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Opinion: Help is at Hand for Iraq

The two-day Iraq donors' conference that ended on Friday in Madrid was a success. It showed that the majority of the international community wants Iraq to recover quickly.


Iraq needs more than just money to rebuild after years of tyranny, war and international sanctions.

The Madrid donors' conference wasn't the summit of the half-hearted, which some critics had dubbed it with premature malice. They were alluding to the fact that a series of countries quite apparently showed no interest in donating money -- or better said more money -- for Iraq's reconstruction.

Of course, the unwilling parties were there, headed by Germany, France and Russia. Of course, the conference didn't muster up enough to cover the $56 billion deemed necessary for the next four years. But no one expected that anyway.

All the same, the donors' conference was a success.

It was a success because it clearly established that a large majority of the international community wants Iraq to recover quickly and become a member of the free world.

Splitting hairs

It seemed liking splitting hairs when some waverers continued to argue that normalization in Iraq must precede any further aid to the country. Their remonstrations were obviously based on the desire to avoid legitimizing the Iraq war in retrospect by supporting U.S.-organized reconstruction measures or the governing council in Baghdad that was put in place by the Americans. The argument had already been largely invalidated by U.N. Security Council resolution 1511, which called for the World Bank and the United Nations to have more control of the aid.

Those who continue to pursue the argument fail to see that the donors aren't acting as cleaners called in to sweep up the debris after the American war. Iraq's needs don't merely stem from this war, but from three decades of brutal tyranny, from a long and wasting war against Iran and from the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1990-91. They also come from the sanctions the world imposed against the country as a result of the Gulf War.

There's nothing in history to compare it to. Still, free elections couldn't be held in Germany until four years after World War II. In Iraq, the critics already find them lacking after a few months.

Many things do indeed proceed more quickly nowadays. But, Iraq will not become a free and democratic state without help. That is the message of Madrid.

Many countries performed true feats of arithmetic to make modest contributions look impressive. But the substance of the aid may actually be secondary. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said so, too. The main thing is that help is at hand. The United States will give the most -- it also has the most at stake. But the promises of loans that other countries have given are probably just as important as Iran's offer to help Iraq export its oil.

Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent.