Iraq: December 5, 2001

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While enthusiasm in America grows for an invasion of Iraq, many other nations warn against it. Russia has openly come out in opposition to the idea. But such an operation, with the idea of removing Saddam and his Baath party from power and holding elections (the first in many decades), has a lot going for it. Basically, the Baath party, even before Saddam came along, has plundered Iraq's oil wealth for the benefit of the largely Sunni minority (25 percent of the population) and at the expense of the Shia and Kurd majority. In the north, where the UN keeps the Baath party officials out, the "oil for food" program has spread the largess a lot more evenly than in the south, where Saddam lets Shiites die from malnutrition and poor medical, and then blames the UN embargo. But such an invasion would be bloodier than the Afghanistan operation. Only Turkey has agreed to consider helping, and the price on that cooperation might be the annexation of Mosul province (which used to be part of Turkey before the post World War I treaty removed it.) Mosul produces about a third of Iraq's oil. Turkey has no oil and Mosul was taken away because the World War I allies feared a revival of the Turkish empire. Instead, Turkey reformed itself in the 1920s and became a firm NATO ally after World War II (during which Turkey was neutral.) Whatever is done with Iraq (something or nothing), there will be problems. Another complication is that there are not a lot of attractive Iraqi politicians. The Kurds have long been politically organized, and have generally spent most of their time fighting each other. Many Shiite politicians have been bought off by Saddam, others have fled the country. The Shiites, in particular, would want some revenge against the Sunnis if a new government was dominated by Shiites (a likely possibility, as Shiites comprise slightly over half the population.) The results of elections in Iraq might not be very attractive. 

 

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