Iraq: September 1, 2004

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Former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi survived an assassination attempt. Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who developed connections in the Pentagon, is now accused of supplying Iran with American secrets, and of corruption in Iraq. His main enemies are former Saddam supporters, although many Shia don't care for him either. To most Iraqis, Chalabi is an example of Iraqi exiles who came home to steal. 

A radical Sunni Arab group, an offshoot of al Qaeda,  released a video of the murder of twelve Nepalese civilian workers. The men had been seized twelve days ago and their kidnappers didn't quite know what to do with them. Nepal has no troops in Iraq, and is preoccupied with a communist rebellion at home. But oil rich Arab nations employ millions of poor workers from South Asia. Non Moslems are often preferred, as they are less likely to be involved with radical Islamic groups. The murdered Nepalese were Buddhists.  The foreign workers in the region send home over $25 billion a year, and the risk of getting killed by terrorists hasn't stopped the flow of job seekers. The number of terrorist attacks, for example,  is far below the number of deaths in road accidents. To an impoverished South Asian, the math is still very appealing. There have been some disruptions when some countries, like the Philippines, ordered it's civilians out of Iraq, but back home, the Philippines is under popular pressure to lift this ban. Too many Filipinos depend on those jobs. 

Why hire so many foreigners when there is so much unemployment in the Persian Gulf? Mostly, it's the availability of oil money, politics, and a poor work ethic. Unlike many other parts of the world, Arab men would often prefer unemployment to taking a job they consider beneath them. In Iraq, there's also the security problem. It's safer to bring in foreigners to work at American bases, or foreign companies, than it is to screen Iraqis to do the work. There's also a lot of menial jobs that Iraqis shun. Attitudes are changing, as the population, and unemployment rate, in the Persian Gulf goes up. Oil income has not been able to keep up, and Arab men (women have few job opportunities) are now starting to take less preferable jobs (involving more physical labor and less status) in order to preserve the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.  

 

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