- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Foreign countries are billions of dollars delinquent on their pledges to help Iraq rebuild, and four years after the war began, the international reconstruction effort is still mostly funded by the United States.

Some of the biggest deadbeats are Iraq’s oil-rich neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which are both about a half-billion dollars in arrears, and the United Arab Emirates, which has failed to make good on one penny of a $215 million promise, according to Iraqi government statistics.

The poor fundraising is another blow to President Bush, who in June assigned a special team to try to get other nations to meet their pledges — but eight months later has little to show for it. Of $15 billion in initial pledges at the Madrid donors’ conference in 2003 and in follow-up conferences, foreign donors have made good on about $4 billion.

Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom are all more than $100 million delinquent, as is Japan, which has finalized only $1.5 billion of its $5 billion pledge. And momentum has waned — the international donor committee that oversees Iraqi reconstruction funding hasn’t met since 2005 — even as other demands pile up for international aid, such as the nearly $8 billion countries pledged last month to help Lebanon.

The Iraqi statistics also show that the United States is the most delinquent of any nation in nominal terms, with $6.4 billion still outstanding on the U.S. pledge of $18.4 billion, although the $12 billion the United States has sent is far and away the most of any country.

The Defense Department’s Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., in a new report last week, said international funding is reaching a turning point where those bilateral foreign donations will become more critical as the existing funds managed by the World Bank and United Nations become exhausted.

“Assistance from other international donors is likely to play an increasing role in financing reconstruction in Iraq,” the inspector general said.

Congress is also looking at reconstruction, with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, holding hearings today and tomorrow on the U.S. role in the process and the use of private military contractors.

The issue has been an on-again, off-again priority for Mr. Bush. Back in June, as he prepared to meet European leaders before the U.S.-EU summit, the president demanded other nations come through, noting that just $3.5 billion of the $13 billion in non-U.S. pledges had been paid at the time. He named a team of top officials, including Deputy Treasury Secretary Bob Kimmitt and State Department Counselor Phil Zelikow, to travel the world to secure support.

The White House has been reluctant to name the delinquents, with National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley telling reporters in June he didn’t want to “get into specific names.” But Iraq has now named them, establishing a Web site to track pledges, contributions and projects at www.mop-iraq.org.

Calls to the Iraqi Embassy in Washington went unanswered, as did an e-mail seeking information.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos said nations in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, have benefited from oil prices but have not stepped up their commitments to help out neighboring Iraq.

“The countries in the region are not indifferent bystanders to the events in Iraq. They must engage, at a minimum, by sharing the financial burden of this enterprise,” said Mr. Lantos, California Democrat, calling on Mr. Bush to lean harder on others. “The administration must do a better job at applying effective diplomacy to engage other partners who have a stake in the outcome in Iraq.”

At a hearing last month, Mr. Lantos asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice why neighbors such as the Saudis have not come through. Miss Rice said they have had to try to convince the Saudis that a failed Iraq would be a problem for them.

“I think they are getting there,” she said of the Saudis’ thinking.

Earlier reports by the inspector general also said the dangerous security situation in Iraq was making some nations wary of committing funds.

This week the State Department official told The Washington Times there are several avenues countries are working through, including debt forgiveness. The official also said the United Nations is trying to launch a new International Compact with Iraq (ICI) that would bind Iraq to an economic-restructuring program “in return for increased political and financial support from the international community.” The compact has been negotiated but not finalized.

The official said some countries and multilateral organizations have fulfilled their pledges: The European Commission met its initial $235 million pledge and provided an additional $269 million by the end of 2006, with more on the way in 2007.

And the official said that Japan, the second-largest pledged nation, is giving much of its money as soft loans that have long-term durations, which take longer to set up. In December, Japan announced two new loans totaling $738 million.

In addition to international funds, the U.S. inspector general identified $50.45 billion the Iraqi government has had from oil sales, frozen or seized funds and new government spending that has gone to its own reconstruction.

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