Iraqi Vice-premier and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz has completed his visit to Russia. It is time to sum up the visit’s results. The reason for this visit to Moscow is quite evident. The Baghdad leadership has become rather watchful after so much talk about a launching of military operations against Iraq. It is not in Saddam Hussein’s manner to sit and wait for a fatal event, which is why the vice-premier was sent for a visit to Russia.
Originally, the task of the Foreign Minister was to find out how the attitudes of Arab neighbors have changed. These neighbors are Syria, Libya, and, partly, Jordan. These are the countries who supported relations with Baghdad even during Iraq’s hardest times. That is why Tariq Aziz started his tour in Syria.
Now, Iraq is active in the diplomatic policies of the Arab world. Iraq's contacts with Iran and Kuwait are expected to settle all the contradictions that existed between the countries. Not all objectives have been realized, but it is a fact that now Iraq is trying to show that no danger for the Arab world will come from Iraq anymore. The League of Arab Nations, which unites all Islamic countries of the Middle East and part of Africa, agreed to help Iraq in the settlement of its conflict with Kuwait. The Arab world would rather support Iraq in any case of aggression from the USA than the USA. They prefer to reconcile themselves to Hussein’s arrogance, which can be controlled more or less, than see the US flag streaming everywhere in the country. The lesser of the two evils has been chosen.
Tariq Aziz left Damask for Russia, of course. A meeting with his Russian colleague Igor Ivanov was scheduled in Moscow. Igor Ivanov tried to persuade the Iraqi party of the importance of the UN monitors’ return to Baghdad. The UN monitors were kicked out of Iraq in 1998. Moscow thinks that this compromise will allow the resumtion of talks on the suspension of the sanctions imposed on Iraq. A final lifting of the embargo is not on the agenda yet.
Until the very last moment, Iraq said that it had complied with all UN demands for the sanctions to be lifted, as it is provided by the basic resolution on Iraq #687.
Moscow notices perfectly well the slightest changes of the world’s sympathy towards Iraq. That is why it is so persistent for the admission of the UN monitors. Tariq Aziz seems to understand Moscow’s opinion of the situation, and now Iraq will probably advance in settlement of the problem.
The positions of Iraq and Moscow on possible US attacks are similar. Envoy for special affairs in the Russian Foreign Ministry Nikolay Kutuzov says, Russia thinks there are no reasons for US’s revenge actions towards Iraq. In his words, any hostilities against Iraq would be the worst scenario with a very catastrophic ending.
Moscow needs for its support of Iraq to be compensated. It should also be mentioned that Iraq often is the reason for conflicts between Moscow and Washington. That is why the talks touched upon the oil problem, the program “Oil in exchange for foodstuffs and medicines” particularly. According to expert estimates, the commodity turnover between Russia and Iraq has risen to $25 billion. Since 1996, when the UN program was launched, Russian companies have signed contracts to the sum of $4 billion. $1,4 billion of the sum fall at the period since the middle of 2001. Projects to the sum of $30 billion were discussed at the meeting yesterday. Such profitable contracts cannot be given up to please the USA.
Tariq Aziz left Moscow for China to hold official talks with the Chinese leadership. The support of the mighty powers, Russia and China, will allow Iraq to be quiet for some time.
Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/25/36053.html