Surface Forces: February 28, 2003


Iraqi oil smugglers, frustrated by Iranian cooperation with the UN embargo, thought they had a clever new idea. They began using dozens of small, wooden ships (traditional Arab dhows) to move the oil to nearby countries. The idea was that dhows leaving Iraq were not usually searched, and if a large number of them left at night, the warships in off the Iraqi coast could not stop and search many of them. One night recently, 68 dhows came out loaded with barrels of oil. But the Iraqis picked a bad time to try this. American SEALs and British Royal Marine commandos were assembling in the area for an invasion of Iraq. The British and American commandos brought with them dozens of their special small, fast, boats. The commandos were also equipped and trained to operate at night. Most of the dhows found themselves being stopped, with their cargo and boats seized and crews arrested for smuggling. That was the end of that bright idea. The oil smuggling is organized and controlled by Saddam Hussein's family and is thought to bring in several billion dollars a year. Or at least it was until the big crack down over the last year. The money was used to keep Saddam's henchmen happy and to develop or buy new weapons. 


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