Those who dislike US Iraq subsidies should look at the Israel dole
- Last Updated: August 12. 2008 8:39PM UAE / August 12. 2008 4:39PM GMT
This week, Congress indulged in some populist Arab-bashing when it was revealed that high oil prices could earn the Iraq government a budget surplus of US$50 billion (Dh183.6bn) this year. How scandalous, declared US lawmakers, that American taxpayers should be subsidising Iraq’s post-war reconstruction when the Iraqis are perfectly capable of financing it themselves.
It’s a fair point, on its own. But it overlooks the central role subsidies have played in the annals of Middle East occupation and empire. The Ottomans funded a complex web of subsidies for their clients in the Middle East, an arrangement that preserved economic and political stability for generations until the sultanate collapsed nearly a century ago. The Roman emperor Heraclius, bankrupt from war with Persia, withheld his annual payout to Christian tribal leaders in Syria, who responded by allying themselves with the Muslim armies in driving out the rum.
But the treasure divvied out in the Middle East by imperial powers over the millennia is dwarfed by the mother of all Middle East subsidies: the Israel dole, a golden calf of American military aid, humanitarian assistance, and low-interest loans that are forgiven before the checks even clear. Washington has tossed an estimated $85bn at the Jewish state since the 1978 Camp David peace accords in annual allotments that average between $3bn to three or even four times that much, a handout that enables Israel to subsidise its own micro-empire on Palestinian land.
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