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It is useful to understand how isolated Iraq has been, and not just in the last 10 years. I made my first visit in 1979, shortly after Saddam had consolidated power. Until 1978, the files of the company for whom I then worked were littered with notes on the impossibility of obtaining visas and making any kind of contact with those in authority. The country had been kept closed since the revolutions of the 1950s. I found a people dominated by State organisations. Even those with ostensible authority, such as the General Manager of the National Insurance Company, had minimal power, and quite trivial issues could only be decided at Ministerial level. This situation remains until today, so that the average Iraqi has been brought up without any possibility of thinking for himself or taking responsibility in a way which the average Westerner assumes is normal. Lifting sanctions and opening trade relations will be only a small beginning, since trade with Iraqi State importing organisations cannot be described as "normal". For many years, all imports have been in the hands of no more than half a dozen State enterprises, primarily: the State Trading Enterprise for Foodstuff the Iraqi Grain Board the State Enterprise for Steel and Timber the State Enterprise for Construction Materials the Southern Oil Company It will take a lot more to open the country and persuade the people to take even the smallest element of power back into their own hands. The one encouragement I have is that the close Tikriti family members have gained a taste for big money making and so we may see some glorious capitalist tendencies in the near future. This may not be quite what everyone has in mind, but typically it opens the door a fraction for the man in the street to try his own hand at making business. The process of change then becomes more difficult to stop. Right now, it does not pay to be ostentatious, even if you are amongst the small minority who can still live comfortably. Saddam and his cohorts frequently demand and take things which catch their fancy, eg a new car. Apparently it is impossible to stop, although on occasion a limited amount of "compensation" appears - you might get a Toyota to replace a BMW. Registering a private company is a difficult and time consuming affair. Seen in this light, sanctions have been a very useful weapon for Saddam to maintain control. Greetings, Mark Galloway -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk