Wednesday, December 24, 2003

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Good news and bad news on international support for Iraq

Good news first: Josh Marshall links to this story indicating that South Korea has agreed to dispatch significant numbers of troops to Iraq:

Deployment of the nation's contingent of 3,000 troops to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk will begin in April until the end of next year to help rebuild the war-devastated Middle Eastern nation, officials said on Tuesday.

The Seoul government finalized the decision during a Cabinet meeting at Chong Wa Dae.

The Defense Ministry plans to refer the proposal, signed by President Roh Moo-hyun, to the National Assembly, which is likely to endorse it since the major political parties have been supporting the plan....

Seoul's fact-finding mission to Iraq earlier reported the residents in Kirkuk have been friendly to Koreans and recommended the region as the appropriate site for troop deployment.

South Korea earlier decided to send some 3,000 soldiers to Iraq consisting of both combat and non-combat troops that include engineers and medics.

Bad news -- the Gulf states are not planning on forgiving either Iraq's debts or its reparation payments anytime soon, according to the Financial Times:

Iraq's main Arab creditors will only negotiate debt relief with a sovereign government in Baghdad and not the US-appointed interim Governing Council, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

No decision was taken regarding debt relief to Iraq at a meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in Kuwait this week. However, Saud al-Faisal appeared to dismiss the credibility of the Governing Council as representative of Iraq and to make it clear that GCC states would not negotiate with it.

"The indebtedness of the Iraqi government entails that we discuss this issue with a government that is sovereign. It's a question of dialogue among nations, and I don't think that an effective dialogue can take place unless there's a sovereign Iraqi government. When that government comes, we are ready to discuss these issues," Prince Saud said....

Kuwait's prime minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Jaber, said this week that Iraq should not be freed from repayments, "because it is a country that can repay its debts".

Saudi Arabia is owed $25bn from loans made prior to the 1991 Gulf war. The foreign minister's statement is being seen as a sign that a forthcoming visit by James Baker, the former US secretary of state and President George W. Bush's special envoy charged with negotiating debt reduction for Iraq, could be marked by tough talks that are unlikely to be resolved until the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty - scheduled for June 2004.

posted by Dan on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM


I suspect the bad news isn't as bad as it might seem. The Iraqis still have the implicit out that they can simply renounce the debts (there's a better word but I'm hypocaffeinimic and can't think of it.) They don't need the Saudis for much of anything. The Saudis don't have much in the way of leverage on us: they need our money to keep their economy afloat, and we've got a perfectly lovely friendly source of oil coming along.

In the mean time, the Saudis have added another straw to the camel.

And he's starting to sweat.

posted by: Charlie on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM [permalink]

“It's a question of dialogue among nations, and I don't think that an effective dialogue can take place unless there's a sovereign Iraqi government. When that government comes, we are ready to discuss these issues," Prince Saud said....”

This is a minor flap. Prince Saud al-Faisal is merely maneuvering for a better negotiating position. Our government has to stand firm and refuse to be played for a fool. Senator James Baker should remind him that America is protecting his rear end. Without us, he is toast! We have the stronger hand in this dispute---and should not hesitate to use it.

Isn’t it ironic that this member of the Saudi royal family has the nerve to speak about political autonomy and freedom? This is true chutzpah. Is he trying to be a comedian? Also, some of the present Iraqi leaders are women. When will this occur in the sovereign nation of Saudi Arabia?

posted by: David Thomson on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM [permalink]

Agreed that the debt flap is not serious. The sovereign government in Baghdad, once in place, will tell the rest of the Gulf states to stick it.

posted by: Chrees on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM [permalink]

Luckily, Saudi Arabia isn't a Paris Club member, as this might have provided the perfect escape-hatch for the French, Germans and Russians with respect to the public commitments they've made; as Daniel Davies has pointed out on Crooked Timber, Paris Club rules require unanimity.

posted by: Abiola Lapite on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM [permalink]

The United States must respond to the horror at Fallujah.These people must not be allowed to act for the whole of the Iraqi people.Find every face in all the photos and put them away, far away.We should keep food and water and any other comfort from them.Those young boys in the photos are the next Saddam.God will bless our America and it's people.

posted by: Fed Up on 12.24.03 at 11:15 AM [permalink]

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