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Uday Hussein: worse than a psychopath 3, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq.
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This link leads to an excerpt of an interview with a former army body double of Uday Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. Latif Yahia, the solider in question, describes Uday as far worse than a psychopath, for example, turning a beautiful woman into little more than a ‘barely breathing hunk of meat’.

I am sure and believe 100% that Uday Hussein was a vicious and sadistic killer. However, I am not overly sure how much I believe  this man’s testimony. Firstly, it is obviously in his best  financial interest to make the stories as gory and over the top as possible. The worse the stories, the more sensationalist media (and the BBC…) will be interested in interviewing him and, perhaps, the better his book sales. Secondly, he claims that he escaped Iraq with the help from the CIA. This is either a part of the first reason, the CIA being quite a buzz-word for editors, or it could be suggested that he must make his stories interesting and gruesome for them too: he needs to prove worthy after they expended so much energy and money getting him out. Thirdly, Yahia just comes across, to me at least, as not totally believable. This isn’t based on too much, just a gut reaction when watching the clip. Feel free to comment if you feel I’m being unfair…

Iranian soft power in southern Iraq 3, October 2009

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Visser over at the preeminent Gulf Analysis blog has an excellent example of Iran expanding its soft power in southern Iraq.

Earlier this week, the head of the Daawa-led Basra provincial council announced that a solution for Basra’s freshwater crisis was in the making. Specifically, he had signed a deal with Iran’s consul in Basra, Muhammad Rida Baghban, according to which Iran will supply Fao with 1,000 tons of drinking water on a daily basis to compensate for changes the Iranians made to the river flow of the Karun (which empties fresh water into the Shatt al-Arab near the head of the Gulf and thereby affects the saline content of the water.) The water supplies will be shipped to Basra by Iranian vessels.

Iraq-Qatar flights resume 15, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq, Qatar.
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Iraqi_Airways

Baghdad-Doha flights resume after a mere 18 year lull. Soon a service to Najaf, one of the holiest towns/cities in Iraq, will resume too.

‘The Man with the Golden Guns’ 29, May 2009

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Golden Guns

Saddam Hussein’s personal weapons. Frugal guy.

Hat tip: the Arabist.

Al Jazeera: Control Room 10, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iraq, Qatar.
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I’m not entirely sure how this passed me by, but here’s an excellent 2004 documentary on Al Jazeera and the American handling of the media in the Iraq invasion. The documentary is very interesting and raises a few excellent points.

– On 8th April 2003 the Americans bombed Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad and killed their lead journalist. They had had the coordinates for weeks. On the same day they bombed Abu Dhabi TV too.

– On 9th April the statue of Saddam was pulled down among the crowd in Firdos Square. Critical Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV were not there too see it.

– It reminds the viewer just how quickly and effectively Bush galvanised large chunks of ‘the Arab street’ behind Saddam. The theory being that even if, for example, the UK and France hated a belligerent Italy and their tyrannical leader, were they to be invaded by a vastly powerful, bellicose, arrogant, foreign power of a different culture and religion, the UK and French ‘street’ would nevertheless most likely be angry and resentful towards the invaders.

– Al Jazeera plays to Arab nationalism just as Fox, MSNBC or CNN often play to US patriotism/nationalism.

– It eloquently but harshly juxtaposes the differences that Westerners often feel when seeing bloodied and gory images of Iraqi civilians versus similar images of US soldiers.

Kuwait: still seeking reparations from Iraq after 19 years 27, February 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq, Kuwait.
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I have just learned that Iraq is still paying Kuwait war reparations for the invasion 19 years ago. Apparently, Iraq pays 5% of its oil revenues to Kuwait each year. So far this has totaled some $13.3 billion. Here are a few statistics to be thinking of:

………………………………………….Kuwait                                Iraq

Infant mortality                          9/1000                              45/1000

Average life expectancy             77                                         69

Unemployment rate                    2.2%                                     18-30%

GDP per capita                        $60,000                             $4,000

So, in sum, Kuwait is an epically rich country with a tiny, healthy population whose infants are going to out-survive Iraqi infants 5:1, whose population out lives Iraqis by 12 years, who are vastly more likely to be able to work, and whose GDP is 15 times greater. This, of course, is not even mentioning things such as a Kuwaiti’s ability to walk down the street, go shopping, visit friends without the fear of being kidnapped, murdered, raped or beaten. The biggest problem that a Kuwaiti has is whether to gorge themselves at Chillis or TGI Fridays.

I do not doubt for a second that the invasion of Kuwait was devastating as well as utterly illegal and immoral. Reparations were undoubtedly due. It was, however, 19 years ago and carried out by a ruthless dictator. The population had no say whatsoever and could not ‘opt out’. Kuwait’s actions can only be aimed at punishing a population that have been continuously punished to varying horrifying degrees over the last four decades.

In the last 19 years, Kuwait has recovered in every way, shape and form and is prospering like never before. In the intervening 19 years, Iraq has descended into a spiral of country-wide decay and destruction. For Kuwait to demand more money from Iraq, as it is trying to rebuild every facet of Iraqi life – from electricity generation to basic agriculture – is utterly immoral.

Beaten to it again 6, January 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iraq, Qatar.
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I think I’ve said this before, but it really is annoying when someone says something that you wish you’d said yourself. Recently, I’ve been somewhat peeved to read JE Peterson’s excellent article on Qatar entitled ‘Qatar and the World: Branding for a Micro-State’. This perfectly sums up the situation and I simply wish that I’d coined the phrase first. But never mind.

It is a similar story of being beaten to the punch though this time in terms of predictions.  Tom Ricks over at the new Foreign Policy blogging site made a prediction that 2009 will see the first fire fight between the private armies roaming around Iraq (Blackwater etc) and Iraqi security forces. This, it seems to me, would be a good bet.

Iraq 5 years on – the statistics 17, March 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iraq, Oil.
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Foreign Policy magazine has an excellent graph this month, which depicts various statistics relating to the 5 year war in Iraq.

iraq 5 year