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October 14, 2004
The Check's In The Mail

Donor nations for the rebuilding of Iraq met this week in Tokyo, after having stiffed the new interim Iraqi government last year from the $13.6 billion that they pledged for the stabilization effort. This conference led to much fewer pledges, but may have shaken loose the money promised in the first conference:

The meeting of 57 donor nations and international organizations is a follow-up to a conference a year ago in Madrid, where the international community vowed to contribute tens of billions of dollars to rebuild wartorn Iraq.

Iraq's delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, expressed strong frustration with the slow pace of funding, arguing that many parts of the country are safe enough for projects to go forward and warning that delays could ruin Iraq's chances of a sustainable recovery.

Thursday's final, closed-door session focused on how two trust funds operated by the United Nations and the World Bank can be made more effective. Delegates also discussed how to ensure that contributions put into the funds are used for reconstruction projects on the ground and not diverted elsewhere.

I would suggest that if the donor nations want to make the funds more effective and keep them from being diverted, the best action would be to remove the UN from control of the money. The one program they've run on behalf of the Iraqis spiraled into a morass of corruption and diversions, potentially up to $11B having disappeared into Saddam Hussein's pockets. Turtle Bay has shown itself to be overwhelmingly corrupt and incompetent, and giving them control over the donations would be akin to making Ken Lay your personal accountant.

Thirty-seven nations took part in this conference, including first-time attendees Russia, France, and Germany. That's a pretty wide coalition giving its support to the creation of a democratic state in the heart of Southwest Asia, bolstering George Bush's contention that his efforts in Iraq are supported by a large number of nations and is hardly unilateral.

Interestingly enough, the conference includes Iran, which pledged an additional $10M for the effort. That's only about a seventh of what they have earmarked for their plans on infiltrating and disrupting the Shi'ite areas of Iraq for their elections in January. The ratio sends a pretty clear message about Iran's intentions towards its neighbor and one-time enemy, as well as its opinion of the world community.

At the very least, they're sure that we can't do the math.

The conference has agreed to speed up the distribution of the pledges, only about a tenth of which has been given to the Iraqis. Donor nations claimed that security considerations had held up their contributions, but that's silliness. Security in Iraq should have nothing to do with funds transfers to outside banks and trusts. Also, how can the security situation improve significantly in the long term without those investments? That's exactly what the donor conference and its funds were supposed to help create -- a secure and rebuilt Iraq, able to stand on its own. If there were no security concerns, likely Iraq wouldn't need the money; they could pay for it themselves from their oil revenue.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 14, 2004 5:19 AM

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