Iraqi update: Iraq and the US have both made concessions but will they be enough?

Author:Darwish, Adel
Position:Current Affairs

America's President George W Bush did not have the luxury of knowing the outcome of the congressional election in advance; so he waited until results which gave his Republican Party control--before he went full steam ahead with securing a `tough' Security Council resolution on Iraq.

Leading the most united America since the peak of the Cold War, not only has the president been given a free ticket to take military action against Iraq, but his diplomats have also managed to secure unanimous Security Council agreement on the drafting of the resolution he wanted. The resolution gives inspectors unlimited, unimpeded access to any sites including presidential palaces. Even Syria, who observers were expecting to abstain during the vote, accepted the resolution.

In fact, even before the resolution was passed--the head of the new inspection team Hans Blix, announced he would visit Baghdad within days to identify sites and set the scene for the return of the inspectors. President Bush's rival in Baghdad, who rules by different conventions, didn't have to wait for any results. He had already secured an unprecedented 100% `Yes' vote to give him another term in office. Let us not be too pedantic about how Iraqis abroad, or those in jail, or in the Kurdish-controlled areas would have voted `yes', or how they would have voted at all.

In the certain knowledge his game of playing for time is coming to an end, President Hussein utilised the time his rival in Washington was busy with electioneering, to begin a charm offensive.

He released nationals of various Arab countries from prison, as part of a general amnesty that also led to the release of tens of thousands of Iraqis, in October. A border crossing with Saudi Arabia was opened for trade, and part of Kuwait's national archive, looted along with many other Kuwaiti national treasures by Iraqi troops in 1990, were returned. Saddam sent emissaries to a selection of Arab countries, while at the same time, turning up the volume of anti-Israeli rhetoric. To get the message to the mob on the streets, the Ministry of Information budget was beefed up and fresh finances allocated to Arab journalists on Saddam's payroll in London, Paris and the Middle East. Jordan welcomed all but two of its nationals back from Iraqi prisons. Yemen said Baghdad had released 150 of its nationals, even though President Ali Abdullah Saleh penned an article-syndicated in the western and Arab press--calling for Saddam to step down. Arab...

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