Asharq Al-Awsat publishes excerpts from the memoirs of former Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Al-Rawi

Dr. Muhammad Mahdi Salih Al-Rawi, former Iraqi Minister of Trade, presents in his new book – “Preventing Famine in Iraq – My Memoirs of the Years of the Siege 1990-2003” (to be published soon by Al-Maaref Forum) a detailed account of his ministry’s efforts to deal with the sanctions imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which continued until the US invasion of the country in 2003.

The author evokes with remarkable frankness the disputes that tormented the regime of Saddam Hussein, part of which is linked to Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of the Iraqi president before his break with his uncle in 1995.

Al-Rawi has worked in the Iraqi presidential office since 1982 and was, as he puts it, in “direct contact” with Saddam Hussein for seven years, until his appointment as trade minister in 1987.

After the US invasion in 2003, Al-Rawi was arrested at Camp Cropper and was on the collapsed regime’s most wanted list of leaders. He was detained until 2012 and currently lives in Jordan.

Asharq Al-Awsat publishes, in two episodes, excerpts from Al-Rawi’s book before its publication.

He recounts that under the reign of the late President Abdel-Rahman Aref, relations with the United States of America were severed for its support of Israeli aggression in 1967… The rupture remained after the July 1968 revolution, until 1982, when Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad as an envoy of US President Ronald Reagan.

Diplomatic relations were already restored in 1986, but quickly collapsed after the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Al-Rawi says: “Amid celebrations of the Iraqi people’s victory over Iran, the United States House of Representatives, under pressure from the anti-Iraqi Zionist lobby, agreed to impose sanctions on Iran. Iraq on September 22, 1988, forty-five days after the end of the war.

Al-Rawi talks about Iraq’s oil power before and after the war with Iran. He says, “Iraq did not need loans and credit facilities in the 1970s, especially after the nationalization of oil…Oil revenues fell from $1 billion a year to $26.4 billions of dollars in 1980…”

However, he explains: “Increased military spending throughout the eight-year period of the Iraq-Iran war was not the only reason for the accumulation of debt, which began in mid-1984. It was also due to the significant decline in oil revenues due to the halt in oil trade through the southern port that Iraq used for nearly two-thirds of its OPEC-specified exports.

He noted that the mentioned port has become the target of daily Iranian bombardments. Moreover, in 1982, Syria stopped its export activity through the pipeline crossing its territory to the Mediterranean, in support of Iran.

These developments contributed to the accumulation of half of Iraq’s $42 billion debt (excluding Gulf debt) by the end of the war in 1988, leaving only the half-capacity Turkish pipeline. million barrels per day.

He added that the fall in oil prices in the mid-1980s had a “significant impact on the economic situation”, as “austerity measures” were taken in many sectors with the aim of ensuring that “the food and medical insurance plans and expenditures to support the war effort were unaffected.

He continued that the Military Industrialization Command, represented by Lieutenant General Hussein Kamel, has adopted a policy of expanding the military-industrial base…

“These many, broad and ambitious goals (…) required quite a bit of financial resources,” Al-Rawi said.

He explained, “Oil revenues have not met the previously mentioned targets. A fierce competition emerged between the Military Industrialization Authority and the rest of the ministries… Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel had the final say in the state, due to the reputation he had gained in developing military production during the last years of the war with Iran, and its relationship of kinship and affinity with the late president…”

The invasion of Kuwait and the sanctions

The author spoke of the period following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990:

He said that when President George Bush imposed a complete US embargo on Iraq and froze his assets and properties in the United States, he went on the morning of August 3, 1990 to the Central Bank to examine the assets in hard currency from Iraq in foreign banks. and central bank reserves, in his capacity as Minister of Commerce and Acting Minister of Finance.

Al-Rawi noted that he had asked the Governor of the Central Bank to immediately start transferring foreign deposits from Iraq to the Central Bank of Jordan, but he refrained, saying that the Central Bank was not returning account to the Minister of Finance, but to the presidential Diwan. .

On Iraqi preparations for the Kuwait Liberation War in 1991, the author indicated that the needs of all governorates to prevent any food shortages during the war.

“Strategic stockpiling has focused on Karbala and Najaf governorates, as these are two religious governorates that are not at risk of aerial bombardment. The same goes for the autonomous provinces, which are also considered safe provinces. In addition, the owners of mills and kilns in Baghdad and in the governorates were informed to guarantee sufficient storage of fuel to continue their work if the oil installations were targeted by bombardments (…)”

“A week before the expiry of the deadline set by the Security Council, I traveled to Amman, and from there to Yemen to meet the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh…

Al-Rawi said that during a lunch invitation, Yemeni leaders told him that the war would take place and that the main objective of the coalition army was to destroy the Iraqi army.

Al-Rawi spoke of the start of the US strikes in January 1991, saying: “The air attack by coalition forces went beyond the objective of withdrawing Iraqi forces from Kuwait to carry out a destructive plan for Iraq and undermine all the achievements that the country has made and that have nothing to do with the war.

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