A Tale of Two Springs

Facilitating peace, development and banking in Mosul, Iraq

A Day With Hazziz

with 2 comments

I have spent my first few weeks here meeting with local officials, public and private. In the meetings we discuss politics and family and economics, with a mild focus on the banking system and understanding how we can best facilitate its role as a spark of job creation and economic growth. Money is a weapons system here.

I sat across from the provincial governor, confident and emboldened by a recent excursion to Kurdish lands in which he had previously been denied entry. The governor, with a smile, whispered to me that I not do to his province whatever I did to Wall Street. While there, an aide to the mayor of Mosul advised me to go see a man we will call Hazziz. Hazziz runs an operation that finds employment for tens of thousands of Iraqis. And Hazziz faces a lack of funding and the impending job losses that will follow. Coupled with the stress of approaching elections, the mayor’s office fears a spike in violence. A few days later, thanks to an American colleague who has a good working relationship with Hazziz, I rode through the streets of Mosul to Hazziz’s office.

The travel experience has become routine now. I try to see it through their eyes every step of the way, how entertaining an American guest in Mosul these days is roughly akin to making an appearance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with the Iraqis starring as the humans. We go to extreme measures for our safety, all of which are most certainly necessary. But it also makes for an awkward arrival at a serious business meeting. We show up in a large convoy of tanks, on this occasion we took a few steps off the street and into an ornately decorated office. Upon our arrival, the first act, as always, is to disrobe out of the 30-odd lbs. of camouflage body armor and helmet. Hazziz and his associates generously offered their assistance as we sorted out our gear, trying to place it in some organized fashion on a large swath of Turkish rug in the middle of his office. I straighten my tie and quickly unwrinkle my suit jacket. Time to get to work. No scene has illustrated to me the strange setting here as neatly as the routine-ness with which Iraqis welcome our fully armed arrival.

Hazziz’s office stretches over 40 feet long and, with couches lining the perimeter, could comfortably sit 30 people. A full-sized Iraqi flag hung behind Hazziz, dwarfing the man of slight build that sat before us. You can tell a lot by looking into a man’s eyes, by hearing his voice and sharing trivial niceties over a warm drink, and Hazziz is a friend.

Over several cups of tea, coffee and bottled water followed by a lunch in which he served me like the best of Arab grandmothers, Hazziz showed a tremendous commitment to his people, to his team. A life long bureaucrat, through the Saddam years, the Coalition Provisional Authority and now, the Iraqi democratic experiment, Hazziz seems not to have lost his passion. He began by reciting to us the latest threats on his life. Threats, we know, are not unrelated to his willingness to sit and talk to us. His primary focus, though, was elsewhere. He repeatedly expressed concern about 20 of his workers who needed housing at a work location where the US military was in charge of security. He pleaded with us to allow his men to stay there. He wanted the job to get done, and he wanted his people to earn their salaries.

Hazziz also told us about the forthcoming layoffs. He had about 15,000 temporary workers, in hospitals and at various government agencies. One arm of the Iraqi government discontinued the program for reasons beyond his control. There was corruption throughout the program in other provinces of Iraq, he said. He hoped the Iraqi government would pick up the tab to maintain these jobs. He said what I have heard time and again in my brief time here, that the violence remaining in Iraq is economic much more than it is political, ethnic or religious. End these temporary jobs and watch levels of violence rise. Unsure what exactly to do, we wrote down the issue. Added it to the list.

I have seen very little thus far. But I have gained a slight glimpse of the challenge. Decades of educational and economic dysfunction followed by a rapidly privatizing economy is no formula for short-term market success. It is a little scary to listen to the calculus repeated. Unemployment begets violence. The Iraqi government must provide jobs or we must work with the private sectors here to create them.

Photo courtesy of the Spartans out of Fort Stewart, Georgia (2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division)


Written by treadingupthetigris

February 14, 2010 at 1:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Two men equally impassioned, committed, driven and wise working together for the common good sounds almost unstoppable.

    He is insightful about Wall Street and our own economy. We share in common the whole unemployment fiasco. Whether on Park Ave. in NYC or in the slums of Mosul one thing is for sure, people need shelter and food and employment is a way for these very basic necessities to be attained. Crimes rise when unemployment is up! People will do whatever is necessary for their survival.

    There is hope when people can come together, regardless of their circumstance, to strive for a better world by committing themselves to the cause by sharing of thier resources of knowledge, wisdom, history, relevant and data and finances with honesty, fortitude, trust and integrity. It sounds like you and Hazziz are well on your way Matt! Keep on keepin on one day at a time!

    Be safe!!

    Sheryl Allston

    February 14, 2010 at 3:40 am

  2. What great challenges you face! i wish you much success in overcoming them.


    February 14, 2010 at 7:33 pm

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