In relation to Iraq, UN sanctions and now the threat of another American war, I tend to hold the minority viewpoint. Now I find myself in line with the majority view - that is, the majority viewpoint of the Arab community. I base this on recent visits to Tunis, Cairo, Amman and Baghdad. I failed to find one Arab - offical or private citizen - who understands the current crisis between the USA and Iraq to be about weapons of mass destruction. The unanimous view from prime minister to taxi driver is that the conflict is primarily about oil - access, control and cheap! Nobody I talked with sees a threat from Iraq, be it in Turkey, Jordan or Egypt. Why is it that the Washington regime is apparently so threatened? Has it swallowed its own spin, propaganda?
Where is the middle ground? How do we find a solution that saves the face of our two ego-players - Presidents George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Let’s make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and as required by UN Resolution 687, lets make sure the entire neighbourhood is equally clean. Let’s look at US oil needs, recognise the insecurity of the Saudi supply and have the US negotiate with Baghdad, as a trading partner not as a war-threatened state, a plan for the sale of Iraq's oil over the next 30-50 years at a fair market price. This would serve American interests and provide Iraq with the kind of sustained revenue needed for rebuilding the economy, and thereby restoring to the Iraqi people their economic and social rights.
As the same time, Iraq will want to move forward with a multi-party democratic system for which a constitutional change is now being written. The USA must begin to invest massively in renewable sources of energy while also imposing efficient means for reduced consumption of imported oil. Weaning itself from dependency on Middle East oil serves the best interests of Americans. Likewise, the move toward dialogue and trade would begin the process of restoring the lives of the people of Iraq tragically diminished under 12 years of deadly UN sanctions. This could produce a win-win situation for all concerned, including the United Nations, and the Arab community of the Middle East currently so deeply concerned about the catastrophic impact that an American war on Iraq would have on their well-being.
Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.