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Data: Simon Hinrichsen / LSE; Chart: Axios Visuals

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it was taking control of the most indebted nation in the world.

Why it matters: Iraq's debt at the time was an astonishing $130 billion, and the eradication of that debt was a rare example of international unity and cooperation in the interests of a debtor country.

  • The full story is told in "Tracing Iraqi Sovereign Debt Through Defaults
    and Restructuring," a new paper from the London School of Economics' Simon Hinrichsen, who has also created the astonishing chart above.
  • To put these numbers in context: Japan's current debt-to-GDP ratio is 238%, while the U.S. is at 106%. Iraq, in the mid-1990s, had a ratio well above 1,000%.

The big picture: Iraq had very few debts before the Iran-Iraq war of 1980–1988. Western countries armed Iraq during that war, and accepted IOUs for their weapons despite knowing that Iraq was already insolvent.

  • In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and, in so doing, lost the support of the West. Subsequent sanctions prompted Iraq's economy to implode, sending its debt-to-GDP ratio into the stratosphere.
  • After 1997, the United Nations' oil-for-food program helped to get Iraq's economy back onto its feet, and the debt-to-GDP ratio started falling. But the total amount of debt only fell after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

After the war, the UN took the extraordinary step of immunizing all of Iraq's assets from attachment by creditors. That put Iraq in an extremely strong negotiating position, and ultimately the country managed to persuade creditors to accept a reduction of 80% in the value of their debts.

Where it stands: Iraq today may be facing political turmoil, but its sovereign finances are in good shape, with a low debt-to-GDP ratio, substantial foreign reserves, and a healthy fiscal surplus.

Go deeper: U.S. to send "additional forces" after embassy in Baghdad attacked by protesters

Go deeper

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Trump, McConnell to move fast to replace Ginsburg

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump will move within days to nominate his third Supreme Court justice in just three-plus short years — and shape the court for literally decades to come, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are ready to move to confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, just 46 days away, setting up one of the most consequential periods of our lifetimes, the sources say.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 30,393,591 — Total deaths: 950,344— Total recoveries: 20,679,272Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 6,722,699 — Total deaths: 198,484 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.