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Iraq: Oil Production Beats Iran, but Many Iraqis Still Fear the Future


The International Energy Agency, the western countries’ oil watchdog, said on Friday that last month Iraq produced more than 3m barrels a day, the highest since the US-led invasion nearly a decade ago. At the same time, Iranian oil output fell below the 3m b/d level for the first time in more than 20 years, dropping to 2.9m b/d in July. Saudi Arabia, which pumped 10m b/d in July, remains Opec’s largest oil producer.

It’s not just oil production. GDP growth is also explosive, growing at 9.9 percent in 2011, which beats China and is one of the fastest growth rates in the world.

But violence is also on the rise. There are assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings somewhere in Iraq almost every day. Prime Minister Maliki, ignoring his own promises to share power with other political groups, has instead arrested and intimidated his rivals. “Corruption is rampant,” writes Kevin Sullivan in a long analysis in the FT, “and people complain that bribery is the only way to get a job, a building permit or a government contract.”

Has anything changed for the better after the invasion and withdrawal of American troops, and without the hated Saddam? New folks are in the seats of power in Baghdad, and there are many Iraqis who have seized the chance for a new beginning to become financially successful international businessmen and women. But many others feel nothing has changed, or even that things are worse. Electricity is scarce. Jobs are rare. Violence is a constant fear.

Yet many Iraqis think the only way the country can go is up. With the oil flowing freely once again, many hope that money, jobs, electricity, and other services will begin to flow freely too.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I think what all the other Islamic cultures in the region see, is that to the extent that Western Culture has been adopted in Iraq, success has followed, and that if Western Culture was more rigorously followed growth would be much higher than the already incredible 9.9%. It’s this Western Culture in Iraq that has inspired the Arab Spring and forced cultural evolution on the previously frozen Islamic cultures everywhere. That there are reactionary problems in Iraq just tells us how far cultural evolution has been forced, and the violence from Islamic Conservatives was to be expected.

  • Corlyss

    As well they should, with us “pivoting” all over the place and an election year here.

  • Art Deco

    1. Since the end of 2008, the clip of violence has claimed around about 350 souls per month. The same has been true during the last seven months. Violence is not ‘on the rise’. North of 90% of the deaths are concentrated in six provinces where Sunni Arabs are common. Keep in mind that even with the level of political violence the Iraq Body Count has documented, the homicide rate in these six provinces is lower than it is in a number of Latin American and Southern African countries.

    2. Recall Stanley Kurtz’ comments on social relations in tribal societies: “requests from relatives are how business gets done in the Arab world”. Constructing a non-corrupt political order would be the work of generations in Iraq.

    3. In its international relations, Iraq has rejoined the Arab mainstream. The sanctions have been removed. The political order is more pluralistic that it has been at any time since 1958 and not infected with the institutionalized cruelty and bizarre cult of personality that the Ba’ath brought to political life. The notion that “nothing has changed”, “things are worse” cannot be taken seriously.

  • nick boschert

    This is great news. I know there was a lot of chuckling and derision when W. articulated his vision of what a democracy in the heart of the
    Arab world would do but I think this news and “Arab Spring” (even though it’s been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood) validates W.’s plan. I’m so glad George W. Bush was president when he was. Objective history will be kind to him.

  • Pettifogger

    Art Deco says: ” The notion that “nothing has changed”, “things are worse” cannot be taken seriously.”

    As a matter of objective fact, of course you’re right. But as a matter of perception of some cohort of society, perhaps nothing has changed or things are worse. Skewed perceptions may nevertheless have profound consequences.

  • CR

    “GDP growth is also explosive, growing at 9.9 percent in 2011, which beats China”

    Therein lies the rub, I think. As long as the economy is booming and there is sufficient opportunity to go around the people will put up with a certain degree of political dysfunction (recall “Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable…”). They will say “yes, our leaders are horrible but look at all this cool stuff…”. It is when the growth curve starts to flatten that things will get dicey for the ruling class. Look no further than what is now starting to happen to China for a case study.

  • TallDave

    The horror of neoconservatism vindicated is just too much for the MSM to bear, but in truth with all its problems, 2012 Iraq is in better shape that at any point since the Baathists seized power.

    Another test will come with the next nationals election, in Dec 2013 I believe. In the first elections in 2005, Iraqis voted, but the result was little more than representative tribalism and the displaced Sunnis boycotted. In the second election, in 2009, Iraqis actually voted for issues like security and national unity, and proved they could accomplish an historic democratic transfer of power (and the Sunnis repented their 2005 mistake). This election will be more substantive yet, with corruption and rule of law now probably the focus.

    Democracy is a process, not an event.

  • Old School Conservative

    My son served 14 months in the Sunni triangle in 2006 and 2007. He said then that Iraq has a chance (perhaps slim, but a chance nonetheless) to become a relatively free democratic country.

    He was also a private contractor in Afghanistan for almost 2 years training Afghani police. His opinion there is opposite – far too many factions, too many religious nuts, and too much corruption for that country to succeed.

    The “good war” that never was.

  • PacRim Jim

    It takes a nation to build a country.
    It takes a fanatic to destroy it.
    Muslims found that out long ago.

  • Daniel

    There was another benefit to the war in Iraq that is never mentioned.
    The events of 0/11 energized the jihadi anti-Western folk in the Middle East and brought el Qaida thousands of recruits, all anxious to do their parts in terrorizing the United States and its allies.
    Because of our invasion of Iraq, and the reaction of the leaders of the jihadi’s these recruits were sent to Iraq where they attacked our troops.
    We allowed them to infiltrate from Syria and we deployed our forces to get them to show themselves and be killed. Upward of 20,000 of them were killed in this way.
    If we had not invaded Iraq, where would these people have been sent?
    They could have caused an incredible amount of terror and damage all over the world, where we would not have been set up to destroy them. Perhaps a few thousand would have been sent over the Mexican border to create havoc here.
    The war in Iraq, with its closeness to the Jihadis and the illusion that we could be beaten there caused the enemy leaders to make the error of committing their major efforts in Iraq, saving the rest of the world a lot of grief.

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