Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, is using the Middle East conflict for PR. He announced today that his country would stop deliveries of crude on the world market for the period of 30 days. The decision on what to do in the nearest future will be made either within the coming 30 days, or after Israel leaves the occuppied Palestinian territories, Hussein claimed.
Iraq and Iran were calling upon all the Muslim countries to stop crude sales to the West. Libya supported the plan. All these countries are OPEC members, so this organization could not help reacting to the actions of its members. Ali Rodriguez, OPEC's Secretary-General, claimed that the embargo contradicted the fundamental objective of the association: maintaining the stability of the oil market. After Hussein’s announcement, the crude prices went up over $27 per barrel: Iraq delivers 2.2 million barrels of crude daily, which makes up some five percent of the world market.
This is not the first time that Baghdad has used such a method of influence. Iraq stopped its exports before when the UN’s “Oil for Food” program was in effect. In this particular case, Saddam is killing two birds with one stone: he is strengthening his position in the Arab world and is winning Europe’s sympathies, which is very annoyed with Israel’s decision not to let the European diplomats see Yasser Arafat. In addition, Europe will not suffer any economic damage from that decision. The Iraqi president repeatedly stressed in his speeches that Baghdad’s decision to stop the export deliveries of crude was aimed only against Israel and the USA. That step, like he said, was aimed against those who are bringing harm to the Arab countries and to the Palestinians.
As a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein has done something that has been discussed a lot: the introduction of the economic sanctions against Israel. It is not ruled out that this issue will be raised by a co-sponsor of the peace process during the meeting in Madrid, Russia, or the EU, for example.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov