|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
18 - 24 January 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Settling the score
Iraqi Vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan's visit to Cairo this week, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, confirms Egypt's belief that the time has come to lift the sanctions that are crippling the Iraqi people. In this respect, Egypt is part of a worldwide trend pressing for an end to economic sanctions as punishment inflicted on countries accused by the international community (or, more often, the US) of threatening world peace and stability.
Although Ramadan's visit is aimed mainly at boosting trade ties, it also reflects an important political message. Press reports that the new US administration is planning to take a hard line on Iraq and back opposition groups seeking to overthrow the regime are causing considerable anxiety in this part of the world. The last thing the Arabs want is instability caused by raids on Iraqi cities under the pretext of removing the Iraqi dictator. Some observers even expect that the new American president will seek to settle his father's old accounts with the man who hailed Clinton's 1992 presidential victory. Several members of Bush's team made their reputation as Gulf War heroes. Now, however, they must know that the situation has changed, and that opposition to US policy on Iraq is global.
Foreign Minister Amr Moussa has said many times that there must be "a light at the end of the tunnel" for the Iraqi people. They cannot be left to suffer forever. Of course, Iraq must comply with all UN resolutions and abandon its meaningless expansionist rhetoric; but the Iraqi people were the victims of their regime's policies in the first place.
The Arab governments hope that the new US president will adopt a more objective approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially since many of Bush's advisors were behind the Madrid peace talks in 1991. The levels of cooperation anticipated on the peace process may be matched in the Gulf; a first step towards this goal would be the end of sanctions against the Iraqi people.
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