Greganti: “Many expectations disappointed after the change of regime, but now the desire for normality and not to go back to the past. Italy among Iraq’s most important partners, never abandoned”
Twenty years after the start of the US war in Iraq, “many expectations” of regime change in Baghdad “have been disappointed, but Iraqis have nonetheless managed to build one of the few functioning democracies in the region.” L’Italian ambassador in Baghdad, Maurizio Greganti, draws “a picture of light and shadow” on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the war launched by George W. Bush to put an end to the “brutal and oppressive” regime of Saddam Hussein and export democracy to the country.
“The American intervention – the ambassador told Adnkronos – had aroused enormous expectations in the population for a regime change. Twenty years later we can say that part of those expectations have been disappointed: the regime change has taken place, but it has not brought stability and security, rather civil war and the terrorism of al Qaeda and Isis”. And yet, Greganti acknowledges, “the Iraqis have managed to build, despite a thousand difficulties, a democracy that works with many limitations and is one of the very few in the Middle East”.
In Iraq we vote every four years and the 2021 elections “were the most successful, certified by international observation missions as correct and transparent, without problems of public order and access to the vote, albeit with a low turnout”, recalls the ‘ambassador. And today the country is experiencing “a phase of stability after the formation of the government last October”, despite the presence of pro-Iranian militias, which the executive is trying to “manage” and which “do not represent a destabilizing element as regards security “, argues Greganti.
In this picture “Iraqis look to the future with confidence, there is a great desire for normality and not to go back to the past“. An aspiration, this, observes the ambassador, favored by the fact that “60% of the population is under 30 years old, in 2003 there were 23 million inhabitants, today there are 42, a fact that has many implications”. If on the one hand, explains the diplomat, “the majority of the population does not remember Saddam and has not experienced his regime”, on the other the demographic growth “so tumultuous leads to an increase in the demand for labor that the market is unable to absorb” .
They are the lights and shadows of the new Iraq, which has among its most urgent problems “the need to provide adequate services and infrastructures, because in these twenty years little has been done, to address the issues linked to the lack of water and the phenomena extreme weather, caused by climate change, while continuing to fight against widespread corruption”, Greganti underlines.
The ambassador then spoke of the bilateral relations between Italy and Iraq – of which we are “one of the most important partners, we have never abandoned him and the Iraqis acknowledge it” – listing all the sectors in which our commitment is strong and continuous, from archaeological to security, from development cooperation to economics.
Greganti first of all recalls the cooperation in the archaeological sector, “with Italian support for 19 missions”, and cites the case of Abu Ghreib, the suburb of Baghdad which has become sadly known for the prison which was the scene of torture and cruelty, but which is today relevant for being home to a 600-hectare archaeological site dating back to 1,400 BC A site for which there is a project by the University of Bologna led by professor Niccolò Marchetti and which is somewhat the symbol of the new Iraq that wants to leave behind the past to “look to the future with confidence”, transforming it into an attraction for tourism.
Then there’s “the our contribution to the stabilization of security, which has significantly improved – underlines the ambassador – There are still terrorist cells, which occasionally carry out attacks, but in the most remote areas of the country”. “Our Armed Forces – he recalls – are present both within the framework of the international anti-Daesh coalition and on a bilateral level and within the framework of the NATO mission, which today is the largest ‘out of area’ and is under the command of the Italian general Giovanni Maria Iannucci. Our soldiers mainly deal with training and support for the formation of local forces and our carabinieri are considered an organizational model for the Iraqi federal police”.
Then there are the economic reports: “According to data relating to the period January-November 2022, Italy-Iraq trade stood at around 5.5 billion euros, 50% more than in the same period of 2021 and this growth – he explains – is mainly due to the fact that we have increased today’s purchases of crude oil from Iraq, which is one of our main suppliers. But our exports have also grown by 25% and our interest in investing is increasing”.
The contribution in the field of development cooperation is still “very important: Italy has carried out many projects, in the areas freed from Daesh there are programs to support refugees in refugee camps, the reconstruction of schools, roads and services has been started – lists Greganti, recalling “the important intervention for the Mosul dam which was at risk of collapse due to the Isis attacks – Overall we are one of the most important partners, relations are excellent, we have always been alongside Iraq and we never gave up on it.”
Finally, the ambassador recalled that in 2022 there were five ministerial delegations, “the last of which on 23 December with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who confirmed the level of due attention to a country that seems far away, but whose dynamics have important repercussions for Italy and for Europe, as demonstrated by the migrant crisis, mostly Iraqi Kurds, at the end of 2021 on the border between Poland and Belarus”. “For us – he says – it is important to convey the message to the local authorities that Italy is absolutely attentive to what is happening in this part of the world and we are constantly working in favor of regional and global security and stability”.