2004 May 28 Friday
Looting For Export Continues In Iraq

Thought the looting in Iraq must have stopped by now? Writing for the New York Times James Glanz reports on continued looting of valuable equipment from Iraq. (same article here)

Recent examinations of Jordanian scrapyards, including by a reporter for The New York Times, have turned up an astounding quantity of scrap metal and new components from Iraq's civil infrastructure, including piles of valuable copper and aluminum ingots and bars, large stacks of steel rods and water pipe and giant flanges for oil equipment — all in nearly mint condition — as well as chopped-up railroad boxcars, huge numbers of shattered Iraqi tanks and even beer kegs marked with the words "Iraqi Brewery."

"There is a gigantic salvage operation, stripping anything of perceived value out of the country," said John Hamre, president and chief executive of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington research institute, which sent a team to Iraq and issued a report on reconstruction efforts at the request of the Pentagon last July.

A Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman is quoted as saying that the 100+ trucks hauling scrap metal into Jordan each day are not carrying anything of high value. But one Jordanian engineer sees obvious evidence that this is not the case.

But Muhammad al-Dajah, an engineer who is technical director Jordanian free-trade zones like the Sahab scrapyard, pointed with chagrin to piles of other items that hardly looked as if they belonged in a shipment of scrap metal. There were new 15-foot-long bars of carbon steel, water pipes a foot in diameter stacked in triangular piles 10 feet high, and the large flanges he identified as oil-well equipment.

"It's still new," Mr. Dajah said, "and worth a lot."

"Why are they here?" he asked rhetorically, and then said, referring to the devastation in Iraq. "They need it there."

What Iraq obviously needs is a better internal black market so that the stolen goods can stay in the country to be used for local purposes. But the fact that the equipment is being exported suggests there is not enough enough internal demand for construction materials.

Well, look at it on the bright side: The US has been very slow in spending money in Iraq to rebuild. This has prevented lots of US taxpayer dollars from buying equipment that would have been stolen and exported.

How to create an efficient internal market for security? If government-owned industries were more rapidly privatized would that create more incentives to protect valuable assets?

There is a continuing need in Iraq for replacement oil equipment as existing equipment gets stolen or blown up. The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) provides a useful resource for tracking attacks on oil facilities in Iraq with its Iraq Pipeline Watch.

51. May 8 - attack on oil pipeline taking crude northwards from the country’s southern oilfields at point 25 miles (40 km) south of Baghdad, oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said on Saturday, noting it would take several days to start pumping oil again.
52. May 9 - blast near a strategic oil pipeline network linking north and south Iraq, by the town of Musayyib, about 56 miles (90 km) south of Baghdad. Unclear what caused the explosion or whether the pipeline itself was damaged.
53. May 13 - rocket landed in a gas plant at the Daura oil refinery in Baghdad, injured a worker and caused a fire.
54. May 24 - explosion badly damaged the Northern pipeline at around 7pm local time on a section between the Kirkuk oilfields and the Dibis pumping installations. A security official of Iraq's Northern Oil Company, Juma Ahmad, said pumping had to be stopped to fight the fire. Another security official for Northern Oil, Issam Muhammad, said while the fire had been put out it would take 12 days to repair the damage.

Imagine what the effect would be on the world's economy if Saudi Arabia decayed to this level of instability.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 May 28 02:47 PM  Mideast Iraq

gcochran said at May 29, 2004 1:12 AM:

"The US has been very slow in spending money in Iraq to rebuild. This has prevented lots of US taxpayer dollars from buying equipment that would have been stolen and exported. "

Or, worse yet, actually used to improve the infrastructure of the future Islamic Republic of Iraq.

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