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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Resignation on Baghdad's streets
Market stall in Baghdad
Stalls at Baghdad's markets are now well stocked

I was last here in Baghdad in 1998, when international sanctions were at their height. It was very different then.

In the al-Shorjah Souq Market, the main market in Baghdad used by most ordinary Iraqis, it was really quite difficult to find anything other than the most basic of dried products.

Iraqi woman in Baghdad
Most Iraqis are economically ruined
Today it is a place where Iraqis go to buy every sort of item, not just basic goods and household supplies.

Products of every description are flooding in from all over the world, not just Middle Eastern countries.

Coca Cola cans from Saudi Arabia, items from Kuwait, from Turkey, from all over Europe are now available.

And they are all utterly affordable to most middle-class Iraqis.

US resolve

That is a result of a concerted effort by Iraq to try and improve relations with its neighbours and with the wider Arab world and Europe.

Behind that of course is a political motive, which is to try and curtail any possibility of American military action.

Saddam Hussein
Iraq has actively tried to improve international relations

President George W Bush has in recent times unequivocally expressed his government's determination to overthrow the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, by force.

Mr Bush has also made it clear that they will do that with or without weapons inspectors being allowed back into Iraq, and will act alone if necessary.

So that has changed the atmosphere decisively.

Serious threat

There can be no doubt in official circles of the grave threats of military action facing them.

Most ordinary Iraqis are also completely aware of exactly what stands before them, but despite that there is no outward sense of tension at all in Baghdad.

UN weapons inspectors in Iraq
There have been last minute efforts to address the weapons issue

When you look back at the British and American military strikes in 1998, it was pretty much the same.

The reason must be that after 12 years of sanctions, most Iraqis have pretty much been economically ruined.

People are utterly exhausted and tired and they know that they are not in a position to change the situation themselves anyway.

All they can do is see whether any last minute efforts by the Iraqi Government to address this issue of weapons of mass destruction is going to be enough to dissuade the United States from launching a military attack.

International concern

Having said that, I think that most people, as has been widely reported in the international media and in newspapers in Britain and the US, feel it is very much a question of when - rather than if.

King Abdullah of Jordan
Arab diplomatic efforts are being closely watched

The Iraqis are keen to court support for their position.

The recent visit by King Abdullah of Jordan to London and Washington, where he expressed his grave concern about the kind of political crisis that a war against Iraq would lead to in the Middle East, has been observed incredibly closely.

The Iraqi newspapers are full of comments from Arab leaders and governments expressing doubt.

However, the key question is, when or if the US openly says that it will launch military action, will Iraq be able to count on its neighbours not to allow the US or any other ally to use their territories as bases?

There is a mood of resignation amongst ordinary Iraqis about what the future holds for them but they know that there is nothing they can do but play the waiting game.

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See also:

05 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
05 Aug 02 | Middle East
04 Aug 02 | Politics
03 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
30 Jul 02 | Americas
06 Aug 02 | Middle East
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