The stalemated result of the US presidential poll on November 7, 2000, between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush was not resolved until December 12 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush by five votes to four. He chose as his secretary of state (Retired) General Colin Powell, former chairman of the US chiefs of staff during the 1991Gulf War. Powell declared that he would "re-energize" sanctions against Iraq, and dismissed Saddam as "sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be around in a few years' time." In his confirmation hearings before a US Senate committee on January 17, he stressed the need "to be vigilant, ready to respond to provocations, and utterly steadfast in our policy towards Saddam Hussein." 1
Powell's statements ran counter to the mood prevailing in the Gulf region and the Muslim world, which were steadily re-integrating Iraq into their folds. Atthetriennial Islamic Conference Organization summit in Doha in mid-November, the final statement dropped its traditional reference to "Iraqi aggression" and called for efforts to "prepare the ground for resolving the differences" between Iraq and Kuwait. 2 Soon Iraqi oil began flowing through the newly re-opened Syrian-Iraqi pipeline. It transpired later that Iraq was selling petroleum at the discount price of $15 a barrel to Syria and receiving there venue outside the UN escrow account, and that the Syrian government was consuming the oil domestically and exporting the equivalent amount - 150,000 bpd - at the higher market prices. 3 By late November Saudi Arabia had reopened its border with Iraq and allowed vehicular traffic, and Egypthad upgraded its consulatein Baghdad to the ambassadorial level. "Iraq will soon be integrated into the Arab fold," said President Hosni Mubarak. "It is only a matter of time." 4 The month ended with Jordan starting weekly scheduled flights to Baghdad. The UN Sanctions Committee approved this if passengers could prove their journeys were not of commercial nature, a condition which in practice meant little. Jordan's lead was followed by Egypt and then Syria.
Reflecting the prevalent sentiment in the Arab world, Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa told the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2001, "We can't expect the people of Iraq to live under sanctions for ever. Since the Gulf War, public opinion in the Arab world has moved 180 degrees." 5