Iraq: August 28, 2002


Iraq is getting some $275 million a week in oil sales for import programs approved by the UN. The money is controlled by the UN. Some is given to victims of the 1990 war, while the rest is given to the Iraqi and Kurd governments in proportion to the population in each area. Both the Iraqis and Kurdish governments add to their revenues with smuggling and other scams. The Kurd civilians live much better than do the Iraqis, mainly because much of the oil money in the south is diverted to run Saddam's police state. 

Saudi Arabia is energetically opposing any US attack on Iraq, and is using some interesting propaganda to do so. One Saudi claim is that Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the same government for over two centuries. This is a curious gambit, as it is widely known that the Saud family only took control of what is now Saudi Arabia in the 1920s. And this was after over two decades of tribal warfare. Before that, pieces of Arabia were controlled by several tribes, some of them sponsored by the Turk Ottoman empire. Saudi Arabia, and most other Arab nations, don't want a precedent set for outside forces overthrowing any Arab dictatorships. The Saudi nightmare is American troops going into Iraq, followed by TV images of joyous Iraqis greeting their liberators. While this would not bring true democracy to Iraq, it would cause great unease among other  Arab dictatorships. Iraq, like most Arab states ("tribes with flags," as one Egyptian writer put it) is still cursed with tribalism, where any elected leaders would be under great pressure to favor their tribe and kinsmen. There is no tradition of "honest government" in Arab countries. Anyone getting control of a government is expected to steal as much as they can. In effect, Saudi Arabia is saying that leaving a murderous tyrant like Saddam Hussein in power is preferable to removing him. The Saudis insist that "the people of Iraq" be allowed to choose their own leader. With a straight face, Saudis insist that the current Saudi government was selected by the Iraqi people in a 1950s revolution against a British installed monarchy. What happened in the 1950s was a coup by the Sunni minority, who controlled the army. There was never a free and fair election in Iraq to select national leadership. But that's just fine with the Saudis, because there has never been such an election in Saudi Arabia, or any other Arab state. 


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