Our sympathy in the Middle East goes out to both Palestine and Iraq. However, the American administration shuns Arabs for their lack of concern for Iraq in comparison to Palestine. Next month, the Americans will hold a conference in Amman, Jordan to request financial support for Iraq by pressuring Arab countries to relieve Iraq of the its debts to them and to contribute financially to the reconstruction of the country. The USA urges Arabs to support the Iraqi government.
Are Arabs truly hesitating in offering the new Iraqi regime both financial and political support? If this is true as George Bush and Condoleezza Rice claim, why are the Arabs reluctant? The Arab political writers are reluctant to speak in economic terms, not because the reader dislikes economic analysis, but rather because the writers themselves are unaware of its real effects on politics. Therefore, I hereby request the reader”s forgiveness if the following economic analysis will be boring or tiring.
After the America”s simple removal of Saddam, hopes emerged of a liberal economy in Iraq that will be a free-trade zone for the region. Many aspired to the idea that Iraq would set a precedent for the rest of the region, especially in the countries, which have been ruling their people over the past 50 years along Stalinist lines. Many also hoped for foreign investments to globalize and Americanize the Iraqi economy. Many anticipate foreign investments to flow in, the Iraqi government to protect these investors from bureaucracy and bribery, that profits will be freely transferred in and out with no or little fees and taxes, that tariffs will be lifted on foods and medicines, the accepting of multinationals to take over local businesses, and finally to comprehensively revitalize the economy. In fact, a large part of Iraqi legislation that aims to facilitate investments was issued. However, just over two years since the Americans first intervened, all dreams have disappeared and reconstruction has halted. The Iraqi economy is frozen and the United States can no longer spend billions on aid. In fact, American companies are successively fleeing Iraq now. Tens of thousands of Asian and African laborers in Iraq have now become unemployed just as their Iraqi colleagues have.
The cause behind this failure is no secret. The Iraqi resistance in all its variations despite its lack of direction and despite the absence of popular support, has in fact succeeded in causing instability which in turn disturbs the creation of a strong economy. The resistance has successfully paralyzed both American and Iraqi official forces. Despite the sudden waves of attacks by the Iraqi official forces and the American forces against the resistance, the latter usually returns to the areas after being forced out. The deficiency of the American military is astonishing considering the fact that the strongest army in the world is unable to control an area of less than 100,000km. As army generals admit their incapacity, the Congressmen request a program for withdrawal and urge Rumsfeld to resign and American public opinion has become aware of the forces” weakness, the American president remains the only optimist.
The Arabs are in fact willing to save Iraq; they are reluctant, however, because they do not trust the American venture. Also, the more America pressures the Arabs for "reform", the more doubts they have about the success of these "reforms".
It is true that diplomatically and politically, the Arabs have implicitly recognized the American issue of Iraq, however, publicly they insist on opposing it. Having said that, it is important to note that the Iraqi regime, which is just as keen as the US to request Arab support, did nothing in return to ensure the Arabization of Iraq. For example Al Ja”fari, the president of the transitional government, better known as a shy Iraqi physician, visited Washington as his first official visit outside Iraq rather than any prominent Arab capital such as Cairo or Riyadh.
Furthermore, how could Arab ambassadors be sent to Iraq with the absence of the most basic security? Who will protect them, their families and their residence? Can they expect the besieged government or the impotent American forces to protect their well-being? Or will it be left to the Iraqi army that has been ravaged by resistance causing its personnel to suffer?
Moreover, what would Arab ambassadors do with a regime that considers the Iranians their biggest regional support? How could they defend a regime that goes to Brussels and Washington to prolong the American occupation and a regime that makes empty promises rather than assembling a comprehensive plan for stability and reconstruction?
Economically, we have to admit that it is not possible to embark on development, reconstruction, or investment programs without security, stability, and the decreasing of debts that range from 120 billion to 500 billion US dollars. The Arab countries have demonstrated their enthusiasm due to nationalist commitment, to downscale the debt of 80 billion US dollars from Iraq. However, since economy is relative to politics, don”t the Arabs have the right to hesitate in funding Iraq when they hear of Abdel Aziz Al Hakim”s request that Arabs should compensate Iran for its war with Iraq with a sum of 100 billion US dollars? I believe that it is fair that we need not feel obliged to help Iraq until we are sure of its Arabness, unity and the equality between its divisions.
Europe and America exhausted the Arab countries with arms and infrastructural projects and now the Gulf countries are being drained with the pretense of helping Iraq, while the real aim is to deprive them of the revenues they have accumulated from the increase in oil prices. The value of these revenues also increased with the drop in the dollar”s value.
Condoleezza Rice forgets that the Gulf accumulated a huge deficit when the oil prices plummeted to 10 dollars a barrel in the 1980”s. The Gulf back then did not request millions of foreign laborers for their countries; meanwhile they were facing the burden of two crazy wars that America urged Saddam to start. In her latest visit, the American Secretary of State acknowledged the information in the Arab Human Development International Report that the total GNP of Arabs is half a trillion US dollars which is similar to the GNP of Spain. This represents 1/40 of the American GNP, which has reached 20 trillion US dollars.
How could the Arabs (including the Gulf States) finance Iraq which has the second largest amount of oil reserves worldwide, while at the same time having to deal with the unemployment rate that is estimated to equal a third of the Arab work force, and 300 thousand young men annually in the Gulf region?
Condoleezza Rice says that America has compromised stability at the expense of democracy in the region. So does the reconciliation with democracy require ruining stability through the unknown ruling powers draining both poor and rich states such as Iraq for its last dollar?
One question sits in my mind and that is why no Arab state has considered asking the Bush administration why the USA doesn”t request its giant oil companies to financially assist in the Americanization and globalization of Iraq? This should be considered especially after the fact that the companies do not know where to invest their profits, estimated at 100 billion US dollars from the latest oil boom. It”s a simple question to an American administration that is replete with oil from head to toe and if you do not trust me, ask vice-president Cheney about the profits of Halliburton solely from Iraq.