Iraq: February 3, 2000


A small Russian tanker was caught trying to cross from Iranian waters, via the Straits of Hormuz, to The United Arab Emirates, where it planned to sell a cargo of Iraqi oil it had bought cheaply at the Iraqi port of Basra. For years, Iraq has been selling oil illegally for shipment, along the coast in Iraqi, then Iranian waters. Much of the oil was sold in Iran. But smugglers found that they could get a higher price by steaming along the Iranian coast to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, then dashing across the narrow straits to the United Arab Emirates and get an even higher price. The UN naval blockade of Iraq became aware of this and began stalking ships, in this case a Russian one, as they moved down the Iranian coast. The oil sold illegally brings Iraq only about $20 million a month. But this oil revenue not supervised by the UN, and is probably used by the Iraqi government to buy weapons or other forbidden items.


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