On Monday Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (to the left) went to Södertälje, 40 km south from Stockholm. The reason for this excursion was to meet Iraqi refugees and discuss the situation in Iraq and the situation for the Iraqis in Sweden writes Dagens Nyheter.
On Thursday, Sweden will organize an international conference for a discussion of the development in Iraq. The presence of US Foreign Minister Condoleezza Rice, UN General Secretery Ban Ki-Moon and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki shows that the conference is regarded as important.
But on the other hand the hopes for quick solutions to Iraq’s problems are not very strong. Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt himself says that this conference is just a very small step on Iraq’s long way back to stability.
Reinfeldt has been criticized after he said that Sweden takes a big responsibility for the Iraqi refugees. The Major of Södertälje, Anders Lago, claims that the refugees in Sweden are very disproportionally placed. For example Södetälje received 1268 Iraqi refugees last years while Reinfeldts hometown Täby only took around 50.
Lago encouraged Reinfeldt to come to Södertälje and “see the reality” before holding an exclusive conference with fine words. Reinfeldt took the chance and went there today. The picture he got from the Iraqis he spoke to was rather dark. One of them said for example that Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Maliki lives in his own world and has no idea of how life is there.
But it must be said that Södertälje is exceptional in this case. This town of around 80 000 inhabitants has received more Iraqi refugees than USA and Canada together. This has created some practical difficulties in finding housing and jobs for all newcomers.
Despite the pessimistic atmosphere among the Iraqis that Reinfeldt met, he is still determined that it is better to do something than nothing. This conference, he says to Dagens Nyheter is an “ant-step” in the long road towards a stable Iraq. Even if it is a small step, it is important. One of the aims of this conference is that the role of UN in Iraq is to be increased in Iraq.
The arrangement of this Conference has been criticized by some Swedish acticists. For example Sköld Peter Mattis, former activist against the US war in Vietnam and today active in the Swedish organized network against the US invastion of Iraq, claims that the frame of the conference is based on a US-perspective.
He claims that it is the US interests that are strengthened by the conference. Even if Al-Maliki is one of the initiators, he and his government is only in power thanks to the US occupational force, according to what Mattis says to the Swedish Radio.
Other commentators like political scientist Kaled Salih from Odense University and advisor to the Oil Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, claims that those who can get something out of this conference are the Iraqis. They will get more attention on the international agenda. He means that the focus should move now from security towards more development.
The last five years in Iraq have as we all know been overshadowed by violence. This has meant that the human development issues for the country have been secondary.
Let us see whether this conference can move the focus a little bit towards long-term development planning. Then life will perhaps become a little bit easier for the Iraqis. That would in turn perhaps lessen the frustration and some of the reasons for the continuation of the violence in the country.