Report: Give Russia first crack at Iraqi oil
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, May 3, 2002
WASHINGTON — The United States should support Russian efforts to
reclaim its huge loans to Baghdad as part of the Bush administration's
strategy to form a coalition against President Saddam Hussein, a new report recommends.
The Heritage Foudnation said Russia is willing to enter an alliance to overthrow
Saddam if Moscow is ensured that its economic interests will not be harmed.
Russia has been trying to get Iraq to repay up to $12 billion in weapons
sold to Baghdad in the 1980s, according to Middle East Newsline. So far, Baghdad has offered Russian companies
contracts worth as much as $30 billion over the next 20 years to operate and
develop oil fields.
The report by researcher Ariel Cohen, said
Bush should offer Russian President Vladimir Putin a series of incentives
during their summit in St. Petersburg on May 22-23. Cohen said Russian
parliamentary leaders and Putin's advisers told the author that Moscow wants
to protect its multibillion-dollar interests in Iraq regardless of who is in
power in Baghdad.
"But when asked to choose between Saddam's friendship and America's good
will, they indicated they would support a U.S. policy to remove Saddam from
power," the report said. "At the summit, the Administration should secure
Moscow's support by focusing on ways to expand security and intelligence
cooperation and to assure the repayment of Iraq's debt to Russia by any
future post-Saddam government."
The report cited the significance of Russia's participation in the
U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. In that war, Russia provided U.S. troops with
what Cohen terms high-quality intelligence was well as weapons to the
opposition Northern Alliance.
The report said much of Moscow's support comes from payoffs by Saddam to
leading Russian politicians. They include Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his
Liberal Democratic Party, as well as Russian business tycoons and former
Cohen said U.S. cooperation with Russia on Iraq could be extended to
proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The report cites
accusations by Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican, that Moscow has
supplied Baghdad with ballistic missile gyroscopes, biological warfare
manufacturing equipment, and advanced surface-to-air missiles.
"Washington and Moscow should exchange data on export licenses and
illegal arms transfers to Iraq, including WMD procurement through Russian
companies," the report said.