Kuwait’s ruling emir said on Wednesday that his oil-rich nation will give $1 billion in loans and $1 billion in direct investments to help rebuild Iraq, a stunning donation as only a generation ago Saddam Hussein invaded the small, oil-rich nation.
Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah’s offer shows the deep interest his nation has in making sure Iraq becomes a peaceful, stable country after the war against the Islamic State group and the chaos that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Baghdad. Iraq also still owes Kuwait reparations from its 1990 invasion.
“This large assembly of international communities that are here today is reflective of the large loss that Iraq withstood in facing terrorism,” Sheikh Sabah said at a donor’s summit at Kuwait City’s Bayan Palace.
“Iraq cannot commence the mission of rebuilding itself without support, which is why we are all here today from all around the world, to stand by Iraq’s side,” he added.
Kuwait’s pledge was followed by the promise of a 400 million euro ($494 million) donation from the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
However, the country needs far more donations on Wednesday, the last day of an appeal for funding to come forward at the Kuwait conference. Overall, Iraq is seeking $88.2 billion in aid from donors.
Among the hardest-hit areas in Iraq is the city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces, aided by a U.S.-led coalition, recaptured from the Islamic State terror group in July 2017. Iranian-backed Shiite militias also participated in the operation, fighting in the villages around the city.
The victory came at a steep cost for Mosul, as coalition airstrikes and suicide car bombs destroyed homes and government buildings.
Of the money needed, Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion alone needs to go toward rebuilding homes, the biggest single-line item offered Monday, on the first day of meetings. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
The war against the Islamic State group displaced more than 5 million people in Iraq, only half of whom have returned to their hometowns.
However, officials acknowledge a feeling of fatigue from international donors, especially after the wars in Iraq and Syria sparked the biggest mass migration since World War II. Iraq also is OPEC’s second-largest crude producer and home to the world’s fifth-largest known reserves, though it has struggled to pay international firms running them.
The United States under President Donald Trump also seems uninterested in directly investing in Iraq’s reconstruction.
The U.S. alone spent $60 billion over nine years — some $15 million a day — to rebuild Iraq. Around $25 billion went to Iraq’s military, which disintegrated during the lightning 2014 offensive of the Islamic State group, which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq. U.S. government auditors also found massive waste and corruption, fueling suspicions of Western politicians like Trump who want to scale back foreign aid.
However, the U.S. is expected to offer an over-$3 billion package for Iraq from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The package will be structured so that the initial amount could rise to as much as $5 billion over several years. That money would include loans, loan guarantees and insurance devices to encourage American investment in Iraq
Meanwhile, regional tensions may affect how spending comes. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended the meeting, skipping a group photograph held before. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations remain suspicious of Iran’s influence in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged all his country’s neighbors to contribute.
“We need to rely on all our neighbors and friends to help Iraq invest in its future,” he said.