Sunday, November 12, 2006

Federalize Iraq's economy: The Tall Afar example

"A year ago, U.S. officials championed the military's success in pushing insurgents out of this city in Iraq's northwestern desert, reclaiming it for the roughly 250,000 residents and eliminating an insurgent safe haven. President Bush publicly praised the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's effort.
In the months since, soldiers say, Tall Afar has proved a model for the rest of Iraq, an insurgent stronghold turned relatively peaceful.
. . . Hundreds of millions of dollars was promised to help rebuild and restore Tall Afar, but the money has just started to trickle in through the Iraqi central government's staggeringly slow bureaucracy.
. . . Sectarian violence has been stemmed by cooperation among Sunni and Shiite Muslim sheiks.
. . . 'We had high hopes the Iraqi government would be able to produce more visible, tangible results quicker,' said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander for operations with Multinational Division -- North, based in Tikrit. 'How long will a civilized people that are very much in need of basic fundamental services wait before they are frustrated and look somewhere else?'
Jibouri, the mayor, said: 'You can't separate what happens in Tall Afar and what happens in the rest of Iraq. If Iraq recovers, Tall Afar will recover. If Iraq doesn't succeed, Tall Afar will again fall.' " [1]

So wouldn't it be better if places like Tall Afar could receive their funds directly instead of having to rely on the much-troubled central government? Does Iraq's future have to depend on the successful creation of a viable government on the largest, most complex, national level? Couldn't it also have the chance to succeed on the less complex, more manageable, local level where their efforts would be tied to the practical concerns of their daily lives rather than the grand, so-far-intractable, political concerns that are plaguing the politicians in Baghdad?

Maybe the role of Iraq's central government in the economy could be that of oversight. They could assert their power only in the most egregious instances of local corruption or incompetence, otherwise leaving them alone to find their own paths to success. *

* The Iraqi government is "working on the creation of their reconstruction board which would be able to disburse money more quickly for projects because the Ministry of Finance is having trouble disbursing money," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a December 14 interview. [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Tall Afar's Long Road Back: City Seen as Model in Curbing Violence Is Struggling to Rebuild. November 11, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of State. Interview With The Washington Post Editorial Board. Condoleezza Rice. December 14, 2006.

posted: sunday, november 12, 2006, 4:27 PM ET
update: sunday, december 24, 2006, 3:21 PM ET

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