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Kuwait Conference Aims To Raise Funds To Rebuild Iraq Post-ISIS


Our colleague Jane Arraf posted two photos on Twitter the other day. Both were from the Iraqi city of Mosul, devastated during the fight to retake it from ISIS. An image from one neighborhood showed a recovering city - people sipping coffee inside a cafe with paintings on the walls. A photo from a different neighborhood showed buildings blasted to rubble and a pile of twisted weapons on the street.

At a conference today, Iraq is asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for help to rebuild. And Jane Arraf is covering that part of the story, too. Hi there, Jane.


INSKEEP: What's it like when you go to a city like Mosul?

ARRAF: I cannot tell you how bizarre it is because it's just a bridge away. So on the east side where there wasn't a lot of damage, the people are rebuilding, and it's this sort of renaissance - the cafes. And then you cross the river, and it is absolutely devastating - you know, entire neighborhoods in the old section of the city where there isn't a single building standing.

And seven months later, there's no electricity. There's no water. There's nobody helping. There are just lots of angry, frustrated people who lost relatives and are trying to rebuild their lives. Let's listen to a little bit of this. It was near what used to be the main shopping square and now devastated.


ARRAF: So those are widows and elderly men that are saying they come there every single day. They're hoping an aid group will show up. But nobody has shown up. Instead they took me into homes where people were still finding bones of ISIS fighters in their houses, alleys where there were still unexploded bombs.

INSKEEP: Well, what do people say about their condition?

ARRAF: You know, one of the things is that they say nobody cares. They say their government doesn't care, and some say it's for sectarian reasons. This is a Sunni community. They say the world doesn't care. I talked to one man, Manhal Zedan (ph), who had lost his daughter and two of his sisters, and he's still trying to dig his house from out - under the rubble. And this is what he told me.

MANHAL ZEDAN: (Through interpreter) They haven't even cleared the streets so that people can come back to their houses. Where are all these countries that were so brave about destroying? They destroy so quickly, and there's no rebuilding.

ARRAF: And when he says, where are all those countries, of course the first country they think of is the United States.


ARRAF: So it's safe now in Mosul, but the worry is that with no jobs, no hope and, most importantly, the feeling that their own government doesn't care about them, people worry that it could be a breeding ground for a new version of ISIS.

INSKEEP: And this is a government of course that's allied with the United States. And we mentioned that conference where Iraqi officials are meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. What are they asking from the United States?

ARRAF: Well, what they were hoping for was money. They have told donors that they need $23 billion just in the short term to repair damage from the fighting. There's still more than 2 and a half million people displaced, more than 150,000 homes damaged or destroyed. But Secretary Tillerson has made clear that the U.S. is not in the nation building business anymore, and they're not in the giving money to Iraq business anymore so much. They want the private sector to step up. They've brought a whole bunch of American companies to Kuwait, and they believe Iraq should do a lot of this itself. The problem is that Iraq has fought a very expensive war for three years. It's not the easiest place to do business by any means, and so it's going to be a tough sell convincing American companies and others that they should go in and help rebuild Iraq.

INSKEEP: Jane, thanks for your coverage - really appreciate it.

ARRAF: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Jane Arraf.


Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.
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