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Iraq Makes Amends and Fends Off Attacks Ahead of Summit
22.03.2012 by Hassan Shahin
As Iraq prepares to host the Arab League Summit March 27 – 29, it has been seeking to make amends for past mistakes. Iraq has been arranging political and economic deals across the Middle East in an attempt to put an end to Saddam Hussein-era disputes and to build commercial alliances, in an effort to paint itself as a viable investment entity following the termination of the US military occupation. However, at the same time, insurgents are ramping up attacks in the capital in a bid to destabilize Iraq’s image within the Arab League.
Reparations for Kuwait Invasion
The Summit will be the first Arab League meeting to be held in Baghdad since March 1990, just months before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Ahead of the upcoming meeting, Iraq is hoping to right the wrongs that took place during that time. Several days ago Iraq came to an agreement with Egypt to transfer roughly $408 million to 637,000 Egyptian workers forced to flee Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. These “yellow remittances” were actually supposed to be paid to Egypt two years ago, but last year’s Arab Spring protests and the ouster of Hosni Mubarak delayed the process. Including interest, Iraq owes roughly $952 million, but the payment of interest will be negotiated at a later date.
Iraq also recently negotiated deals with Kuwait in which Kuwait agreed to cancel its legal action against Baghdad regarding aircraft and parts stolen during Iraq’s 6-month occupation. Kuwait dropped its $1.2 billion claim and in return Iraq paid $500 million towards reparations and the creation of a joint airline.
Iraq will continue to pay Kuwait reparations for the invasion, amounting to 5% of Iraq’s annual oil revenues. These reparations have already cost Baghdad $22 billion and another $17 billion are still due.
Insurgents Seek to Disrupt
Government and security officials had warned that al-Qaeda and Sunni sympathizers would ramp up attacks in the country ahead of the Summit as a way to create fears about Baghdad’s stability and prevent the $400 million plans for hosting the Summit. Plans for Baghdad to host the meeting last year were postponed due to safety concerns and the eruption of the Arab revolts.
46 people were killed and over 200 injured in attacks across Iraq on Tuesday. All in all, 8 cities were attacked on Tuesday in what appeared to be coordinated bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims and police and government officials.
However, the government insists that these efforts will be in vain. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in a statement, conveyed: “Such cowardly acts will not deter the national government and the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the success of the Arab summit in Baghdad to receive the guests and leaders who are invited… we condemn this terrorist act and those politically frustrated terrorists who did it.”
It appears that more attacks might be on the way. A senior military official said that intelligence indicates only 40% of the arsenal al-Qaeda has stored for the summit has been used, and a statement on the website of an al-Qaeda affiliated group said, “Death is approaching you, when you least expect it.”
However, Minister Zebari still remains hopeful about the meeting. He said, “We are the master of our decisions and our destiny, and we will address the remaining unresolved issues from past years. The big idea is that the summit will enhance international confidence in Iraq – in business, in trade and in diplomatic and commercial relations.”