Shafaq News/ The British magazine “The Economist” started from the story of the arrest of the leader of the Popular Mobilization “Qasim Musleh” and then his release, to talk about the difficulty of building the state in Iraq, and the many internal problems he faces, despite the presence of indications of progress.
The British magazine recalled Qassem Musleh’s visit to the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala after his release, and a crowd of citizens who were happy about his release rushed to make a statement in which he said: “They had no evidence,” referring to the security agency that arrested him and then released him.
And the magazine considered, in a report translated by Shafak News Agency, that “for many Iraqis, his release was a sad reminder of how vulnerable his conditions are,” noting that after his arrest on charges of assassinating activists against corruption and Iranian influence, his armed supporters immediately occupied part of the Green Zone, Instead of risking a bloody conflict, the state released him.”
The magazine referred to the “next October elections,” noting that “thirteen major entities are vying for power, seven of whom are Shiites, four Sunnis, and two Kurds,” and that “two broad alliances of Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis are likely to emerge from this.” The mixture, one of them leaning toward Iran, and the other toward the United States and the Gulf states,” she said, adding at the same time that “Mustafa Al-Kazemi, the prime minister, would take over in a second term if he showed them that he is flexible.”
And she added, “Iraqis are wondering about the amount of power that the government they choose actually enjoys in light of the presence of militias, clans, corrupt factions and foreign forces,” noting that “many will boycott the voting process.”
The magazine’s report cited the opinions of five young men interviewed by its reporter “in a restaurant in Basra, all of whom support the massive opposition demonstrations that shook the country in 2019”, while “two of them reveal the scars of their beatings by militias.”
“I don’t have any plans to vote, I want a state,” said Nabil, a government employee who was hit with a truncheon.
Like many Iraqis, the newspaper adds, “Nabil fears that his country is being violated by forces outside the government’s control.”
The magazine recalled, “The assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who visited the organization of Shiite militias in Iraq, and was killed by the United States, which in turn still has an army of 2,500 soldiers in Iraq.”
And after she referred to “the role of the Popular Mobilization Forces in defeating ISIS, which took control of a third of Iraqi territory,” she explained that “the crowd has not been dissolved, and on the contrary, it is funded by the public sector with a share of 2% of GDP last year,” considering that “The government is thus funding a private army of dubious loyalty that many members of the government forces envy.
The magazine quotes a commander in the 10th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization, who has a picture on his wall of Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, saying, “We always obey the prime minister’s orders.”
As for Abu Fatima al-Basri, who runs a center for martyrs, he removes the medical mask from his face and indicates that they follow the prime minister in public issues, but “our faith goes beyond the prime minister,” as he put it, and adds that he wants the crowd to be similar to the Revolutionary Guards in Iran.
For many Iraqis, the magazine considers that this possibility “seems terrifying,” noting that “the Revolutionary Guards are subject to the supreme religious authority and not to the president, and he runs a vast and corrupt business empire.”
According to the magazine, “The Popular Mobilization actually runs several ministries and makes a lot of money from extortion and smuggling,” noting that “the hatred against Iran and its agents is widespread, as protesters shot the Iranian consulate in Karbala last month, and others burned a crowd slated for Nasiriyah last year.” .
The prime minister’s followers say, according to the newspaper, that they are “gradually curbing the power of the militias, and a proposal for a plan was presented to integrate the Popular Mobilization into the army and cover many of its members with pensions, but the proposal did not reach anywhere.”
She pointed to “the assassination of security analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, one of the government’s strongest supporters last year,” and that “many Iraqis have lost confidence in the prime minister.”
The British magazine considered that “the state serves its citizens, but the Iraqi state serves its employees,” explaining that “the salaries and pensions of workers in the public sector consume two-thirds of the budget.”
Last year, when oil prices were low due to the Corona epidemic, these salaries swallowed an estimated 122% of Iraq’s oil revenues, according to the newspaper, which indicated, “Oil is the only major source of income for the state,” and that “no taxes are imposed.” on civil servants over bonuses and privileges,” and that “government salaries are better than those of the private sector.” That is why I recalled a statement by Finance Minister Ali Allawi when he said, “Everyone wants to work for the government.”
Parties dominate ministries and provide jobs for their supporters and their relatives, according to the magazine, which quotes a young oil engineer in Basra: “If I say that I do not belong to a party, they do not even allow me to apply for a job.”
And when most of the civil servants were at home due to the epidemic period, Allawi sighed, saying, “There was no impact on production,” and the magazine indicated that this was not because they worked hard from a distance. Allawi says that about 10% of them are ghost employees, meaning they are fictitious.
The magazine added that efforts to cut public sector salaries and allocate funds to schools, roads, hospitals, and others are facing fierce resistance. She explained that politicians fear the “rebellion” of these sectors of the population, who represent 4.5 million government employees and 2.5 million retirees.
Allawi says that the demand for electricity consumption is “out of control”, because it is almost free.
She pointed out that if the Iraqis were forced to pay their bills, they would be less wasteful in consuming electricity. Paradoxically, the magazine indicated that Iraq imports Iranian natural gas to generate more electricity, while Iraq produces large quantities of gas, but it is lost in the processes of burning or launching it into the casing. aerial.
On a small island surrounded by buffaloes in a swamp near Basra, Numan al-Salami complains of burning gas and haze pollution. “We can’t get a job, only cancer,” he says.
It also considered that some Iraqis, afflicted by the militants, are feeling disappointed with the religion itself, while the imams lament the decline in the number of worshipers from their followers. She added that respect for human rights is absent, and no charges have been brought against the killers of the demonstrators, despite the ongoing investigations.
She noted that Iraq has suffered great destruction from dictatorship, genocide and ISIS, and that building a nation capable of ruling Iraq requires a lot of work, adding, however, that there are signs of progress.
She explained that the main reason for optimism is that although violence has continued, it is not to the extent that it has occurred at any time since the US-led invasion in 2003, noting that the last large car bomb explosion was in 2017. And she continued, clan conflicts are still common, But she backs off. As for Iraq, it has become an open country, and visas that used to take months are now available upon arrival. Traffic passes through security checkpoints more easily than before.
She added that the economy is recovering from the Corona epidemic, and the World Bank expects a decrease of 10% last year, but there is an expected growth of 2% this year and growth of 8.4% in 2022. The budget deficit is expected to shrink from 5.5% of GDP in Year 2021. Despite the spread of corruption, optimists indicate that much of the stolen money is invested locally, not abroad.
The old city of Mosul, which was bombed during the ISIS war, was rebuilt with the help of the United Nations, and of the 6 million Iraqis exiled by the war, nearly 80% have returned to their hometowns.
The magazine also indicated that “the Corona epidemic encouraged innovation”, and explained that credit cards are rare and it is difficult for Iraqis to place orders via the Internet, which prompted companies such as “Zain Cash” to build applications that allow digital payment. “Thanks to COVID-19, small businesses are operating at an amazing speed,” says Rashwan Sharif, who runs an internet marketing company based in Basra.
Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis go on with their lives. “Ghaith al-Helw” remembers that he “taken a high school exam in Baghdad during the turbulent times of 2007, and the teacher did not stop the exam when a shootout occurred in the basement, and the students were asked to sit away from the window.”
Now at the age of 30, Ghaith rarely hears gunfire. He is developing an online startup called Join the Club to help Iraqis improve their English and has a cautious hope for the future, but he still looks down on his options in the upcoming elections, he says. I’m going to spoil the ballot.”