Tuesday, August 28, 2007
One gets the impression that, for prominent figures within both the insurgency and the occupation, the rapid departure of the US is the worst thing that could possibly happen. Someday, perhaps, an Iraqi with the sensibility of an Imamura or Fassbinder will emerge to tell the paradoxical tale.
A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi subcontractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he'll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash in exchange for the supply convoys' safe passage.
One Iraqi official said the arrangement makes sense for insurgents. By granting safe passage to a truck loaded with $10,000 in goods, they receive a "protection fee" that can buy more weapons and vehicles. Sometimes the insurgents take the goods, too.
"The violence in Iraq has developed a political economy of its own that sustains it and keeps some of these terrorist groups afloat," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, who recently asked the U.S.-led coalition to match the Iraqi government's pledge of $230 million for Anbar projects.
Despite several devastating U.S. military offensives to rout insurgents, the militants — or, in some cases, tribes with insurgent connections — still control the supply routes of the province, making reconstruction all but impossible without their protection.
One senior Iraqi politician with personal knowledge of the contracting system said the insurgents also use their cuts to pay border police in Syria "to look the other way" as they smuggle weapons and foot soldiers into Iraq.
"Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency," the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half."