It is just three weeks since Iraq formally took over responsibility for its own security, as American forces retreated from the streets to their bases.
The highly-symbolic transfer of power was meant to reassure both Iraqis themselves and the outside world that Baghdad is on the road to recovery. But it is an enormous job, with everything from traffic lights to a reliable electricity supply needing replacing throughout the country. Towns and cities have been smashed by war, and few ordinary Iraqis can say their lives have improved since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The bill will be huge, and Iraq will have to find the money from somewhere. Fortunately, it sits on some of the biggest oil and gas deposits in the world. It is thought there could be 115 billion barrels of crude waiting to be exploited, and, as security improves, production should rise bringing in vital funds. Kurds in the north have begun selling drilling permits, but that money will stay in the semi-autonomous region, with little benefit to the rest of the country. It is a source of potential renewed conflict. The United Nations may offer a helping hand, by lifting Iraq’s Chapter Seven status. That resolution requires Baghdad to hand over five per cent of all oil revenues as reparations for the 1991 Gulf War, and is now seen as unfairly burdening the country with the crimes of a former regime.