PM Kadhimi insists on rebuilding despite domestic and foreign intervention

Puzzle of Mosul airport renovation to be solved in August

Ninewa: Part of Mosul International Airport. KirkukNow Archive

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

The Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi promised to return to Mosul in August with several promises, including laying the foundation stone of Mosul international airport, after facing criticism from the Mosulawis who expected him to put an end to the puzzle of airport renovation.

Mosul International Airport, which fell to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Daesh) in June 2014 and was destroyed, still awaits the Iraqi government's promises to reconstruct the airport since 2017 which left people disappointed yet the last trip by Premier early July have revived the hopes.

Al-Kadhimi went to Ninewa on the first day of Eid al-Adha on July 9 and held several meetings with local government officials, promising to return to the city in August to decide on unfinished projects and implement promises including the reconstruction of the damaged airport, but this is unreliable for some Mosul residents.

Qaisar Daham, a postgraduate who lives in the center of Mosul, is one of the citizens who has no hope for these promises. “The renovation of the airport is the hope of all Mosul residents, but it has become a dream,” he said. “Government officials come and promise to repair it yet later they keep silent.”

"If we have any patients or trips abroad, we have to go to Erbil or Baghdad International Airport, which makes it difficult for us and increases travel costs. I don’t take the words of Al-Kadhimi'," Qaisar said.

Mosul Airport was built in 1920 under the British mandate of Iraq as a military airport and was turned into a civil airport by the Iraqi civil aviation authority in 1922.

According to statistics previously published by KirkukNow, nearly 250,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed in Mosul by the war and airstrikes aimed at IS root out, some of which need $30,000 to rebuild and repair. The nine-month operation left at least 9,000 dead, AP says.

Back in 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS had proclaimed its caliphate. Three years later, Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition liberated the city in a fierce battle took lives of thousands and left Mosul, center of Ninewa province, in particular and the whole province of Ninewa in ruins.

According to the United Nations and the Iraqi government, six million people have been internally displaced since June 2014, mostly from Ninewa and still over one million individuals remain in displacement. The ethnoreligious minorities of Mosul and most of Ninewa faced killings, kidnappings, violence and displacement.

Ninewa: Outdoor fence of Mosul airport. KirkukNow

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime, which ruled Iraq until 2003, the airport became a major US military base, but in 2008 was handed over to the Iraqi government with new changes and international standards.

In 2015, the extremist militants of ISIL have dug 22 trenches in Mosul airport each ten meters wide and two meters deep, with 100 meters space to the next in order to avoid using it by the Iraqi army in landing operations, making a big challenge for its renovation.

Now once again, the design of the restoration is complete, the implementation was to be awarded to a French company with a loan of 300 million euros. However, no final agreement has been reached because there is a dispute between the Iraqi government and the Ninewa local government.

In December 2021, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and Paris International Airports.

Last August, president of France Emmanuel Macron paid a visit to Mosul, following Baghdad regional summit, where he met bishops in Immaculate Church of Mosul and al-Nouri Grand Mosque both destructed by the extremist militants of IS.

The ambassador of France to Iraq Éric Chevallier said the trip was a confirmation of the attention France pays to Mosul and Ninewa in general.

"The governor of Ninewa, Najim Al-Jiburi, continues to meet with the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and the Iraqi government, but no final decision has been made on the start of the project," said Rafaat Simmo, deputy governor for administrative affairs.

"My information is that the company is asking for a lot of money, so no agreement has been reached,” Simmo added without specifying the amount.

A final decision has not been made on the start of the project

The Ninewa local government recommends fort the renovation of the airport to be included in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 budgets of Ninewa province, not a loan. The Iraqi government did not spend the province's budget during those three years because the province was under the control of ISIL.

"Last year, the Iraqi government agreed to spend those three years’ budget. We want at least part of the money to be used for airport rebuilding," Simmo said.

Baghdad, December 25, 2021: The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and the Paris International Airports Company. Embassy of France in Iraq

"It is not easy to decide on this issue and the final decision is with the Iraqi Aviation Authority," he added.

Majid Shingali, a representative of Ninewa province in the Iraqi parliament, said the whole process is related to the fact that the prime minister, the local government of Ninewa and the French company disagree on mechanism and budget.

"The prime minister wants to give the project to the French company, but in the form of a loan of 300 million euros (450 billion Iraqi dinars) while the local government of Ninewa is in favor of renovating the airport by those three years’ unspent budget."

On December 27, 2021, Najim al-Jiburi told a news conference that the airport would be renovated next year.

For Qaisar Daham, who hopes to one day see flights at Mosul airport, whatever the conflict, it adds to his disappointment and lack of confidence in the promises made four years ago to repair the airport.

"There may be external interference to prevent the airport from being renovated," he said, adding that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and several Ninewa officials do not support the rebuilding process, “so that most flights land at Erbil airport.”

There seems to be external interference to prevent the airport from being renovated

"Yes, some parties say that the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) is an obstacle because it will affect the Erbil airport, but that is not true at all ... We say it is the right of the people of Mosul to complete the airport," he said.

However, he did not deny that there was internal and external interference without giving further explanation.

According to the previous investigation by KirkukNow, the damage caused by 25% of the runway has been damaged, the damage caused to the terminal is only 5%, while surveillance towers, all other equipment and other parts of the airport were completely damaged.

Ninewa, September 27, 2021: Joint press conference between Eric Chevallier, Ambassador of France to Iraq and Najim Al-Jiburi, Governor of Ninewa at Mosul International Airport.

Two days following the Premier’s trip to Mosul, protests and rallies broke out in the Ninewa plain and Bashiqa subdistrict, criticizing the Ninewa local government for not starting to repair the airport. However, the rally was interpreted as part of the political conflict between the governor and a lawmaker.

Majid Shingali, believes that the timing of Al-Kadhimi's trip to Mosul was not appropriate.

"When he visited Mosul, he should have laid the foundation stone of the renovation," as a sign to end the years of debate.

"Or at least lay the foundation stone for some big projects," he said.

In a meeting with the governor of Ninewa on July 9, Al-Kadhimi discussed the issue of airport reconstruction, according to MP Sherwan Dubardani.

"Al-Kadhimi insisted on fulfilling his promises to Mosul, especially the airport. He said at the same meeting that he would return to Mosul in August and we will decide," said Sherwan Dubardani, who attended the meeting as a member of the Iraqi parliament from Ninewa.

Al-Kadhimi insisted on fulfilling his promises to Mosul, especially the airport

On July 18, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi held a meeting in Baghdad devoted to the renovation of Mosul International Airport, in which a number of ministers, Ninewa Governor Najim Al-Jiburi and a number of experts were present and reviewed the new plan and design of the airport. with the amount of cost.

"The foundation stone of the Mosul airport project will be laid soon," the prime minister's press office said in a statement. He called this part of the fulfillment of promises to the people of Mosul.

"I don't believe the project will start. The problem is much bigger and there is internal and external interference," said Majid Shingali, one of the MPs who is investigating the issue.

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