Iraq used to be one of the few Arab countries that could grow enough to feed itself. But decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein ruined the farming sector. Actually, Saddam stopped investing in infrastructure and the economy over two decades ago, when he invaded Iran. That ruinous war plunged Iraq into debt. His subsequent invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was an attempt to eliminate over $10 billion in debt by conquering the country that lent him the money. Even though the UN set up the oil-for-food program in the 1990s to provide money for reconstruction, most of it was used for other purposes. The reconstruction going on now is the first most Iraqis have seen since 1980. Only the Sunni Arab areas had money spent on them in the last twenty years.
In addition to repairing the irrigation system, new industries have been created, like fish farming. New, more productive types of seeds have been brought in. Saddam would not provide money for improved seed varieties, so Iraqi agriculture fell behind the rest of the world. New crops have been introduced, like alfalfa, which, when fed to cows, increase milk production by about 50 percent.
Most of the people running the reconstruction projects are Iraqis, and most of the foreigners are non-American. The only danger is in some Sunni Arab areas. Many Sunni Arabs support the Sunni Arab terrorists, but they are having second thoughts as they see the reconstruction progress in other parts of the country. As the Sunni Arabs fall farther behind in economic terms, their willingness to support the terrorism falters. The terrorists want to restore Sunni Arab rule to the country. But as time goes on, that appears less likely, even to hard core supports of the violence. Over a thousand reconstruction projects are currently underway in the 80 percent of the country that is Kurdish or Shia Arab.
One of the most powerful peacekeeping tools, aside from keeping the peace, is improving the lives of the people. In Iraq, most of the country is at peace. A few thousand Sunni Arabs continue to terrorize the population, mostly in Sunni Arab areas. As a result, most of the reconstruction has taken place in the Kurdish and Shia Arab regions. In 18 months, nearly 3,000 schools have been rehabilitated or built. Nearly nine million new textbooks were reprinted, or created from scratch (to replace old ones that mentioned Saddam Hussein a lot.) Electrical power production is up 20 percent, and the transmission system has been rebuilt. This has made it possible to distribute electricity equally over the entire country. Under Saddam Hussein, Baghdad and other Sunni Arab areas in central Iraq had priority on electricity, while the rest of the country often got only a few hours a day. Now everyone gets over 12 hours a day. This pleases the majority of Iraqis, but not the Sunni Arabs, and especially not those living in Baghdad.