


Kleptocracy? I was assured that Iraq was fully sovereign, democratic, and independent.

If you listen at all to the neocons and other groups, they'll tell you Israel is the only democracy in the Mideast (which is why the US must defend it!) with no mention of our Iraqi adventures.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:34 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Okay, that feels like pretty good coverage of the eye-rolling sarcastic commentary about (legitimate) U.S. complicity in this situation. How about we go with sincerity from this point forward?
posted by Riki tiki at 8:08 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


How can you not look at this with eye-rolling sarcastic commentary. The current US administration isn't going to do squat about Iraq. we are knee deep in our own authoritarian kleptocracy problems. So, while I hope Kadhimi will take it on, don't expect any help from the US.
posted by Windopaene at 8:25 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


There's practically a Coriolis effect from my eye-rolling at American foreign policy, but that doesn't mean it's a good dialect for discussion. It just a force that spirals us further in our separate directions.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:39 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


[One deleted. What Riki tiki said. if all you want to do is express an auto-respond version of your deep cynicism regarding the US, please consider that covered now and move on. If you'd like to have a more in-depth conversation about the actual posted topic with other people who would also like to discuss it, please carry on. Thank you.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:37 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


My comment above wasn't meant to be a cynical take on the subject. That is a standard refrain. For whatever reason, a lot of those who took us to Iraq during the Bush administration cheered on the Iraqi transition to democracy, but for their own political purposes only really acknowledge Israel as a "democracy."

As for the Iraqis themselves dealing with corruption, all i have to go on is historical precedent and offhand I can't think of a good example where a country like Iraq was able to effectively beat off corruption long term.

As for the US getting involved, that just seems like such a bad idea for everyone involved.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:07 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


We broke it. We bought it. They paid for it.

Again: This blood is on our hands..... and I mean OUR - as in anyone who supported - or continues to support - anyone who voted for this vile war.
posted by lalochezia at 11:51 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Our only hope is that a.) we get Diamond Joe sworn into office and b.) his new Sec'y of State is committed to undoing the damage done in the last four years, especially in the Middle East.
posted by Ber at 12:24 PM on August 8


Those who think the US needs to get involved, let me ask you what kind of concrete steps you see being taken?

How do we "undo the damage" without making the mess worse?
posted by Fukiyama at 12:57 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]



Our only hope is that a.) we get Diamond Joe sworn into office and b.) his new Sec'y of State is committed to undoing the damage done in the last four years, especially in the Middle East.


plz don't make this about "the last 4 years". it ISNT.
posted by lalochezia at 1:55 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I am no expert or even terribly well informed but I was under the impression that good work was being done in Central America but then support wilted link
posted by Pembquist at 9:18 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


undoing the damage done in the last four years

Seems that it has been a case of passive neglect in the last four years, the real damage done was the super easy conquest with no plan whatsoever to create something out of the ashes, and plenty of actively damaging actions to thwart that happening.

"You broke it, you bought it" sounds great but I do not see any US actions that can help in this case.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:57 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


The cash that has fueled Iraq’s descent into kleptocracy originates, for the most part, from a heavily guarded Federal Reserve compound in East Rutherford, N.J. There, every month or so, a truck is loaded with more than 10 tons of plastic-wrapped U.S. currency, a haul worth $1 billion to $2 billion. The money is then driven to an Air Force base and flown to Baghdad. It belongs to the Iraqi government, which routes the proceeds of its oil sales through an account at the New York Federal Reserve. This unusual arrangement is a legacy of the U.S. occupation, when America directly controlled the Iraqi government and its finances.

Correction, here is one thing the US can do: stop sending planeloads of cash to Iraq.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:43 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


If there ever was a predictable outcome of the Iraq war, this is it. Or rather, how could this not have happened? Bush expressly promised the American people that there would be no "nation building" (which I think is a euphemism for the continued soft occupation of Germany and Japan, which wasn't at all soft for the first two decades). Instead they sent planeloads of college graduates with no knowledge or experience of governance to Bagdad, with other planeloads of fresh dollar bills. And of course an army of mercenaries. The whole Iraq project was an immense piece of fraud, from way before Colin Powell lied at the UN, and it attracted grifters from all over the world. The Times should acknowledge that they were complicit in the scam. No one can convince me that any adult, educated person believed the lies of the Bush administration, there were just so many people in several countries who really wanted that war, and projected their own delusions onto the common grift. Which, I am told, is how such things work.

It isn't surprising that Iran found a way to take advantage of the situation, either. From a geo-strategic point of view, it would have been wrong not to, and the Revolutionary Guard are experts at grift and corruption.

Anyway, this article finally made me order this little book, based on a doctoral dissertation: Corruption, by Mette Frisk Jensen. I've met the author, and as I remember it, her thesis is that the reason Denmark has relatively little corruption is that a king struck it down very harshly (think death penalties) 300 years ago and his successors, including the democratic governments from 1848 onward, kept up the good work. So basically, consequence and consistency over centuries is the way to go. Easier said than done in Iraq today.
posted by mumimor at 2:29 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


To those who took part in the rallies, groups like Kataib Hezbollah are not just Iranian proxies; they are the newest faces of a kleptocracy that has enriched itself at the expense of Iraq’s youth, who have been left jobless and destitute in ever-increasing numbers.

He is not likely to succeed unless the United States seizes this chance to undo some of the damage it has done in Iraq, and to make common cause with the protesters who are hoping to re-establish their country on a new footing.

Please fuck all the way off, New York Times. This is a long article and Iran doesn't come up that often in it but I still can't help but see this piece as part of an argument that to fix Iraq, one needs to break Iranian influence in the country (presumably by breaking Iran).
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 6:58 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The cash that has fueled Iraq’s descent into kleptocracy originates, for the most part, from a heavily guarded Federal Reserve compound in East Rutherford, N.J. There, every month or so, a truck is loaded with more than 10 tons of plastic-wrapped U.S. currency, a haul worth $1 billion to $2 billion.

Sounds like a great way to launder (and steal) lots of money. (edit: to be clear, I mean by US interests first and foremost, the rest for the Iraqis.)
posted by nikoniko at 12:02 AM on August 10


Why the United States Invaded Iraq NYTimes book review
Thanks to Donald Trump’s bungling, Bush may be benefiting from a wave of nostalgia for his presidency. But he was criminally culpable in his naïveté and incuriosity about the costs and consequences of war. At the same time, Cheney and Rumsfeld were inveterate schemers whose cynicism about going to war was exceeded only by their ineptitude in conducting it.
posted by mumimor at 2:14 AM on August 10


At the same time, Cheney and Rumsfeld were inveterate schemers whose cynicism about going to war was exceeded only by their ineptitude in conducting it.

I have compelling evidence that Dick Cheney, whose real name is not Richard Cheney but Reza Esfahani, is a Brigadier General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

How else can you explain spending trillions of dollars of American money to kill a long term American ally and Iranian enemy number 1 and giving Iran immense influence in its neighbour and direct access through them to their other regional allies in Syria and Lebabon?

The only logical explanation is that "Dick" is the world's most successful deep cover agent.
posted by atrazine at 3:05 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


There, every month or so, a truck is loaded with more than 10 tons of plastic-wrapped U.S. currency, a haul worth $1 billion to $2 billion. The money is then driven to an Air Force base and flown to Baghdad.
Sweet Jesus why has no one made this into a heist movie?
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:30 AM on August 10


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