The Foundations of Thi Qar

It was the job of retired ambassador Tim Carney to get Iraq’s economy moving again, but disputes began quickly: how much investment did these factories need before exposing them to the mercy of global capitalism, and what protective measures should be in place before such plans were executed?

For Bremer, who privatized all industry except oil and gas (yes, oil and gas- see CPA Order 39) the answer was shock exposure to capitalism. This effort largely failed as Iraq was flooded with cheap foreign imports: Iraq’s factories that had produced leather products and suits, as well as cars and trucks, didn’t have much chance to compete. As a hydra-headed insurgency took form, who was going to invest now?

Fast forward to the Sunni rebellion against al Qaeda rule in Anbar and the stabilising effect of the troop “Surge” of 2007. Perhaps now the investors would look to Arab Iraq, as well as the traditionally secure Kurdish region.

It was up to Paul Brinkley, head of a new Department of Defence “Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations in Iraq,” to see if anything could be polished up for foreign business. That effort from the former telecoms executive was ambitious, perhaps too ambitious given disputes over this policy between US departments of State and Defence. By the time TFBSO had wrapped up its mission, several billion dollars’worth of investment was in the pipeline. Questions of sustainability loomed.

Brinkley envisaged Iraqi factories rejuvenated and signing deals with US chain stores, but despite some promising starts, wasn’t to be. Nonetheless, one notable success of his mission is the still functioning car and truck assembly plant at Iskandariyah, which has seen a flurry of contracts with leading international automotive companies such as Mercedes, Scania, and more recently has seen investment from Iran and China. That’s a huge jump from its predicament in 2003, when only 75 staff from an original 10,000 were working. In Baghdad, the Marriot Hotel is another testament to Brinkley’s efforts.

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