Gerges, Fawaz A., The Nation
It is time to lift the U.N. embargo against Iraq. Far from strengthening or emboldening Iraq's people and undermining Saddam Hussein, the sanctions have led to the pauperization, criminalization and further polarization of Iraqi society without weakening Saddam. And the U.N. sanctions have devastated the economy. Iraq, whose economic survival depends overwhelmingly on the export of oil - formerly bringing in $15 billion annually - cannot sell its oil. The value of the currency has evaporated. The dinar, worth around $3 in 1990, is trading at NO against the dollar. Inflation, running at 6,000 percent, has inflicted suffering on the majority of the people. The government has exhausted its foreign cash reserves and, bankrupt, can no longer afford to import basic medical and food supplies. In September Baghdad announced up to 50 percent cuts in basic food rations. According to the World International Food Program in Rome, this reduction "constitutes a risk for the health of 2.25 million children and 230,000 pregnant women." Hospitals are running out of key drugs, antiseptics, anesthetics and needles. UNICEF reports that as a result of the shortages 1,800 young children and elderly people die every month.
Hunger, deprivation and fear are a breeding ground for violence. Since 1990, rape, burglary and prostitution are reported to have increased by almost 50 percent. Saddam responded by decreeing the Islamicization of Iraq. The Islamic legal code, Shariah, has been incorporated into Iraqi criminal law. Thieves will have their right hand cut off for a first offense and a leg for a second offense; burglars will be shot. Islamic symbols permeate official political discourse, schools have Islamic instruction and all public functions start with Koranic prayers - a radical departure from the nationalist and secular platform of the ruling Baath Party.
The Islamicization of Iraqi politics will exacerbate the sectarian Sunni-Shiite divide and provide the dynamite to blow Iraq apart. The salaried middle class that formed the social and political base for the Baath regime has almost been wiped out, mortgaging its future in a desperate attempt to survive. Substantial numbers of middle-class. Iraqis have either left the country or are trying to. Those remaining have lost faith in Saddam.
This upheaval does not mean, however, that Saddam's doom is sealed - at least not in the short term. …