US lobbies for help
15 February, 2018, 12:00 am
KUWAIT – The United States on Tuesday urged members of the coalition fighting Islamic State to help rebuild Iraq or risk a reversal of the gains made against the group, and said it would extend to Baghdad a $3 billion ($F6.11b) credit line.
The United States leads the coalition and hopes that after a three-year fight to defeat the militants it can count largely on Gulf allies to shoulder the burden of rebuilding Iraq.
It is also counting on a Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement to weaken Iran’s influence there.
Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in December, having taken back all the territory captured by the militants in 2014 and 2015. The fighters have also been largely defeated in neighbouring Syria.
“If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a donors’ conference for Iraq hosted by Kuwait.
ISIS is another acronym for Islamic State.
“We must continue to clear unexploded remnants of war left behind by ISIS, enable hospitals to reopen, restore water and electricity services, and get boys and girls back in school.”
Although the US government was not expected to pledge direct financial aid at the conference, Mr Tillerson said the official US export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), would sign with Iraq’s finance ministry on Tuesday a $3 billion memorandum of understanding “that will set a stage for future cooperation”.
Iraq has suffered from decades of war and it is striking that it is holding its reconstruction conference in Kuwait, which it invaded in 1990, leading to defeat by a US-led coalition and more than a decade of sanctions.
Kuwait will celebrate Liberation Day from Iraq in two weeks and Iraq still pays it reparations.
Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government is pursuing a difficult diplomatic balancing act by trying to maintain good relations with both the United States and its Sunni Gulf Arab allies and with their main regional foe, Shi’ite Iran.
Arriving in Kuwait for the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country would “stand by the Iraqi people forever”.