Monday, September 08, 2008


Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said in a statement to the press that Iraq is not suffering from any drought as far as money or liquidity is concerned, adding that the country has around $30 billion surplus currently deposited in the Central Bank, and another similar amount in the Finance Ministry, (for a total of around $60 billion, says the Iraqi paper AlDustour, which summarized the statement), so that:
There is funding available for any investment project in any sector, adding that the oil ministry is commited to supplying what Iraq needs for its budget for the development of the country on the fastest possible schedule.
Meanwhile, the threat of a cholera epidemic in the South of Iraq--resulting from lack of clean water--has become more frightening, with the six confirmed deaths from cholera in Babil province on the weekend (and a medical official said there are another 200 patients hospitalized with the same symptoms). Local officials declared the province a disaster area and called on the UN for help. And:
The local official laid the blame on "lack of hygiene conditions in the province’s water treatment plants", adding "Water department and Ministry of Public Works left them a year ago, holding the projects to a local department despite provincial council objections".
The connection between the flood of money in the Green Zone on the one hand, and the suffering of the people on the other hand, is increasingly apparent not only to the victims themselves, but also the Najaf establishment, whose criticisms of the government have become increasingly blunt. For instance, Sistani representative put it this way in a sermon on Sept 5:
"What we hear in the news is about many projects and the fact that the country is in a great period of construction. But do these projects actually exist? When we follow up we find that the great majority of them are no more than ink on paper." He laid the blame on the Iraqi authorities, and he challenged the government to identify by name the polluters who have been the cause of these hindrances and these problems. He added: "We see and we hear about the killing of 50 or 100, but we do not see or hear anything about the thieves of millions. And they are many".
This increasing bluntness in criticism of the government, comes together with the tougher talk from Najaf about what would be required in a bilateral agreement with the US. Which suggests that Najaf and the government have come to realize that there is only one issue that could restore popular support for them both, and that is intransigence on the issue of throwing out the American occupier.

The other view, namely that the intransigence is a personal adventure of the "overconfident" Maliki, seems to be more of a made-in-Washington smokescreen.


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