Who is not corrupt in Iraq?

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, December 4, 2012

There are many news stories about corruption in Iraq these days. The strange thing is that these stories do not emanate from the media. It is the government and its bodies who are the most vociferous about them.

Iraq has its own integrity commission, an anti-corruption watchdog. The commission has been doing some good job to the extent that one Iraqi minister has publicly said that he and his employees now dread it very much.

However, some other officials complain that the commission is interfering with their daily work and forbidding them from taking right decisions.

For Iraq to have a watchdog with such powers is something to be recommended. But it is rather strange for public officials to complain about the oversight of an anti-corruption watchdog, although it said that some of its decisions have been politically motivated.

The integrity commission’s work is intrusive because corruption is rampant in government ranks. Hundreds of millions of dollars go missing without a trace and the embezzlement is done under the glare of the sun. No decent anti-corruption official could turn a blind eye when corruption is on such a large-scale.

For many Iraqis, stories about corruption no longer attract attention no matter how massive the sums involved. A situation like this is very dangerous because it means corruption has become a culture which is part of the common sense in the society.

Corruption became a real problem in the years from 1991-2003 when the value of the Iraqi dinar collapsed under punitive U.N. trade sanctions, making it almost impossible for millions of Iraqis to make ends meet.

Sanctions were removed shortly after the 2003-U.S. invasion but the culture did not change and today many Iraqis are convinced that corruptive practices are there to stay.

How could one think that there will be a serious fight against corruption when a multi-billion dollar deal to purchase arms with Russia is mired in corruption at a time it was signed by Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki himself.

I am not blaming the prime minister at all but how could those working directly under him be involved in corruption regarding the deal? Does not this mean that even senior officials with close ties to the prime minister can strike their own corruptive deals whenever they wish?