Monday, February 10, 2003

Bribing Our Way to War

Even part of the axis of evil is getting money.

Feb 10- Last week the US stepped up its policy of talking tough while carrying a big cheque book. Even as Bush told the council to "make up its mind soon" over military action, diplomats were promising everything from increased economic and military aid to moderate Arab states, to a share of Iraq's oil reserves to fretful Europeans.

Diplomatic sources suggest that the US will be spending like a lottery winner in the coming weeks to try to secure the support, or at least the non interference, of key Arab states.


Indeed it emerged over the weekend that White House officials have been meeting secretly with Iranian leaders seeking guarantees that Tehran will not allow members of the National Guard to seek refuge in Iran or aid the Iraqis in any war against the US. It is understood that the US has offered Iran -- which Bush labelled a member of the 'axis of evil' a year ago -- generous offers of aid if it agrees not to hinder the American war effort.

White House and Department of State officials declined to comment, but a UN source said it is understood that the Iranians were 'receptive' to proposals put forward by US diplomats. Meanwhile, Egypt, keen to take advantage of the latest bout of US largesse in the region, is demanding additional aid, which it says is needed to defray the expected costs of a possible war and is also stepping up its appeals for a bi- lateral free-trade package. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of US military and economic aid in the region. But it is demanding that the US also factors in the cost of war on its tourism industry, which accounts for 15% of Egypt's gross national product, and that it increases the $1.3 billion (£812.5m) in military aid that has been proposed in this year's budget.

Other countries are also merrily making hay while the sun shines. A free- trade agreement between Jordan and the United States was recently ratified and the US has agreed to provide the moderate Arab state with a dozen F-16 fighter planes. Turkey is getting in on the act, demanding $14bn in aid in exchange for its support. Israel has demanded an additional $2bn in military aid. Buying off your friends, never mind your enemies, doesn't come cheap. But will it all prove to be little more than a costly sideshow that will do little to increase the security of the American people?