IRAQ’S WAR ECONOMY by Christine Bald

In a March 25 public discussion of Iraq’s “war economy,” Associate Professor of Political Science Pete Moore of Case Western Reserve University presented a thesis for the real motives behind the insurgency against the US-led occupation. Far from being driven by sectarian differences or “religious fanaticism” as the current administration would maintain, fighting in Iraq is a result of the U.S. shakeup of a decades-old shadowy economic structure that became integral to the livelihoods of millions of ordinary Iraqis.

Moore argued that the false assumptions of the American reconstruction ideology present the root cause of the battles being waged across Iraq. Prior to the invasion, it was widely assumed that the state still main- tained “iron-fisted” control over Iraq’s economy. This, as he demonstrated, was entirely inaccurate. Following the economic collapse after the war with Iran in the 80’s and the post-Kuwait sanctions of the 90’s, the state retreated from economic affairs considerably, allowing the void to be filled by various tribes and sects which took over whole sectors of the economy. Thus, when the U.S. arrived in 2003, the working careers of many ordinary Iraqis were disrupted by efforts to reconstruct the economy. Those who profited from the oil trucking industry, for example, are now threatened by the repair and restoration of Iraq’s pipelines. Not surprisingly, trade routes and trade towns have been the primary arenas for much of the fighting amid the occupation.

Given this reality, said Moore, the recent calming of violence in Iraq is not the result of the surge, but rather the success of militias in “carving out their own areas of economic control and regulation.” Unlike Algeria’s civil war, which ended because the national government was powerful, the Iraqi national government is pitifully weak. And unlike the deteriorating power of the militias which contributed to the end of Lebanon’s 15-year war, Iraq’s militias show no signs of weakening. These conditions put Iraq on track for long-term civil conflict. Moore sadly concluded: “We may well look back on the first 1-5 years of the Iraq War and consider them the easy phase.”