The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Iraq's war economy

Finally, here’s (part of) the story behind the news: The authors Christopher Parker and Pete W. Moore in the latest MERIP issue analyze Iraq’s war economy and see much of the motives behind the insurgency against the US-led occupation in decades-old gray economic structures that are challenged by the new guys in power.

Throughout the 1990s, most of Iraq’s oil was transported in relatively small tanker trucks—to Jordan and Turkey with dispensation from Washington and undercover to Syria and the Gulf. As the pipelines to Turkey and the Gulf were turned back on in 2003, most of these truckers—many of whom had close ties with, and indeed colleagues in, neighboring countries—were out of a job. Hence, it is not surprising to learn that pipeline attacks “are now orchestrated by [insurgents and criminal gangs] to force the government to import and distribute as much fuel as possible using thousands of tanker trucks.

The authors challenge the mainstream view (and thereby also the whole reconstruction ideology) that in pre-invasion Iraq the state still functioned as a regulatory agent and controlled much of the Iraqi economy.

Washing their hands of any responsibility for the violence that plagues Iraq, they present the insurgency as springing from a yearning for lost domination on the part of groups linked to the Saddam-era state. This is the statist narrative—the idea that Saddam’s regime controlled everything worth controlling before it was overthrown.

Highly interesting are the remarks on the links to Iraq’s neighbors, most notably Jordan:

The political and social histories of modern Iraq and Jordan are bound tightly together. The deep ties between families, tribes, political movements and economic actors across the borders of these two countries have a history that, by and large, has yet to be written.

From the article it also becomes clear that the 2003 invasion merely finished off what was left of the prosperous nation that Iraq was in 1980. The US got most of the job done by sponsoring Saddam in the 80s and engineering UN sanctions in the 90s.