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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Backgrounder: Rebuilding Iraq

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Greg Bruno, Staff Writer

Updated: December 13, 2007

It’s been a long climb for the cradle of civilization. After a flourish of architectural genius in the late-1950s (Frank Lloyd Wright once had a major project in Baghdad), and a brief stop at the top of the Arab world’s development index in the 1970s, Iraqi infrastructure has foundered. Frequent power outages and poor water quality defined Iraqi daily life during the country’s eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, the economic sanctions of the 1990s, and the current war with the United States. But today, while improvements to basic services are marked by regular setbacks, there are signs of gradual progress. One basic measure of stability—power production—reached its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion in October 2007. Local government officials are making efforts to collect garbage and clean up long-neglected parks in places like Baghdad. And oil production—the lifeblood of Iraq—rebounded in early 2007 and is hovering at prewar levels.

Status of Government Services
While political progress has lagged, U.S. and Iraqi officials have made inroads restoring government services. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, is helping to build a sewage-treatment plant (PDF) in Fallujah, that city’s first ever. Army engineers are building roads in Dhi Qar province, post offices in Diwaniyah, and a host of other civil-society projects around the country. Many are now being handed over to Iraqis for operation. “On services like electricity things have been improving lately, in large part I suspect because the volume of attacks on infrastructure has gone down,” says Stephen Biddle, CFR senior fellow for defense policy. “As the violence level goes down, service provision will naturally pick up.”

Some Iraqis say progress has been painfully slow.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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