Dr. Al-Qazzaz spoke to us last year during the invasion of Iraq. This was a return engagement, to provide us with an update from his perspective as an Iraqi.
He started by giving some basic facts about the demographics and history of Iraq. Iraq is an old land and was one of the places where civilization began. It is also a young nation as it was carved out of the Ottoman Empire by the British at the end of the First World War. The government has long been run by Sunni Muslim Arabs although the majority of the population is Shia Muslim Arab.
Most of the talk dealt with recent events in that unfortunate country and the strategic dynamics behind those events. Dr. Al-Qazzaz believes that the driving force is the desire to control Iraqi oil reserves, which are the second largest in the world after those of Saudi Arabia. American control of that resource would weaken OPEC and also the ability of Saudi Arabia to set oil prices. Iraq had the capability to become a regional power, as it has an educated population and enough water for agriculture as well as oil reserves. That was not in American interests, according to Dr. Al-Qazzaz. The "owner" of the oil reserves can make fantastic profits on oil that costs only $2 per barrel to produce. That is, if production and export are not sabotaged. There has also been some tacit encouragement of separatism with the Kurdish areas in the north having a sort of quasi-independence.
The current situation is a mess with little hope of improvement in the near future. Dr. Al-Qazzaz proposed pulling out American troops in 6 months and placing Iraq under temporary United Nations control. It was clear that he does not think that will happen. Americans will just throw more money and lives into that quagmire, as the new Iraqi government does not yet seem to have the support of the people. A post-election Iraq could well become fractured along religious and ethnic lines. He did make one positive note, however. He predicted that because of the problems in Iraq, America would not invade another country for 10 years.
There was a very spirited question and answer period after the talk. The 27 people present had an excellent rapport with the speaker and learned a lot.
Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder